The Central European Forum

The Central European Forum

An international conference (open to the public)

Bratislava, 17-18 November 2009.

In the autumn of 1989 Eastern and Central Europe became a real part of Europe again. Let’’s Open Up to the World –  this was one of the key slogans of Czechoslovakia’’s Velvet Revolution and we believe that the best way of not allowing the anniversary decline into cheap nostalgia and turn into a sentimental walk down memory lane is to embrace the international context, especially the one the countries of this region have shared since 1989.

The civic association Project Forum has invited a few dozen renowned writers, academics as well as several politicians representing a range of generations, experiences, languages and opinions, to come to Bratislava to discuss some of the key problems facing Central Europe today. Topics will range from the way the totalitarian (fascist and communist) past impinges on the democratic present; the treatment of minorities, particularly our largest common minority, the Roma; the corruption of the elites, the independence (or not) of the media and new manifestations of populism, through to the future of democracy buffeted by the global economic crisis.

The newly democratic countries that have joined the European Union seem to be increasingly exhausted as they succumb to growing populism, corruption, racism and chauvinism. Even the Anglo-Saxon model of market economics – the one thing we have embraced without difficulty – seems no longer to be working. In short, everything we took for granted only a few years ago has started to fragment and lose its validity.

Central Europe needs new intellectual energy. The Central European Forum offers a platform for rigorous debate without ideological barriers.




Where Does the West Begin? (17 November 2009 10:30 – 13:30)

Central Europe as a border zone – where are the boundaries of Europe and Europeanness? What is the future of this region between the East and the West?

Totalitarian Structures – A New Lease of Life  (17 November 2009 14:30 – 17:30)

Has Central Europe shed the shackles of the past?  Is it possible, twenty years on, to get a grip on the past without getting entangled in its web again? What are the risks of drawing a firm line under the past? What are the risks of searching for historical truth?
Open Society in Crisis (18 November 2009 10:00 – 13:00)

Twenty years ago much of Central Europe rediscovered the free market. What are the chances of sustaining freedom and democracy at a time of a faltering global capitalism?

Democracy Fatigue  (18 November 2009 14:30 – 17:30)

How solid are democratic institutions such as independent media, human rights and minority rights, and civic society twenty years after November 1989?  What are the greatest threats to these institutions? Is it the resurgence of old and the emergence of new corruption and capitalism?




Panelists who have accepted our invitation to attend the Central European Forum include:

Lajos Bokros – economist, Budapest

Erhard Busek – lawyer, politician, Vienna

Martin Bútora – sociologist, Bratislava

Krzysztof Czyżewski – essayist, founder of the Pogranicze (Borderland) Foundation, Sejny

Aleš Debeljak – essayist, poet, Ljubljana

Slavenka Drakulić – writer, Vienna – Zagreb

Miklós Haraszti – journalist, OSCE Special Rapporteur on media freedom, Vienna – Budapest

Rudolf Chmel – literature scholar, diplomat, Bratislava

Vladimir Gligorov – economist, Vienna

Ágnes Heller – philosopher, Budapest – New York

Viktor Yerofeyev – writer, Moscow

Mary Kaldor – political scientist, London

György Konrád – writer, Budapest

Ivan Krastev – political scientist, Sofia

Paul Lendvai – journalist, Vienna

Wendy Luers – philanthropist, founder of the FCS Foundation, New York

Robert Menasse – writer, Vienna

Adam Michnik – historian, journalist, Warsaw

Martin C. Putna – historian, writer, Prague

Jacques Rupnik – political scientist, Paris

Gwendolyn Sasse – political scientist, Oxford

Tomáš Sedláček – economist, Prague

Brigita Schmögnerová – economist, Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Bratislava – London

Marci Shore – historian, Yale University

Andrzej Stasiuk – writer, Woloviec

Karel Schwarzenberg – politician, Prague

Timothy Snyder – historian, Yale University

Ingo Schulze – writer, Berlin

Martin M. Šimečka – writer, Bratislava


Advisory Council of the Central European Forum:

Slavenka Drakulić,

Miklós Haraszti,

Václav Havel (chair),

Rudolf Chmel,

Paul Lendvai,

Wendy Luers.

The Central European Forum is organized by Projekt Fórum (a non-profit based in Bratislava) in cooperation with the Coordinating Committee of Public Against Violence, The Student Movement, the Václav Havel Library (a Prague-based non-profit organisation) and with the organisational and financial support from Die Erste Stiftung (Vienna), the International Visegrad Foundation (Bratislava), EACEA – the Executive Agency for Culture, Education and Audiovisual Production (Brussels), The Mott Foundation (Troy, Michigan – London), Západoslovenská energetika, a.s. (West Slovakia Energy), the Central European Foundation (Bratislava), Bratislavská informačná služba (the Bratislava Cultural and Information Service), the US and UK Embassies in Bratislava, the Goethe Institute Bratislava, the Polish Cultural Institute in Bratislava as well as the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Bratislava.