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Coimbra Group at EP conference on Academic Freedom

30 November 2023

Emmanuelle Gardan, CG Office Director, and Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the CG Executive Board were invited to attend the high-level conference  “Academic Freedom – The state of a fundamental value for Europe” organised on 29 November 2023 at the European Parliament in Brussels by the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel for the Future of Science and Technology, chaired by MEP Dr Christian Ehler.

The European Parliament’s STOA Forum for Academic Freedom, launched in 2022 under the patronage of EP President Roberta Metsola, has fostered an intense and open dialogue with the academic community across the Union, in which Coimbra Group was an active voice. This conference was the occasion to present the EP Academic Freedom Monitor , as a truly independent report on the state of academic freedom in the European Union in view of strengthening the protection of academic freedom as a European fundamental right. The conference brought together politicians, experts and academia: Roberta Metsola (President of the European Parliament), Iliana Ivanova (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth), Sabine Döring (State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany), Anna Panagopoulou (Director, DG RTD), Claire Morel (Head of Unit, DG EAC), Christian Ehler (MEP, STOA Chair), Marijk Van Der Wende (Professor, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University, member of the Coimbra Group), Denise Roche (Advocacy Manager, Scholars at Risk Europe), Ferenc HAMMER (Associate Professor, ELTE University Budapest, member of Coimbra Group), etc.

The speeches and panels discussions launch a vivid debate on how the protection and promotion of Academic Freedom should be strengthened in the Union, in the context of the rule of law. Academic freedom is now widely accepted as a fundamental value of higher education systems and as a prerequisite for well-functioning democratic societies. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union mentions academic freedom in Article II.13, ‘Freedom of the arts and sciences’: “The arts and scientific research shall be free of constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected”.

Academic Freedom being one of the EU core values, it should be protected as such. However, it was stressed that there is general downward trend in Academic Freedom in Europe. Also, Academic Freedom is currently embedded in the ERA Policy Agenda but all participants agreed that it deserves to be better supported by appropriate regulatory framework.

The high-level conference conclusions should contribute to the European debate on the protection of the rule of law, and the Parliament’s Legislative Own Initiative Report on the Freedom of Scientific Research in Europe.