“The point of the future is that anything can happen” – Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary (1998-2002 and 2010-present day).
Europe was the bastion of hope for more than a million refugees in 2015, but what brought them here? A hunger for safety and security? Dreams of freedom? The draw of liberal democracy, with its ideals of free expression and equal opportunity and its laws against persecution?
From the outside, the EU is an appealing destination, but a closer look within the Union shows that there are cracks appearing in the liberal democracies so prized by the refugees arriving on our shores. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán openly talks about building an illiberal state, while, in Poland, the government has both increased its influence over public media and made changes which greatly restrict the work of the Constitutional Tribunal, leading to protests at home and strong criticism from a number of European organisations.
How can we then hope to support democratic campaigners in neighbouring countries like Egypt, Turkey, Russia and Macedonia, when we can’t convincingly fly the banner for freedom at home?
As we approach the UK referendum on continued membership of the EU, three major cultural figures from Hungary, Poland and Turkey will therefore gather in London to compare their stories and to ask: is Europe a purely geographical description or does it stand for a set of values which are rapidly unravelling?
Agnes Heller is a leading Hungarian critical theoretician and one of the most popular and outspoken critics of the current regime.
Elif Shafak is a French-born Turkish novelist whose books deal with subcultures and society’s excluded and have been published in more than 40 countries.
Adam Zagajewski is an award-winning poet, novelist, translator and essayist, who is currently the Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor of the University of Chicago’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literature and a co-editor of Zeszyty Literackie (Literary Review).
This event is part of Free Word‘s new series, Unravelling Europe. This series recognises that increasing societal fragmentation, fuelled by anxiety and fear, threatens the very conditions and values that underpin our open, democratic societies and looks to put artists at the heart of discussions which set out to ask: why is this so, what are the consequences and how might we act to counter them?
To find out more about Unravelling Europe and the series of events which it comprises, visit Free Word at: https://www.freewordcentre.com/projects/unravelling-europe
This debate took place with the support of the European Union’s Europe for Citizens Programme and is one debate of many taking place as part of an international series of debates on the same themes in cities around Europe, including Barcelona, Bratislava, Brussels, London, Sofia and Warsaw.
Agnes Heller and “everyday revolutions” by Anna-Verena Nosthoff
Discarding democracy: a return to the iron fist by Arch Puddington
Europe essays: love it or leave it by Elif Shafak
Europe’s illiberal democracies by Sylvie Kauffmann
Full text of Viktor Orbán’s speech at Băile Tuşnad (Tusnádfürdő) of the 26th July 2014. From the Budapest Beacon
How to build an illiberal democracy in the EU by Eszter Zalan
Hungary, Poland and illiberal democracy by George Friedman
IllIberal democracy: a European issue by Vedran Dzihic
Illiberal democracy grips Poland by Jędrzej Włodarczyk
Orbán says he seeks to end liberal democracy in Hungary by Zoltan Simon
Marching democracy by Mateusz Falkowski
Patterns of illiberalism in Central Europe. Anton Shekhovtsov in conversation with Sławomir Sierakowski
Populist seduction. Anne Applebaum in conversation with Łukasz Pawłowski
The closing of an open society by Adam Zagajewski
The problem with Poland by Jan-Werner Müller
Turkey is “sliding backwards” says top Turkish novelist by Nathan Gardels
Poland, another illiberal democracy? Sławomir Sierakowski in discussion with Thomas Wallerberger