León Castellanos-Jankiewicz, PhD law student, reflects on the experience.
Last summer, some thirty young scholars were welcomed at the University of Oxford to attend the Europaeum Summer School entitled “Conflict Resolution in Europe: Lessons for Tomorrow?”, myself among them. The Europaeum, an association of ten European universities, promotes collaborative research and academic exchanges, and the Graduate Institute is a member. I represented the Institute and we assessed conflict resolution through the lens of Europe’s present health under the direction of Dr Paul Flather, the Europaeum’s Secretary-General and Fellow of Mansfield College. It was a momentous occasion to assess the European project while the continent’s self-perception is in flux.
The interdisciplinary discussions provided insight to my research on judicial disputes, often highlighting that law and politics go hand-in-glove. Attendants delivered presentations and I explored the oft-neglected argument that individual human rights originate from collective rights by analysing the post-war protection of minorities.
During the discussions, we focused on conflicts’ fluid boundaries. The twentieth century saw European powers descend into war twice, with sovereign armies fighting for king and country. Today, discord is local or regionalized but has global and asymmetric impact. Richard Caplan from Oxford showed how fragmented causes sway collective concerns and Ed Vulliamy, journalist and writer, illustrated the shift with his inspiring reporting on transnational crime and Mexico’s drug cartels for The Guardian. Most perplexing was the realisation of governmental unpreparedness in responding to attacks where the general public—not governments—are targeted by peripheral groups. Europe has attained mixed success in wrestling with these problems.
We also visited the age-old problems of European nationalism, identity and ethnic divides, which are foisted into the contemporary politics of EU enlargement, regionalism and democratic governance, as deftly broached by Terry Davis, former Secretary General of the Council of Europe and by the European Commission’s Alain Servantie, who were present.
Whether Europe can transcend national interests through its Union emerged as a major concern. We returned to our universities with more questions than answers, attesting to a thought-provoking week. From lessons of the past emerged prospects for the future.
León Castellanos-Jankiewicz is a PhD candidate in International Law and is originally from Mexico.
The Europaeum is one of several prestigious academic networks to which the Graduate Institute belongs.
Photo: copyright, Zurya Ortegón, Universidad Anáhuac-Mayab