7. 4. 2017

Dear readers,

Since 2008, “crisis” has become a buzzword, while an overarching declinist mood has contaminated public discourse. In his 2012 book The Great Degeneration—How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, British historian Niall Ferguson described the decline of those institutions that constitute Western society: representative democracy, free market economy, rule of law, and civil society. Is his view justifiable, or should we expect the contrary—that existing institutions will grow ever stronger as a consequence of the crisis of recent years? How effective and shock-resistant are these institutions?

In this issue of Aspen Review Central Europe, you will find articles dealing with these crises from a variety of perspectives. What kind of institutions do we have in mind? How trusted are the political parties as institutions fundamental to representative democracy, the judiciary as a guardian of rule of law, the regulatory bodies, and the institutions of corporate governance? Are they immune to the epidemic of public mistrust?

Frank Furedi recognizes the shift to a more technocratic and managerial style of governance as one of the predominant factors contributing to the rapid decline of trust in public institutions. Consequently, taking political or decision-making responsibility has become a risky venture. Yet resorting to populism does not result in stronger or trustworthier institutions. In his article, Jan-Werner Müller paints a dark picture of how combining technocratic and populist styles of governance can produce more vices than it promised to eradicate.

Marek Cichocki argues that the EU— an impressive legal creation based on delicate institutional balance and political leadership— must regain credibility. However, it will not achieve that by repeating the mantra of “more Europe.” We must acknowledge the increased dynamics of democratic change, not just in Poland, but elsewhere in Europe, or the European project will face a legitimacy crisis. To single out Central Europe as “barbarian” misses the point. We will return to this question of old-new European dichotomies in our next issue.

The thematic articles in this issue are topical as they reflect the intention to broaden the scope of our annual flagship event entitled “Czech Republic: The Shape We’re In.” This year, we plan to assess the quality of governance, rule of law, and education in the Czech Republic through a manner similar to last year, when we evaluated economic performance, quality of life, and security. Stay tuned to Aspen Institute Prague!

Jiří Schneider

Jiří Schneider entered public life after democratic changes in 1989 when he was elected to the Czechoslovak Parliament (Federal Assembly) in 1990 and 1992. In 1993 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held various positions at the Czech diplomatic service. Most prominently he served as Ambassador to Israel (1995-1998) and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic (2010-2014).


Jiří Schneider graduated at The Czech Technical University (ČVUT) and obtained a Diploma in Religious Studies from University of Cambridge. From 2000 to 2009 he lectured on security studies, international relations, public policy, and the role of think tanks in Central Europe at Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, and New York University in Prague. During the International Policy Fellowship at the Central European University in Budapest he published on Think Tanks in Visegrad Countries (2003) and Lobbying and Interest Representation (2007). He was closely associated with the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a leading Czech security think tank, as a Program Director (2005-2010) and most recently as a Senior Fellow and Director of Special Projects (2014-2015).


Jiří’s engagement with Aspen dates back to the early 90ʼs when he was a fellow of Aspen Institute Germany. More recently he supported the establishment of Aspen Institute Prague and served as a member of its Supervisory Board from 2011 to 2014.

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