Project Europe

by Evan Gong

On February 28, IES was delighted to welcome Professor Kiran Klaus Patel of Maastricht University, who delivered a captivating lecture on his upcoming book, Project Europe: A New History of the European Union. Patel offered the audience a rich historical analysis of concrete effects and results of European integration since 1945, as well as what Europeans can learn from the past to gain better insight into present-day challenges.

Patel began his lecture with a series of questions, focusing on why the EU is so significant in the minds of people, both as a symbol of hope and unity, but also of skepticism and resentment. These symbols would have been incomprehensible in the 1980s when an overlapping patchwork of international organizations governed varying areas of cooperation. Patel sketched the history of European cooperation, beginning with the European Coal and Steel Community’s efforts to promote economic and political unity through trade to ensure lasting peace. These burgeoning efforts of cooperation led to Treaty of Rome in 1957, which formed the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC was later merged into the European Communities (EC). During the height of the Cold War, Patel argued, it was the EC that asserted dominance over other regional organizations as they sought the EC’s economic expertise, supranational legal structure, financial resources, and experience in organizing the rules for a common market. He also noted that the various enlargements of the EU, to the south and to the east in particular, tested European policymakers in their ability to fully integrate these countries. To this day, phenomena such as Brexit and the rise of right-wing populism in Eastern Europe continue to challenge of inter-European cooperation, which has only had a relatively brief history.

The Q&A portion featured a lively audience of approximately 30 people. Questions for Professor Patel touched on the role of NATO, whether the EU had a set of common values, global implications of European cooperation efforts through former colonies of its member-states, and the EU’s common foreign policy.

This event was sponsored in conjunction with the GHI West, Pacific Regional Office of the German Historical Institute Washington DC, the Department of History, and Center for German and European Studies, as part of the Gerda Henkel Lecture Series, which brings German historians to the West Coast to present their research and engage in dialogue with their North American colleagues.