The transnational and transdisciplinary Cross Border Experience Conference (25. – 30. October 2011) aims at demonstrating cutting edge theoretical, activist and artistic positions towards the European Union (EU) enlargement process and its consequences as well as to rethink the role of the EU in the South East European (SEE) region and in Turkey in the future integration process. Consequently, the conference is rethinking – and hopefully breaking – stereotypes about the Balkans, SEE region and Turkey in the EU and vice-versa. The five day long event seeks to contribute to better networking and exchange of ideas and experiences by bringing together almost sixty engaged theoreticians, academics, journalists, publicists, activists, cultural workers, artists, and representatives of non-governmental, research, cultural and artistic organisations from all of the EU, SEE countries and Turkey. It is structured as a mixture of round-table debates, presentations and lectures, accompanied with cultural, artistic and social events, bringing together different profiles of participants, as well as different discourses and approaches.

The EU enlargement process has been critically perceived from all sides. By the EU countries, as a consequence of a latent fear that “new potential member states” could influence the EU in a bad way by bringing in economic instability, different cultures, traditions, religions … but at the same time the SEE countries and Turkey are also sometimes rather suspicious regarding the EU and its demands and provisions. Through various panels followed by the open discussions, the conference is raising relevant issues, crucial for the process of understanding current situation of the EU enlargement issue and the future of Europe in general.

The idea of common European citizenship is doubtless one of the most important political concepts today. The concept is though presently reduced to an EU citizenship; however it opens important issues of the nation-state, its identity, sovereignty and borders. Is there such thing as EU identity, how is it shaped and modified in an enlargement/accession process? How entering the EU influences national identity, sovereignty and border issues of particular country? How the EU immigration/emigration policy influences the idea of radical political equality, which implies free movement for all? (Successful) economy and (big) profit became a maxim in contemporary time and in that process the value of solidarity is often forgotten: new (precarious) labour relations in post-fordist Europe became a paradigm for class struggle. How can we think these relations, what are the possibilities for building better societies based on the premises of equality and solidarity and how the EU can contribute to such premises?

What is the future of the idea of the EU in the time of “economic crisis” and in the mode of neoliberal-capitalism: can we expect “united Europe” in 2020 and under what circumstances? How to deal with the phenomenon of the EU scepticism, from where is it generated and how it has emerged?

Rethinking the concepts of multiculturalism, integration, tolerance and human rights and their meaning in contemporary society is necessary, especially in times when we are facing the statements that “multiculturalism is a dead project” and when we see no positive consequences of humanitarian concepts in society. What is the position of religion in contemporary secular Europe and how religious issues are understood in the EU accession process? Environmental questions in contemporary Europe are bound not only to economic aspects but also to questions of civil society. What is the position of civil society organisations in Europe, how much power and influence do they have and do they still have a subversive potential? What is their mission both in EU and non-EU countries and what do they represent in contemporary society – a supplement or a substitute? How are Europe and the EU experienced from an outside perspective, from the position of citizens of Turkey, Middle East and Sub-Saharan African countries? The closing debate will focus on rethinking the future of the SEE region within the EU enlargement perspective and will finish with the view on the “Turkish issue” within the EU enlargement process.

At the conference, different views on the issue will be presented; some of the participants have affirmative observations and some of them represent critical voices and thoughts towards the EU – and we believe that only a mixture of different constructive points of view can productively lead us to a better understanding of the idea of the EU and Europe in general. As the EU and broader Europe are trapped in certain controversies and difficulties, we are hoping that creative and fruitful confrontation of different ideas could contribute to rethinking the situation and proposing solutions, which should be based on real democracy, equality and solidarity for all.

Lana Zdravković, Project Coordinator / Peace Institute