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EUROSPHERE Final Conference: European Integration, Diversity and the making of a European Public Sphere in Brussels, Belgium

EUROSPHERE Final conference will be held on 22 June 2012, between 09:00-18:30, at Hotel Bloom, Brussels, Belgium.

22 June 2012 - 22 June 2012
Austria

The conference is a platform bringing together the representatives of key European research milieus, the European Parliament, the European Commission, other EU-institutions, the European networks of civil society and policy-research organizations, media, and Eurosphere researchers. The aim is to discuss the contributions of EUROSPHERE to the study of European public sphere (EPS) and European integration, current problems associated with European integration policies, and the thematic priorities needed for future research in the field. People in keey positions, representing the above-mentioned European Union institutions (including the Vice President of the European Parliament), civil society organizations, and central research milieus will act as commentators/discussants in the conference. The conference comprises four subsequent sections:

09.00-13.45 EUROSPHERE's contribution: New Notions? New Conceptual Frames? Discoveries about the EPS’s Structure, Substance and Dynamics?

13.45-15.00 Roundtable - Challenges for European Democracy: The European public sphere and transition from liberal democracy in Hungary?

15.15-16.30 Roundtable - New Directions for Future Research: The European public sphere seen from the Perspectives of Diversity and Transnationalism

16.45-18.30 Roundtable - New Forms of Democratic Legitimacy: What do Citizens Want? What do Civil Society Organizations and the EU do?

Mainstream approaches conceive the European public sphere as Europeanization of national public spheres, discursive and interactive overlaps/resonances between them, and in terms of how legitimate foreign-European speakers are considered in national public spaces. Differently from this, we find that the European public sphere is constituted by encounters between the existing public spaces, and it is distinguished by the presence of a parallel trans-European public space, and a parallel trans-European public, within the repertoire of existing publics and public spaces. This includes both the society-initiated and the EU-initiated trans-European publics and the new spaces of communication, interaction, and collective action that they create. Against this background, the theme of EUROSPHERE’s final conference is the tension between the EU-initiated and the society-initiated processes and actors of European integration. The focus is on the implications of this tension for the future structuring of the European public sphere and its consequences for democracy. Since the early 1990s, the EU has been attempting to initiate a trans-European civil society. Many institutional actors that are involved in society-initiated European transnational structures express skepticism about these top-down integration attempts of the EU. What are the consequences of this duality for the evolvement of a European public sphere? Why are many civil society organizations skeptical towards being involved in the EU-initiated trans-European networks and structures? And why are they hesitant towards coming into direct contact with the European Union’s political institutions? To what extent have the European Union’s policies on involving the society, civil dialogue, and communication been effective in bringing the EU closer to citizens? Have these policies created new legitimacies? If so, what are the consequences of the new legitimacies for European diversity and democracy? Which strategy – horizontal or vertical integration – is more capable of creating effective communication links and accountability frames between citizens and the EU?

Detailed information about the content of the conference and the conference programme are available at http://eurospheres.org

Keywords

European integration