According to Jacques Le Goff, we “belong to a humanity that lives and fulfils itself in concentric circles: the local […], the national, the European and the universally human”. We live in times “when the European circle needs to emerge”. In the aftermath of the Eastern enlargement of the European Union, this continental ‘circle’ has been put to the test by consecutive crises.
These crises have resulted in a fragmentation of continental coordination: when it comes to terrorism, to the pandemic, or to migration, EU member states tend to yield to the temptation of each one for itself. Are there regional specificities in these continental fractures?
The national circle indeed sometimes appears in stark contrast to the idea of European integration. Identitarian narratives prevail over the European circle, with static conceptions of national identity threatening to reduce the very space of democratic debates. Is there a potential to improve democracy through regional mobility? But in what terms can, or should, European identity itself be framed? Are there European values? Or should we rather think in terms of multiple European identities, which are contextual and changing?
Improving democracy is a multi-level process. This double webinar organised by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy in collaboration with the Department of International History and the Global Governance Centre, proposes to zoom on two specific regions to analyse connections between identitarian thinking, mobility and the state of democracy in countries that are often labelled as regionally homogeneous. The Visegrad Four and the Western Balkans need to be seen in such a dual perspective to show that ‘concentric circles’ might be more complicated than what the initial metaphor suggests.
These two case studies call for reflection on the very notion of European borders and the type of complex, multi-level action required to promote democracy in the EU and areas adjacent to it. Focusing on the issue of democracy offers a fascinating vantage point to address how the broader Eastern European region connects to Europe as both face some pressing challenges.
Information and links to the webinars:
Friday 29 January 2021
The Visegrad Group: A European Region or a Region Against Europe?
with Adam Balazs, Ladislav Cabada, Grégoire Mallard and Christine Lutringer
Wednesday 10 February 2021
The Western Balkans: Local Priorities, Fractured Regional Perspectives.
with Jasmin Hasic, Velibor Jakovleski, Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, Ivan Vejvoda and Maria Mexi
READ MORE about the book The Visegrad Four and the Western Balkans: Framing Regional Identities (Nomos Verlag, 2020) edited by Adam Balazs and Christina Griessler.