The Illiberal Turn? Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe


Michael Ignatieff begins his new post this fall as president and rector of the famed Central European University – about as politically charged a job there is right now in the world of academia, The Globe and Mail reports:

“The politics of this, which would put some people off, were positively appealing to me,” he said in his first interview since taking the new job. “The chance to defend a liberal institution in an illiberal democracy is exciting.”

It’s not that Mr. Ignatieff expects Hungarian police to shut down the CEU – an institution he says many in the Hungarian government have great respect for – any time soon. While many in Europe are worried by Hungary’s slide back in the direction its authoritarian past, Mr. Ignatieff rejects the oft-made comparison between Viktor Orban (above) and Vladimir Putin.

“Putin kills political opponents, Mr. Orban does not,” he says with a lift of his storied eyebrows. “I don’t think Putin is the model for Mr. Orban. I think Mr. Orban has his own model.”

President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel’s Atlanticist vision laid the foundation for the transatlantic future of Central and Eastern Europe, The Atlantic Council adds:

The shared history of this region overcoming authoritarianism and embracing liberal democracy underscores the transformative power of Euro-Atlantic cooperation. However, the pressure of recurring crises across the European Union has paved the way for populist and isolationist movements and the closing of civic space in Central and Eastern Europe. These emerging trends put at stake Havel’s legacy, the region’s transatlantic accomplishments, and the future of Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Please join a one-day conference on, The Illiberal Turn?: Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe, on Thursday, October 13, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Council headquarters (1030 15th St NW, 12th Floor, West Elevators). This event will bring together key European and US voices to discuss trends in democratic backsliding, media freedom, and economic changes in Central and Eastern Europe.  Inspired by Havel’s ideal, this event aims to foster a transatlantic response to the region today, drawing from Havel’s historic accomplishments and leadership.

Future Europe Initiative & Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center The Illiberal Turn?: Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe

Panel 1: Democratic Backsliding? The State of Democracy in the Region Dr. Jeff Gedmin  Senior Fellow, Future Europe Initiative Atlantic Council   Dr. Maria Stephan  Senior Policy Fellow United States Institute for Peace    Mr. Brian Whitmore Author of the Power Vertical Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty   Dr. Alina Polyakova Deputy Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Atlantic Council

Panel 2: The Illiberal Turn and Media Freedom Ms. Zselyke Csaky  Senior Researcher, Nations in Transit Freedom House  Mr. Aleksander Dardeli Vice President IREX  Ms. Jill Dougherty  former Foreign Affairs Correspondent  CNN  Mr. Steven Lee Myers  Correspondent The New York Times Mr. Francisak Viachorka Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Panel 3:  Managing Economic Crises and Combating Corruption: The Role of the Business Community Dr. Heather Conley  Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and Director, Europe Program Center for Strategic and International Studies Mr. Hans Timmer Chief Economist, Europe and Central Asia World Bank Mr. Andras Loke  President  Transparency International Hungary; Founder and Editor-in-Chief,  Ms. Sally Painter Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Blue Star Strategies  Mr. Marc Schleifer Regional Director for Europe, Eurasia and South Asia  Center for International Private Enterprise

Panel 4: Strengthening Pro-Democracy Forces: How Should the Transatlantic Community Respond? Mr. Carl Gershman President National Endowment for Democracy  Ambassador Kurt Volker Executive Director McCain Institute for International Leadership Ms. Miriam Lexmann Director of EU Office International Republican Institute

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