BLOG: European Horizons at Yale University
Ayşenur BiçenExcitement was buzzing at Yale University for the student-organized European Student Conference. The conference coordinators had reviewed initial policy papers and had monitored online discussions, while the organizing team had been working hard to welcome EU policymakers, prominent professors, distinguished keynote speakers and a driven body of student participants.
Some 84 students, selected from a pool of 350 applicants from all over the United States representing 45 universities and 25 nationalities, were welcomed to Yale for the weekend of Feb. 13-14 to discuss the future of the European Union. The conference has a long-term goal: it strives to establish the first US-based student-led think-tank focussing on the future of the EU and attempt to channel future student creativity to contemporary policy debates.
David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador to the United States, said: “This brings together some of the best and brightest students from across the U.S. to discuss the future of the European Union and transatlantic relations. This conference could not come at a better time as we find ourselves at a point in EU-U.S. relations with an unprecedented level of cooperation and a number of common challenges.” Furthermore, he pointed out: "It was a great pleasure for me to open the European Student Conference at Yale. It was truly impressive to see their great grasp of EU issues. I welcome the many initiatives and policy recommendations coming out of this conference and I am certain the launch of their think tank will spur further interest in the European Union in universities across the U.S."
The event coincided with the current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The chief EU negotiator for TTIP negotiations, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, was also present at the European Student Conference at Yale.
The conference, financed by several sponsors and the European Commission through a generous Jean Monnet award, gathered students to develop visions and strategies to combat challenges the EU currently faces in five dimensions: the economy, transatlantic relations, identity, borders and democracy. Some of the questions the workshops tackled were:
• How can the EU balance the moral responsibility of helping immigrants with the objective to control irregular immigration?
• In light of the current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), how do we pursue establishing a robust and beneficial transatlantic relationship?
• What tangible steps can the EU take to improve the outlook for young Europeans, with a specific focus on the role of digital economy?
• In the 2014 EU election, Eurosceptic and extreme nationalist parties have risen across Europe. What are the underlying reasons and possible solutions regarding this development?
• What unites the members of the European Union, particularly when it comes to social solidarity and human rights? Are there any shared characteristics, whether societal, economic, or political, which can ground a so-called common European identity?
In analyzing such questions, participants were accompanied by academics, policy makers and businesspeople. Distinguished professors advising the event included Seyla Benhabib, Jolyon Howorth, David Bach, Christine Landfried, Adam Tooze and David Cameron. Some of the confirmed speakers and policy makers included Pascal Lamy (Former WTO director general and EU commissioner for trade), Wolfgang Petritsch (former EU high representative to Bosnia), and Karl Schwarzenberg (former minister for foreign affairs of the Czech Republic).
The think tank emerging from the conference, European Horizons, aims to generate a stronger discourse for the promise of the European project of integration and a firmer foothold for transatlantic relationships. To this end, it will link students, scholars and young professionals with one another and with European decision makers, enrich dialogue and contribute to a global perspective on European affairs. In an attempt to create awareness in the U.S. and beyond, the think tank will encompass chapters in American universities, convene an annual conference and publish an academic journal alongside an online blog that will allow participants to engage with the developments in Europe.
As much as Turkey always seeks to grow and take advantage of many invaluable opportunities coming from Asia and the Middle East, it should never turn its back on the West. Europe connects Turkey to the vision set by its founding, a vision of modernization and industrialization, which considers freedom and welfare as its core values and thereby aims to carry Turkey to its envisioned future.
Straddling two continents, Turkey has always been a hybrid country that connects the East and the West. A combination of the EU’s strong institutional heritage with Turkey’s dynamic emerging market could prove to be beneficial for the political and economic future of not only those parties directly involved, but also the whole region. And perhaps, at a time when Turkish opinion is divided, it is all the more important for Turkish youth to participate in systemic debate and engage with peers at various platforms. European Horizons, hopefully, is one of them.
Ayşenur Biçen is a graduate of Robert College of Istanbul, currently studying at Yale University. She is also the Sponsorships Coordinator for the European Student Conference 2015. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. See more information at www.escatyale.com.