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KNAW Thorbecke-grant awarded to Luuk van Middelaar and Vestert Borger

Luuk van Middelaar and Vestert Borger, both affiliated with the Europa Institute of Leiden University, have recently been awarded a research grant by the Statesman Thorbecke Fund Programme of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The aim of the fund is to promote knowledge about the life, work and intellectual legacy of Johan Rudolf Thorbecke (1798-1872), statesman and founder of Dutch parliamentary democracy.

Van Middelaar and Borger receive the grant for their project ‘The game of the European constitution: Notes on the Union, and its spokespersons, system and foundation’. The project focuses on the unprecedented transformation the association of European states, of which the Netherlands forms part, has undergone over the past years. Whereas the European Union used to primarily rely on law for its development, this does not suffice to deal with emergency situations like the euro crisis, refugee crisis or the war in Ukraine. Such events call for initiative, improvisation and the public power of persuasion. Those are qualities characteristic of political action, for which Europe lacked capacity until recently. Now that this capacity is developing under the pressure of events, the Union is changing in terms of its nature, strength and claims. This has broken the bond between its original constitutional self-image and its factual capacity for action. In the spirit of Thorbecke, the project aims to restore this bond by reading anew the Union’s constitutional foundations and thereby promote the discussion about the future of Europe.

Van Middelaar and Borger will execute the project, which is expected to result in a book and several public essays, between September 2022 and August 2026. During this period, Borger will act as project leader.

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