Fringe Event Programme SOU2021

Fringe Events were panels organised by The State of the Union’s Partners and Internal and External Stakeholders. These sessions contributed alternative perspectives to the overarching #SOU2021 theme “Europe in a Changing World” and were intellectually independent from the main programme.

Alliances for better protecting the rule of law and civic space in the EU

09:30-10:35 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Valerie Hopkins, South-East Europe Correspondent, Financial Times


Adam Bodnar, Ombudsman, Citizen Rights of Poland

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, MEP and Vice-President of Greens/EFA, European Parliament

Márta Pardavi, Co-chair, Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Laurent Pech, Head of the Law and Politics Department, Middlesex University London

Rule of law, fundamental rights and civil society space in the EU are at the centre of divisive political and legal debates as they come under increasing pressure in many member states. To date, the EU has not been able to halt democratic backsliding and the erosion of core EU values despite investing in an evolving toolbox to address these challenges. More immediate crises overshadow what are worrying parallel trends of decreasing citizen trust in justice systems in a number of EU countries, and the emergence of measures capable of undermining mutual trust among member states. Looking beyond the legal and political instruments available to strengthen the rule of law, this panel will focus on the supporting architecture for strengthening the rights protection of European citizens. The panellists, drawing on their experience within national human rights institutions, EU institutions, civil society and academia, will discuss how transnational initiatives can act and cooperate more effectively to protect civic space.
The event is connected to the Recharging Advocacy for Rights in Europe project that seeks to empower 25 European human rights NGOs through a two-years capacity- and alliance-building programme.

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With the contribution of:

EU-African digital partnership in a changing world

10:50-11:35 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Andrea Castagna, Member, European Digital Development Alliance


Dorothy Gordon, Chair, Inter-governmental Council of UNESCO’s Information for all Programme and Board Member, UNESCO IITE, UNESCO

Onica N. Makwakwa, Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet, World Wide Web Foundation

Bjorn Richter, Head of Digital Development Programme, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit

Zuzana Sladkova, Policy Leader Fellow, School of Transnational Governance, EUI

Digital transformation is happening now, everywhere and it has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It became an essential instrument to enable sustainable development and inclusive growth. It is a relatively new part of the EU’s foreign policy, many challenges are still to be addressed. Strong digital partnership between African countries and the European Union is crucial to improve people’s lives on both the continents, by empowering women and girls, enhancing democratic governance and transparency, and boosting productivity and job creation. The event will address the long-term goals of digital partnership between EU and Africa. Specifically, how to forge a stronger, genuine, inclusive, and mutually beneficial partnership in digital transformation between Africa and the EU. Recently initiated Digital4Development (D4D) Hub by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen under the German EU Council Presidency creates such opportunities. However, the question is how to make the hub operational, so trust is built for mutual cooperation and exchange best practices while learning from each other.

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The Role of Modal Shift in Achieving Transport Decarbonisation Objectives

11:40-12:30 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Juan Montero, Professor of Administrative Law and Economic Regulation, National Distance Education University


Matthias Finger, Director, Florence School of Regulation – Transport, Robert Schuman Centre, EUI

Walter Goetz, Head of Cabinet for the Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean, European Commission

Piia Karjalainen, Secretary General, Mobility as a Service Alliance 

Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director, Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies

The European Green Deal strives to transform Europe into the world’s first carbon neutral continent by 2050. This commitment places a particular responsibility on the transport sector, which accounts for a quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. While a combination of measures will have to be considered, this panel explores the role of modal shift in placing the transport sector on a firm path to sustainable and smart mobility. The EU’s modal shift strategy sets out that rail freight traffic should increase by 50% by 2030 and double by 2050, whereas transport by inland waterways and short sea shipping should increase by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050. To advance the delivery of these objectives, the Commission has declared 2021 as the European Year of Rail. What measures should be implemented to better manage and increase the capacity of railways and inland waterways? While COVID-19 has brought to light more prominently the higher safety and reliability of rail freight, which in turn, has provided efficient cross-border cargo connections carrying large volumes of essential goods using minimal human resources, how can we sustain this improved performance into the post-COVID-19 period? Can the COVID-19 aftermath be transformed into an opportunity for railway undertakings to tap into unused potential and develop more rail passenger services, especially in cross-border contexts? What are the technical and regulatory barriers, as well as the possible solutions and legislative opportunities to turn the EU’s modal shift objectives into reality?

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EU, China and US on their way to carbon neutrality: will their implementation strategies converge?

12:35-13:25 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Simone Borghesi, Director, Florence School of Regulation – Climate, Robert Schuman Centre, EUI

Jos Delbeke, European Investment Bank Climate Chair and Professor, School of Transnational Governance, EUI


Suzi Kerr, Chief Economist, Environmental Defense Fund

Duan Maosheng, Professor and Director, China Carbon Market Centre, Tsinghua University

Vicky Pollard, Team Leader for International Carbon Markets, DG Climate Action

The European Union (EU) committed to reach climate neutrality by 2050. This ambitious target remains a top priority for the Commission despite the COVID-19 crisis and is shared by other jurisdictions, such as USA and China (the latter by 2060). The EU intends to play a key role in the global climate challenge. While a unilateral action will not be sufficient to stop global warming (as EU emits only a small part of world emissions), the EU can lead the world by example in adopting stringent climate regulations and hence influencing the others’ climate policies. However, alternative climate policies might emerge in the world challenging the EU leadership in the fight against climate change. For instance, the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) was a prototype for most ETSs in the world. But ETSs might diverge over time rather than converge towards a unique model to account for the different institutional frameworks. The same applies to other climate policies that might or not fit other institutional contexts.The panel session will discuss how the EU and other countries can learn from their own experiences to coordinate climate policies, focusing on how cooperation between ETSs can support a coherent global climate policy.The event continues the policy dialogue between academia and the policy world carried out by FSR Climate at State of the Union since 2018, together with the Policy Outreach Committee of EAERE and the STG. It is organised under the LIFE DICET project, which focuses on international carbon market cooperation.

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80 Years on – is the Ventotene Manifesto still relevant for today’s Europe?

14:50-15:50 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Eric Jozsef, Journalist, Libération 


Jonas Brendebach, Research and Teaching Associate, School of Transnational Governance, EUI

Silvia Costa, Government Commissioner for the Recovery and Enhancement of the former Bourbon prison of Santo Stefano

Pier Virgilio Dastoli, President, European Movement Italy

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Vice-Chair, Friends of the Global Fund Europe Board for Germany

The manifesto “Towards a Free and United Europe” was drafted on the island of Ventotene in 1941, in the midst of World War II. Authored by Italian intellectuals and militant politicians in exile, Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni, the Ventotene Manifesto envisioned the creation of a federal Europe, to change the historical path that had led European countries to war for the second time in just a few decades. Eighty years later Europe is at peace, but the EU faces other crises, not least the pandemic and the future itself of the European project which is undermined by resurgent nationalisms in many member states. Academics and high-profile former European officials, who worked closely with Altiero Spinelli at the European Parliament, will discuss the impact of the ideas of the Ventotene Manifesto in the process of European integration, and their relevance for today’s Europe. In a dialogue between past and present, this panel will address the significance of one of Europe’s founding documents for the challenges ahead, and the implications of European political integration in the world of today.

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The social contract in Europe after the pandemic, will the pendulum swing back?

16:00-16:50 – 6 May 2021


Peter Gumbel, Editorial Director, McKinsey Global Institute


Sven Smit, Chairman, McKinsey Global Institute and Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company


Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge

Jacques van den Broek, CEO, Randstad

The massive government spending during the Covid-19 crisis to cushion the blow for people and businesses marks a revival of the social contract—and a reversal of the trend of institutional pullback over the past 20 years which left individuals increasingly responsible for their own economic outcomes in their roles as workers, consumers, and savers. But the large-scale fiscal stimulus and other buffering measures may not be sustainable in the long term. How will the institutional relationship between governments, businesses, and individuals evolve as we come out of this crisis? How can we ensure that some of the positive benefits that the emergency intervention has had on individuals’ economic outcomes be sustained in the future?

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Engaging Iran – European and transatlantic perspectives on the JCPOA and security in the Gulf

16:55-17:50 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Paolo Magri, Executive Vice-President, Italian Institute for International Political Studies

Luigi Narbone, Director, Middle East Directions Programme, Robert Schuman Centre, EUI

Opening Remarks

Marina SereniVice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy


Joost Hiltermann, MENA Program Director, International Crisis Group
Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran

Barbara Slavin, Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

After the United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and the launch of the maximum pressure campaign, we witnessed a misalignment in EU and US policy towards Iran, a resume in Iranian nuclear activities, and a rise in insecurity in the Gulf region. The election of Joe Biden, who has stipulated his intention to revive the JCPOA, opens a new chapter for a newfound transatlantic cooperation engaging Iran on both the nuclear dossier and regional security.
As the sequencing of a US and Iranian full return to the JCPOA remains subject for discussion, the EU could play a role in helping disentangle the nuclear dossier and the regional security one.
This webinar brings together a European, a US and an Iranian perspective on the prospects for reviving the JCPOA and for engaging Iran on a broader discussion on security in the Gulf region.

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Trends and shifts in Global Governance and the Role of the EU

17:55-18:50 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Gaby Umbach, Director of GlobalStat and Part-time Professor, Global Governance Programme, Robert Schuman Centre, EUI


Jim Cloos, Secretary General, Trans European Policy Studies Association

Florence Gaub, Deputy Director, European Union Institute for Security Studies

Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Global Governance, Regulation, Innovation and the Digital Economy, Centre for European Policy Studies

Anthony Teasdale, Director-General, European Parliamentary Research Service 

The erosion of the global climate change regime, the internationally-agreed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the peaceful use of nuclear power at risk, burden-sharing conflicts in international security politics and new global trade wars all testify to the contestation of global governance and the acceleration of the renationalisation of politics. Both go hand in hand with shifts in global power constellations, disruptive technologies, the erosion of liberal democracies and the transformation of economic systems. In short, the world is on its way towards a new geo-political, geo-economic and geo-technological order and it seems unclear, which role the EU will play in it. Based on ESPAS and TRIGGER research, this panel will discuss the impact of trends and shifts in global governance and the EU’s potential to act as a global player.

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Sustainable and Ethical Banks in the European Union

18.55-19.45 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Khalid Azizuddin, Journalist, Responsible Investor


Simona Bonafè, MEP, European Parliament

Elisa Giuliani, Professor of Management, University of Pisa

Mauro MeggiolaroCoordinator, Shareholders for Change Engagement Network and Member, Banca Etica Group, Italy

Daniel Sorrosal, Secretary General, European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks and Finance

The ethical and sustainable finance sector in Europe is far from marginal: it was worth €715 billion in 2019, equal to 5% of EU GDP. Within it, different actors coexist: ethical banks (more responsive to the crisis than traditional credit institutions), socially responsible funds, micro-credits and social impact bonds.
The Ethical and Sustainable Finance in Europe Report is the only instrument in Europe that collects and quantifies these experiences. In this fourth report, in addition to the financial comparison between ethical and mainstream banks, for the first time a comparison has been made with the aggregate of European co-operative credit banks. Some significant examples of the response to COVID-19 by individual European ethical banks will also be discussed. An extensive discussion is on the European Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, with a particular focus on the outstanding questions and the “S” item on social and fiscal justice. Finally, the University of Pisa’s research “Banking on human rights” will be presented. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) stipulate that all business enterprises should respect human rights. Based on these principles, banks are expected to respect human rights. But how good are banks at respecting human rights? The Banking on Human Rights project ranks banks according to their involvement in human rights abuses. These ranks are based on publicly available evidence and show how hundreds of banks have performed over the period 2000-2015.

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The Geopolitics of EU Enlargement and Democracy

19:50-20:40 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Ivan Vejvoda, Permanent Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences 


Ioannis Armakolas, Assistant Professor in Comparative Politics of Southeast Europe,  University of Macedonia

Srdjan Cvijic, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society European Policy Institute

Judy Dempsey, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Europe and Editor-in-Chief, Strategic Europe

Teresa Reiter, Visiting Fellow IWM, Foreign and Defense Policy Expert

The current Commission of the European Union has declared itself to be geopolitical. The Enlargement of the EU has been heralded as one of its greatest achievements to date. The credibility of the European project hinges among other on its ability to integrate countries aspiring to join and meeting the requisite criteria. Fatigue on enlargement has settled in in certain member states of the EU. The old debate between deepening, strengthening of EU institutions and widening the club of member states has resurfaced as domestic politics drive approaches to fundamental EU issues. The democratic regression in a number of member states has fueled the skepticism in parts of European public opinion as to the prudence of taking in new members. How detrimental is the democratic challenge to the enlargement of the EU? Can it lead to instability in the inner courtyard of Europe that is e.g. the area of Western Balkans, and also to the geopolitical influence of “third party actors” such as Russia, China and Turkey, and thus to security challenges for the EU?

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Please unmute yourself’ – How to amplify European voices

20:45-21:25 (CEST) – 6 May 2021


Leszek Jazdzewski, Editor-in-Chief, “Liberté” and Policy Leader Fellow, School of Transnational Governance, EUI


Soundous Boualam, Head of Communications, Alliance4Europe

Assya Kavrakova, Executive Director, European Citizen Action Service

Petar Markovic, EU Citizens’ Rights Training Coordinator, European Citizen Action Service

Kalypso Nicolaidis, Chair in International Affairs, School of Transnational Governance, EUI

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Member states of the European Union decided to allocate 750 billion euro via so called NextGenerationEU funds to address the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it is for the first time a common European debt, a role of European citizens in the process of allocating those funds is marginal.The goal of rescuing the falling European economies and those who suffered through unemployment or bankruptcy is noble. Green and digital transition a must. Still an investment plan on such a scale cannot and should not be left for the national governments alone to decide.
“The Treaty on European Union” in the first article states as follows: “This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”. It is high time that EU is taken at its word. How can this gap between Brussels on the one hand and EU citizens be bridged? To answer this pertinent and difficult question, we will call upon a mix of practitioners and academicians ideally suited to propose innovative outreach approaches. If you are passionate about politics across borders, innovative democratic participation and political communication, please join our discussion!

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