The Forum on Contemporary Europe (FCE) continues a multiyear study of the challenges facing European Union integration and global crisis intervention. The increasingly complex demands straining Europe and its trans-Atlantic relations—labor migration, spending on welfare economies, globalized cultures, and threats of terrorism, coupled with Europe’s struggle to ratify a single constitution—underline the need to measure prospects for unification and the EU’s ability to function as a coordinated international actor. This year, FCE is broadening its work to assess the role an integrated EU can play in addressing the world’s most troubling crises.
The forum has explored the question of Turkey’s EU membership with Stanford scholars, European leaders, and the public. In spring 2006, former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer and author Christopher Hitchens offered candid analyses of EU expansion. Hitchens challenged commonplace descriptions of “Christian Old Europe” antagonized by “Islamicized” secular Turkey. Europe and Islam are not newly in contention, he said, but are playing out a centuries-old relationship grounded in the European and Ottoman empires in the Eastern Mediterranean. For Hitchens, the portrait of clashing civilizations obscures the crises facing minority Kurdish and neighboring societies whose survival is at stake in EU expansion.
Delivering the Payne lecture, Fischer noted the dilemma of seeking to achieve popular ratification of a European constitution at a time when public attention is galvanized by the Turkish candidacy. Fischer rejected common comparisons between European state rulings on Islamic traditions and models of U.S. multiculturalism. Fischer found admirable aspects of the U.S. inspiration but questioned its relevance for mediating myriad EU interests. For Fischer, the EU as a supra-state actor holds the promise to democratize conflict resolution in the deliberative model of the European Parliament and legitimate its role as a peacekeeping actor.
The forum’s new focus on EU crisis intervention began with addresses by Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain’s Security Services (MI-6), and Alain Bauer, former vice president of the University of Paris–Sorbonne and director of France’s National Institute for Higher Studies in Security, who discussed EU counterintelligence and international early-warning protocols. Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias spoke on the Eastern Mediterranean context that frames the Turkish candidacy, the economics of EU integration, and prospects for responding to the tensions in Cyprus. Austrian Ambassador Eva Novotny spoke on Austria’s immediate past EU presidency, evaluating the impact of the EU Council’s intervention in the Israel-Lebanon crisis. Professor Josef Joffe spoke on his new book, Uberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America, and the prospects for U.S.–EU interaction in global affairs.
The forum’s fall series brought public acclaim when Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the European Parliament Greens/New Alliance Parties, delivered FCE’s 2006–2007 “Europe Now” address, cosponsored by Stanford’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Woods Institute for the Environment. Speaking to an overflow crowd, and meeting separately with faculty and researchers, Cohn-Bendit focused his public remarks on European Integration: Society, Politics, and Islam. A European Parliament leader, Cohn-Bendit spoke on his party’s proposal to deploy Joschka Fischer as the EU representative to Middle East peace negotiations. Expanding and integrating the EU, Cohn-Bendit argued, is the most reasonable strategy for strengthening Europe’s role in international relations and crisis intervention.
The Forum on Contemporary Europe continues to deepen scholarly and public understanding of the EU promise to achieve democratic governance, economic growth, security, and social integration among its member states and in its foreign engagements.