7. 4. 2017

Dear readers,

The content of the new Aspen Review Central Europe embraces the inauspicious situation in Ukraine, and thus engages into the debate on the EU position in the world. We find ourselves at the historical crossroads, where the EU member states are challenged to re-think their relations with neighbors and political involvement in the region. Reflecting the complexity of the situation, our cover story section brings you different viewpoints analyzing the Ukrainian crisis. Sir Robert Cooper addresses the redefinition of the EU´s foreign policy vision and role in global politics, Marek Cichocki looks at the EU through the lens of a non-member state such as Ukraine, while the interview with French historian Emmanuel Todd points out to the importance of demographics that will define the future balance of power in Europe. In this issue you will also find Katharina Bluhm’s assessment on the standing of Corporate Social Responsibility environment in Central Europe as well as interesting insights on the recent European Parliament elections from Frank Furedi and an ex-Member of the European Parliament, Leonidas Donskis.

Last quarter was an immensely busy period for us at the Institute. In early April, we organized the first event commemorating this year’s triple anniversaries: the end of Communism, and the Central European countries’ accession to NATO and the EU. The expert debate “Central Europe: fit for the future” assessed the first ten years of the EU membership, reviewed the region’s record in the EU and the challenges for the next decade. Participants also discussed the eponymous report drafted by a 15-member High Level Reflection Group, including a member of our Supervisory Board, Jiří Schneider.

A real commemoration of the democratic transformation came with the Aspen Annual Conference. The two-day event “The Big Bang. 25 Years Since Annus Mirabilis”, held in the beginning of June, was the highlight of this spring. The conference gathered eminent guests such as the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, Slovak ex-Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, Ukrainian journalist Mykola Riabchuk, Professor Péter Balázs, Slovak diplomat Martin Bútora, Professor Cameron Munter and many others. Keynotes, debates and panels were structured so as to look ahead rather than only to reminisce. The positive feedback both from the national and international media and the engaged audience convinced us that it is crucial to foster and support debates on the future of Central Europe. During the event we also hosted a gathering of the International Committee, composed of presidents and directors of all Aspen Institutes, and convened a meeting of the International Advisory Board of the Aspen Institute Prague. These and other side-events of the conference helped us strengthen the Aspen network and endorse our activities.

In the midst of celebration mood however, we did not neglect other fields of interest. Following our focus on the digital agenda and Internet economy, we held an expert meeting titled “E-commerce as a Driver of Competitiveness” in April. The participants from e-business background shared their professional views on the actual state of e-commerce in Central Europe. Subsequently in June, with Platform for Internet Economy and Google Czech Republic, we co-organized an informal breakfast meeting with a Hungarian entrepreneur Adam Somlai-Fischer, the co-founder of Prezi. The event was focused on countless opportunities of the Internet entrepreneurship for Central European start-ups. Another topic we have been devoting our attention to is the concept of creative placemaking, which is the process of deploying art and cultural activities as tools to economically and socially revive localities, cities and regions. In May, we organized a public debate on that issue in the framework of the European Economic Congress in Katowice, Poland, another one took place at the music festival Pohoda in Slovakia in July. These two events are part of our regionalization strategy and the efforts to establish the Aspen brand in the Central European region.

Cementing the network of supporters and collecting feedback from them is essential for us. For that purpose, we gave a BBQ party for the Friends of the Aspen Institute Prague in May, at the beautiful setting of the Vítkov Hill. Besides introducing the Institute´s activities to new members, it was a great opportunity for networking among the members themselves as well as with the AIP staff and representatives of the Board of Directors. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact me or my colleagues via a form available on our website. There, you will also find information about the upcoming events this fall, such as the presentation of the crowdfunding study or the Creative Placemaking Festival in November.

I wish you a great summer and an inspiring reading.

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