Central Europe 2020 and Beyond

January 27, 2020

Reflections on the book, Central Europe Revisited, by Emil Brix and Erhard Busek will be held with an Academic Book Launch and roundtable discussion at the Hungarian Academy of Science, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg (iASK).

There are two often contradictory narratives on Central Europe these days. The first is that Central Europe is the greatest European success story of the last three decades, with the introduction of democracy, market economies, and the integration of the region into European economic and security structures. The second is that Central Europe has become a fragmented and isolated region, with no constructive ideas for the future of Europe; it showed no solidarity in the migration crisis, and demonstrates that political stability can only be sustained at the cost of a highly nationalist-populist policy.

Questions arise like: How and under what conditions did the new chapter in Central European history begin after 1989-90? What possibilites and dangers does Central Europe offer for the future of the continent? Could the region of Central Europe lead the European Union forward out of its present stagnation and crisis? In a recent book, published today in Hungarian, two well-known Austrian intellectuals investigate these issues: the former Vice-Chancellor of Austria, Erhard Busek, the head of the prestigious Danube and Central Europe Institute, and Emil Brix, the Austrian ambassador to London and Moscow, and now the Director of the Vienna Diplomatic Academy. Together they published a book on Central Europe 30 years ago, and in this new volume they revisit the region, presenting and analyzing the performance, opportunities, and dilemmas of Central Europe.

“The appeal of the Central European discourse ended with the accession of small Central European states to the Euro-Atlantic processes and institutions. For a while it seemed that the integration of the region would help to overcome centuries of lagging behind,” says Professor Ferenc Miszlivetz, Director of iASK, the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg). “The optimism of the 1980s eroded in the first decades of the 21st century. Global cooperation and the utopia of a common European home have in recent years been replaced by a series of dystopias and emergencies. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that, without losing their earlier convictions and momentum, the authors argue that Central Europe has remained a region of hope, at a time when Europe is obviously in trouble, and when the European project is experiencing the deepest crisis in its history. So why will the future of Europe be decided here? This is a very exciting question, and we are proud to offer the book to Hungarian readers,” said Prof. Miszlivetz at the first book launch of the new translation.
The political discourse about the future of Europe, including Central Europe, began more than 40 years ago, and will continue at the official book launch at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on the 12th of February 2020. There will be reflections on the perception of Central Europe by three Hungarian social scientists, the historian Csaba Kiss Gy, the former State Secretary Iván Bába and the diplomat Iván Gyurcsík.
In the past, Central Europe was viewed in both geographical and geopolitical terms. The geopolitical approach demonstrates a key challenge for the region regarding security that is closely connected to the future of the European Union. Although Brexit may have deepened cohesion of the EU to some extent, the lack of balanced sensible dialogue, based on mutual respect, about common values and interests may lead to a deepening of the crises.
Central Europe cannot be understood without knowledge of its past – the illusions and realities of its different communities. The historical experience of trauma brought on by dictatorships are deeply rooted in the collective memory of these societies and its estrangement from developments in the 'other' part of Europe.
The experiences of the past 15 years of Central European EU membership answers some of the proposed questions, while raising others. The necessity of the integration of the whole European continent can only be a positive development, but the equal and unbiased treatment of all EU member states has raised additional problems and disputes. The present perception of the EU from a Central European poit of view can be parafrased as follows: All member states are equal but some are more equal than others. This could be the starting point for further discussions.

The event will be held at 16.00 hours on February 12, 2020 in the Lecture Hall of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Main Building next to the Chain Bridge.


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