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"Crisis and a Crossroads” explores the future of the European Union

  • A United States of Europe?
    A United States of Europe?
    A Williamsburg audience narrowly votes against a more "United States of Europe." On stage are Jörg Asmussen, Liam Fox and moderator Roger Cohen.
    Photo by Tom Green, Colonial Williamsburg

The economic, political and cultural future of the European Union was the talk of the town March 16-20, 2014, during an international conference held jointly in Williamsburg and Washington, D.C.

“A Crisis and a Crossroads: A Dis-United or United States of Europe” was the second collaboration of the Williamsburg-CSIS Forum, hosted by William & Mary's Reves Center for International Studies in cooperation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CW).

Experts on European affairs, including diplomats, academics, business leaders, economists and media representatives gathered for four days of private discussions and public panels to explore the state of the European Union and its future as a federalist entity.

William & Mary’s A. Maurits van der Veen, assistant professor of government, participated in the events in Williamsburg and Washington, D.C., and enjoyed the diversity of viewpoints of global issues.

“I found the experience truly enlightening, offering a look at how practitioners and journalists view the same issues I study as an academic,” he said. “The coffee breaks and meals offered a great opportunity to exchange ideas and argument with people whose writings I often read as part of my research but rarely get to interact with directly.”

The forum included a live, public webcast of the March 17 panel discussing “A Union’s Greatest Challenges: Europe’s Future Path toward Economic Growth, Global Competitiveness and Addressing Debt,” which brought students and faculty from a number of U.S. universities, as well as interested individuals, to view the panel in real time. Former Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment for the U.S. Department of State Robert Hormats spoke on the panel. He was joined by David Marsh, chairman and co-founder of Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and Wolfgang Münchau, associate editor and European economic columnist for the Financial Times. Heather Conley, director and senior fellow of the CSIS Europe Program, acted as moderator for the panel, which explored advantages and disadvantages of independent national economic policies as opposed to a unified policy, like that which was implemented by the first U.S. Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton.

A panel discussing, “The Great European Debate: A United States of Europe,” was open to the public and brought Germany’s Permanent State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Jörg Asmussen, to discuss the affirmative position. Asmussen noted that a United States of Europe would not resemble the United States of America any time soon; instead, he saw the affirmative position as advocating for a long-term project of unification. Presenting the opposing view was the United Kingdom’s former Secretary of State for Defence, Liam Fox, who argued that the EU interferes too much in social and foreign policy. The panel was moderated by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, who declared Fox’s side triumphant by a narrow margin of the audience’s vote.

A final closed session of the Williamsburg-CSIS Forum was held in Washington, D.C., which concluded the conference.

“The second Williamsburg-CSIS Forum on the future of the European Union was a tremendous success,” said Stephen E. Hanson vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies. “Our discussions showed the remarkable continuing relevance of early debates about the nature of American federalism for contemporary discussions of the political, economic, social and cultural challenges facing the EU in the 21st century.”