CLS Summer School [’16]: The Many Crises of the European Union, View from a Mountain

Dear friends,

Let us invite you to the 2016 edition of the Common Law Society Summer School: View from a Mountain, this time on THE MANY CRISES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. The summer school will be held in the traditionnal settings of the Giant Mountains from 10 to 24 July 2016. We are waiting for your application and are looking forward to seeing you in July!

Who will come to the Giant Mountains as a lecturer?

Key note lecture: Koen Lenaerts, President of the European Court of Justice

Lectures and seminars by Jan Komárek (LSE) and guests (only confirmed are mentioned): Ana Beduschi (Exeter), Marija Bartl (Amsterdam/Harvard), Marco Dani (Trento), Irena Kalhousová (LSE), Mareike Kleine (LSE), Kubo Mačák (Exeter), Paul Linden Retek (Yale), Jonathan White (LSE), Mike Wilkinson (LSE)

What can you look forward to?

“If the euro fails, Europe fails”, warned the German chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 at the (first) apex of the sovereign debt crisis. Since then the European Union has faced many more potential failures – and challenges. Today Eurozone’s problems are not, arguably, the most serious of them. This year’s course has two aims: first, to analyse the crises and challenges Europe is facing and prospects of the Union to stand up to them. Second, in order to understand the many crises in Europe, we need to understand Europe and European integration. We will therefore study its institutional framework, foundational values and concepts that form its political vocabulary.

What kind of crises and challenges?

First of all, there is a challenge of security, both external and internal: After Russia annexed part of the territory of another European sovereign state (Ukrainian Crimea) in March 2014, a war started at the Union’s borders – something the Union had not experienced for many years. Moreover, this time one side of the conflict is being supported by a state, which seeks to reclaim its superpower (or imperial?) status lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of the Union’s member states still remember what is was to live under that superpower’s rule and see their membership in the EU (and the NATO) as a safeguard against this happening again. But are these frameworks fit for this purpose today, particularly regarding the other challenges the Union is facing?

Consider Europe’s internal security: in the last year too many Europeans died in terrorist attacks – committed on the Union’s territory or beyond, against Europeans because they were Europeans. If it is true that “the legitimacy of the modern state is based on its promise to keep the public sphere free of political violence” – the promise kept successfully, with very few exceptions, by the states in Western Europe for several decades, than these attacks challenge much more than the lives of Europeans. They challenge the political order that is being built by them and of which the Union is part.

This is particularly so since internal security is increasingly (rightly or not) perceived in relation to another crisis, the border crisis. So far the European states – and their Union – were not capable to deal with it and the Union is more and more seen as a source, and not the solution to it. But there is a deeper issue here as well, going to the very heart of what Europe stands (or wants to stand) for: irregular migrants “are treated as both security threats to Europe and as lives that are threatened and in need of saving”. How this tension is (not) being solved suggest something about the importance of borders and security for the legitimacy of the government, “governmentality” and technologies of power in today’s Europe.

With the border crisis another boundary re-emerged in the political discourse: that between West and East, or liberal-democratic Europe and Europe at the “end of post-communism”. Easterners are yet again being told to learn the terms of their membership in the EU, which contain also “solidarity”: with the refugees (“the lives to be saved”) and the states that bear a disproportionate burden (“lives as liabilities”).

But there are other, arguably more real problems in the East: after the Union failed to prevent the rise of an illiberal (and increasingly authoritarian) regime in Hungary, it wants to do better this time: on 13 January of this year the Commission decided to start “the structured dialogue under the Rule of Law Framework” with Poland – a first step which may eventually end with imposing sanctions on Poland for the violation of the Union’s foundational values prescribed by Article 7 TEU.

Is this Europe’s role, however, given its own problems with democracy and political legitimacy? Isn’t this yet another sign of the German dominance in Europe, something the integration project had been succeeding in preventing, but today seems rather to contribute to? Do we have German Europe today rather than European Germany?

Is not the Union best understood as a cooperative enterprise among the member states aimed principally at securing economic prosperity through free trade promotion? The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently negotiated between the Union and the United States provides a focal point for such debate. We will therefore discuss the challenge of Europe’s purpose, identity and its relationship to the people of Europe too.

Who are we and why is this summer school is different from all others?

The summer school is organised by a group of current or former students of Prague’s Charles University Faculty of Law, members of its Common Law Society. This does not mean it is not a serious academic enterprise – people from the world’s leading universities are teaching and will show you what it is to study at such institutions; it means, however, that you will be in a very friendly company, both of your peers, and also lecturers. It is very rare to have a beer (or two) with a professor from Cambridge or to go to sauna (or play volleyball) with a member of the European Court of Justice. All this happens in the mountains – and much more!

In exchange we expect you do the readings and participate actively in seminars – which are designed to be interactive and let everybody to speak. The amount of readings can appear daunting, but we will make every effort to make them available in a good time before the summer school starts, so as you have enough time for preparation.

Besides seminars there will be a moot court competition – and this year you will have the privilege to plead in front of the President of the ECJ – an experience many seasoned Brussels lawyers do not have.

Finally, there will be some “after dinner debates” too, but we hope to engage you in the debate on the future of Europe throughout the two weeks in the mountains. You only need to apply!

For more information and the application form, please visit our website:

CLS Team