Skip to main content
School of Law

EUPLANT Seminar: The EU in the New Era of Illiberalism

10 February 2020

Time: 1:00 - 2:30pm
Venue: Scape Room 3.01, Third Floor, 450 Mile End Road, London E1 4GG

EUPLANT logo sat above the Erasmus+ logo which states 'with the generous support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European UnionThe Jean Monnet Network ‘EU-China Legal and Judicial Cooperation’ (EUPLANT) investigates the interactions between the Chinese and the European Union (EU) legal and judicial systems and promotes excellence in teaching and research on EU-China legal and judicial cooperation. Through a set of research, policy and outreach activities, EUPLANT creates new avenues for enhanced academic and policy cooperation between the EU and China and engenders a better understanding of each other’s legal systems.


Can we talk of a new era of illiberalism? And if this is so, what does it mean? The EU and its Member States are undoubtedly traversing a phase of potentially existential significance for the European project as a whole. Drawing upon the research conducted in the context of RECONNECT, an EU-funded project aimed at providing a diagnosis of this crisis and inspiring new ways for “reconciling the EU with its citizens”, Prof. Jan Wouters will explore three key areas of the current crisis of liberalism.

Firstly, where civil society is less developed and/or undermined, such as in Hungary and Poland, that is where backsliding is most likely to occur. Secondly, the rule of law is also under threat: in some Member States the concepts of constitutional identity and constitutional pluralism have been used to consolidate autocracy. Finally, this is a crisis that the EU is not traversing in isolation. Prof. Wouters will also look to the global context, where there are worrying signs of authoritarian resurgence and declining confidence in democratic institutions. The EU itself is indeed faced by new external threats, such as cyberwarfare and election interference.

Prof. Jan Wouters will point to the rise of populist radical right parties as symptom of this crisis of liberalism and indication of how very few countries are immune to these kinds of challenges. The aim of the lecture shall also be to encourage new ways of reflecting on how to uphold liberal values, by engaging with, rather than dismissing, their opponents and understanding the deep causes of this backlash. Self-criticism and the re-thinking of liberal values in the EU, so as to reflect the aspirations of European citizens in a new European narrative, may hold the key to a more legitimate and therefore stronger European Union.

Speaker bio

Jan Wouters is Full Professor of International Law and International Organizations, Jean Monnet Chair ad personam European Union and Global Governance, Director of the Institute for International Law and of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies (both a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a University Centre of Excellence) at KU Leuven, and President of the University’s Board for International Policy. He is Adjunct Professor at Columbia University (New York) and Visiting Professor at Sciences Po (Paris), LUISS (Rome) and the College of Europe (Bruges). A Member of the Belgian Royal Academy and Of Counsel at Linklaters, he has published widely on international and EU law, international organizations and global governance. He is Coordinator of a large Horizon 2020 Project, RECONNECT (Reconnecting Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and Rule of Law). He advises and trains regularly international organizations and governments, and is often asked to comment international events in the media. In 2019 he was Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa, the University of Trento and Université Paris2.


For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.


For more information on this event, please email

Photography, video and audio recording

School of Law events may be photographed or video and audio recorded. These materials will be used for internal and external promotional purposes only by Queen Mary University of London. If you object to appearing in the photographs, please let our photographer know on the day. Alternatively you can email in advance of the event that you are attending.

Back to top