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Why has Central Europe become so upsetting? Book launch and debate

Central Europe has lost its lustre and it is seen as a “trouble maker” in international and EU terrains. Once it was seen as a political program showing ways ahead from claimed Sovietization, while it seem that now it is a trip back to the past. No longer it is a geographical location but a collection of worries. Despite the post-2004 optimism that made European reunification nearly complete, there are now voices rising in Europe that the enlargement was a mistake. Worse still, Central Europe is once again adopting newspeak: it rejects liberalism but embraces crony state capitalism. Why did this happen?

A debate featuring authors and topics of the recently published book “Understanding Central Europe” ed. Marcin Moskalewicz, Wojciech Przybylski, Routledge in November 2017 in cooperation with Res Publica Foundation and Visegrad Insight (Warsaw).

PARTICIPANTS Dagmar Kusá Assistant Professor, Undergraduate Studies Coordinator Dagmar Kusá received her MA in political science from Comenius University her PhD. in political science from Boston University. Prior to BISLA, Dagmar worked in the Slovak Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and served on its Board of Directors. In 2008/2009, she coordinated projects at EUROCLIO, the European Association of History Educators in the Hague. Since 2004, Dagmar was the Program Director at the International Center for Conciliation in Boston, where she remains affiliated as a Senior Fellow and trainer in identity conflicts transformation. Her primary academic interests include the political use of collective memory, ethnic identity, citizenship and minorities, and manifestations of cultural trauma in public discourse. Current research focuses on the quality of democracy in countries transitioning from totalitarian or authoritarian regimes and its relation to the institutional choices of addressing the past, particularly in the context of South African and Central European transitions. She serves as the country expert on citizenship at the European Democratic Observatory (at EUI) and co-organizes a global annual Muslim-Jewish Conference. She is the Vice President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia. Daniel Bartha Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy Director of the Budapest based non-profit and non-partisan think tank Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy. He has a background in democracy assistance and foreign and security policy. From 2006 until 2012 he worked at the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT) in various positions, among others as a Programme Manager and Director for Development. After leaving the Center for Democracy Public Foundation where Dániel held the position of the Vice President for Strategy, he joined in 2012 the Bratislava based Central European Policy Institute (now: GLOBSEC Policy Institute). There he worked as an Executive Director until 2014. He holds an MA on International Relations from Corvinus University of Budapest. Currently he is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pécs. Dániel Bartha is a regular lecturer and speaker on Central European foreign and security policy. Edit Zgut Political Capital Edit Zgut is a political scientist and a foreign policy analyst. She earned a degree in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Prior to joining Political Capital she worked as a foreign policy journalist and editor at Heti Válasz, a Hungarian political weekly. Her main fields of research are European integration, cooperation between the Visegrád countries, and the analysis of illiberal tendencies in the region. She is a political commentator frequently appearing on domestic and international media. Edit is also a guest lecturer at Pázmány Péter Catholic University. Pinar E. Donmez Central European University Pinar's research interests include broadly critical theory, international political economy and politics of (de)politicisation. She has an MA and PhD in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick. Her doctoral research was on post-2001 restructuring of the state and economic policymaking in Turkey. Wojciech Przybylski Editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, chairman of Res Publica Foundation in Warsaw

Previously Wojciech has been the editor-in-chief of Eurozine - magazine representing a network of European cultural journals, and simultaneously - a Polish quarterly Res Publica Nowa. He has launched and leads the 'New Europe 100' project that is networking and bringing forward a community of successful innovators from CEE across the fields of business, research media, NGO and public administration run jointly by Res Publica, Financial Times and Google. He is a member of the advisory board of the European Forum of New Ideas and the European Digital Forum think tank led by the Lisbon Council and Nesta in collaboration with the European Commission's Startup Europe Initiative. His expertise includes European and transatlantic affairs as well as policies related to innovation and culture. He has been publishing in Foreign Policy, Politco, EUObserver, VoxEurop, Hospodarske noviny, Internazzionale and several others. His new book 'Understading Central Europe' (co-ed. with Marcin Moskalewicz) has been published in 2017 by Routledge. Attila Melegh as moderator Associate Professor, Corvinus University of Budapest Sociologist and historian. Senior advisor at the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, associate professor at Corvinus University. He has taught in the United States, Russia, Georgia and Hungary. He has been the project manager of several major international projects on migration including SEEMIG. He does research on population discourses, migration, migration statistics and on global social change in the 20th century. Author of 3 books in English and Hungarian, and over a hundred scientific publications. Founding Director of Karl Polanyi Research Center for Global Social Studies ABOUT THE BOOK

“Understanding Central Europe” illustrates the political discourse and its main ideas in Central Europe. It is the result of an international collaboration from almost seventy scholars, writers and journalists specialising in politics, society, culture and history of the region. It offers an overview of ideas and concepts that are universal for contemporary Western politics, yet it is through the lens of our unique Central European experience, that is, from our own political perspective.


Is it possible to complete the map of Central European ideas? Is it possible to finally understand the peculiarity of Central Europe? Definitely not. Even the list of topics presented in this book is hardly conclusive. Should this book be treated as a compendium of knowledge or a handbook of ideas? Again, surely not. Most of the entries have a discursive, essayistic form; they represent various patterns of reflection and different academic, national or even ideological backgrounds of their authors. The chapters that emerged during four-year-long series of meetings, seminars and conferences comply with a minimum set of basic methodological principles, but they are not scholarly per se. Rather, the chapters present a unique and rare manifestation of Central Europeans, who are explaining to each other and to the world their complex intellectual history. Altogether, this book is an attempt at reviewing the most important clusters of ideas that underpin general political concepts presently at work in public debates in the region in an accessible and non-ideological manner. Finally, do this book and the work behind it have practical consequences? It fact, they do. Mapping Central European political debate benefits both the regional actors and those to whom Central Europe is still an unknown creature. The book brings about an understanding of the extent to which important political notions vary in their emotional response in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, and the degree to which they overlap. More importantly, the book itself manifests the practices of public debate on the region that we have been missing for so long. It is not an articulation of sectarian interest groups, but an effort to comprehend heterogeneous Central European identity and its relation to the world as a whole, even if, by necessity, it is incomplete and provisional.

... a versatile group of mid-career academics, writers, journalists, and opinion leaders. Now, the book has become a political action in itself, one that goes beyond the party politics that we mostly see today. Such a political action is contained not solely in the act of its production but foremost in the interaction and critical reading it fosters.

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