Academic Year Opening Lecture
07 October 2019

The Decline of European Values and the Rise of Populism

Joseph H. H. Weiler, former President of the European University Institute in Florence, a partner institution with the Graduate Institute, and Professor from the New York University School of Law, gave the Institute’s opening lecture of the academic year on 26 September 2019.

In his lecture entitled “The European Culture Wars and the Decay of European Democracy”, Professor Weiler explained that the rise of populism in the European Union could be traced to its procedural values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. He stated that these values “are a necessary but not sufficient condition to satisfy the primordial quest for meaning and significance”. According to Professor Weiler, these values provide the conditions for action, individual and collective, but not its content.

Professor Weiler highlighted that values such as patriotism, identity, and obligations and responsibilities give meaning to an individual’s actions beyond self-interest. He added, “our historical mistake was to fail to understand the importance of collective values and to adapt them to a modern progressive narrative”.

He concluded that there is a way of celebrating and respecting love of society and country, of coupling rights with duties, and of having a healthy self-respect for one’s collective identity and culture. However, that way is not part of mainstream politics. Professor Weiler underlined that “until we fill this void, the field will be left for the likes of Orban and his pals”.

Keywords: international law

Interview of Joseph Weiler by Paola Gaeta, Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute.