European Summer Course 2020 - A report

50 participants from all over the world, everything online and at the end a farewell among friends


The European Summer Course 2020 "The European Approach - Past - Present - Future" took place for the tenth time this year and was held completely online due to the worldwide corona crisis. The ESC is aimed at young, active and open-minded students who are interested in the European Union and its current challenges.

The Summer School is organized by the Europa-Institut in cooperation with the ASKO Europa-Stiftung (AES), the Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen (EAO) and the Centre international de formation européenne (Cife) and supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This year's ESC with almost 50 participants from all over the world, including e.g. Brazil, Canada and Iran, was completely online for the first time. In contrast to previous years, when the ESC took place for two weeks on site at the European Academy Otzenhausen, the organizers were now confronted with the task of offering a real ESC feeling via online video conferencing. The organizers had to face entirely new challenges such as the time difference between countries, opportunities to meet outside of teaching hours or bad internet connections all of which were overcome with patience and flexibility from all sides. Among other things, an online pub quiz was organized (with beer, tea or coffee - depending on the time of day) and a tour through our region using google maps. Problems with the internet connection were solved by looking for new places where the internet connection was better, like the car or a workplace with a sea view. New situations require new solutions. 

The first day started with a small get-together conducted by Christian Kiefer and Nicole Speer (EAO) and ended with a lecture by Dr. h.c. Doris Pack on the topic "A European Success Story - 70 years of the Schuman Plan". Tuesday and Wednesday the focus was on "European Integration". Prof. Dr. Andreas Marchetti gave a lecture on "Goals and political priorities of the EU" and simulated a virtual conference with the participants. At the end of the first thematic block, Sebastian Zeitzmann gave an introduction on the European institutions. Afterwards, the participants could prove what they had learned in a virtual European Union pub quiz.

The program continued with "European Politics", which began with a lecture on "Lobbying in Brussels" by Prof. Dr. Anna-Lena Högenauer and was then rounded off with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Quick on "Politics made in Brussels" and then Jürgen Stolzlechner ("Getting started in Brussels"). The first week ended with the “EU Approach I: Digitalization”, in the course of which Prof. Dr. Oskar Gstrein and Taís F. Blauth gave two exciting lectures on "Privacy in the Digital Age" and "Regulation of Artificial Intelligence". The first week ended with a digital sightseeing tour of the SaarLorLux region led by Alexander Metternich (EAO), after which many participants decided to choose it as their next vacation destination.

The second week started with “EU Approach II: Human Rights”. Prof. Dr. Giegerich gave a lecture on the topic "Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and Human Rights Protection in Europe". Afterwards, a case study on the topic of "Fighting Discrimination" took place in smaller groups under the direction of Julia Jungfleisch and Laura Woll.

The next topic area “EU Approach III: Green Deal” was introduced by Dr. Marian Feist with the topic "Climate Politics and Green Deal". Guy Lentz then spoke about "From Rio to COVID 19: How the EU has positioned itself in Energy Transition and Decarbonisation". “EU Approach IV: Accession and Withdrawal to the EU” dealt with two topics in particular: "The Western Balkans Enlargement" (Dr. Neven Anđelić) and "Brexit" (Prof. Dr. Stephen Barber).

The most current topic “EU Approach V: Covid-19” started with an introduction to "International Diplomacy and Negotiations" and a case study by Prof. Dr. Yossi Mekelberg. The penultimate day of the ESC ended with a presentation by Dr. Franz-Werner Haas, CEO of CureVac and who, as an alumnus of the Europa-Institut, took the time to give a lecture on research on a new Covid19-vaccine.

The last day was dedicated to “EU Approach VI: Migration & Humanitarian Crisis” and included two rounds of discussions on "European Migration Politics" (Tilmann Lahann) and "Reforming EU Asylum Law" (Prof. Dr. Clemens Ladenburger).

The ESC was not exclusively aimed at students of law and so there was extensive discussion from many different perspectives on selected topics related to the European Union. Although no online simulation comes close to the experience of such a Summer Course, the online implementation was very successful and at the farewell, despite distance and video conferencing, it felt as if we had just spent two intensive weeks with friends. In this spirit, the team of this year's ESC would like to thank all participating students and lecturers for their commitment and willingness to make it all work in these difficult times!

Report by Jennifer Wassenberg