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EPPC 2018 - European Public Policy Conference in Sofia 13/04/2018 - 15/04/2018 Borders in Transition: Creating, Removing, Reimagining

From April 13 - 15, 2018 public policy students from Europe and across the globe gathered in Sofia to participate in the 10th anniversary edition of the annual European Public Policy Conference.

For more information on EPPC 2018, please visit the EPPC 2018 website and read the following report.

The conventional notion of borders as existing between nation-states has its roots in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. However, recent political, technological and societal developments have made it clear that this conventional definition of borders and its impact on policy-making requires rethinking and reevaluation. The migrant and refugee crisis in Europe has raised questions regarding stability; technological advancements have removed borders in both communications and the financial sector; and within nations and communities, societal boundaries have profound political implications. In essence, borders are bifurcating -- simultaneously being built up in certain areas, while being removed or broken down in others.

Europe, in particular, has been at the forefront of these issues. Through the removal of national borders, the free flow of labor, the single-market economy, and the Common Security and Defense Policy, the European Union defy the classic understanding of borders. Recent events have found Europe challenged by both conventional and unconventional border issues. The secessionist movement in Catalonia, for example, and the right to self-determination more broadly, make it clear that the discourse surrounding traditional notions of borders is still very much in contestation. At the same time, Europe must also be prepared to address newer, more abstract border issues such as internet privacy and how to govern borderless spaces.

The public policy community both within Europe and internationally must work to diagnose these issues and strive for innovative and effective solutions. The role borders play has changed vastly in the last thirty years. The advent of globalization and digitalization has only further complicated and obfuscated these complexities at all levels of society. In an effort to address this, 

EPPC 2018 drew upon traditional conceptualizations of borders and reimagined them in the context of 21st century issues. The conference was broken down into three conceptual areas:

(In)stability, Borders, security and the nation-state: Conventional wisdom and more controversially, populist parties, suggest that borders improve stability. However in some cases, do borders impede our ability to solve problems, and instead, foster instability? How do we balance the rights of sovereign states and the tendency to turn inward during times of crisis with the need for international cooperation?

(Dis)connection, Technology and the removal of borders: Technology has allowed for the rapid removal of borders in a variety of sectors and radically altered the way the state, civil society, the market interact. It has also created new, more complex borders outside the traditional paradigm which raise new questions regarding law, authority, and privacy. How do policymakers reconcile the benefits provided by widespread, open technology that removes (and spans across) borders with the potential need for protection and regulation? Does technology foster greater interaction with people we otherwise would not encounter? Or does it generate insular attitudes through limited access and selective engagement? 

(In)visible, Borders within society: While tacitly felt, borders within society are often far harder to identify and are frequently outside our perspective. However, barriers between classes, urban-rural divides, and the specifics of culture and identity create divisions that impact all domains of society. Failure to acknowledge and respond to these divides can have profound societal and political consequences -- often borne out through the results of elections. How do we identify these borders and lessen the gaps that divide us? What political, social, and economic mechanisms can policymakers employ to give all members of society a greater sense of agency and combat discord? 

From April 13 - 15, 2018 public policy students from Europe and across the globe gathered in Sofia to participate in the 10th anniversary edition of the annual European Public Policy Conference.