In the few months since my last message to you, Europe has changed, perhaps fundamentally.
The unprovoked and unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has been simultaneously a humanitarian disaster and an attack on the values of liberal democracy and free association in Europe. As an association, we condemn the invasion and express our solidarity with all those fighting to preserve and protect Ukraine from aggression.
As part of that work, UACES has been actively working to find ways to support all our members’ efforts, including encouragement and financing for CARA (the Council for At-Risk Academics). You will find an option to add a donation to their work when you register for our annual conference: UACES will match-fund your contributions up to £1500, so now is the time to make the most of our early-bird rates (ending 31 May).
However, money alone will not mend the damage done. As the recent elections in France and Slovenia have shown, the need to make the case for liberal democracy is one that should concern us all, both as citizens and as academics. I find it heartening to see so many of you providing fair, evidenced contributions to national and European debates about how we make democracy work as well as it can and I would encourage all of you to see our work as something that can bring about a better understanding of why democracy must persist, despite of all its frustrations.
Again, UACES is trying to help with this through its various activities.
As already mentioned, our Annual Conference in Lille this September is now open for registrations, with a great line-up of plenary speakers, panels and networking opportunities. The team at ESPOL have put together a fitting welcome for all of us coming together after the disruptions of Covid and I look forward to seeing many of you in this fine city. For those of you unable to join us in person, we have an additional day of virtual sessions, which also allow us to make this an even bigger part of our calendar and demonstrate the richness of work in European Studies.
For our student and early-career members, the Graduate Forum Research Conference in Maastricht in June will be another moment to make connections and reflect on European integration on the thirtieth anniversary of the eponymous treaty. The Graduate Forum’s work in helping those entering European Studies to build networks and gain experience has always been one of our association’s key concerns and the return to in-person activities is a very positive step.
Aside from events, we’re also very pleased to share the redevelopment of the Ideas on Europe blogging site. This has been one of the leading forums for those wanting to produce timely and informed content on all aspects of European Studies, and its new organisation makes it easier than ever to both find and create materials. For those of you looking to get your work out to a bigger audience, I can personally testify to the site’s value in generating interest and opening new conversations.
We also continue to strengthen and develop our links with sister organisations. Within the UK, we have been involved in ongoing discussions with other social science bodies about how we can make meaningful improvements in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, drawing on our exemplary work under Prof Roberta Guerrina. The joint seminar series with IACES on the UK, Ireland and the EU has been a very positive development over the past year and we continue to organise more of these. I also hope that our Lille event will be a moment to strengthen our ties with our French counterparts, AFEE-CEDECE, and I am always very happy to speak with colleagues outside the UK about where UACES might be able to help develop new collaborations.
To all those who have these activities possible – especially Emily, Melina and Emma in the UACES office – I give my thanks. Just as democracy stands on the participation of its citizens, so too does the association stand on the involvement of its members and we have been particularly fortunate to have so many of you be part of our work. The recent committee elections reflected this with a healthy slate of candidates from across the membership and I am looking forward to new members starting this autumn. UACES continues to work because of all your efforts and I applaud you all.
Simon Usherwood, UACES Chair