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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 came at a time of dramatic pressure challenging the European Union’s cohesion. The coronavirus pandemic has put to the test the promise of solidarity amongst member-states, a test passed only with some delay, and not without shortcomings. Sustainable success is not yet been assured. In addition, Europe is faced with 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 path to a successful future, traditional focus of the WDR Europaforum, is paved with an unprecedented array of serious challenges: In terms of foreign affairs, Europe must establish a renewed partnership with the United States under President Joe Biden’s administration. A joint strategy needs to be found for dealing with ‘systemic rivals’ Russia and China. The call for greater autonomy, for more European self-reliance, is widely supported  but still awaiting  practical implementation.

Internally, the EU must overcome fundamental conflicts shaking it to its very core. Brexit is “done” 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 itself one of the biggest problems to be solved. Here again, the search is on for a Europe that has good reason to be self-confident and can be sure of its values and goals.

The WDR Europaforum, on Thursday, 20 May 2021, addressed  Europe’s fundamental political questions under the motto

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