The Library attended the inauguration ceremony of the Chair in European Values: discourses and prospects, a joint project between the Université catholique de Louvain and the Universiteit Antwerpen, dedicated to the study of European values.
At a time when the European Union’s foundations are being called into question – with the euro crisis, a refugee crisis and growing public disenchantment – it seems more urgent than ever that it be examined what makes Europe unique. The two chair–holders, Noël Clyq (Universiteit Antwerpen) and Luuk van Middelaar (Université catholique de Louvain) outlined the main objectives of the Chair and stressed the two universities’ long tradition of addressing societal challenges.
What unites the people on our continent culturally, politically and historically? Do we share a common heritage? What should we make of differences in values between East and West or between North and South? How should we deal with the current challenge of migration? How can we promote better public appreciation of the interplay between Europe’s unity and diversity? How can the diversification of our cities stimulate cultural exchange and understanding? Working at the point where social science, history and philosophy intersect, the new Chair has the aim of providing insights and strategies to students, policy-makers and the wider public. The academic work carried out will be transmitted to the European Institutions and Member States in an effort to build a link between universities and politicians. The originator of the idea of launching the Chair, Baron Velge, who played a crucial role in convincing sponsors to give their support, was also present at the event.
A stimulating and wide-ranging conversation took place between Frans Timmermans, First Vice–President of the European Commission, and Béatrice Delvaux of the newspaper Le Soir. Frans Timmermans underlined the risks of what he called the “erosion of the middle” and stressed that, “if we want our societies to be renewed and reinvigorated, it’s in the middle that we have to start”. He noted that one of the major problems was the “non‑commitment of the vast majority” and the “lack of mobilisation, in particular of the young generation”. Frans Timmermans also pointed out that “in our democracies, short termism has become the norm, and therefore politicians are not engaging in long-term projects”.
Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, closed the session with a resolute speech on “Europese waarden vandaag – Les valeurs européennes aujourd’hui” in which he stressed the need to find “the right balance between identity and openness, between ethical idealism and political realism”.
Herman Van Rompuy also noted that “l’Europe de papa n’existe plus; il y a un nouveau chapitre dans la construction européenne” and concluded by saying that “we shouldn’t have a democratic deficit, but nor should we have a leadership deficit either”.