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François Hollande Calls for a 'New Europe' at the Harvard Kennedy School’s European Conference

The Harvard Kennedy School, pictured in 2017.
The Harvard Kennedy School, pictured in 2017.
By Annie C. Doris, Crimson Staff Writer

{image id=1326714 size=large byline=TRUE caption="Former President of France François Hollande spoke at the Harvard Kennedy School this weekend.}

Former President of France François Hollande delivered the closing remarks for the 2019 European Conference which took place at the Harvard Kennedy School this weekend, calling for the creation of a “new Europe.”

The European Conference is a seven-year-old tradition and is organized by students from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, the Kennedy School, the Business School, and the College. The theme of this year’s conference was “Europe: Dialogue with Dissent,” and the weekend featured panels and workshops that covered topics ranging from artificial intelligence to European Union elections. The topic of this year’s conference was prompted by the “plurality of crises” that Europe has faced in the last year, including an “economic and financial crisis” and “the blurring of traditional political lines,” according to the conference’s webpage.

Hollande, president of France between 2012 and 2017, began his speech by highlighting the “resilience” of the European Union. He referred to the strength of the euro and the ability of the EU to handle its split with the United Kingdom, which Hollande said “could have been the the beginning of the end.”

Hollande then transitioned into Europe’s weaknesses, calling attention to the EU’s “stagnant” state both in terms of its policies and organization of its defense. He also spoke about the rise of divisions — both north-south and east-west — within Europe.

“The risk for Europe now is to be stopped from the divisions inside,” Hollande said in an interview with The Crimson.

The former French president also discussed how the “European dream” has changed over the past century and how the “European dream” of today is somewhat unclear. He said that two generations ago, Europe was “synonymous with peace.”

“In my generation, Europe was democracy,” Hollande said. “It was the possibility not just to live in peace but in freedom from Portugal all the way to Poland. We reached that dream. But for your generation, what is that dream?”

Hollande said that the “European dream” of today could be founded on promoting ecology, developing “favorable social model[s],” or encouraging increased citizen involvement in democracy.

The second half of his speech focused on exploring possibilities for the future of the European Union. Hollande said his preferred path would be to create a “new Europe within Europe” which would be founded on a relationship between France and Germany.

“If we want to go forward, if we want to have new objectives and new projects, we must choose [this] way,” Hollande said in an interview with The Crimson. “It is to have a union between Germany and France, the more important countries, and to have new steps in the building of Europe. Among those attempts, we have ecology, energy, security, and defense.”

Hollande said that while in the past, it might have been difficult for France and Germany to agree on political matters, he believes there is greater possibility today for their collaboration.

“We think it’s possible to gather France and Germany first and afterward we can ask the other countries to come,” Holland said in his speech, referring to this new Europe.

But without an initial agreement or relationship between France and Germany, Hollande said, it will be “impossible to create a new Europe.”

“The European debate [today] is fundamentally different,” Hollande said in closing his speech. “It’s no longer about changing such-and-such institution, welcoming such-and-such country, or preserving the ones that are leaving. It’s about defining a new Europe, a new project, and a new ideal for the world.”

— Staff writer Annie C. Doris can be reached at annie.doris@thecrimson.com.

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