Institute of Global Leadership hosts 31st annual EPIIC symposium ‘Europe in Turmoil’

Director of the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) Sherman Teichman welcomes the audience to the IGL's 31st annual EPIIC Symposium on "Europe in Turmoil" on Friday, Feb. 19. Julia Press / The Tufts Daily

Yesterday evening marked the conclusion of the Institute for Global Leadership’s (IGL) 31st annual Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) symposium. This year’s symposium, themed “Europe in Turmoil,” focused on the current migrant and refugee crisis in Europe. The symposium ran from Wednesday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 21. Most of the talks and workshops were open to the public and held in the Cabot Auditorium at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

According to IGL Founding Director Sherman Teichman, the IGL aimed to bring speakers from all around the world to speak about issues regarding the symposium’s topic. This year, the IGL hosted over 30 speakers from all around the world, ranging from ambassadors to start-up founders, professors and musicians.

When deciding on this years topic, Teichman acknowledged the concerns of those involved that were asking, “Why Europe?” However, Teichman stood by his decision to teach about Europe and hold a symposium dedicated to discussing contemporary issues in the region, he said.

“Clearly, I chose Europe as continuity for last year…” he said. “Europe is a focal point of extraordinary narratives and salience.”

The program marked the last symposium for Teichman, who plans on retiring at the end of the academic year. According to EPIIC’s event booklet, 30 years ago, the first topic for the symposium was International Terrorism, a topic Teichman argued is still very relevant today.

Through the program, Teichman said he tries to “educate the students to be realist idealists.” He noted that his idealism is peppered with the pessimism of experience and that this world ca

nnot “afford anymore idealists without a sense of reality.”

“European and Global Challenges: How ‘Perfect’ is the ‘Storm'”

2/17/16 – Medford, MA – EU Ambassador to the UN João Vale de Almeida discusses the future of Europe as a part of this year's EPIIC Symposium in Cabot Hall on Wednesday, 17th February. (Caroline Ambros / The Tufts Daily) (Caroline Ambros / The Tufts Daily)

EU Ambassador to the UN João Vale de Almeida discusses the future of Europe as a part of this year’s EPIIC Symposium in Cabot Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 17. (Caroline Ambros / The Tufts Daily)

The symposium opened at noon on Feb. 17 with an address by the European Union’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador João Vale de Almeida. Vale de Almeida, who previously served as the first EU Ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2014, spoke to an audience of professors, undergraduate and graduate students as well as a few members of the general public. Vale de Almeida addressed three main points regarding the migrant crisis, which he dubbed as “the storm.” His main points of discussion were the causes behind the issue, the seriousness of the situation and what can be done in response to the crisis. 

He postulated two different ways to view this crisis: a “foreign policy crisis with domestic spillover” and a “domestic crisis with foreign policy dimension,” recognizing the validity in both views. He concluded the talk without a clear conclusion of whether or not this “storm” would be the crisis that fundamentally changes Europe and the global order. Like TeichmanAlmeida found optimism in the students he spoke to during his time at Tufts, placing onto them his hope for a brighter future for Europe.

The End of History? The Changing Nature of European Identity

Panelists explored topics on European unity and identity, immigration refugees and secularism, among others in the panel discussion held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Cabot Auditorium. 

Reece Wallace, a first-year EPIIC colloquium member, opened the panel with a historical perspective on Europe’s aspirations for cultural and economic unity in the post-war period, before introducing the first speaker, Mario de Caro, a professor of Moral Philosophy at the Universitá Roma Tre in Italy.

De Caro, who has also been a visiting professor at Tufts since 2000, illustrated the problematic history of unifying the distinct “Europes,” as he called them, through various means, such as religion and language, before speaking about the contemporary effort to unify the region politically. De Caro advocated for an Arendtian form of political unity, where the structures unite different societal elements over a mutual respect for cultural differences and effort to ensure human rights, rather than over mutual opposition to an “enemy.”

Obaid Farooqi, president of Tufts Muslim Students Association and Hannah Gersten, president of Tufts French Society, then presented the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award to Jocelyn Cesari, author of “Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Islam in Western Liberal Democracies,” for “intelligently confronting xenophobia and discrimination.” In her speech, Cesari spoke about the securitization of Islam and Europe’s immigration problem.

“What is today called the Islamic problem in Europe was, 30 years ago, an immigration problem,” Cesari said. “It is disturbing to see the change in the phrasing of the problem, where it is no longer about economics or the job market, but about supposed challenges to the culture.”

Cesari also said that Islamophobia plays out differently in Europe than in the U.S. because, while concern about radical jihadists is common, Europeans also tend to be more uncomfortable with public displays of worship.

“In Europe, there is a secularization effort where religious groups of all kinds are discriminated against,” she said. “You need a lot of courage today in Europe to stand up for personal religious freedom.”

Shawn Patterson, a junior studying international relations who is also an EPIIC colloquium member this year, then presented the Robert and JoAnn Bendetson Public Diplomacy Award to Thomas Geisel, the mayor of Dusseldorf, Germany, for his “progressive and proactive immigration policies.” Mathias Risse, a professor of philosophy and public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, introduced Geisel.

The panel also included Tufts Professor of Political Theory Ioannis Evrigenis and Co-director of MultiRights Andreas FollesdalMultiRights is a project on the Legitimacy of Multi-Level Human Rights Judiciary financed by the European Research Council, according to the University of Oslo website. 

“The Future of Europe”

The IGL hosted European academics and diplomats for a panel discussion on Friday evening in the Cabot Auditorium. The discussion was invigorated by news that British Prime Minister David Cameron had renegotiated the terms of the United Kingdom’s (UK) membership in the European Union (EU) hours before the panel began.

Following a brief introduction by moderator and junior Adriana Guardans-Godo, the five panelists spoke for 12 minutes each about their outlook on the future of Europe and their suggestions for approaching the problems ahead.

The first speaker was Gwythian Prins, a British professor and former diplomatPrins argued that the EU is a damaging experiment because there is very little collective European identity and that, in spite of Cameron’s deal, the UK should still leave the EU because its citizens are not interested in unity with Europe.

“The future of Europe will be bright,” Prins said. “But it will only be bright once it’s escaped from the wreckage of the failing and now rapidly unraveling EU experiment.”

Prins’ opposition to the EU stood in stark contrast with the other speakers’ perspectives, and it left several other panelists visibly perturbed.

Karl Kaiser, the former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, began his speech by apologizing on behalf of PrinsKaiser said that the national divisions that Prins cited are natural features of the EU. He argued that the refugee crisis demands a rethinking of the system.

2/19/16 – Medford, MA – Karl Kaiser speaks on "The Future of Europe" panel at the Institute for Global Leadership's 31st annual EPIIC International Symposium on "Europe in Turmoil" on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. (Julia Press / The Tufts Daily) (Julia Press / The Tufts Daily)

Karl Kaiser speaks on “The Future of Europe” panel at the Institute for Global Leadership’s 31st annual EPIIC Symposium on “Europe in Turmoil” on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. (Julia Press / The Tufts Daily)

Uwe Kitzinger, an academic and first British Economist of the Council of Europe, called Prins “someone who is not aware of the complexities of the world.” He credited the EU with averting a third World War, and said that the current turmoil in Europe is not an existential threat because people are still negotiating.

Péter Balázs, former Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was slightly more skeptical. He said that the EU has historically dealt with internal problems like the prospect of a British exit successfully, but struggles with external problems such as the refugee crisis, which demands new and innovative answers.

“The EU is producing more problems than it can solve,” Balázs said. “This is the symptom of a systemic crisis.”

Ivan Vejvoda, an academic who works for the German Marshall Fund, was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia and used that experience as an example of why democracy is important.  He said that most modern European leaders grew up in relative peace, and nationalism and right-wing populism have grown because politicians are responding to economic instability.

“I saw the crumbling of the country which was mine into seven countries,” he said. “It disappeared simply because it was not democratic.”

After all of the panelists spoke, Professor of Classics and International Relations Bruce Hitchner reacted to their speeches. Drawing upon his background in archaeology and ancient history, he said that Europe is struggling with an intersection of internal and external challenges, a problem that has surfaced throughout history.

“An atomized, closed Europe has no better future than an overly centralized … Europe,” he said. “The main hope for Europe’s future must be located in the middle ground.”

The panel ended with questions from the audience as well as a final dialogue between Prins and KaiserKaiser hoped that Cameron’s deal would successfully keep the UK in the EU, whereas Prins contended that Kaiser was overly optimistic about the EU’s legitimacy.

Teichman explained in an interview with the Daily that the contentious debate between Prins and the other panelists was a deliberate feature of EPIIC.

“We bring together concepts and divergent opinions that are essential to understand the schisms and divisions,” Teichman said. “The way we teach is not to proselytize.”

“Islam in Europe”

The panel event, which took place in the Cabot Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 20, featured panelists such as John Bowen, co-editor of “European States and Their Muslim Citizens: The Impact of Institutions on Perceptions and Boundaries,” Emran Qureshi, the co-editor of “The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy,” and Kirsten Wesselhoeft, assistant director of Undergraduate Studies in the study of religion at Harvard College.

2/20/16-Medford/Somerville, MA - A member of the panel "Islam in Europe" speaks as a part of the annual EPIIC Symposium on Feb. 20. (Henry Hintermeister / The Tufts Daily) (Henry Hintermeister)

2/20/16-Medford/Somerville, MA – A member of the panel “Islam in Europe” speaks as a part of the annual EPIIC Symposium on Feb. 20. (Henry Hintermeister / The Tufts Daily)

According to Patterson, the speakers were chosen with the goal of having a variety of opinions on the topic in mind. Patterson said that the idea for this panel was the result of merged student ideas surrounding topics, such as the root of radicalization in Europe and how Europeans view Islam and Christianity in their societies. Furthermore, the goal of the panel, Patterson said, was to provide a broader perspective — not to stay too entrenched in one position but to see the bigger picture — and discuss solutions to problems.

“Europe in the Global Order”

The EPIIC Symposium concluded with this panel event held on Sunday afternoon in the Cabot Auditorium. The panel featured a prominent group of speakers including author of “Global Rules: America, Britain and a Disordered World” James Cronin, Eurosolar President Peter Droege, University of Bath Professor Jolyon Howorth, Johns Hopkins University Assistant Professor Matthias Matthijs and Director of Center for the Study of Democracy Law Program Maria Yordanova. The speakers discussed several issues such as the climate change and renewable energy prospects, cyber security, German leadership within Europe and the role of the EU in navigating these issues.

2/20/16-Medford/Somerville, MA - Audience members of the panel "Islam in Europe" ask questions during one event of the annual EPIIC Symposium. (Henry Hintermeister / The Tufts Daily) (Henry Hintermeister)

2/20/16-Medford/Somerville, MA – Audience members of the panel “Islam in Europe” ask questions during one event of the annual EPIIC Symposium. (Henry Hintermeister / The Tufts Daily)

Melissa Kain and Hannah Uebele contributed to this report.