Central European Forum 2011: The End of The Future

Welcome to the third “Central European Forum”, an international forum for debates on key problems and challenges in Central Europe and beyond, which brings together international speakers representing a variety of views, intellectual worlds and personal experiences.

The Central European Forum relies on two essential ingredients – distinguished guests and an exceptionally high quality of discussion. It is open to the public, both Slovak and international since we believe that serious and independent discussion, capable of overcoming ideological barriers and unencumbered by group interests, is an intrinsic value crucial to the democratic future of Central Europe. Over the course of the next three days we hope to generate an intellectual synergy that will affect Slovakia and Central Europe in a variety of ways, stimulating new solutions, encounters and forms of communication.

The unifying theme of this year’s panels – “The End of the Future”- reflects the overwhelming sense of uncertainty that penetrates contemporary debates about political and economic challenges in Europe, as well as more globally. Until recently, it had been conceivable to contemplate a future – European or global – in terms of linear and incremental development; to some degree, all of us had intuitively envisaged the “future” to be pretty much like the present – only more so. Today, amidst the economic crises, re-redistribution of power in the international system, or unexpected political upheavals, such a more-or-less intelligible and predictable future is no longer available. Paradigms and models of the past are becoming obsolete, but new solutions have not yet been discovered. Each of the panels shall address particular aspects of the phenomenon and its implications.

We are proud to present 4 panel discussions featuring 25 distinguished guests as well as several accompanying cultural events.

Wednesday, 16. 11. 2011
KC Dunaj Cultural Centre
Opening of Traces, an exhibitions of Peter Župník’s photograph

Astorka Theatre
Opening speech
Rudolf Chmel (SK), Deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic for Human Rights and National Minorities

17:00 – 20:00
Reason and Fear?
There was a time in the 20th century when people looked forward to the future. By contrast, we now live in a time of general uncertainty, afraid of a future that might rob us of the certainties we hold dear. We fear for our jobs and worry about lower living standards, we are concerned about the state of the environment we are destroying to protect our certainties, and we feel threatened by terrorism or just mindless violence we can’t cope with. In other words, we live in an uncertainty engendered by the fundamental unpredictability of society and of the world in general. Calling our society ‘a society of risk’, German sociolgist Ulrich Beck suggests that at present the social production of wealth is merging with the production of risks. The shape of the world around us is changing faster that we can even register. What is the appropriate response: giddiness, fear or reflection on our guilt for destroying nature? How does reason cope with fear? And to what extent has the very concept of reason changed?
Magdalena Środa (PL), Dubravka Ugrešić (NL), Václav Bělohradský (CZ), Pascal Bruckner (FR) – Thierry Chervel (DE) (chair)

Thursday, 17.11.2011
Astorka Theatre
10:30 – 11:30
The Third Industrial Revolution: Toward a New Economic Paradigm
Jeremy Rifkin (US) – chair Jacek Żakowski (PL)

11:30 – 12:45

12:45 – 13:05
Presentation of the ERSTE GROUP exhibition, Central and Eastern Europe before the revolution and today
Hana Cygonková, exhibition curator

13:05 – 15:20
Panel II: The Future of the State
People in post-communist countries still have legitimate reasons to distrust the concept of “the state”: not only because their states spent the better part of the past century usurping control over people’s lives, but also because they spectacularly failed as managers of property and assets they had appropriated. However, the experience of the past three years has made it clear that even free markets can, and sometimes do, implode. Is the chain of crises, triggered three years ago, a mere aberration or a beginning of a seismic shift? Is slimming down of the state the appropriate response? What is, and should be, the meaningful future of the state?

Can the current global protests achieve a more fundamental change of the future of the state? Are the protests just an emotional expression of indignation? Is it primarily people protesting against the harsh effect of austerity measures? Or is it a response to the alienation of politics and inability of ordinary people to influence events?

What is the response of European intellectuals and how should European politics respond?
Andrea Bajani (IT), Stav Shaffir (IL), Ivan Krastev (BG), Nina Witoszek-FitzPatrik (NO) – chair Jacek Żakowski (PL)

15:30 – 18:15
Panel III: The Language of Fear
Two years ago Václav Havel warned of new demons corroding society from within. These demons feed on a past that has been suppressed for too long, as well as on an uncertain future. European cohesion has been corroded by fear, leading to calls for the rule of a firm hand and for a collective selfishness of the majority. In some countries the fear has reached unexpected intensity. Fear, voiced in the language of fascism and malicious innuendo has penetrated areas from which it used to be excluded – public discourse, parliaments, government offices and media that are supposed to serve the public.

Where does this language come from? How is it changing? And what kind of language is needed to argue with it?
Péter Esterházy (HU), Monika Maron (DE), Viktor Erofeyev (RZ), Frederik Stjernfelt (DK) – chair Michal Hvorecký (SK)

19:00 – 22:30
The White Crow Award
The White Crow (Whistleblower) Award honours courageous civic actions that have made a contribution to society. It is awarded annually in acknowledgment of those rare individuals in our midst who are prepared to stand up for truth and justice and who have shown civic courage in action and have put public interest, values or principles ahead of personal interest, risking victimization or condemnation.

Friday, 18.11.2011
KC Dunaj Cultural Centre
16:00 – 18:45
As If I Am Not There
Screening of Juanita Wilson’s ‘As If I Am Not There’, Ireland’s official 2012 submission to the 84th American Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The Slovak premiere will be presented by Slavenka Drakulić, on whose book the film is based. (Official trailer here)

Astorka Theatre
19:00 – 19:15
Central Europe within Europe
Andrzej Krawczyk, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Slovakia

19:15 – 21:30
Panel IV: The European Union between Hope and Scepticism
Behind the threat of the disintegration of the euro zone hovers the threat of a gradual break-up of the European Union. Is this an indication that the reasons that had led to the creation of the Union and to European integration are losing their validity? Or are the reasons still valid, only no longer being discussed? What might lie ahead for Central Europe should the EU start to disintegrate? What are the historical chances of the European Union – the first union in history founded on strictly democratic principles? Does the crisis present us with an opportunity for a strengthened Union? How has our part of the world contributed to the cohesion of Europe? What contribution can it make?
Iveta Radičová (SK), Gideon Rachman (UK), Jacques Rupnik (FR), Alexander Van der Bellen (AT) – chair Erik Tabery (CZ)