Europe and Diversity

Democracy, Diversity and European Identity in the European Union 

The Chair builds on existing teaching and research programmes of the Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India.

One of the pillars on which the European Union – India relations rests is the shared commitment to democracy and diversity. The European Union has democracy as a foundational system of values which it seeks to strengthen and promote. Democracy is a recurrent theme in both EU’s internal as well as external manifestations.In the EU integration project  European citizenship was one of the mechanisms through which the EU set out to build and enhance democratic spaces and to create a ‘demos’ for itself. The EU sought to use European citizenship for creating European identity, an identity which at the early stage of the project was acknowledged as a necessity for the integration process to deepen and work successfully. At the same time this integration of established nation-states, whose own ‘demos’ were steeped in their culture, tradition, and language, meant diversity was a fundamental tenet. This is reflected in the EU motto, ‘United in Diversity’. Today both these foundational values of democracy and diversity are challenging the EU member states and the integration project in multiple ways. Eurobarometer surveys show the formation of European identity is painstakingly slow and often under the cloud but they also indicate that while most EU citizens continue to primarily identify with their nation-states, many do think there should be more European-level decision-making on a range of areas.

As an international actor the European Union is known for its soft power projections based on a continued commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights and minority rights. Norms and values thus range high on the EU agenda. At the end of the Cold War with the big bang enlargement on the cards the EU had laid down clear rules for induction of new members underscoring this set of core values. However, one of the challenges that member states are facing today is to uphold these democratic principles in the light of the competing claims that diversity generates. European democracies are increasingly engaged in working out responses to the heterogeneous public sphere that immigration has created. Questions of accommodating identity demands of cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are acquiring an urgency as never before. Accommodation is being attempted through various strategies of assimilation, integration, multiculturalism or interculturalism. Such demands have also seen severe right  wing backlash across European states. Added to this, the territorial borders of some member states are being challenged by sub-national claims. The development of a supra-national EU identity gets more complicated as a consequence of these events.

It is therefore important to understand the complex interplay of democracy, diversity and identity that is playing out in Europe and the way in which it affects the EU integration dynamics. How do we assess developments like Brexit, varied response of EU member states to the refugee crisis 2015, debates on headscarves, Roma rights, increasingly prominent reach and visibility of right-wing parties? How have recurring terror attacks in member states complicated diversity acceptance and accommodation? Do these challenges leave the Union as a weak actor? Is more power to the EU rather than less a solution to multiple challenges – social, economic, political that EU states face? A closer look at how democracy, diversity and European identity is at work thus becomes imperative to grasp these interconnected realities. The Jean Monnet Chair on ‘Democracy, Diversity and European Identity in the European Union’ focuses on the following themes to understand these complexities.


Young Scholars Conference
Navigating Diversity in Europe and India
Date: 17 & 18 May 2023

The Young Scholars Conference on the “Navigating Diversity in Europe and India” was organized by the Jean Monnet Chair on “Democracy, Diversity and European Identity in the European Union”, Centre for European Studies in the School of International Studies (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 17 & 18 May 2023.

Diversity is an inescapable part of human existence. It presents special challenges to democracy based on the idea of equality and justice. Both Europe and India as democratic spaces have their share of progress and problems in dealing with democracy. They a long history of diversity, shaped by various political, social, and economic factors. In Europe particularly the growing popularity of far right across countries has actually brought greater visibility to the cultural diversity that these states have come to represent. European Union is also invested in identity construction to hold the European Union project.

It is these developments that the conference aimed to capture in two days of paper presentation and deliberations. The idea was to give young research scholars a platform to share their work and thoughts on this complex subject.

The Young Scholars Conference had presentations from the young scholars not only from JNU but across India. A broad spectrum of ideas and perspectives were exchanged and presented at the conference. The conference began with the Inaugural session chaired by Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, Dean, School of International Studies, JNU. Prof. Bhaswati Sarkar, Jean Monnet Chair and Chairperson of the Centre for European Studies gave the welcome remarks and shared a brief introduction to the Conference. This was followed by special remarks by Prof. Ummu Salma Bava, Professor and Jean Monnet Chair at the Centre for European Studies, Prof. Gulshan Sachdeva, Professor, Jean Monnet Chair at the Centre for European Studies and Dr. Satyanarayan Prasad, Associate Professor at the Centre for European Studies. The Keynote address was delivered by Mr. Seppo Nurmi, Deputy Head, Delegation of the European Union to India and Bhutan. This marked the beginning of the two-day conference, with the special vote of thanks by Binod Khanal, Research Scholar at the Centre for European Studies.

The conference was divided into nine working sessions spread over two days. Presentations covered a wide range of topics – nationalism and populism, religious diversity, football and race, multicultural Europe, Indian cultural nationalism, gender identity and sexuality, queer politics, subnational identity and autonomy, comparative study between the Europe and India. The working sessions were chaired by the experienced member of the faculty who offered constructive feedback and remarks for each of the presentations. Prof. Vidhu Verma, Professor (Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU), Dr. Teiborlang Kharsyntiew (Assistant Professor, Centre for European Studies, SIS, JNU), Prof. Sanjay Pandey (Professor, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, SIS, JNU), Prof. Bhaswati Sarkar (Professor and Chairperson, Centre for European Studies, SIS, JNU), Dr. Mallarika Sinha Roy (Assistant Professor, Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU), Prof. Jayati Srivastava (Professor and Chairperson, Centre for International Politics, Organisation & Disarmament (CIPOD), SIS, JNU), Dr. Sheetal Sharma (Assistant Professor, Centre for European Studies, SIS, JNU), Dr. Priti Singh (Associate Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies, SIS, JNU), Dr. Sakti Prasad Srichandan (Assistant Professor, Centre for European Studies, SIS, JNU) were the chairs of the nine working sessions.

The conference concluded with the Valedictory session at the end of the Day 2 where Former Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, shared his understanding and expertise of Europe and juxtaposed it with India’s experience with deep diversity. This was followed by concluding remarks by Prof. Bhaswati Sarkar where she summed up the key takeaways of the presentations She thanked the presenters, attendees and especially her student volunteers who helped in organizing the event. On behalf of the students Mr. Abhishek Khajuria, Research Scholar, CES, SIS, JNU, gave the vote of thanks for the conference. This was followed by presentation of Certificates to all the presenters.

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