On 1-2 July 2021, the Robert Schuman Centre in collaboration with the John and Pat Hume Foundation, co-hosted the inaugural 'Leadership for peaceful change' Hume European Conference. The conference was dedicated to celebrating the life and accomplishments of John Hume (1937-2020), an Irish and European Union politician who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his efforts negotiating the Good Friday Agreement. In her first ‘State of the Union’ address to the European Parliament, Usrula von der Leyen praised Hume as 'one of the great Europeans' and quoted his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "Difference is the essence of humanity".
The event consisted of a series of panel discussions examining past and current peace-making, peace-building and reconciliation practices in both Europe and its neighbouring regions.
Noteable speakers and panellists at the event included: Mary McAleese (former President of Ireland), Brigid Laffan (Director of the Robert Schuman Centre), Seán Farren (Chairman of the Hume Foundation), Mairead McGuinness (European Commissioner for Financial Services), Simon Coveney (Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence), Federica Mogherini (former Vice-President of the European Commission), Hans-Gert Pöttering (former President of the European Parliament), Pat Cox (former President of the European Parliament), Claire Hanna MP, and many more!
European dimensions of John Hume, a European Peacemaker (8:25 - 1:08:24)
Following introductory remarks by Seán Farren to open the conference, Mary McAleese was joined by MP Claire Hannah to discuss John Hume's legacy and impact in Ireland and his role in ending the Troubles.
Europe as an inspiration and model for conflict resolution (1:10:09 - 2:18:52)
Brigid Laffan and Pascal Lamy (President emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute) participated in a panel moderated by Rory Montgomery (former Irish Permanent Representative to the EU) on how Europe can be a model for conflict resolution around the world.
European institutions as a political arena for peaceful change (2:23:35 - 3:22:45)
After an introduction by Maired McGuiness, the first day of the conference was brought to a close by Hans-Gert Pöttering (who offered recollections on his personal friendship with John Hume), Richard Corbett (former leader of the UK Labour MEPs) and Tony Connelly (RTÉ Brussels Editor). The panelists explored what the most feasible political and legislative procedures for Europe ensure peaceful change in un-democratic nations.
EU’s role in support of peace building & reconciliation in Western Balkans (14:30 - 1:27:09)
The second day of the conference kicked off with a brief intro by Brigid Laffan and Mo Hume (Hume Foundation Board member and John Hume's daughter). Afterwards, Miroslav Lajčák (EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue), Heather Grabbe (Director of Open Society European Policy Institute) and Pat Cox discussed the steps the European Union can take to support peace and reconciliation in the Western Balkans, and potentially ensure their integration as new EU member states.
Belarus – what next? (1:27:11 - 2:15:36)
In the next panel, Conor O'Clery (Author and former Senior Foreign Correspondent of the Irish Times) was joined by Franak Viačorka (Senior Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya) to discuss the situation in Belarus. Viačorka shared his personal experiences being arrested and expelled from university for being a student activist and discussed why he thinks there is now a real chance for peaceful and democratic change in his country.
EU support to conflict resolution and peace building in the Middle East & North Africa (2:29:30 - 3:33:03)
In the last official panel of the conference, Michael Keating (Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace) moderated a discussion with Federica Mogherini and Zahra’ Langhi (Co-founder and CEO of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace) on the EU's conflict resolution and peace-building support in the Middle East and North Africa regions. Langhi spoke directly from Berlin, where she was attending the ongoing Libyan peace talks, and offered first-hand insights into the negotiations and what was needed.
Afterwards, Simon Coveney gave a closing address to wrap-up the inaugural conference. Coveney stated, “Peace is made from people who cross sectarian lines to create a better future for the wider community. The EU has a vital role to play in amplifying everyone's voice… It must ensure that the peace processes it supports facilitate the full & equal participation of women from the outset.”
Visit the John and Pat Hume Foundation website to learn more about the organisation's activities and events.