The State of the Union 2024: conference in Florence with l’European University Institute. The main topic are strengthening democracy, Europe enlargement, demographic issues, sustainability and the green energy transition, and the regulation of AI and blockchain

FLORENCE. The 14th edition of The State of the Union conference was held on May 23rd and 24th at the European University Institute in the Badia Fiesolana and the historical Palazzo Vecchio in the heart of Florence.

The conference featured high-level discussions, networking opportunities, and panel discussions with prominent scholars, policymakers, experts, and high-profile speakers.    

The conference featured high-level discussions, networking opportunities

The panels, presentations, and discussions were mainly focused on the current geopolitical issues in Europe.

The main topics included strengthening democracy, Europe enlargement, demographic issues, sustainability and the green energy transition, and the regulation of AI and blockchain.

The future of Europe and how to overcome the challenges in the EU was the paramount factor among most speakers, as the President of the Republic of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa mentioned that the imminent Presidential election in the US is one of the main factors that would affect Europe largely, as he said, “Having a victory of the former president of the United States, we would go back to I would say objective good news for Russia and bad news for the balance of power in Europe, for security in Europe, for economic relations with Europe, climate change, migration, and so on.” 

However, on the other hand, one of the main challenges that threaten the European Unity is the undermining of liberal democracy by many new illiberal governments within Europe.

The President of the Republic of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou highlighted, “The quality and the prospect of our democracies and the rule of law seem to be undermined, also within the European boundaries, while new authoritarian and populist regimes are contesting freedom of expression and judicial independence and targeting the foundations of liberal democracy in the name of the majoritarian principle.” 

One of the main takeaways from the conference was the war in Ukraine and the question of how to stop the war, in order to answer this big question as Josep Borrell noted, “It will depend on the voters’ choice for the upcoming European Parliament election in 2024 because it depends on the composition of the parliament” 

Overall, the future of Europe remains deeply interconnected to the results of the upcoming European Parliament election as well as the US Presidential election, and how European stakeholders can play a key role in strengthening the unity in Europe. However, the big structural issue as Josep Borrell mentioned in the 24th high-level conversation at Palazzo Vecchio is “the confrontation between China and the US”, as I call it the clash of titans, the rise of China, and the decline of the US. Undoubtedly, this superpowers’ confrontation would squash the EU, and the most lifesaver way to evade this fatal consequence is that Europe has to be independent and take care of Europe’s interests despite the role and the interests of the superpowers.  

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