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Amid Crises, Experts Gather To Discuss E.U.’s Future

As European leaders gather this week to craft an approach to the continent’s refugee crisis, the second annual Summit on the Future of Europe convened at Harvard Tuesday and Wednesday.

Academics and policymakers at the conference were cautiously optimistic about the E.U.’s ability to survive its current crises, citing the need for a coordinated response from European leaders and the international community.

The two-day conference was a joint effort between Harvard’s Center for European Studies and the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development, a public policy think tank headed by Kennedy School of Government alumnus and former Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremić. CES Director Grzegorz Ekiert said the conference was designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas between academics and policymakers, and Americans and Europeans.

The conference opened with an address Tuesday night by former Minister of Finance of Greece Gikas Hardouvelis, who discussed the economic crisis in Greece and its implications for the E.U.

John Gillingham, a CES fellow who attended the event, said he found Hardouvelis’s remarks valuable because they provided a first-hand account unavailable in newspapers.

“It was a very impressive presentation,” he said. “It left more questions unanswered. He made people in the audience think about the right things.”

The three panels on Wednesday, which comprised the majority of the summit, discussed the issues of migration, development along Europe’s southern border, and fostering sustainable prosperity.

Despite abundant talk of crisis, most panelists expressed general optimism regarding the E.U.’s ability to survive and remain relevant on the world stage. Markos Kyprianou, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, declared that the E.U. is “getting there, we are going to survive longer.”

“The E.U. is a spectacular success story,” Kennedy School professor and former Minister of Planning of Venezuela Ricardo Hausmann said to attendees, a sentiment later echoed by Ekiert in his closing remarks.

The summit concluded with a panel made up of Ekiert, Jeremić, and History professor Niall Ferguson.

“I’m not convinced this is the apocalypse for Europe,” Ferguson said. However, both speakers argued that the challenges Europe faces are global challenges that the international community has a responsibility to address.

In an interview after the event, Ekiert described the conference as successful, saying it sparked productive dialogue.

“Because we all care about European integration, we really need to think about all the problems that have accumulated over the past years,” he said.

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