Stella Ghervas

1. Reassessing 1815, to understand the 27-Country Europe

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Seminar directed by Stella Ghervas
Institute for Advanced Studies (IEA) - Paris (France)

1st session: “Reassessing 1815, to understand the 27-Country Europe”
Tuesday 30 June 2009, 2:15–6:00 PM, Institut for Advanced Studies - Paris


Following its expansion to 27 countries, the European Union is still struggling to define itself. This crisis, often considered an “identity crisis”, has been particularly visible in the controversies that led to the downfall of the European Constitution (2005) and have delayed the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). To overcome this difficulty, the authors of these texts had banked on a set of consensual “European values”. Yet this attempt appears to have somewhat missed its target, since debates eventually focused on fundamental differences, or dichotomies, such as national independence vs. a supranational state, social democracy vs. economic liberalism, religion vs. the secular state, etc.

In the face of this new challenge, a new epistemological approach becomes necessary. Could a double shift in our focus, both in time and space, bring new answers?

Concerning space, there is the issue of the recent integration of the peoples from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly with the place of the Greco-Byzantine and Slavic heritages in the shared culture – as well as other cultural and religious traditions.

As for time, 1945 has long been considered the starting point of European construction, at a time where Eastern Europe was being de facto excluded because it belonged to a different and antagonistic bloc. Could we not, on the contrary, make the hypothesis that the period from the end of the Second World War to the fall of the Iron Curtain was, in fact, an interruption in an ongoing process of European convergence, that traces back to prior times when the continent had been considered a single entity – in particular during the Enlightenment, the Congress of Vienna and later, the League of Nations?

To that end, we will follow a trail across all of Europe, starting from 1815. This was a crucial period where this entire space was part of a single “concert of nations”, and when many of the national borders that Europeans still live in today were defined. More to the point, how should we consider the signing of the Holy Alliance – a treaty that promoted for the first time the notion of a single “family” or “nation” encompassing all countries on the continent, including Russia – by virtually all the European states? Should we see there the premises of later treaties, particularly those of the EU?

In order to further explore the validity of that hypothesis, as well as the implications it may have on how we understand the institutional difficulties of the European Union, we will bring together, for this study day, a small group of researchers working on the subject of Europe.