Hi, Alana here!
During February, I managed to go to a couple of the events organised by the KCL European Society for their annual European Week, and I thought I would write a little about them for you to give you a flavour of the kind of events you will be able to attend as a King’s student!
Every year the European Society organises European Week, which is a series of events with panels of prominent speakers on current issues and debates within European politics. This year’s theme was ‘Europe under pressure’, and the themes were EU-Russia and EU-Turkey relations, the migrant crisis, Brexit and terrorism.
The first event I attended was EU-Russian relations: Friend or Foe? The three panellists were Ian Bond, foreign policy director at the Centre for European Reform, Mathieu Boulègue, research fellow at Chatham House, and Daragh McDowell, Russian and CIS specialist at a leading risk consultancy. It’s great to be able to attend events with speakers from leading think tanks like the Centre for European Reform and Chatham House, as well as from the private sector – it gives a really good mix of perspectives on the issues!
Each speaker had the chance to give their perspective on some of the key issues in the EU-Russia relationship today. Some of the things I found really interesting were discussions on the tensions in the shared neighbourhood which has led to the paralysis of EU-Russia relations for several years, as well as discussions of Russian perceptions of Europe, in which it struggles to recognise the EU as an actor on the global stage. This event linked really well with a class I am taking this year – The EU in the International System – in which we have studied EU-Russia relations as well as the nature of the EU as a global actor. This is one of the things I really like about attending events such as these, as they always link to something you are currently studying and can encourage you to think further and go beyond simply what you have studied in class!
Next, I went to the Threat of Terrorism within Europe. The speakers were Sir Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, Peter Round, Senior Fellow for European Defence at the International Institute for Security Studies, Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, and Dr Samir Puri, lecturer in the Department of War Studies specialising in terrorism and counter-terrorism. Again, this event had a really diverse mix of guests on the panel!
I have always been very interested in the area of counter-terrorism; I have researched it quite a bit during my degree at King’s and am considering pursing it at postgraduate level, so I found this event particularly insightful! The guest speakers discussed the changing nature of the terrorist threat today and especially how European states can respond to this effectively through measures such as targeting online propaganda and addressing individual vulnerabilities to radicalisation. They also discussed the need for the EU to be united in finding common solutions to this threat despite political issues or differences, as well as the inherent tensions between counter-terrorism measures and European liberal democratic values.
At both events the floor was then left open for questions from the audience. Lots of things were discussed, from EU sanctions towards Russia to the potential impact of Brexit and the Trump administration on counter-terrorism cooperation in Europe. This is really a chance to explore further and question any of the issues mentioned by the speakers and start a real debate. The events finished off with a drinks reception where we were able to talk further with each of the speakers, ask any more questions we have or follow up anything they discussed during the panel.
I would really encourage you to take advantage of events such as these as a King’s student, they let you explore topics further outside of regular classes, meet other students and staff, and listen to perspectives on issues beyond academia. They are also a really great opportunity for networking!