The Shape of (Central) Europe 2022

The Aspen Institute Central Europe, in cooperation with the Economia Media House, organizes the Aspen Annual Conference entitled The Shape of (Central) Europe. The aim of the conference is to provide an overview of the political, economic and societal development  in the Central European region and the Czech Republic.

The panel discussions are based on studies which are prepared in cooperation with leading experts and consulting companies. This year, we collaborated with  Boston Consulting GroupDEKK Inštitút, McKinsey & Company, PAQ Research and Daniel Koštoval. Experts from the business, academic and non-profit sectors are traditionally joined by members of the government on the conference panels.

The general media partner of the conference is Hospodářské noviny, the main media partner is Czech Television. Media partners are Czech Radio Radiožurnál and Hlídací  We also thank the long-term partners of the Aspen Institute CE for their support.









Ivan Hodáč, Founder & Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Aspen Institute CE

Jaroslav Mašek, Editor-in-Chief, Hospodářské noviny

Milan Vašina, Executive Director, Aspen Institute CE




Values-Based Leadership

Keynote Speaker:

Petr Fiala, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic




Values-Based Leadership: The Role of Values in Turbulent Times

Video Message:

Pavol Kosnáč, Director, DEKK Institute / Researcher, Masaryk University

Keynote Speaker:

Andrej Kiska, Former President of the Slovak Republic

Online Keynote Speaker:

Alexander Stubb,  Former Prime Minister of Finland / Director, EUI School of Transnational Governance




Security – Innovations: Defense in Times of Interstate Conflicts at the Strategic Level

Video Message:

Daniel Koštoval, Senior Fellow, The Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations

Panel Discussion Speakers:

Jan Jireš, Deputy Minister of Defence for Defence Policy and Planning, Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

Wojciech Lorenz, Head of International Security Program, Polish Institute of International Affairs

Lieutenant-General Jaromír Zůna, Defence Diplomacy




Effectiveness of Czech Civil Service

Video Message:

Dan Svoboda, Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company Czech Republic and Slovakia

Panel Discussion Speakers:

Michal Čermák, Expert Partner, McKinsey & Company

Jindřich Fryč, Deputy Minister of the Interior for Civil Service

Josef Karlický, Director, Reconstruction of the State

Vít Rakušan, First Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of the Interior, Government of the Czech Republic

Lieutenant-General Vladimír Vlček, General Director, Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic

Jana Vohralíková, Secretary General, Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic




Labor Force Reskilling in the Czech Republic

Video Message:

Jiří Švejcar, Partner and Associate Director, Boston Consulting Group

Panel Discussion Speakers:

Tomáš Ervín Dombrovský, Head of Analysis, LMC

Marian Jurečka, Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Government of the Czech Republic

Diana Rádl Rogerová, investor

Petr Šmíd, Country Marketing Manager CZ, SK, HU, RO, Google

Jiří Švejcar, Partner and Associate Director, BCG




Education: Successful Local Educational System

Video Message:

Daniel Prokop, Founder, PAQ Research

Panel Discussion Speakers:

Karel Gargulák, Analyst, PAQ Research

Marie Gottfriedová, Principal, Elementary School Trmice

Jaroslav Jirásko, Manager, Eduzměna Kutnohorsko

Jiří Nantl, Deputy Governor, South Moravian Region




Final Recommendations

Pavel Řehák, President, Aspen Institute CE / Founder, Direct family
Milan Vašina, Executive Director, Aspen Institute CE

* Changes in the program are reserved

Values-Based Leadership

9:15 - 9:30

Values-based leadership is essential for a free, just and equitable society. It is important to think about not only our personal values, but also the values of the given organization, and the role of values in decision-making, leading people with integrity, respect and authenticity.

In its study, the DEKK Institute describes values-based leadership as a style that is primarily based on the common values of the leader and his team. If the entire team shares the same values, everyone can benefit from higher motivation, productivity and more effective collaboration.

The keynote opening speech on this topic will be delivered by Petr Fiala, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

Values-Based Leadership: The Role of Values in Turbulent Times

9:30 - 10:20

According to a study by the DEKK Institute, values-based leadership at the state level, when the leader must work with the population as it is, does not necessarily mean the promotion of one’s own values,
but means possessing values that enable the functioning of a democratic establishment and a society with a high ratio of civil and political freedoms.

Thus, the leaders also serve the people who did not vote for them and with whom they may not agree. The key values of such a leader will be values that help build consensus and, in other words, strengthen social cohesion.
❓ What are the key values for the society?
❓ What is the development of values in society?

On the topic  “Values-Based Leadership: The Role of Values in Turbulent Times ” will speak Andrej Kiska, Former President of the Slovak Republic.

In an online keynote speech, Alexander Stubb, Former Prime Minister of Finland / Director, EUI School of Transnational Governance, will speak about his experience on the same topic.

Security – Innovations: Defense in Times of Interstate Conflicts at the Strategic Level

10:45 - 11:45

The security environment has changed fundamentally since the thirty-year period after the end of the Cold War. Two decades of efforts by Russia and China to curb the influence of the West with the US at the forefront, which started at the turn of the millennium, culminated with Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

Compared to the previous period, the use of military force at the interstate level on a massive industrial scale, using all the resources of the state to procure an army of hundreds of thousands, poses qualitatively new requirements and challenges for defense.

​The panel discussion will focus on specific problems and challenges from the military-strategic point of view that the Czech Republic and other relevant countries – Poland and Germany are facing in the context of Central Europe.

❓ Does the Czech Republic have a sufficient security strategy?
❓ Why is systemic preparation important in times of peace both at the level of states and at the level of NATO and the EU?
❓ What does the new security reality mean for EU states in terms of security?

The following security experts will discuss at the conference:

🔷 Jan Jireš, Deputy Minister of Defence for Defence Policy and Planning, Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic
🔶 Wojciech Lorenz, Head of International Security Program, Polish Institute of International Affairs
🔷 Lieutenant-General Jaromír Zůna, Defence Diplomacy

The Effectiveness of the Czech Civil Service

13:00 - 14:00

In the last three years, the Czech Republic has fully tested its abilities to solve unexpected and crisis situations. Public institutions should learn to respond quickly and efficiently and adequately solve the given challenges.

The study, prepared by the consulting company McKinsey & Company, focuses on five pillars of building an effective civil service. It emphasizes concrete, practical measures illuminated by the crisis response that could help bolster the ability of public services to address exceptional challenges. The study builds on tested methods that the Czech civil service has used to resolve crises and complements these with learnings from global research by McKinsey & Company.

❓ How the civil service could better respond to urgent complex challenges?
❓ How to start the transformation of the civil service?
❓ What are the main pillars for building an effective civil service?

The panel discussion will be attended by:

🔶 Michal Čermák, Expert Partner, McKinsey & Company
🔷 Jindřich Fryč, Deputy Minister of the Interior for Civil Service
🔶 Josef Karlický, Director, Reconstruction of the State
🔷  Vít Rakušan, First Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of the Interior, Government of the Czech Republic
🔶 Lieutenant-General Vladimír Vlček, General Director, Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic
🔷 Jana Vohralíková, Secretary General, Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic

Labor Force Reskilling in the Czech Republic

14:15 - 15:15

This year, the consulting company Boston Consulting Group together with the Aspen Institute Central Europe presented a unique model of the development of the Czech labor market, which worked with local factors, 10 global megatrends and an analysis of 131 professions in 31 sectors. The study “Budoucnost českého pracovního trhu” (The Future of the Czech Labor Market) predicts the development of the labor market until 2030 and points to the main changes that will affect the following decade as well.

The study of the same name, which was created in cooperation with an expert group, provides a number of measures and recommendations for the state, employers and employees.

❓ How will the Czech labor market look like by 2030?
❓ What are the specific proposed solutions for the civil service, companies and employees that will ensure that the Czech Republic successfully manages the challenges associated with the expected changes in the labor market?
❓ Which job positions will disappear and which ones will appear on the market?
❓ How to supplement the missing workforce and what will need to be done in the area of reskilling?

Not only these questions will be discussed in the panel by the following experts:

🔶 Tomáš Ervín Dombrovský, Head of Analysis, LMC
🔷 Marian Jurečka, Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Government of the Czech Republic
🔶 Diana Rádl Rogerová, investor
🔷 Petr Šmíd, Country Marketing Manager Česko, Slovensko, Maďarsko a Rumunsko, Google
🔶 Jiří Švejcar, Partner and Associate Director, Boston Consulting Group


Education: Successful Local Educational System

15:30 - 16:30

The Czech Republic is a country where the social situation of the student and his/her family significantly impacts educational outcomes. In some locations in the Czech Republic, however, children’s educational failure is successfully mitigated to a degree significantly higher than their initial social conditions would suggest.

What is behind this? What good practice
can we take away from these places? We present key characteristics of eight selected territories of municipalities with extended powers (MEPs) from administrative data, where the educational outcomes in those territories significantly outperform their students’ social circumstances. For a better understanding, we go on to identify possible sources of success in the territories of Hlučín and Litvínov MEPs by means of qualitative interviews.

❓ What do successful microregions better in developing the potential of pupils?
❓ Why is the participation of disadvantaged children in preschool education important?
❓ Why is the use of teaching assistants, school psychologists and special educators crucial for improving the quality of teaching?

The panel discussion will include:

🔷 Karel Gargulák, Analyst, PAQ Research
🔶 Marie Gottfriedová, Principal, Elementary School Trmice
🔷 Jaroslav Jirásko, Manager, Eduzměna Kutnohorsko
🔶 Jiří Nantl, Deputy Governor, South Moravian Region

Value-Based Leadership or What a Massive Shift in Values Does To a Society

by Pavol Kosnáč (DEKK Institute / Masaryk University)

Defense in Times of Interstate Conflict at the Strategic Level: Problems, Challenges and Solutions

by Daniel Koštoval (Senior Fellow at the Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations)

Effective Civil Service – Inspiration for Urgent and Complex Challenges

by Michal Čermák, Jan Indráček, Tomáš Karakolev and Dan Svoboda (McKinsey & Company)


The Future of the Czech Labor Market

by Tomáš Wiedermann, Jiří Švejcar, Matyáš Theuer (Boston Consulting Group)


Why is Education in Certain Regions  Significantly Better than the Social Situation would Indicate?

by Michal Ostrý, Václav Korbel, Karel Gargulák (PAQ Research)


Aspen Young Leaders

by Hana Martínková


Michal Čermák co-leads McKinsey Operations Practice in Central and Eastern Europe. Since joining the firm in 2000, he has been working with global, regional and local companies on digital and performance transformation programs, helping client organizations become more agile and dynamic, and improve their multi-channel service operations. Aside from his client work, Michal has been involved in a number of knowledge efforts and pro bono projects focused on the effectiveness of the public sector and its crisis management. Michal holds an MBA degree from Duke University, North Carolina, USA, and a Master’s degree in Economics and Finance from the University of Economics in Prague.


Through research and other data sources, Tomáš Ervín Dombrovský maps the main phenomena and trends in the interconnected worlds of education and work. He regularly presents findings and recommendations that can help improve the collaborative environment of HR and senior management. In addition, Tomáš has been active in community service activities that go beyond the day-to-day business of LMC, where he has been employed for twelve years. LMC develops online services for education and job search, such as,,,, and other portals and mobile applications.


Petr Fiala is a Czech politician, political scientist, and university professor who has served as Prime Minister of the Czech Republic since November 2021. He heads the coalition government formed by SPOLU („Together“, which includes the Civic Democratic Party/ODS, the Christian-Democratic Party/KDU-ČSL, and TOP 09), the Czech Pirate Party, and the Mayors and Independents party (known as STAN). Between 2004 and 2011, Prime Minister Fiala was the head of Masaryk University, the second-largest university in the Czech Republic. During his tenure, Masaryk University became one of the most respected institutes of research and higher learning in Central Europe. From 2012 to 2013, Fiala served as Minister of Education, Youth and Sports in the government of Petr Nečas; he managed to stabilize the resort and quickly won the public's trust with his conceptual and persuasive work. In October 2013, he became leader of the South Moravian ODS candidate list as a non-party member and was elected an MP. The same year, Fiala joined the ODS party and was elected its chairman. Between 2017 and 2021, he held the position of Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. In late 2020, he became the national leader of the newly created electoral coalition SPOLU. His scholarly research focuses on comparative political science, European politics, and conservative politics.


Jindřich Fryč is a graduate of the Faculty of Education at Charles University in Prague. After his university studies, he joined the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, where he worked as Director of the Youth Department and, subsequently, Director General of the Section for International Relations and European Affairs. Between 2012 and 2014, Jindřich held the position of Deputy Minister for Education, and was appointed Secretary General of the Ministry in 2015. His long-term professional focus involves the field of education, with an overlap into international relations. He is a recipient of the French Order of the Academic Palms for services in education, science and culture (at the rank of Officer), and the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Currently, he is the Deputy Minister for Civil Service at the Ministry of the Interior. Jindřich now intends to apply the experience and knowledge he has gained during his professional career in the field of civil service as a whole, with the view of increasing its efficiency and improving the status and perception of civil servants in society.


In his professional career, Karel Gargulák has been focusing on the strategic management of educational systems, and on the analysis, development and implementation of educational policies. He worked as an analyst at the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, and spent three years at the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, being responsible for conceptual and analytical materials and profiling of departmental research. Karel was behind the project of the Strategy of the Education Policy of the Czech Republic 2030+. As an analyst and consultant, he has cooperated with PAQ Research, the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research, and EDUin, as well as with local or regional administrations.


Marie Gottfriedová is a long-time principal of the Trmice Primary School which excels in inclusive education. She has been awarded the Roma Spirit Award for her contributions to the education of Roma children, and serves as chairwoman of the Society for Saving the Church in Trmice – FIAT VOLUNTAS TUA. In 2013, the Society bought the Trmice church to prevent the church and its furnishings from being sold off. Thanks to the activities of the association, the church now serves liturgical and cultural purposes. Marie is also involved in local politics – she has been a local representative in Trmice since 2002. She also stood as an independent candidate for the European Parliament on the candidate list of the Club of Committed Non-Partisans, where she received the highest number of preferential votes, although she did not win a seat in the end.


Michala Hergetová is a TV reporter and host of business news and events. She graduated from the University of Economics in Prague in 2005 with a degree in International Trade and European Integration. She interrupted her studies to take part in a Joint European Studies Program at Staffordshire University, UK, and the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Her professional career began with the TV3 channel where she focused on economics and politics. In the past, she also worked as the PR Director for the National Trade Promotion Agency – CzechTrade. During the floods in 2002, she led the CzechTrade and Radio Impuls Flood Center. She has worked for Czech TV in different positions since 2005 and hosts various events and debates.


Ivan Hodáč is the Chairman of the Board and one of the founders of Aspen Institute Central Europe. He is a graduate of the University of Copenhagen and the College of Europe in Bruges. From 2001 to 2013, he was the Secretary of the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA). Currently, Ivan is a Senior Advisor to Teneo CabinetDN, a leading consultancy company; previously he was also a Special Advisor to the ACEA Board of Directors and held the position of Head of Time Warner's Corporate Office for Europe. Ivan has also served as the Secretary General of IFMA/IMACE, a Senior Economist at Didier & Associates, and an Adjunct Professor at the College of Europe. The Financial Times recently listed Ivan Hodáč among the 30 most influential people in Brussels politics.


Jaroslav Jirásko served as the K. V. Rais Elementary School Principal for 23 years. He worked as a coordinator of the so called “Middle Support Link” at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for one year and currently works as a consultant and lecturer. He was the Vice-president of the Association of Elementary School Principals for ten years, is a founding member of the Teachers' Platform, and regularly publishes in journals such as School Management (Řízení školy), Teachers' Journal (Učitelské noviny) and Eduzín. Jaroslav is the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of a project called “Elixir for Schools”, and a specialist advisor to the Memory of the Nations Secondary School. He also teaches at the National Pedagogical Institute of the Czech Republic and serves as a mentor to aspiring principals. Last but not least, Jaroslav is an active social media contributor, regularly commenting on issues related to his field of expertise.


Jan Jires has been the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic, responsible for defense policy and planning, since July 2022. Between 2017 and 2022, he held the position of Head of the Defense Section at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to NATO in Brussels. He also served as Defense Policy Director at the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic, and was a lecturer of international relations and security studies at Charles University in Prague. Between 2009 and 2013, Jan worked as Director of the Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations at the CEVRO Institute. As a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, he spent a year at the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins University, Washington, and worked with a number of US and European research institutes and think-tanks on various security policy-related projects (such as the Center for European Policy Analysis, Washington, Centre for European Security Studies, Groningen, Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, Central European Park for Innovative Technologies in Bratislava, Polish Institute of International Affairs) in Warsaw, Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences, Strausberg, Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), or the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava). Jan holds a Ph.D. from Charles University.


Marian Jurečka, current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, is a graduate of the Faculty of Agronomy at Mendel University in Brno. He lives in Rokytnice near Olomouc with his wife and five sons. Between 2014 and 2017, Marian served as Minister of Agriculture; since 2020, he has been the leader of the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party, in which he has been active since 1999. He plays the tuba and pan flute, organizes benefit concerts and is a lifelong scout.


Josef Karlický is the Director of the Reconstruction of the State, where he has worked since 2013. He has been engaged in the areas of state modernization, transparent management of public funds, anti-corruption measures, and fair political competition on a long-term basis. Josef has been involved, for example, in introducing the register of public administration contracts or the Nomination Act, asserting stricter rules for the funding of political parties and movements, or making court judgments available to the public. He has recently advocated for deeper and more efficient cooperation between non-profit organizations and businesses on joint and ambitious projects aimed at state modernization. In order to effectively support philanthropic activities and advocacy projects, he co-founded the Frank Bold Institute in 2022. As part of the Frank Bold experts consortium, Josef has been involved in non-profit activities since 2009. He was previously engaged in issues addressing e.g. the responsibility of multinational corporations in the Czech Republic, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, or the legal aspects of coal-fired power plants. He also provided legal services in a law firm for several years.


Andrej Kiska is the former President of Slovakia (2014–2019). He graduated from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Slovak University of Technology. After graduation, he spent a year and a half in the United States, before returning to Slovakia and co-founding Tatracredit, a company that implemented catalog installment systems called Triangel and Quatro; these later became the largest installment systems in Slovakia. In 2005, the company was purchased by the General Slovak Credit Bank (VÚB) and merged into Consumer Finance Holding, with Andrej Kiska serving as a member of the Board of Directors until 2007. In 2006, Andrej Kiska co-founded Dobrý anjel (“Good angel”), a non-profit charitable organization providing help to families that have found themselves in a difficult financial situation as a result of a family member contracting a serious disease (such as cancer). Currently, he is active in the fields of both business and philanthropy.


Pavol Kosnáč is the Director of the DEKK Institute in Bratislava, the leading researcher of the World Value Survey project in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, a PhD. student at the Department of Political Science of Masaryk University in Brno, and a fellow at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. His current work lies in the intersection of political science, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Pavol studied Comparative Religion Studies in Bratislava and Oxford, focusing on the ideology and group cohesion of new religious movements, Christianity and Islam. He takes an interest in the overlaps between religion, ideology, violence, and war. Pavol occasionally works as a consultant and fieldworker for humanitarian organizations and universities around the world. He is currently involved in projects operating in the United Kingdom, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Thailand. He has co-authored a book entitled Fiction, Invention and Hyperreality, published by Routledge in 2017.


Daniel Koštoval is a security and defense analyst and consultant. Since 1996, he has held several executive positions, e.g., the position of Director of the Security Policy Department and the Department for Northern and Eastern Europe, or of the Director General for Non-European Countries at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1998 and 2002, he served at the Czech Permanent Delegation to NATO, and, subsequently, at the Czech Embassy in Moscow (2003–2006) and the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C. (2009–2001) – between 2010 and 2011 holding the position of the Chargé d'Affaires Ad Interim. In 2013, Daniel was appointed the First Deputy Minister of Defense and, afterwards, the Deputy Minister of Defense for Strategies, Foreign Relations and Planning, and the Deputy Minister for Armaments and Acquisitions, which was a position he held until the end of 2018. Daniel Koštoval currently serves as the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the European Defense Agency and is a member of the Czech Euroatlantic Council. Since 2021, he is also a Senior Fellow at the Prague Center for Transatlantic Relations.


Wojciech Lorenz is the head of the International Security Program at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM). He holds a Ph.D. degree in Political Science and Administration from Warsaw University. His research includes NATO, deterrence and Polish security, and defense policy. Prior to joining PISM in 2012, Wojciech worked as a journalist for Polish Radio, the Polish Section of the BBC World Service in London, and the national daily Rzeczpospolita. In 2013 and 2014, he served as a civilian specialist in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. In 2014, Wojciech was the co-director of a NATO-sponsored workshop held in Ukraine, "Strengthening Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure". In 2021, PISM published a book entitled Deterrence, Strategy and Politics.


Jaroslav Mašek worked in a weekly, daily, and monthly newspaper before returning to daily journalism. He was always engaged in business editorials. Over the last 20 years, he has been a member of the Týden, MF DNES before Babiš ownership, Forbes, and SZ Byznys brands. He has long followed small and medium-sized Czech businesses, large financial groups, and family-owned companies.


Jiří Nantl is the Deputy Governor of the South Moravian Region, responsible for self-government tasks related to the fields of education and smart region strategy. Since 2016, he has served as the Director of the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) at Masaryk University. Jiří has a long-standing interest in education and science policy, having served as the First Deputy Minister of Education, among other positions. He was at the inception of the Strategy of the Czech Republic's Education Policy until 2020 and was part of the team introducing changes in higher education (HE) legislation and the new HE quality support model. On a conceptual basis, he was involved in the creation of the National Register of Qualifications as a communication tool between education and practice. In the past, Jiří also served as the Vice-Chairperson of the Higher Education Council, a member of the National Council for Qualifications or of the OECD Committee for Education Policy, and the Council of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Science, Technology and Innovation.


Daniel Prokop is a sociologist specializing in political, social and educational research. He implemented numerous innovations to Czech election surveys and has recently been focusing on research into social issues and educational inequalities. For this purpose, he founded the PAQ Research agency. Daniel was also a member of the expert group developing the Strategy for the Education Policy of the Czech Republic 2030+. In 2020, he published Blind Spots (Slepé skvrny), a bestselling book addressing current social and educational issues. In the past, Daniel worked for the MEDIAN agency for almost 10 years.


Diana Rádl Rogerová is a Czech senior executive and investor in companies focused on AI and big data. Until recently, she was Managing Partner of Deloitte Czech Republic and held the position of Chief Strategic Officer for Deloitte Europe. She is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the global Young Presidents‘ Organization (YPO). Diana holds a Diploma in International Financial Reporting (DiplFR), an International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) qualification, and is an auditor licensed by the Chamber of Auditors of the Czech Republic. She has been repeatedly ranked among the 100 most influential women in business by the Forbes magazine, as well as among the Top 25 Women in Business.


Vít Rakušan has been the First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior since December 2021. In the previous parliamentary term, he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. He is a teacher by profession: he taught German, history, and political science at Jiří Orten Grammar School in Kutná Hora. Vít went into politics in 2010, becoming a successful mayor of Kolín, a town located in Central Bohemia, and remaining in the position until June 2019. The very same year, he joined the Mayors and Independents party (known as STAN), was elected its leader in April 2019, and has been its head ever since. In politics, he tries to uphold the ideas of the first Czech president Václav Havel, emphasizing respect for human rights, and asserts, for example, that people with a Communist past should not hold high state and government positions. For his advocacy of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as for introducing the reform of the Office for Economic Supervision of Political Parties and Movements, Vít Rakušan has received a prestigious award from the Reconstruction of the State project. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, he has been the National Coordinator for Assistance to People Fleeing the War, appointed by the Government of the Czech Republic.


Pavel Řehák studied International Relations at the University of Economics in Prague and holds an MBA degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. He started his professional career as a consultant at McKinsey &Company. After seven years at McKinsey, Pavel joined Česká pojišťovna (the leading incumbent player in the Czech insurance market) for seven years and served as its CEO between 2010 and 2013. In 2013, Pavel founded VIGO Investments – an investment company focusing on building customer-centric companies. As part of VIGO Investments, they bought Triglav insurance company to transform and rebrand it, and established the completely new Direct insurance company which is now the fastest-growing insurer and the largest Czech-owned player in the market. Gradually, the Direct family grew beyond insurance into automotive and mobility services (Direct Auto), financial services (Fidoo), and other areas. In addition to his entrepreneurial activities, Pavel has served as Chairman of the Board of the Direct Foundation and as President of the Aspen Institute Central Europe since 2022.


Professor Alexander Stubb is the Director of the School of Transnational Governance. Between 2008 and 2016, he was part of several Finnish administrations – as Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for European Affairs and Trade. Prof. Stubb worked as an advisor at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki and Brussels and was involved in negotiations of the Treaties of Amsterdam, Nice, and Lisbon. He holds a Ph.D. degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and was a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. Prof. Stubb is the author of a number of books and scholarly articles, and publishes columns in several periodicals, including the Financial Times.


Dan Svoboda is the managing partner at McKinsey & Company Czech Republic and Slovakia. He has close to twenty years of experience with strategic consulting, mainly in the area of transformations of large companies and growth and operational efficiency improvement. On the Central European level, Dan is now leading McKinsey Transformation and LEAP (building new businesses). Dan graduated from Cornell University and received his MBA degree from Harvard Business School.


Petr Šmíd is Google Country Marketing Manager for the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. He started his career at McKinsey & Company, where he spent seven years analyzing the banking and healthcare industries. He holds an MBA from the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) and the Business School for the World (INSEAD), and is passionate about education – he leads workshops for students, professionals, or startups. Life-long learning is also an important part of the Google's Digital Garage program, which since 2016 has helped more than 300,000 people and businesses in the Czech Republic safely use the internet and digital technologies to find jobs, develop careers or grow their businesses.


Jiří Švejcar is a partner in the Prague office of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). He has been active in strategic consulting for top management for more than 20 years. From 2003 to 2015, he worked for Accenture where he was responsible for strategic consulting for financial institutions in Central and Eastern Europe. At BCG, Jiří specializes in the digital transformation of financial institutions and leads the Digital Technology and Data Sector of the Czech office. In addition to commercial strategic projects, particularly in the financial sector and energy, he is also involved in pro bono projects with a social impact.


Milan Vašina graduated from the Faculty of Business and Economics of Mendel University in Brno. He has spent most of his professional life in the field of telecommunications, remaining loyal to his former employer, T-Mobile, for two decades. From 2007, he was the CEO of T-Mobile Slovakia, led T-Mobile Czech Republic since 2007, and became the head of T-Mobile Czech Republic and Telekom Slovakia in 2016. Milan left top management in 2018 and currently works at Rockaway Capital as an independent consultant; concurrently, he is the Executive Director of Aspen Institute Central Europe.


Lieutenant-General Vladimír Vlček is one of the most experienced representatives of the Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic (FRS CR). He was appointed to the rank of Brigadier Lieutenant-General by the President of the Czech Republic on 8 May 2022. His strongest quality is a wide range of theoretical knowledge combined with the necessary practical experience gained in various positions he has held at the district and regional corps, as well as at both national and international levels. In his work, General Vlček combines a technical way of thinking with excellent organizational and management skills. He strives for a systemic approach to problem solving throughout the Corps, which is a quality useful for the entire Security Corps, especially during implementations of new systemic steps on the nationwide level. His experience is invaluable to the Corps. Since mid-2021, General Vlček has held the highest position in the Corps – Director General of the Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic. Within the Corps, he has a natural authority and is considered a leading expert in fire protection and the integrated rescue system. General Vlček also places an emphasis on the development of cooperation and outstanding relations with volunteer firefighters, local government and other entities within the IRS CR. Last but not least, he has significantly contributed to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 – both within the FRS CR and the Czech Republic as a whole. General Vlček is one of the leading coordinators of the activities related to the migration wave that has followed the outbreak of the war conflict in Ukraine. He was also actively involved in coordinating the fire extinguishing works during the recent large forest fire in the Czech Switzerland National Park.


Jana Vohralíková is a civil engineer by profession. After graduating from the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU), she worked for five years as a structural engineer at the Institute of Design and Development of CTU. A long maternity leave followed, during which she rounded off her career as a civil engineer with the design and construction of the Church of Divine Love in Budislav. Over the following years, Jana held various managerial positions in the non-profit sector, public administration, business and academia. Currently, she is the Secretary General of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The experience she has gained in various spheres of society has led Jana to the conviction that a truly healthy society must stand on three equally strong legs: the state administration, the business sector and the non-profit sector. It is the state administration that has always had and will always have the leading role and responsibility. From this perspective, our state administration has still a lot of catching up to do.


Lieutenant General Jaromír Zůna served as the First Deputy to the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces. His responsibilities included the coordination and development of long-term concepts, policies, and strategies of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic/Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic (AFCR/MOD). He was personally responsible for the international cooperation of AFCR with allied and partner states and all the tasks and functions related to NATO‘s International Military Staff (IMS), Command Structure (NCS), Force Structure (NFS), EU, UN, and international organizations. Over the course of his career, he has held various command and staff positions. Jaromír recently retired from his post and is transitioning to military diplomacy.






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  • The support of our corporate and individual partners and donors is crucial to sustaining the work of Aspen Institute Central Europe. We are appreciative and thankful for their help!

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    Dušan Šenkypl, Jan Barta & David Holý

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