The Spirit of Europe: Federalism, personalism and subsidiarity, 7-8 December 2018

The School of Politics and International Relations is delighted to invite you to what promises to be a fascinating two day conference entitled: The Spirit of Europe: Federalism, personalism and subsidiarity. Details on keynote speakers, dates, times, venue and the conference programme can be found below. On 7-8 December the School will host an international conference on “The Spirit of Europe: Federalism, personalism and subsidiarity”, convened by Dr Adrian Pabst under the aegis of (the Centre for) Federal Studies and supported by the James Madison Charitable Trust. The conference is in association with the Écoles des Hautes Études Internationales et Politiques (Paris), the European Institute of Personalism and the Revue Politique et Parlementaire – founded in 1894.

The keynote address will be delivered by Larry Siedentop (Oxford).

All are welcome to attend (university staff and students and the general public).

To attend this conference please register for a free ticket via

Please feel free to distribute to any networks, lists or individuals you feel may be interested.

Conference context and theme
Brexit and recent elections in various EU member-states highlight deep divisions over the European project. While there is a rising tide of scepticism vis-à-vis the integration process and the Eurozone more specifically, certain parts of the population are also increasingly supportive of Europe, notably younger people. One common concern is that the EU institutions (including national governments as part of the European Council and the councils of ministers) are remote and insufficiently accountable to citizens. Beyond important institutional issues, this raises fundamental questions about the legitimacy and the identity of Europe in general and the EU in particular. What is its purpose? How might we think about the ‘spirit’ that animates the European project in an age of anger and alienation?

Historically, two traditions that shaped the post-war European process of reconciliation were federalism and personalism. The former emphasises the separation and distribution of power between different levels (local, regional, national and European), while the latter focuses on foundational values, such as the dignity of the person, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. One idea they share is the principle of subsidiarity: locating decision-making at the lowest possible level in accordance with personal dignity and agency. Arguably, there are powerful forces today that undermine federalism, personalism and subsidiarity – including globalisation, technocratic governance and individualism. The EU has mitigated some of these forces, but nevertheless power and wealth seem to flow upwards. In turn, this raises further fundamental questions: in what ways do federalism and personalism still shape Europe today? If their influence has declined, could and should their influence be renewed? If so, how? What might be the political, institutional and cultural conditions for such a renewal?

The conference will explore these and related questions. Based on a keynote address by Sir Larry Siedentop and a number of papers by leading academics, senior (former) politicians and influential policy-makers, the conference will also involve students in the discussions – on individual panels and in plenary debate.

The Spirit of Europe: Federalism, personalism and subsidiarity

7-8 December 2018

University of Kent

Darwin College (7 December 2018) and Woolf College (8 December 2018)

All University staff and students and the general public are welcome to attend

Free to attend. Booking via

Conference programme and flyer