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European University Institute

State of the Union 2024, "no country alone can deal with the challenges ahead"

The 14th edition of The State of the Union conference, hosted by the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, gathered distinguished scholars, policymakers, and world-renowned experts to discuss the most pressing issues facing the continent in the run-up to the European elections.

24 May 2024 | Event


The prominent, annual event opened with a welcome from newly arrived Prof. Dr. Patrizia Nanz, President of the European University Institute. Addressing hundreds of in-person participants at the Badia Fiesolana, and thousands online, Nanz said that The State of the Union conference "is an opportunity to engage with diverse stakeholders from all sectors of society. It is also an opportunity to inspire cultural conversations with the broader public." She also stated, "In the process, we should listen to our researchers and students. Their fresh perspectives are assets that can drive meaningful change." Nanz continued, noting that the event has "the potential to become a dynamic platform for the much-needed intergenerational dialogue, where diverse perspectives can meet to tackle the complex challenges of our time."

The welcome was followed by a high-level conversation with Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Republic of Portugal, and Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of the Republic of Greece, focusing on a new era and shaping the future through European values.

Rebelo de Sousa opened the discussion, outlining the key political issues that will frame the next political cycle. "We have to face several challenges, and those challenges are number one, keep the European Union united; number two, support the victory of Ukraine against Russia; number three, recover our economy; number four, prepare enlargement and prepare the new financial framework." He noted that to face these challenges, there are two crucial factors: the outcome of the US elections, and the resilience of the European political system and public opinion. He noted additional issues to be addressed, including the need for strong, common foreign policy, as well as security and defence policy, migration, and relations with other regions of the world.

Sakellaropoulou touched on how existential challenges and multiple crises have affected the balance of contemporary societies. She highlighted the importance of unity, "The core element of our discussion is how Europe, as an entity, should handle its future, bearing in mind one point: that no country alone can deal with the challenges ahead of us." Notably, Sakellaropoulou also addressed public policies, stating that visibility and inclusion must be top priorities. "No one should be left behind in our social contracts, without protections and chances to be able to implement their life plan, to fulfil their ambitions. The focus must be on the younger generations who are our greatest hope for tomorrow."

On the second day of the conference, The State of the Union moved to Palazzo Vecchio, the City Hall, in the heart of Florence. Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, spoke in a high-level conversation on the EU's foreign and security policy in troubled times. "We need an urgent revolution in our mindset. Every European has to understand that the problems of the world will not be solved at the national scale," Borrell stated. "If we want to survive in this challenging world, we have to be more united and we have to have methods and procedures that allow us to respond quickly to the challenges of the world."

In more than 30 sessions featuring 150 esteemed speakers, the two-day event addressed matters of great importance for the European elections in June, including AI and the digital transition, sustainability and climate change mitigation, democracy and the rule of law, the future enlargements of the European Union, and industrial policy.

A group of EUI researchers and students organised peaceful protests of the conference and the war in Gaza. The EUI responded with a statement welcoming the community to voice concerns, and offering space and opportunity for feedback on the conference and future events.

On 25 May, the third day of the event, an Open Day will take place at Villa Salviati, home to EUI's Departments of History and Law and the Historical Archives of the European Union. With EUI partner FAI, visitors, including the press, will tour the beautiful grounds and buildings of the historic villa and visit the state-of-the-art vaults where Europe's memory is preserved.

Rewatch all the sessions of Day 1 and Day 2.

Last update: 24 May 2024

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