Cleveringa lecture: ‘Values under threat from disintegrating European collaboration’

Collaboration within Europe is currently at a low ebb. This is threatening to undermine our freedom and the rights that are anchored in the European legal order, says Piet Hein Donner, Vice-President of the Council of State and Cleveringa professor at Leiden University for 2015. His lecture on 26 November will address possible future directions for Europe.

Cleveringa still relevant

Piet Hein Donner

Piet Hein Donner

Donner is referring to the warnings expressed by Professor Rudolph Cleveringa, Dean of Law at Leiden University in 1940, warnings that are just as relevant today. Cleveringa spoke out on 26 November 1940 in protest against the Nazis’ dismissal of his Jewish colleagues at the University. The closing words of Cleveringa’s speech were: ‘We had expected that we might and should be spared this. It was not to be. We have no other option than to bow before the force of circumstances.’ There was no way of preventing the Nazis from taking this action. Cleveringa’s hands were tied; all he could do was to publicly denounce the dismissal. The day after his speech, Cleveringa was arrested.


Let’s avoid future surprises

Rudolph Cleveringa

Rudolph Cleveringa

Donner comments: ‘To make sure that we are never again forced into such a situation, over the past seventy years we have firmly anchored freedom, justice and responsibility in the European legal order and in intensive European collaboration. However, this collaboration is now at a low ebb, and in some respects it is even diminishing. As a result the very values we seek to safeguard may well come under threat. We need to look at whether or not we can continue along this path, and what the alternatives are.’


Follow the lecture via video link

After Cleveringa’s protest speech, students and staff gathered in front of the Academy Building

After Cleveringa’s protest speech, students and staff gathered in front of the Academy Building

In his lecture in the Academy Building, on the very spot where Cleveringa delivered his speech, Donner will address current developments within the EU, their seriousness and the direction European needs to take in the future. All the places at the lecture are already taken, but it is possible to follow the event via a video link in an adjacent room. The text of the lecture will also be made available after the ceremony.


The Cleveringa chair is a rotating professorship for the period of a year. The Cleveringa professor focuses either on the Second World War or on issues relating to the law, freedom and responsibility. Previous holders of the chair include the historians Carol Gluck, Michael Ignatieff and Hans Blom and Job Cohen, former Mayor of Amsterdam and professor by special appointment in Leiden.



(17 November 2015)

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Last Modified: 19-11-2015