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23rd International WDR Europaforum 2021

Emancipation in times of crisis - Europe's road to greater autonomy

Is the coronavirus pandemic bringing European citizens closer together, or driving them further apart? Either way, one thing is clear: major crises can only be dealt with by working together.

This year’s forum is taking place in a time of dramatic pressure and challenges that are putting the European Union’s cohesion to the test. The coronavirus pandemic was a test of the promise of solidarity amongst member-states, a test passed only after delays, and not without shortcomings. Sustainable success has not yet been secured Add to that the uncertainties surrounding political and social developments in the USA, the worsening climate crisis, the perpetual dispute regarding treatment of refugees and migrants and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Europe’s continued viability, the traditional focus of the WDR Europaforum, is now facing unprecedented pressure. In terms of foreign affairs, Europe must once again establish a partnership with the United States under President Joe Biden’s government. And there is a unified policy to be found for dealing with ‘systemic rivals’ Russia and China. The call for more autonomy, for a robust reinforcement of Europe by Europeans, has found a great deal of resonance, but so far there is no path to practical political implementation.

First, the EU must overcome internal conflicts that shake it to its very core. Brexit is complete, but the economic and political effects are still to be dealt with. In many EU member-states, a shared understanding of the basic values of democracy and rule of law is being challenged by violent nationalism. Populists are gaining support by claiming that the EU is not a problem-solver, but instead one of the biggest problems to be solved. Here, too, we need a Europe that has good reason to be self-confident and sure of its values and goals.

The WDR Europaforum, which takes place on Thursday, 20 May 2021, will search for answers to the fundamental questions plaguing European politics under the motto: 

Emancipation in times of crisis – Europe’s road to greater autonomy