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BIPR | Where Will Europe Fail and Where Will it Succeed
Where Will Europe Fail and Where Will it Succeed

October 18, 2021 - 18:30

Erhard Busek, Former Austrian Vice Chancellor; Chairman, Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe -IDM

Event Recap

Part of the BIPR's European and Eurasian Studies Series, Professor Veronica Anghel begins the seminar by warmly introducing former Vice Chancellor Erhard Busek to a hybrid, in-person and online audience.

Busek begins his remarks by way of a brief recap of his illustrious career in government, including navigating Austria through the EU accession process and working to promote development and stability in the Balkans regions. Moving to the seminar's main theme, he first describes what he sees as Europe's principle success since the second world war: integration. He notes that pulling Europe closer together after years of strife was no easy task, and that we witnessed such long term cohesion, with the recent exception of Brexit, is a remarkable achievement for the continent.

For Busek, Europe's most pressing contemporary failure is how that drive for European integration has diminished. The slipping allure of Europeanism, for Busek, is why we see EU power decline on the international stage and what causes counterproductive competition between member states for influence. Busek blames this failure on the lack of a European narrative. He says that member-states are too proud of their differences ¬– politically, culturally, and historically – when they ought to be investing in a cohesive vision of Europe. He terms this phenomenon differentiation. If he was able to, he mentions, he would put every European leader in a room together and not let them out until they had created a coherent European narrative.

Lacking this ability, Busek turns to a few solutions to reinvigorate the drive for European unity. He describes how the COVID-19 crisis was an excellent example of Europe coming together as a continent to cooperate, rather than compete, on research, medical care, and economic stimulus. However, he notes, one cannot make a politics out of disaster response alone. Europe, according to Busek, should not just respond in unison to a series of crises, but should be proactive in its cooperation. He references his time working in the Balkans as a model, where he helped to develop a common understanding of history across the region in order to build stability through unity. Busek also describes education as a field for increased cooperation, advocating for an expansion of ERASMUS and the Jean Monnet Programme to stimulate European academic exchange.

The conversation now shifts to a discussion of values within the European Union, particularly in light of generational changes. Busek sees young people in Europe as wanting for moral orientation, but lacking the institutions traditionally available to provide such guidance. While he does not have a precise prediction, Busek wonders if this disequilibrium will become a breeding ground for ideological radicalism, on both sides of the political spectrum.

The seminar comes to a close with a brief discussion of the recent resignation of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Former Austrian Vice Chancellor Erhard Busek, after offering some words of praise toward his country's former leader, ultimately defends his decision to resign, noting that the Austrian people had come to see that perhaps Kurz wanted nothing to do with politics besides hold onto power.

Full Audio:

Where Will Europe Fail and Where Will it Succeed
European and Eurasian Studies Series

hosted by Professor Veronica Anghel

Erhard Busek
Former Austrian Vice Chancellor; Chairman, Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe -IDM

Erhard Busek, former Austrian Vice Chancellor, Federal Minister for Science and Research, and Federal Minister for Education, is currently Jean Monnet Professor ad personam, Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, and Coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative.

Busek began his professional career in 1964 as legal adviser to the association of the parliamentarians of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). He then served as Secretary General of the Austrian Federation for Trade and Commerce (1972-1976). In 1975 he was appointed Secretary General of the ÖVP and was elected Member of Parliament later that year. The following year he became City Councillor and in 1978 was elected Deputy-Mayor of Vienna, maintaining this position until 1987. Busek was appointed Minister for Science and Research in April 1989, and from 1994 until May 1995 he was Minister for Education. He was elected Chairman of the ÖVP in 1991 and served as Vice-Chancellor of Austria from 1991 until 1995. In 2000 Busek was appointed Special Representative of the Austrian Government on EU-Enlargement, where he served until December 2002.

Busek has honorary degrees from the Universities of Krakow, Bratislava, Brasov, Czernowitz, Liberec, and Webster-St. Louis University in Vienna. He was Rector of the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, from 2004 until 2011, Visiting Professor at Duke University, NC, and Honorary Senator at the University of Agriculture in Vienna. Busek also taught at the University of Innsbruck and the University of Vienna. From 2002 until 2008, Busek served as Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and from 2000 until 2012, as President of the European Forum Alpbach.
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