This international conference aims to critically address the causes, challenges, and responses to the ongoing “value crisis” in the European space, primarily represented by trends of “democratic backsliding” in some EU countries. A deep cleavage about democracy, human rights, and the rule of law has increasingly characterised the debate among European institutions, member states, and civil society for the last decade. As European institutions started to develop and adjust their own tools to grapple with this growing issue since the early 2010s, connected risks have further grown following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Besides showing the fragility of EU institutions and mechanisms to guarantee EU values homogenously and consistently, however, the crisis prompted by the pandemic also helped European institutions in their efforts. They did not only manage to focus and cooperate more systematically and deliver more quickly on anticipated plans to uphold the rule of law within EU member states, but also advanced new efforts to enhance a more comprehensive protection of all EU values set forth in art. 2 TEU, both within and outside its borders. Successfully launched initiatives as the European Democracy Action Plan, the introduction of a conditionality measure in the current multi-annual financial framework, the adoption of a Strategy to strengthen the implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the launch of a new Global human rights sanctions regime are all examples of this promising policy trend. Criticism to current governance of values, however, persists, addressing the design and mutual complementarity of these multiple initiatives, the actual engagement of all stakeholders, the long-term sustainability of this commitment, inter-institutional cooperation and overall effectiveness at the ground level.
The conference aims to gather scholars (including doctoral students) from different disciplinary perspectives, experts and practitioners at all levels of governance to exchange their perspectives and critical views on the current state of play in EU efforts to promote and protect EU values, both within the European space and in the wider international context, and to discuss a number of prospective alternative solutions, or strategies, to make current and future EU efforts more effective and sustainable in the long term.