Macron’s pan-European academy “welcome but needs work”
A French proposal to create a “European Academy” could help rejuvenate efforts to build a common continental identity, academics said, but warned against duplication and exclusivity.
Under the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, which runs from this month to June 2022, President Emmanuel Macron has proposed “a ‘European Academy’ bringing together around a hundred intellectuals from 27 countries and from all disciplines to the light on the European debate ”.
Thierry Chopin, professor of political science at the Catholic University of Lille, declared that it would be a question of “creating a European structure to work on the narrative of” belonging “and on the common European identity, mainly to through the academic world, but also by involving the cultural world more broadly ”.
“The idea is that there will be no European sovereignty without a sense of belonging and active identification with an EU-wide political community,” he said. “Concretely, I don’t know if it could be a permanent structure or an annual meeting.
Renaud Dehousse, president of the European University Institute, a Florence-based research university established by international treaty in 1972, said that “what is wanted is really a debate”.
“If you want to bring university professors together to discuss the research agenda, that’s one thing – we do it daily, and that’s great. But we are talking about something else. We are talking about people whose task will be to inject new ideas, ”he said.
“There is a big Macron agenda that says: ‘Let’s try to reinvent the meaning of Europe.’ Europe has faced for decades, at least two decades, a certain disenchantment, of which Brexit was one manifestation, but only one.
“There is a widespread awareness across Europe that this is a problem that must be tackled and that we must ask ourselves what are the major problems of Europe today. “
Professor Dehousse argued that the new academy would be different enough from the Academia Europaea, a learned academy founded by 55 academics in Cambridge in 1988, which now has nearly 5,000 members from across the continent.
“The academic world is really a learned society for academics, while Macron makes a different point, he wants intellectuals – thinkers, who may not be academics,” he said.
But other directors of pan-European academies had reservations. Sierd Cloetingh, professor of earth sciences at the University of Utrecht and president of the Academia Europaea, said limiting the number of members to around 100 would allow “just over three per member state”. He also raised concerns about restricting membership to academics from the European Union only, excluding academics from countries such as the UK.
“If the Academia Europaea had remained at the initial number of founders, we wouldn’t be able to function as we do today, so I see this as a first thought from President Macron, in terms of the numbers he mentions and also. restriction to [the] EU, ”said Professor Cloetingh.
“I have to say it looks like something that already exists,” said Gemma Modinos, neuroscience and mental health reader at King’s College London and president of the Young Academy of Europe, who questioned “the level of awareness from President Macron to what exists in terms of academies on a European scale ”.
The move comes as the European Universities Initiative, a Macron-led plan to create cross-border institutions, is offering a third round of funding.