“Nationalism, Populism, and the 2017 Elections: Implications for ‘Illiberal Democracy’ and Integration in the European Union”

On April 27, the NYU Chapter of European Horizons, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy New York, the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association, and NYU Common Place organized a Public Event moderated by European Horizons Chair Professor Colette Mazzucelli to address “Nationalism, Populism, and the 2017 Elections: Implications for ‘Illiberal Democracy’ and Integration in the European Union.” The Public Event convened global thought leaders from the United States and Europe for a timely discussion on the grounds of New York University’s Washington Square campus. The transatlantic conversation deliberately coincided with the conclusion of the first round of the French Presidential elections. This context provided the occasion for a moderated dialogue among panelists Drs. Andras Pap, Itay Lotem, and Franz Schimek.

In his capacity as a Central European University Adjunct Professor and Senior Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, legal scholar Dr. András Pap discussed the specificities of new forms of populism emerging across sections of northwestern Europe. Dr. Pap spoke of the noteworthy dualities which have surfaced in this new wave of populism. The first set includes flexibility and openness. A second comprises internal contradictions and paradoxes. He presented examples of politicians who have been extremely successful as compelling speakers to the masses, giving voice to popular concerns and fears, while being open about their own prior standings as billionaires or career politicians.

Dr. Itay Lotem, a Postdoctoral Fellow in French Language and Culture at the University of Westminster, offered insights into the complexities of the National Front party and the challenges the Far Right presents to French Civilization looking ahead. Dr. Lotem acknowledged the aim of the British in the Brexit vote, which expressed the rejection of membership in a European Union that aimed to limit the prerogatives of Parliament and curtail national sovereignty. The Far Right’s preoccupation with the European Union, he explained, is that integration was never focused enough on the French nation. Dr. Lotem also provided a historical context depicting generations of the Le Pen family as intertwined with the establishment of the National Front by Jean-Marie, the father of Marine. He further explained how the Far Right has insisted on limiting immigration consistently through the decades since its founding in 1972.

Dr. Franz Schimek, Inspector of European Schools, and Chairman of the Austrian-American Educational Cooperation Association invited the community that evening to think about alternative futures for integration. He expounded on the ways education could be used as a tool to limit separatist mindsets and thereby create a foundation for a more progressive future, which is marked by deeper understandings of humanity. Dr. Schimek expressed the importance of using the following three major pillars of global education to move forward: mobility of communication; mobility of thinking; and mobility of interaction.

The NYU graduate candidates who attended the Public Event engaged in extensive conversations of an academic and professional nature with the panelists and their fellow graduate students Graduate candidate Aziza Taylor asked two questions after the panelists spoke, which each relate to the Europe in the 21st Century regional elective in which she is enrolled in the Master of Science in Global Affairs Program at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. The first question focused on the way in which a Macron Administration might shift the political dynamics on a national as well as a geopolitical level given the new President’s commitment to strengthen the Eurozone as he addresses the challenges of French legislative elections and the need to decrease youth unemployment. A second question addressed to Dr. Schimek related to the importance of incorporating a module on civic engagement into the academic curriculum to further European integration in the face of nationalist and populist sentiment across the Continent.

This Public Event marks the relaunch of NYU European Horizons on the New York campus, as well as the establishment of an Advisory Board for the New York University Chapter, https://wp.nyu.edu/europe_21st_century/people/nyu-european-horizons-advisory-board/ In the years ahead, NYU European Horizons aims to cooperate with local partners, including Cultural Vistas, to organize regular gatherings of speakers visiting from the Continent. Public discussions about the evolution of democracy in the European Union as well as the United States, Europe’s relations with emerging powers, particularly China and India, in addition to neighbors Russia and Turkey, are in the planning stages. These Public Events are each filmed and edited to create short videos for viewing on the newly created NYU European Horizons YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL1jszdUAOZnCgqbwoN-2KIFOL_INHB1w



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