Dilemmas and questions – the second day of VSS

During the second day of VSS, participants could attend the great lecture given by Prof. Jonathan Holslag, postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders and teacher international politics at the Free University Brussels. The topic was “How to bridge the gap between European citizens and the European institutions”.
Profesor Holslag at the beginning of the speech has described the situation of Europe. We cannot cope anymore with the recent frame of democracy due to its crisis. He has claimed that the recent crisis is a bit different than in previous years, and must be regarded as the wake up call for all Europeans who should not stand still if they want to avoid harmful consequences.

Europe is a playground not a player

Profesor Holslag has distinguished a few important layers of the crisis by presenting significant statistics. He has pointed out that the level of political trust within society has decreased. Only 1/3 of the European population really believes that politics operates in a satisfactory manner – this number is the lowest in all history. Furthemore, decision making is not strong enough – “In practise it does not work out” - admits profesor Holslag. Another distinguished layer is the crisis of pragmatic politicans. From liberal democracy we slowly move to extreme parties, more progressive and more conservative. This results with a radical change in the political situation. In consequence nationalism is growing. The third layer is the crisis of the welfare state. Here professor has pointed out the huge gap between poor and rich citizens and a progressively growing unemployment among the poorest. According to the studies, avarage income per capita has shrank by 10%. “We have reached the point that traditional welfare state is not sufficent”, says profesor. Another layer is the crisis of the European economy – the balance of power. Its significant aspect is the shape of market which lacks competitiveness. We are controlled by the leading market forces of the world, and the consequences are less productive factories and lack of creativity. “There is huge potential, but we lose much, we have no alternatives for traditional industry, there are many ideas but is no money – we have technical solutions but we have no sufficient money”. The desire of power is another layer affecting the European crisis. Profesor Holslag has tried to turn the attention of the audience to the military situation where dozens billions of dollars are invested by countries like Russia, China or Saudi Arabia.

Dilemmas and questions

Profesor Holstad has stressed the recent dilemmas people are struggling with: we are uncertain what makes us nervous, we start to question what was so far taken for granted, what look for an alternative for Europe due to the disorientated frame, and the means to maintain prosperity for the future. The essential fact is that minorities in European countries are growing and the majority is loosing unity. Moreover there is a lack of social identity, social purpose and goal. The lack of an idea of mission is making us fall apart. The main challenge for professor Holstad is how to retreat the energy from the “heartland”, namely Germany, France and UK. The growing tension between “heartland” and "periphery" is increasing.

What should be our answer?

One of the most important things is the economy. We need to rebalance the economic situation between EU countries. We must also have a better developed and more competitive domestic market. The essential task is to pay more attention to small crafts. The goal of education among youth is to teach them how become consumers. We should deliver goods with excellent quality, and not to forget about work and free time balance. “It is all about us, the progress should start with us.” - added profesor Holslag.

The speech has ended with a vivid discussion between the guest and the participants.

Think globally act locally

After the reception, participants could attend another interesting lecture of the day, held by Martin Ehl, the Chief International Editor in the Czech economic daily Hospodarske noviny. The subject of the speech was “New leaderes in central Europe”. Mr. Ehl started by presenting slides on the potential leaders of selected countries commonly recognized as controversial figures on the political scene. Mr. Ehl questioned the leaderships skills of mentioned politicians. With the help of the participants he has listed the key needs of V4 such as: better education, new political class, stability of business, less populism, peace in europe, civil engagement. “For the first time in modern history our region has more than 20 years of uninterrupted development … that aslo means raising a new generation of leaders, so, where to find them?” - asked Mr. Ehl. He has highlighted the fact that starting with this generation of politicians we cannot expect that we will make a revolution due to the lack of complex program of potential leaders.
During the session attendants could watch a short video presenting a program called “New Europe 100” ( It turned out that in this region of central-eastern Europe there is a big potential of innovative people who can perform leadership that causes a change. Have been selected 100 innovative people as exemplary future politicinas because of their “think globally act locally” approach.

Furthermore, Mr. Ehl asked the audience to write a new program to answer the question – who should be the new leaders of central Europe by focusing on main futures, what problems should they concentrate upon, from where they should come? The answers were questioned and discussed among participant lively. The meeting has ended with the conclusion that leaders should conform to the European values enriched by tradition and proper examples.

For the rest of the day the group has participated in a practical program consisting of three subjects: Urban Space workshop held by Tomasz Padło, Media workshop held by Marcin Żyła and Political workshop held by Marcin Kędzierski.