by Otmar Seul

Since 1995, the foundation year of our European networkAnnual Meetings have taken place in Nanterre/Paris 1995, Siena 1996, Berlin 1997, Halle 1999, Pamplona 2000, Prague 2001, Vilnius 2002, Lodz 2003, Riga 2004, Nanterre 2005, Fribourg (Switzerland) 2006, Istanbul 2007, Florence 2008, Sevilla 2009, Barcelona/Andorra 2010, Berlin 2011, Lisbon 2012, Vienna 2013, Dresden 2014, Zurich 2015, Białystok 2016, Porto 2017 and Salamanca 2018. 

Since the Declaration of Bologna (1999), during our Annual Meetings, the delegates from the partner universities address the issue of the adaptation of their national Higher Education system to the European standards. Coupled with a colloquiumor a workshop, these meetings also devote a reflection to the great trends in the ongoing harmonization of law in EU countries. 

The creation at the University of Paris-Nanterre of a binational and bilingual curriculum in 1986 intertwining French Law and German Law studies implemented since the beginning an initiative to internationalize studies and research. This Franco-German curriculum became “integrated” in 1994, when a cooperation agreement was signed with the University of Potsdam (Germany). Thus, a study-abroad period was added to the program, as well as the possibility for the students to be awarded a double diploma (Bachelor and Masters), from both the university of origin and the partner university. 

Our double legal studies curricula rapidly evolved into cross-border activities, which became the center of the actual European network. Based on the Erasmus-Socrates agreements and encompassing more than 40 partner schools as of today, this informal Nanterre network was built in four stages: 

1° In the nineties of the last century, after the German unification (1990), the Law Faculties of the Humboldt University of Berlin, of Halle-Wittenberg, of Potsdam, of Dresden (TU) and other Universities of the new Länder joined the network. Up until then, is consisted of only a few Western European Universities: especially Law Faculties from Switzerland and Austria, from the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. It was only after the turn of the millennium that universities from other western EU countries (Belgium, Portugal) joined the network and regularly took part in its Annual Meetings. 

2° After 2000, the most important step consisted in opening the network to universities of Central and Eastern Europe (especially Poland and the Baltic States), in some cases even before they officially joined the EU in 2004. 

3° The next to join, in 2006, were the Turkish Universities (among them the Universities of Istanbul, Galatasaray, Yeditepe, and Bilgi), which belonged to a country that had already for a long time been preparing to enter the EU. 

4° The last geopolitically significant group of Universities to join us comes from the Balkan countries. The European perspective grants the Balkan States exposure to the irreversibility of political, economic and social reforms that these countries must carry out as well as peace and regional stability. 

Our cooperation with these countries, primarily the Western Balkan States, is less visible in Erasmus partnerships than in the organization of Itinerant Summer-and Autumn Universities. In 2015, the second event of this kind on the topic “Accession to the European Union and identity of the Balkans” was organized by the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, the Westfälische Wilhems-Universität Münster, the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Skopje (Macedonia), the University of Prishtina (Kosovo), the University of Tirana (Albania) and the University of Podgorica (Montenegro). Last year, the third edition dealt with the topic “Refugees, Migration and Rule of Law in Balkan Countries”, with two main sessions in Skopje and Sofia. Next year, the topic will be: “Which future for Europe? Differentiated Integration as a model for the European Union and the inclusion of the Balkans?” We want to discuss whether the EU should become significantly more flexible with regard to different steps of integration and whether such a model would open a way for the accession of the Balkan states that wish to join. 

As a matter of fact, French-German summer and autumn universities with partners from third countries focusing on the question of European identity, its assumptions and policies, in relation to European integration and globalization are certainly the most spectacular innovation in the history of the Nanterre network. A success story that began in 2004 with the foundation of a French-German-Lithuanian Summer University in Vilnius. But for us, Europe does not end at the borders of the European Union and its influence zone on East and South-East Europe. Our network is open to Universities of countries that are not EU candidates. This encourages reflection on the evolution of law within an enlarged European legal area, that shows Europe as a geographic area. Therefore, Paris-Nanterre, Potsdam, and the State of Belarus hold a special kind of Summer University in Minsk: organised since 2011, this Summer University is dedicated to topics of general European relevance, such as “alternative contribution to contentious issues”, “new information and communication technologies”, environmental issues or, this year, “consumer protection”. Just like in the EU, the regional integration tendency in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is accompanied by an attempted harmonisation of the national law systems. Belarus seems to be convenient in terms of law comparison, since Belarus is part of the Russian-Belarusian Union and member of the Eurasian Economic Community (agreement of 2014) and therefore belongs to the core States of these transnational structures. 

Today, the “delocalization of the campusvia the creation of summer universities is no longer limited to the European area. Meanwhile, our model has been successfully implemented on other continents, for the first time in 2013 in South-America (at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima) and since then at universities in Asia (India) and Africa (Maghreb, Mauritius, Ivory Coast).

Excerpts (updated) from Otmar Seul: “Interculturality as a specificity of the integrated French-German legal studies”, in  Elisabete Ferreira, Catarina Santos Botelho, Luís Heleno Terrinha (Eds.) : Law and Interculturalism, Universidade Católica Porto, 2018, p. 12 sq. | 

For more information please visit the site Réseau européen de coopération universitaire.