A team of five Princeton students accompanied by Harold James, director of the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society, Marzenna James,  a lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School participated in the Allianz Summer Academy at Kempfenhausen on Lake Starnberg in southern Germany this summer, debating with representatives of four other universities (Munich, Bocconi, Uppsala and the Central European University in Budapest) as well as with representatives of a wide variety of European NGOs. They debated on the theme of Europe at a Turning Point: Economic Crisis, Social Disintegration, Political Change. The students on the trip were Jonathan I. Liebman, Anna C. Mazarakis, Michelle P. Nedashkovskaya, Madeleine Planeix-Crocker and Jackson Salter.

Each team’s report focused on a distinct and controversial dimension—the EU’s political and cultural legitimacy, the economic origins of the crisis, the EU’s functions legally defined, asylum politics  and youth engagement. The intersection of these different areas of research resulted in very fruitful debate, and when it came to discussing new topics in cross-national teams and proposing specific policies, the integration of these different perspectives and areas of expertise was unmistakably evident. Finally, the collaboration of the NGOs on day four provided for a stress test or a reality check: would the proposed solutions really fly? The students did not complacently accept every bit of feedback from the NGO representatives, but rather offered resistance on some points while adopting others, generating a healthy dialogue.

There were many challenges to overcome at the Allianz Summer Academy: how to move from vague ideas and principles to concrete policy proposals, how to tackle such abstract concepts as European identity and cultural legitimacy, how to find the right balance between cooperation and debate, how to effectively communicate with other participants from different academic and cultural backgrounds, and perhaps most demanding of all was the challenge of getting definitive results within the limited amount of time at their disposition. The students engaged in dozens of thoroughly planned presentations, layers on layers of spirited debate, productive cross-national group work culminating in entirely new policy proposals, and dialogue with NGO representatives, as well as lively bonding in the evenings and newly forged friendships.