The Law Faculty of Maastricht University and Studio Europa are organising an academic conference in the context of the incoming new term of the European Parliament and European Commission. The conference will explore how the ‘big narratives’ of the EU (its values, agenda, ambi­tions) relate to what the EU actually does: its legislation, actions, and ‘impact on the ground’. The goal is to reflect on the challenges of the next political mandate, from 2024 onwards.

In the past years, the Union’s initiatives have revolved around building a stronger and resilient Europe (amidst economic difficulty and war in the continent); achieving a greener econ­omy; defending the common European values; and providing citizens a central role in shaping the future of the European project. Significant milestones have been attained, such as the establishment of NextGenerationEU as an unprecedented recovery instrument; the coordinated and strong response to the war of aggression against Ukraine; the adoption of key pieces of legislation delivering on 2030 climate targets; the use of the EU legal system against breaches of founding EU values; and the organisation of a citizen-led Conference on the Future of Europe. At the same time, the EU has sometimes fallen short of its ambitions. Political divisions, the dominance of certain interests in the policy-making process, insufficient solidarity towards vulnerable collectives and distrust of the impartiality and the effectiveness of EU institutions have been visible in recent times, challenging the official narratives put forward and questioning the Union’s strategic agenda.

This interdisciplinary conference aims at examining the discrepancy between narratives and reality, across four different themes:
1. Environmental protection;
2. Borders and membership;
3. Inequality and cohesion;
4. Institutional change.