The European Commemorative Year 2014 marks the remembrance of a century of war and revolutions. It is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, the 75th anniversary of the beginning of WWII. But there are also happy dates to remember. 40 years ago, on 25 April, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal made an end to a 48-year long dictatorship, the ‘Estado Novo’. Also 40 years ago, on 24 July, the Greek military regime that had ruled the country with an iron fist since the military coup of 21 April 1967 collapsed. And 25 years ago the (mostly) peaceful revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and, fifteen years later, the ‘Eastern enlargement’ of the European Union.
With events and debates we would like to commemorate these events that have been formative for the Europe we know today. A dossier will present contributions by authors from all parts of Europe about how the events of the 20th century have shaped their country and what influence this still has on today’s political scene. The Heinrich Boell Foundation has asked authors from various European countries to write about what these various historical events whilst analyzing their meaning for present times and the future of Europe.
A Year of Remembrance
The web dossier "2014: A Year of Remembrance“ with its series of articles and more than 6.100 views is one ot the most successful online projects of the Heinrich Boell Foundation. The project was accompagnied by a lecture series, that raised awareness with its innovative questioning and brought the issues of the European Year of Remembrance to a broader audience.
What Do We Commemorate When We Commemorate WWI? The Impact of the First World War on Europe Today
Brussels, Belgium, June 2014
The EU has been considered a success story for many years; with a high point in 2004 with the “Eastern enlargement”, when the East/West divide seemed to be finally overcome. However, at least since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007-8, the European Union has come under pressure with the rise of Eurosceptic, populist and nationalist forces. Are the EU-institutions and the Member States ready to continue and strengthen the integration process, will they try harder to reach out to citizens and re-involve them in the project, which has given them more than 60 years of peace and relative prosperity? Three historian and a journalist illustrate the topic whilst integrating the audience in an engaged discussion.
2. World War and Europe today
September 2014; Brussels, Belgium
75 years ago, on 1 September 1939, German troops invaded Poland without a declaration of war, two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. In the Second World War, in which 70 million people lost their lives, Europe laid in ruins for the second time within one generation and within a few years the Cold War started. In the west, a generation of European statesmen such as Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi and Jean Monnet developed the revolutionary idea of a community of states (and values) establishing a political system based on sharing sovereignty. This historically unprecedented system, which safely integrated (West) Germany, succeeded in keeping the peace on its territory and has brought numerous benefits to Europeans in the west and – after the collapse of communism – also in the east of Europe. But only ten years after this 'unification of Europe', the raison d'être of the EU, is under attack by the rise of Euroscepticism, populism and nationalism. How can we restore European memory and can it still be a driving force behind the European Union?
Central European Forum
Bratislava, Slovakia; November 2014
Central European Forum 2014 is the sixth edition of the annual international multi-genre conference advancing common European values and solidarity, bringing critical, in-depth reflection of social, cultural and political factors forming our current European experience. CEF 2014 will be held from November 14 to November 17 in Bratislava. Under the central heading "Us and Them" is an aim to dissect the nature and implications of the phenomenon buffeting contemporary Europe: entrenched polarization within our societies – the wall of mutual recrimination and victimhood that has grown so high that it blocks any reasonable dialogue. Therefore, discussion topics will embrace the most searing issues of contemporary Europe: from reflection (Which of Europe's values are genuine, indisputable by any power or authority?) to normative proposals (What shall be done in order to dissect the nature and implications of such divisions?). The project encourages concrete action to advance common European values and identity by serving as a hub for cross-national networking between European civil society and European public.
CEF 2014 will feature 7 top-notch discussion panels with renowned European intellectuals, writers, academics, journalists and politicians. Over the past five years CEF grew into a multi-faceted event that brings together diverse NGO actors in numerous side-events, including activities such as film-screenings, exhibitions, workshops and lectures. Several dozens of volunteers will be involved in the organization in order to enhance their civic skills and educate a new generation of young leaders. In this respect, CEF 2014 builds on the legacy of substantial remembrance: the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in the CEE region, which is instructive as the example of successfully overcoming such dichotomies.
- Article by Jiří Pehe "Czech Republic and Slovakia 25 Years after the Velvet Revolution: Democracies without Democrats"
Visegrad Countries and the EU: 10 Years of Membership
Prague, Czech Republic; November 2014
By joining the EU (and NATO) Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia fulfilled the key target of Visegrad cooperation, with Slovakia being the most problematic element in this process due to unsatisfying track record in terms of democratic criteria for several years. After EU accession, the Visegrad states have since tried to redefine priorities and find an orientation point for future cooperation. Joining the EU was by a substantial part of the population seen as a way to align the living standards of the CEE region with that of „old“ member states.
In this debate Vladimír Bartovic (EUROPEUM, Prague), Maria Majkowska (Institute of Public Affairs, Warschau) and Dušan Chrenek (Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Slovakia) discussed how the EU accession has changed the countries performance. The panel was moderated by political expert Radovan Geist. Furthermore the new publication by the Institute for Public Affairs with the title Desať rokov v Únii: Slovenská a česká cesta was launched. It was wirtten by Czech and Slowak authors.
Forty Years after the Fall of the Dictatorships: Why Greece and Portugal Matter to the European Union
Brussels, Belgium; April 2014
When talking about Greece and Portugal these days, the probability is high that the conversation will revolve around the euro crisis with Greece often depicted as the source of all evil. What is frequently overlooked by fellow-Europeans is the long and difficult way these countries had to travel from dictatorships and backward economies towards democracy and industrial development. It is forty years ago now that, on 25 April 1974, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal made an end to a 48-year long dictatorship, the ‘Estado Novo’. And it is also 40 years ago that, on 24 July, the Greek military regime that had ruled the country since the military coup of 21 April 1967 ended. Anger and disappointment are directed against the political establishment, but also often enough against the European Union and its policy of austerity. The year 2014 provides a good opportunity to look back on the history of Greece and Portugal from a European perspective and to look forward to both countries‘ future. Both countries matter to the European Union because with their (and Spain’s) accession came an end to right wing dictatorships in Europe, turning the European Community/Union into the ‚flagship of democracy‘, which inspired people in central and eastern Europe to finally shake off their dictatorships.
Hungary, Romania 1989 - 2014: Problem Children of the Revolution
December 2014; Brussels, Belgium
In the eyes of most West Europeans Hungary was the model pupil among the ex-communist EU candidate countries. In 2003 83 per cent of the Hungarian voters said ‘yes’ to the European Union. But 25 years after the peaceful revolution and ten years after EU accession Hungary has turned from model pupil to problem child causing many critical voices to even ask for Hungary’s exclusion from the EU. Romania had a far more difficult road to follow. Romania together with its neighbour Bulgaria had to wait till 2007 to join the EU, with many critics claiming that it was still way too early. In the seven years after its accession Romania went through political, constitutional and economic crises providing little hope to its exhausted people. Romania and Hungary: different countries, different histories, different roads travelled, but the questions to be asked are the same: where did things go wrong, what is it the EU could have done differently and what needs to be done to keep both countries on the right track and offer a positive perspective to the people?