Former European Commission Vice-President opens SEI anniversary conference
A former Vice-President of the European Commission opened the 20th-anniversary conference of the Sussex European Institute (SEI), which was held on campus last week.
Addressing a packed audience, Lord (Leon) Brittan gave a wide-ranging talk on the European Union, asking: ‘Is there life after the Eurocrisis?’.
He drew on his ten years of experience as a European Commissioner (1989-99) responsible for competition policy, financial institutions, external economic affairs and trade policy, to analyse the current Eurozone crisis and set out his prognosis for the future of the European political and economic integration project.
The two-day conference on 27-28 September - which was sponsored by the Higher Education Innovation Fund and European Commission Representation in the UK - also included sessions on European values, identity and citizenship; the Eurozone crisis; the future of the European economy; and the position of Europe in the world.
In these sessions, delegates listened to presentations from, and participated in debates with, leading international experts in these fields including all three former SEI directors: Professors Jörg Monar, Jim Rollo and Dame Helen Wallace.
Apart from current SEI-linked faculty, researchers and postgraduate students, the 100 conference delegates included many from among the more than 600 students who have taken SEI Masters courses and 70 PhDs who have graduated at SEI during the past 20 years.
The conference was also attended by many of the SEI’s long-standing academic visiting fellows and its network of ‘practitioner fellows’ - senior non-academic specialists whose work has brought them into contact with the European integration process - as well from the 140-strong undergraduate EU Society.
SEI Co-Director Professor Aleks Szczerbiak commented: “The conference took place at a time when the European integration project faces momentous challenges – indeed, a potentially existential Eurozone crisis that represents the greatest challenge in its history.
“Nonetheless, conference participants approached these questions in a spirit of critical engagement and sober reflection. I’m confident that they came away with a very much clearer understanding of the challenges that Europe currently faces.”
SEI Co-Director Professor Sue Millns added: “The conference generated a series of extremely high-quality debates about the future of Europe, the European Union and the Eurozone.
“Reflections were sometimes pessimistic, occasionally optimistic but above all realistic about the prospects of European integration and the European project.
The conference is the first of a series of SEI events sponsored by the European Commission and will be followed up by four, more focused workshops that will build and expand upon the themes discussed last week.
These will run from November through to June 2013 and will cover issues such as challenging financial times in Europe; social citizenship and migration in Europe; EU foreign policy making and the external action service; and Euroscepticism in the UK and reconnecting the UK public with the EU.