Zürich 2015 – Opening Speech, by Otmar SEUL

Dear Dean,

Dear colleagues,

We address our sincerest thanks to you, the faculty and the University for inviting us to Zurich.

We have a very good reason to celebrate this meeting in particular: this is the 20th Annual Meeting of the ERASMUS Representatives of the Nanterre Network. As you may have read in the historical review (that has been handed out to you) about the foundation and development of the network, the aim 20 years ago was to settle the French-German integrated curriculum in Law studies of the Universities of Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense and Potsdam in the European Higher Education Area, to open international careers to the graduates and to promote the French and German languages and legal cultures in Europe.

This informal network, based in particular on the Erasmus-Socrates agreements and regrouping more than 40 partner Universities, was formed in three main steps:


In the nineties, after the German unification, the Law Faculties of the Humboldt University of Berlin, of Halle-Wittenberg, of Potsdam, of Dresden (TU) and other Universities of the new Länder joined the network;.

Within the same decade, west European Universities were also purposely integrated into the network: especially Law Faculties from Switzerland and Austria, from the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. It was only after the turn of the millennium that Belgian and Portuguese Universities joined, and they regularly take part in our Annual Meetings.


After 2000, the most important step consisted in opening the network to universities of Central and Eastern Europe (especially Poland and the Baltic States), in some cases even before they officially joined the EU in 2004. Today, we have the pleasure to receive – for the first time again after many years – a representative of a Czech University: (our)colleague Radana Kuncová from the Palacký University Olomuc.


The next to join, in 2006, were the Turkish Universities (among them the Universities of Istanbul, Galatasaray, Yeditepe, and Bilgi), which belonged to a country that had already for a long time been preparing to enter the EU.

An accession to the EU is also the aim of the Balkan States, which are represented here in Zurich – just like they were at the annual meeting of 2005 in Nanterre – by the University of Prishtina: welcome to our colleague Gjyljeta Mushkolaj. Kosovo is one of the steps of our unprecedented itinerant summer university in the Balkans. The European perspective grants the Balkan States exposure to the irreversibility of political, economic and social reforms that these countries must carry out as well as peace and regional stability. The second itinerant Summer University on the topic Accession to the European Union and identity of the Balkans  is organized by the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, the Westfälische Wilhems-Universität Münster, the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje (Macedonia), the University of Prishtina (Kosovo), the University of Tirana (Albania) and the University of Podgorica (Montenegro).

French-German summer universities with other countries, focusing on the question of European identity, its assumptions and policies, in relation to European integration and globalization are, as a matter of fact, probably the most spectacular innovations of the Nanterre network. I will come back to it tomorrow and present you one of its characteristics: the organisation of workshops based on group work for Master Students.

Another summer university is organised since 2011 with the University of Potsdam and the State University of Belarus in Minsk. This Summer University is dedicated to topics of general European relevance, such as “alternative contribution to contentious issues”, “new information and communication technologies”, or environmental issues. Just like in the EU, the regional integration tendency in the post-SovietCommonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is accompanied by an attempted harmonisation of the national law systems. Belarus seems to be convenient in terms of law comparison, since Belarus is part of the Russian-Belarusian Union and member of the Eurasian Economic Community  (agreement of 2014) and therefore belongs to the core States of these transnational structures.

In other words, our Nanterre network is also open to Universities of countries that are not EU candidates, which encourages reflection on the evolution of law within an enlarged European legal area, including non-EU countries. This is why we are glad that Vice Dean Vladimir Satolin is taking part of this meeting again this year, accompanied by colleague Diana Ivanova.


Since 1995, annual meetings have taken place in Nanterre/Paris 1995, Siena 1996, Berlin 1997, Halle 1999, Pamplona 2000, Prague 2001, Vilnius 2002, Lodz 2003, Riga 2004, Nanterre  2005, Fribourg (Switzerland) 2006, Istanbul 2007,  Florence 2008 Sevilla 2009 Barcelona / Andorra 2010 Berlin 2011 , Lisbon 2012 , Vienna 2013 Dresden 2014 Zurich 2015).

Since the Declaration of Bologna (1999), during these meetings, delegates from partner universities address the issue of the adaptation of their own national Higher Education system to the European standards. Coupled with a colloquium or a workshop, these meetings also devote a reflection to the great trends in the ongoing harmonization of law in EU countries. This is why we will hold a mini colloquium here in Zurich tomorrow – as ever on the second day of our annual meeting – on the following topic: Workshop “Student and Staff Mobility – Managing internationalization: Objectives, challenges, examples of good practice“.


This anniversary celebration of 20 years Nanterre network is also an occasion to thank all those who have encouraged the French-German Studies in the mid-nineties by promoting theinternationalisation of studies and research, which was their utmost concern.

It is on purpose that I now lay my eyes on you, dear Dean, as well as your colleagues and collaborators of the Law Faculty, in order to recall that Zurich belonged to the first European Universities that reacted to our offer inviting them to join the Erasmus Inter-Universities Co-operation program (ICP 92 F 1472/10) that we had founded at the time. My first correspondence with your first Erasmus-representative, Professor Kurt Siehr, from the Center for International Private Law of your Faculty, even goes back to 1993. The first student exchange between our faculties did, in fact, already take place in the academic year of 1994/95. Right from the start, your students had a particularly high interest for the offered places in Nanterre. It was not after May 1995, 20 years ago, that your headmaster, Professor Hans-Heinrich Schmid, signed a cooperation agreement with Nanterre in the Law department, long before most German partner universities.

The Law faculty of the University of Zurich was regularly represented at the annual meetings of our network, like hardly any other partner of the network: especially by Professor Kurt Siehr in the first decade and, after his release, by Professor Anton K. Schnyder ; by representatives of the Exchange Office, Sarah Notter, followed by Michaela Sweet in the second decade. Alain Jordan – head of Academic and Student Affairs – represented your faculty at the meeting in Dresden last year and demonstrated his Management abilities by asserting Zurich as host of the 20th Annual Meeting. It is to him and Johanna van der Sluijs, Head of the Exchange Office, who carried out the planning and execution of this year’s event, that we address our sincerest thanks.

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