Inaugural Address, October 2017 by Ivan Vejvoda
We are living in times of individual, political, economic and societal uncertainty. Europe is confronted with an unprecedented crisis, an internal self-questioning of the project itself manifested by the rise of nationalism and populism, coupled with external challenges of the wave refugees, the crisis in the Middle East and Russia.
Brexit and Trump, the democratic regression in Poland and Hungary have among other sown doubts in all spheres of social and political life about the future of the liberal democratic order.
Loss of trust in institutions, erosion of mainstream parties, rise of social movements have led to the questioning of the very ways of our politics and democracy. The “democratic deficit”, the erosion of democratic legitimacy in Europe were early expressions of a loss of self-confidence of the citizenry about its power to influence life in their state and community as globalization advanced.
Europe has seen difficult and dark times before. The European construct remains in spite of all challenges a historical success which needs serious overhauling. Europe will come out of this crisis changed and hopefully stronger. But how and when–depends on statesmenship and civic initiatives – on the engagement to uphold the democratic values and institutions that have underpinned our freedom.
“But where danger lurks, the saving power also grows” (Hoelderlin).
Ivan Vejvoda is a Permanent Fellow at the IWM and the director of the project “Europe’s Futures”, an initiative by ERSTE Foundation and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).