From the 14th to the 17th November 2014, Project Forum hosted the sixth annual Central European Forum in Bratislava. 2014’s Forum, featured seven debates and a wide array of satellite events and was entitled Us and Them. Amongst looking back at 25 years of post-communism, it sought to understand the divisions that separate Europeans, both within and without countries.
To see video recordings of all the official programme debates at 2014’s CEF, click here.
The Central European Forum, 2014 – Us and Them:
The sixth annual edition of the Central European Forum commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
The headline theme of the Forum – and representative of an emphasis reflected in all of the debate panels – us and them, addressed the entrenched polarisation of our societies. This problem concerns not just Central and Eastern Europe, but also the nations of Southern and Western Europe. Twenty-five years after inhabitants of the former Eastern bloc were able to gain political and economic freedom, our societies remain divided, in some cases so much so that there is seemingly little left to hold them together. Our institutions, our public services, the very constitution of our public lives seems to have been paralysed by these divisions. The aim of 2014’s Central European Forum was therefore to dissect the nature and implications of this phenomenon, looking not just at long term developments within European societies, but also at more recent concerns on the European fringe, including the Ukrainian crisis and the re-emergence of a more aggressive Russia.
Speakers at 2014’s Forum included, amongst others: influential political scientist, Ivan Krastev; acclaimed German writer, Ingo Schulze; Hungarian historian and author, György Dalos; Czech philosopher, Václav Bělohradský; Polish writer, Jacek Dehnel; American political scientist, Mitchell Cohen; Serbian playwright, Biljana Srbljanović; the founder of the famous East-West Company theatre, Haris Pasović; acknowledged French sociologist, Gilles Lipovetsky; diplomat and strategic thinker, Sir Robert Francis Cooper; and Fatos Lubonja, a long-time prisoner of conscience and one of the most translated Albanian writers.
As mentioned, the Forum also included several satellite events and, on Sunday the 16th November, Belarus Free Theatre, prohibited by the Lukashenko regime, performed their acclaimed play, Discover Love, rated as the best performance at Off-Off Broadway by the Independent Association of Theatre Bloggers. Well-known English playwright, Mark Ravenhill, speaks highly of the Belarus Free Theatre company, stating that “They have a stunning vocal and physical command, performing with ease and urgency material that combines both verbatim and physical theatre”. Such praise and the many international awards, which the theatre has received, make the company’s presence in Bratislava an occasion not to be missed and ensure an artistic highlight to accompany the high quality debating fare on offer.
Other side events at the CEF 2014, included: a special discussion panel, GLOBSEC at CEF 2014 (in cooperation with the Slovak Atlantic Commission); an exhibition about, and (in co-operation with the Slovakian Institute for Public Affairs and The Goethe Institute) a discussion of, Slovakia’s first decade as an EU member; diverse high-school and university debates; and a meeting of 20 European debate houses at Bratislava’s Pisztory Palace.
Of course, 2014’s Central European Forum would not be able to take place without the kind support of its donors and partners and the organisors wish to extend their thanks to all of them – ourselves and the OSF included – in particular to their main partner, the ERSTE Foundation, whose support they have been able to count on since the very first Forum in 2009.
Thumbnail photography by Peter Župník.