With a diverse array of cultures and political systems all in close proximity, the people of Europe face both unique challenges and opportunities in spreading the ideas of liberty. The fourth annual European Students for Liberty Conference (ESFLC) welcomed more than 500 participants from 43 countries to Berlin in April to exchange ideas about freedom and the issues facing Europe today.
Much of the conference focused on the theme of open borders. From within Europe to Africa, the Americas, and globally, the free flow of goods, services, and people across political boundaries is a crucial element for economic growth — but such freedom of movement is an ideal that many individuals simply do not have.
Atlas Leadership Academy (ALA) alum Admir Cavalic and Afghani student Zahra Sultani discussed how Islam and free markets are compatible, and the effects of communism on Muslim countries. A panel on the crisis in Ukraine included Slava Dvornikov, Vera Kichanova, Peter Kaznacheev, Vladimir Fedorin, and Atlas Network’s executive vice president for international programs, Tom G. Palmer. They were able to provide a firsthand perspective on the systematic opposition to liberalism in Russia that propagates and creates Russian support for aggression in Ukraine, as well as broader influence within the Eastern European region.
Olumayowa Okediran, SFL African programs manager and ALA graduate, discussed the difficulties in achieving regional integration in Africa. Africa has a particularly low level of intra-regional trade because of high travel costs, institutional corruption, and the prevalence of high tariffs. Multiple and overlapping memberships in African organizations can also lead to conflicting policies at the state level.
Addressing the theme of the conference, Lukas Schweiger, chairman of the European SFL Board, explained in his Friday evening keynote that “the idea of open borders is a logical extension of the idea of opportunity for all.” The ability to travel between nations to seek better opportunity with true freedom of movement would provide a far greater incentive for governments to create their own climate of freedom and growth. Open borders, Schweiger argued, is the philosophy of liberty applied to movement.
To close the conference, Flemming Rose, editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, discussed the importance of free speech in a globalized world. Tom Palmer discussed liberating ourselves from the prohibitionist state.
According to Yael Ossowski, programs director for ESFL, “The European Students for Liberty Conference has become the premier event for connecting European liberals with hundreds of other young people fighting for the ideas of economic and personal liberty in their own countries.” The organization looks forward to hosting ESFLC next year to bring together the passion for liberty in Europe.