"Will Europe Survive? The New European Conservatives Confront a Continent in Crisis."

Held Thursday June 28 - July 1, 2012 at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, United Kingdom

      The 7th Annual Vanenburg Meeting took place last year, from Thursday, June 28, to Sunday, July 1, at the Royal Agricultural College in the town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire, England. Sponsored by the Center for European Renewal, the Meeting focused on the question: “Will Europe Survive? The New European Conservatives Confront a Continent in Crisis.”

     The annual gathering once again brought scholars, writers, lawyers, and philosophers together for three days of presentations, discussions, and debates about the many challenges facing Europe. The evenings were reserved for ‘hospitality,’ fellowship and wine tasting.

      As is customary, the first evening was reserved for members of the Vanenburg Society. Welcome remarks on that first evening were given by the Secretary of the Vanenburg Society, Jonathan Price, followed by comments by conservative scholar Mark Henrie, and Polish parliamentarian Ryszard Legutko.

      This was followed by three days of formal sessions open to members, non-members and invited guests. These days were structured around eight main sessions.

      The first day began with a welcoming Session I in which Henrie spoke about Europe’s identity crisis. He was joined by British philosopher Roger Scruton who addressed the question, “What are we to make of Europe?

      Session II focused on “Public Institutions: Education and National Identity.” Dutch academics Emma Cohen de Lara and Melvin Schut gave a joint presentation on the failure of education, followed by Polish parliamentarian Ryszard Legutko who spoke about national sovereignty and national identity.

      Session III was on “Economics” and included a presentation from German political philosopher Harald Bergbauer and Swedish scholar Jakob Soderbaum on the failures and future of the European welfare state.

      Finally, Session IV in the evening dealt with “Elites and Masses.” Amsterdam city councilman Diederik Boomsma spoke first and examined how to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ forms of populism. He was followed by Hungarian academic Attila Molnar who spoke about the importance of elites and described the kind of elites we need.

      The second day of the meeting began with Session V on “Manners, Morals and Moeurs.” Dutch legal philosopher and ethicist Andreas Kinneging spoke first about Europe’s emasculation and the nature of men and women. He was followed by Scruton who spoke about the need for moeurs in a civilization.

      Next, Session VI focused on “The Family and Private Institutions” and had Spanish businessman and scholar Jorge Soley speaking about the crisis of the family and Belgian lawyer Frank Judo speaking about the legal status of private institutions.

      During the afternoon of the second day of the meeting, participants went on a tour of the medieval town of Malmesbury.

      The town was the home of 16th/17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651). Malmesbury also boasts a somewhat ruined but functioning abbey originally founded as a Benedictine monastery around 676.

      At tea-time, participants were invited to the home of Roger Scruton and his wife for a bit of country hospitality before returning to the College to taste wines generously donated by the Scrutons.

      Session VII on the final day was a panel discussion on Europe, its challenges, hopes and its future. It was followed by Session VIII which offered a wrap-up of all the discussions and provided a glimpse at the agenda for the 2013 Vanenburg Meeting.

      There were various opportunities during the three days to also listen to individual Country Reports given by members of the Vanenburg Society and other European participants.

      Some of these included recent economic and political developments in Spain, the position of conservative parties in Norway and other parts of Scandinavia, an overview of recent attempts to undermine the traditional family at the European Commission in Brussels, and a look at prospects for American conservatives during the 2012 presidential elections in the United States.

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