Spring Lecture Series on European Identity

European IdentityThe Institute for European Studies is organizing a lecture series on European Identity. The lectures will start on 15 February and will take place every Thursday at 18:00 in VUB aula E.0.004. Entrance is free of charge, but registration is compulsory.

Under the auspices of IES Senior Research Fellow Richard Lewis and University of Kent at Brussels professor Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, the Institute for European Studies is organizing a lecture series on European Identity. The lectures will start on 15 February and will take place every Thursday at 18:00 in VUB aula E.0.004. Entrance is free of charge, but registration is compulsory. To register, click here.

Belonging and Participation in a New Europe

A New Europe: Lecture Logo Unlike the New World, Europe has become a region of mass migration only in recent times. Although the ratio of migrants to the native population does not yet match that of the US, Canada or Australia, the concentration of immigrants in large cities in an increasing number of Member States of the EU has irrevocably changed their sociological characteristics. Led by right-wing nationalist political elements, native born citizens seem in many instances to be overwhelmed by such rapid change in the appearance and different cultures in their midst. The more extreme political movements demand restrictions on immigration or the expulsion of those who do not conform, often through no fault of their own, to the strict terms applied to labour migrants or those in need of protection. The more thoughtful press for immigrants to conform to the norms of European society and for compulsory citizenship training so that the newly arrived understand the language, literally and figuratively, and the nature of the society in which they are living.

However, consciously or unconsciously, practically everyone in these new immigration countries is asking the same questions: Who are we? What kind of society are we bequeathing to our children and grandchildren? Will it be one where the native culture is just one of a number of cultures? Or will the newcomers gradually integrate whilst retaining aspects of their origins such as religion?

Even more of a dilemma for Europeans and immigrant leaders alike is the issue of how to engage immigrants in the polity in a productive way, so that they are members of society who enjoy, either in a formal or in a substantive way, economic, social and political rights. A small proportion of immigrants appear to accept the advantages of their choice to move to Europe but reject its norms; some even turn to acts of violence in protest, others withdraw into a cultural shell of non-participation. Still more would participate, yet feel that they are marginalised and unwelcome to do so. The migrants who do accept the receiving country’s norms while maintaining elements of their own identity are many, yet often do not figure in the increasingly vociferous public debates on immigrant integration. The receiving countries’ apparent lack of success in turning immigrants into productive citizens, however well-intentioned, in turn leads to further confrontation in the host society.

This lecture series will explore the issues of identity that these important questions imply, both for Europeans and for the newcomers. What kind of policies are needed at European, national or local level? How do we create the “vocation” to become a successful citizen and perhaps the notion of a “European Dream”? Or is it more a question of allowing the laissez-faire market oriented attitudes of the U.S to work?  What does it mean to be British, French or German; should the nation-state be the essential vehicle for participation and inclusion? Above all, how can immigrants be encouraged to feel that they belong? How can they best reconcile long-held beliefs with the need to belong in a new society and that society’s own long-held beliefs?

The series will bring together a renowned group of scholars, practitioners and officials to reflect on these issues. It is organised by the Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Kent at Brussels in partnership.

Richard Lewis, Institute for European Studies
Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, University of Kent at Brussels

Programme

The two scheduled speakers John Bowen (St. Louis) and Jim Hollifield (Dallas), postponed their lecture and will come to the IES in the autumn to take part in an IES Policy Forum.

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