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5th Annual Conference
The Vaclav Havel European Dialogues
Prague, May 14, 2018

The Czech Republic at the European crossroads 

„Unless democrats proceed in a timely manner to build the internal structure of Europe as a single political entity, others will start building it their way - and the democrats could be left with only their eyes to cry with. The demons that so fatally affected European history - most disastrously in the twentieth century! - are biding their time. It would be a tragic error to forget about them because of some technicalities over funds, quotas or tariffs. Europe as Task"                   

Václav Havel: Europe as Task, Aachen, May 15, 1996


When and where

  • Date: Monday, May 14, 2018
  • Venue: DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague
  • Organiser: Vaclav Havel Library, Prague
  • Partners: European Commission Represenation in the Czech Republic; DOX Centre for Contemporary Art



10.00 – 10.10 Opening, introduction

  • Michael Žantovský, director of the Václav Havel Library
  • Dana Kovaříková, head of the Representation of the European Commission in the Czech Republic

10.10 – 10.30 Keynote speaker

  • Janek Rubeš, writer, director

10.30 – 11.45 Panel I.  What does the Union do for us?

  • During 14 years of membership of the European Union, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have been shielded by it from the financial, political and security chaos that characterises societies in transformation. We take advantage of the common market, free movement and employment and educational opportunities. However, some expectations have not been fulfilled. Corruption, clientelism and abuse of power have not been eradicated, while living standards have yet to reach the level of the EU’s Western states. Many Central and Eastern Europeans declare themselves for the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. But frequently they find it difficult to accept the postmodern values of multiculturalism and political correctness and feel that their voices are ignored in discussions on the future direction of the EU. The conference’s first discussion panel will explore these issues and more.
  • Guests: Roman Joch - Občanský institut; Lukáš Kovanda - ekonomist, CYRRUS; Mikuláš Minář - Milion chvilek pro demokracii; Prokop Ondráček - Arcibiskupské gymnázium v Kroměříži  
  • Chair​: Světlana Witowská, Czech Television

11.45 – 12.00 Coffee break I

12.00 – 13.15 Panel II. If the Union didn’t exist…  

  • In consequence of the financial and migration crises of recent years, there has been an alarming fall in support for membership of the European Union, especially among the young generation. However, many critics that question the benefit of our membership don’t really put forward a clear vision of what the country’s future would look like outside the EU. How we would maintain our economic stability, competitiveness, security and democratic legal framework. Perhaps the best defence against such tendencies is to turn the spotlight on the situation and discuss it. That is just the task of the second panel. 
  • Guests: Martin Buchtík - sociologist, STEM; Václav Kříž - Mladí občané / Young Citizens; Andrea Procházková - journalist; Tomáš Sedláček - ekonomist
  • Chair​: Veronika Sedláčková, Czech Radio 

13.15 – 14.15 Lunchbreak  

13.30 – 14.00 Lunch Conversation: 1968 in the East and the West

  • Jacques Rupnik & Michael Žantovský
  • While in 1968 young people in the East rose up against one-party dictatorship, their peers in the West were protesting against the inequalities and hypocrisy of capitalism. Today many people in both Western and Eastern Europe are again revolting, again in a slightly different way in each case. Are the roots of their differing responses to be found in a period half a century ago? A historical excursion complemented by images from Prague and Paris in 1968 that will enlighten the young audience in particular on the events of 1968 and their impact on the present.

14.15 – 15.15 European Union: Fatal Attraction

  • Discussion with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Fellows
  • The Václav Havel and Jiří Dienstbier Journalism Fellowships are a joint initiative of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both programmes are intended for young novice journalists from Eastern European countries, respectively the Western Balkans. During a year-long stay the fellows receive support and work experience and enjoy access to facilities at the professional institution RFE/RL. During the discussion, they will share their views on European society from the outside, i.e., in the eyes of young people living outside the European Union.
  • Introduction: Joanna Levison, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  • Fellows: Una Čilic (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Raman Pratasevich (Belarus); Glib Zhavoronkov (Ukraine); Nektar Zogjani (Kosovo)
  • Chair: Emma Smetana, DVTV

15.15 – 15.30 Coffee break II

15.30 – 16.45 Panel III. What the Union could be, but isn’t?

  • The future of the European Union is at a crossroads. On one hand, a path is drawn to deepening European integration – expansion of monetary union, the building of collective defence and responsibility for foreign policy. On the other hand, calls for greater decentralisation and the return of some powers to national level are growing louder. Neither of these positions reflects the issue of European identity, the spiritual ethos connecting member states and their citizens called for by Václav Havel. In the conference’s closing panel we will discuss possible visions of the future and search for new impulses for the process of European integration.
  • Guests: Marek Hilšer - MD, teacher; Petr Hlaváček - historian; Petra Hůlová - writer; Barbora Urbanová - Stužá
  • Chair: Kateřina Šafaříková, Respekt weekly 

16.45 – 16.20 Closing remarks

  • Michael Žantovský, director of the Václav Havel Library 

The conference will be held in Czech and English with simultaneous interpretation into both languages. It will be streamed by Czech Television.