Whatever happened to democracy?

The following text comes from www.ceeforum.eu

Preface

This publication is the outcome of Central European Forum – two days of public discussions our small team at Projekt Forum organized in November 2009 in conjunction with the Václav Havel Library, the Bratislava Mayor’s Office and a number of Slovak and international partners.

 


Central European Forum 2009 was organized to mark the 20th anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution. Looking back at the past twenty years we felt that, rather than wallowing in cheap nostalgia the best way to mark the events was by creating a platform for reflecting, not only on what had happened in the intervening period, but also for a discussion of issues relating to the future of Central Europe.   Since rejoining Europe in the autumn of 1989, the former communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe have held democratic elections, embarked on a rapid transformation to a market economy, and joined the European Union and NATO. None the less, twenty years on, everything we took for granted only a few years ago seemed to be fragmenting and losing its validity. There was a growing feeling of exhaustion and disillusionment in the region, as the countries of Eastern and Central Europe succumbed to growing populism, corruption, racism and chauvinism, and the Anglo-Saxon model of market economics no longer appeared to be working. 

The idea of Central European Forum 2009 and the composition of its panels grew organically from our contact with the issues, authors and texts that the Projekt Forum team has been featuring for some years in Fórum, the weekly supplement to the daily SME and in an expanded form, through the internet project www.salon.eu.sk and www.salon.eu.sk/english
.  
Held at the Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre in Bratislava, the event was attended by some 400 members of the public.  Twenty-five major intellectual figures representing many countries, generations and experiences, kindly accepted our invitation to cross intellectual swords and answer questions from the audience on issues ranging from dealing with our common totalitarian heritage, the future of reforms and democracy in the midst of an economic crisis, Central Europe’s position between East and West as well as democracy fatigue, a phenomenon encountered throughout Europe. 
We hope that this publication, based on transcripts from the Central European Forum 2009 (a video recording of the proceedings can be viewed on our website, www.ceeforum.eu
) conveys the excitement and intellectual vigour of the debates as much as the lively photographs of the proceedings by Peter Župník, whose photographic record of the Velvet Revolution was on display in the foyer of the Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav Theatre throughout the event.
 
Our project would never have moved beyond a mere idea if it had not been for the support of a number of organizations and sponsors to whom we would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks.
 
We are extremely grateful for the financial support from Erste Stiftung; Visegrad Fund; EACA Europe for Citizens; Západoslovenská energetika; The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Central European Foundation; The Embassies of the Republic of Poland, U.S.A. and United Kingdom; Goethe Institut Slovakei; Art Hotel William, EXE Ltd; The Cultural Institute of the Hungarian Republik.

We would also like to thank our media partners, TA3, Slovenský rozhlas – Rádio Devín, Perlentaucher and Eurozine as well as T-Com, our exclusive internet partner.

Furthermore, we are indebted to our partners, the Václav Havel Library; Hlavné mesto Bratislava (the Mayor’s Office); Verejnosť proti násiliu; Maďarská nezávislá iniciatíva; Študentské hnutie; Vydavateľstvo Kalligram; Poľský inštitút; Slovenská debatná asociácia; Občianske združenie Česko-slovenské Mosty; Medzinárodný festival Kino na granicy; Élet és Irodalom; .týždeň ; Bravium, Ltd.; Agentúra Manna;  ROXYcatering.
 

And last but not least, our thanks go to our wonderful team of young (and not so young) volunteers who ensured the smooth and professional running of the event, and to Peter Župník for providing the visual record. 

All of this has ensured that Central European Forum 2009 was well received by the audience, as well as by the media, our panellists and donors.  This experience has encouraged us to view this event as the beginning rather than the end of the debate. We are therefore making preparations for Central European Forum 2010, which will again take place in November to coincide with the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.  Meanwhile, we hope you will enjoy revisiting Central European Forum 2009


 
Panel 4
 
Democracy Fatigue
 
Chair Jacques Rupnik (Paris)
 
Panel  Václav Havel (Prague), Krzysztof Czyżewski (Sejny), Ágnes Heller (Budapest – New York), Ivan Krastev (Sofia).  Miroslav Kusý (Bratislava), Robert Menasse (Vienna), Ingo Schulze (Berlin)
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
Twenty years ago, when the old regime collapsed, there were great expectations everywhere, not just in Central Europe. Democracy was regarded as something natural, a negation of the previous, totalitarian regime.  But we had only the vaguest idea of what it might look like or what conditions were necessary for it to take root in this part of the world.  At the same time, Western Europe had great hopes that the experience of reinventing democracy in Central Europe, redefining the most basic concepts of democracy – constitution, citizenship, civil society – anew, might enrich also countries with well-established democratic institutions. 
 
Never the less, 20 years later, a certain unease has crept into the celebrations.  While everyone is paying tribute to those who participated in these movements, everyone can see what state our democracy in Central Europe is in now.  However, I believe that here in Central Europe, in terms of what Isaiah Berlin called “negative freedoms” – the freedom of individuals to move, express themselves, to do business freely without any interference or restrictions from the state or anyone else – we are free more than ever before: maybe except for the interwar Czechoslovakia, nobody in this region has experienced anything like this in the past. This dimension of individual freedom is, in my view, the great achievement of 1989. 
 
At the same time, in terms of  “positive freedoms”, by which I mean the ability to influence public affairs and to influence policies and the governments that rule us here, the achievements have been more limited. What the opinion polls tell us is that people don’t feel they can influence their governments any more than they were able before 1989. This may be exaggerated but it is indicative of something. 
 
So, while nobody can abridge your personal freedom your own ability to influence public affairs is very limited.  And this state of affairs is not healthy, it is not good for democracy, and perhaps we ought to give it some thought because this is not a problem of just the Czech Republic or Slovakia but rather something experienced by the majority of post-communist countries.  And although this democracy fatigue, the exhaustion of the post-transition elites might be much more pronounced in this part of the world but nowadays it is a pan-European problem whose symptoms can be observed everywhere. 
 
We have a distinguished panel here to discuss what were our expectations and what is present-day reality. Mr President, looking at the state of democracy now, after 20 years, how does it compare with your expectations?
 
Václav Havel
 
This is something I have spoken about many times and I apologize if you have heard before.  This is always very embarrassing for me because I regard myself as a creative person and suffer very much whenever I have to repeat the same things over and over.
 
I think it’s very good that this anniversary has challenged us to give more thought to questions such as where we are now, what is ahead of us, what we wish for and where we have failed to meet our own expectations; and, generally, how we evaluate the era of the past 20 years of freedom. First of all, like many of my fellow citizens, I am slightly nervous about the current situation in my country, the Czech Republic.  We have not abandoned our original ideals, we are following the right path, but we are proceeding in a rather laborious and long-winded manner, with lots of peculiar twists and turns and mishaps, with lots of ups and downs.
 
This manifests itself, among other things, in a strange alienation between society and politics; it seems that a kind of abyss has opened up between them.  It can also be observed in our language, in the way people express themselves.  When we hear in the news or read in the papers that this or that event has a political background, a political context, that it is based on political motives, basically it means that is it has a suspicious background, a suspicious context or suspicious motives.  This means that politics as such, as a discipline, has implicitly become something suspicious.  I believe this is not good at all.  It means that the best people refuse to get involved in politics because they see it as some sort of a suspicious activity, a suspect way of making one’s living, and it seems to me that this is typical of my country at this time.
 
There are several reasons for this. In part, it is a typical post-communist phenomenon but it’s also a typically Czech phenomenon; partly it is the general democracy fatigue that Jacques [Rupnik] has referred to, but what I’d say is specifically Czech about it is a peculiar partocracy, a lack of clarity and a misunderstanding of the role of political parties.  It’s not something that has emerged in the past 20 years; it’s an old Czech malaise, dating back to Austro-Hungarian times.  It’s as if the parties did not understand that they are only instruments of politics, irreplaceable and important ones certainly, but only the means rather than the ends of politics. As if they did not know that their role is not to be covert manipulators of politics but rather to serve as highly visible producers of ideas and personalities, as platforms for political discourse that generate ideas, that allow ideas and politicians to be shaped, which the parties can then can offer to the country, to the voters, to the citizens.  This is a specifically Czech issue.
 
As for issues of a general, post-communist nature, these are, of course, linked to the role of civil society, which is not yet sufficiently developed.  Politics ought to be the essence of civil society, draw its nutrients from civil society, as this is what nourishes politics. But when civil society is not developed, when it is ailing, when political parties are not interested in it then, of necessity, political parties start ailing too which, in turn, has its own diverse consequences.   
 
These remarks probably sound rather incoherent and I hope there will be an opportunity to clarify some of this later.  I would conclude with a brief example that illustrates what I think is wrong with the way political parties are behaving. All of us, apart from the very youngest, will remember the time when Czechoslovakia was being divided. All of us were on edge, glued to the TV sets until around two in the morning the announcement came that our country was about to be split into two states.  I don’t want to pass judgement on the division of the country itself now. But what I objected to was that it was the political parties who made the announcement, not governments, not parliaments.  In the middle of the night we watched party chairmen and deputy chairmen announce this decision – they were going to let the governments sort out the logistics later on, but the nation learned it from the lips of party representatives.  Even in those cases where the party chairmen also held the position of prime ministers, they did not make the announcement in their capacity as prime ministers but as party chairmen, and they presented it as a result of negotiations between two parties, a Czech one and a Slovak one. It might seem a complete formality but to me it is a perfect illustration of the wrong understanding of the role of political parties, which I have constantly been trying to criticize, albeit without great success.
 
Jacques Rupnik 
 
Many thanks.  Mr. President mentioned that this is an old problem, one that we have inherited from Austro-Hungary which shows that the word “partajmizérie” [“party misery”], first used in the Manifesto of Czech Modernism at the end of the 19th century, still has its uses today. But of course, this is a general European problem, and I will now hand over to our Polish colleague Krzysztof Czyżewski.
 
Krzysztof Czyżewski
 
What we are trying to do here is summarize our experience of the past twenty years but also to look ahead, especially in terms of the development of civil society and the human rights movement. I’d like to make two points in this context. My first point concerns something that is usually the last point in these kinds of debates: culture and the arts, which, before the time of transformation, used to form a very important part of our lives, our opposition movement, our fight for democracy.  But at this turning point culture and art somehow suddenly disappeared and started to be less important in our debates.  As Timothy Snyder said on the panel about history, we have too little history today in our Central European countries and in our life.  And I feel that we have somehow lost culture and creative art as forces in the development of our democracy.  Culture is being staged again, it’s being turned into a kind of festival, a one-off spectacular cut off from what is happening in our society, instead of making an organic, long-term contribution to bringing a spiritual dimension to our lives. 
 
In my view, to develop a truly democratic society we must again integrate culture and artistic activity into this process.  We talk a lot about citizens not having access to many things, to public life, media, political life, to decision-making processes; but people also have less and less access to creative activity, culture and art in life.  Given that culture has turned into a ‘festival culture’, how easily the market has appropriated this kind of activity and how easily we – i.e. the people involved in culture – have compromised with the market and commercial things, I am more and more concerned about the development of democracy and civil society, especially considering how important it was in the past.  So I feel we ought to start thinking in terms of a new culture, a revolution in culture, we should revive a counter-culture that will help dismantle the stage again, the way it was in the past. We should bring the arts closer to society and the citizens, we enlisting cultural and creative activities in the struggle for social change again.
 
Zygmunt Bauman wrote recently that our European lives (it’s not only Central Europe that struggles in this crisis of multicultural society) focus too much on identity and give less and less attention to the ability to co-exist, to create and build something that forms the connecting tissue between people, nationalities, societies and countries. This is also linked to what Václav Havel said about the split between the Czechs and Slovaks and how this tendency to divide, to create an archipelago of separate islands in our society, each struggling for and defending its identity, has created something that is less and less compatible with living together, with forming this connecting tissue between us.  And my second point is that, although the human rights movement is a very important factor in our life and in our society, and there is still much to do in this area, I am more and more convinced that we should develop another, parallel movement that is more concerned more with coexistence and living together in our society, and with developing these skills. 
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
Two important points have been brought into our discussion about democracy twenty years after. First a paradox: in 1989, intellectuals, artists, writers, historians were propelled to the forefront of politics, so one might think that after all the dissident years this was a perfect time for a connection between culture and politics. But now we see that in fact 1989 heralded the eclipse of intellectuals and the cutting off of culture from its connection with politics. The second paradox, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, is the promotion of culture but sometimes nationalist, culture. And this politics of identity is not necessarily conducive to pluralist democracy. I give the floor to Ágnes Heller.
 
Ágnes Heller
 
This morning meeting with Cuban immigrants was mentioned here.  I also met a Cuban immigrant who told me that their revolution had been betrayed.  I responded:  “Look, all revolutions are betrayed, the question is how they are betrayed.” There is a very big difference between, for example, the Cuban and the Iranian revolution, where they promised liberty and what they got was servitude, and our revolution, which promised liberty and what followed was the constitution of liberties.    
 
I think we have constituted liberties in all East European countries – when I watched television twenty years ago, people in Prague shouted “Havel na Hrad!” (Havel to the Castle) and he really got na Hrad. So I think a lot of things actually happened that we can and must be proud of. And of course, we have joined NATO, we got accepted into the European Union, and we have a multi-party system with regular elections and many things we wanted to have.  And what is the response to that? Basically, almost everywhere, the response is total disappointment.  People are disappointed in our achievements.  They are disappointed in this kind of freedom.
 
Sure, I am Hungarian and Hungarians are the proverbial pessimists.  So I will speak a little bit from the Hungarian perspective.  But I want to answer the question about what happened. I will start with the universal perspective.  You all know the Bible, of course.  You know how Israel was liberated from its bondage in Egypt. They were in the desert for a long time and very soon they started longing for the fleshpots of Egypt and started to worship the golden calf.  Is this not what has happened with us?  The people in Hungary started saying:  in Kádár’s time, we were better off, we had more money and more of this and that. And of course, we all, or many of us, worshipped the golden calf.  I think this is universal - liberty without welfare is a disappointment for people because they want welfare together with liberty.   
 
Next I will say a few words from the Hungarian point of view.  Here in Central Europe we all shared the same fate after the Soviet occupation but we all had different histories prior to the Soviet occupation. And these different histories are part of our present history. We are like Sleeping Beauty who was kissed back to life by the Prince. The Prince came from the outside and the Sleeping Beauty, who was inside, continued in each case exactly at the same point where she had stopped before she went to sleep a hundred years ago.  And this is what has happened to us, we have all gone back to the past and tried to continue where we broke off.   But we had no continuity – at least we believe there was no discontinuity – and we want to find out where to continue. And it’s very important to know where to continue.  With the exception of Czechoslovakia no single state in this region had a democratic past of any kind. Whether the Czechoslovak state had a real democracy, how far it was democratic I don’t want to discuss here but at least they had a democratic past.  No other state here had a democratic past.  Some people were on the side of the winners of the Second World War; other nations were on the side of the losers.  And everything was swept under the carpet: everything, including all the hatred between these nations that were considered or proclaimed friendly socialist nations. These nations disliked each other, they hated each other, despised each other before when they were on different sides in the First World War.
 
The Holocaust was also swept under the carpet. As far as Hungary is concerned, Trianon was swept under the carpet. We could not speak about anything. This morning someone mentioned the Freudian concept, the return of the repressed. And now is the time when the repressed can return: nationalism, chauvinism, denial of the Holocaust and many other things have returned, especially nationalism and especially right-wing radicalism. There is also left-wing radicalism but it has no great influence at present in our countries; it’s the right-wing radicalism that is very strong in one or two countries and it’s also a kind of a return to the past that is compensating for the issues that were never discussed openly.   
 
No real history has ever been written about these stories. If there was history, it never got into the schoolbooks.  If you read about the same historical event in a Hungarian, Slovak, Slovenian, Romanian or Czech schoolbook they say entirely different things about the same event. You never know who won a war or who won a battle. Because the Hungarians say they won it, and of course they rescued Europe from the Turks, and the Poles will say they are the ones who saved Europe and we’ll never be united and we will never agree.  I don’t want to bore you with a lot of things that were swept under the carpet but I could go on.
 
But the issue is: we do have democratic political institutions but we do not have the democratic mentality. Some people in the region have more democratic mentality and some have less. We have basically a very poor political class, and it’s not all their fault, it’s not because they wanted only power and nothing else but it’s because they have no political expertise; they started to play a political role in a country without any kind of democratic experience. Imagine a first-year medical student who is involved in a very difficult brain surgery – this is what has happened here. People have become very disappointed in politics, they believe that all politicians cheat, lie and embezzle, which is certainly not true, because politicians cheat, lie and embezzle no more than school teachers, lawyers or even chimney sweeps do.   They are not worse and they are not better, they are simply human.  But this is the common perception.  To sum up very briefly:  the letter is there but what we are missing is the spirit.
 
Jacques Rupnik 
 
You are right to point out that all revolutions are bound to be betrayed or to disappoint in some way because they are born in a moment of unity, transparency and innocence and out of a great utopian hope shared. And of course the reality never quite matches up to it.  So that moment of disappointment is always there. But then the question is –  this morning we talked about how far the archives should be opened, how much openness we want, and how much has been swept under the carpet.  And sometimes the politics of the repressed are preferable to the return of the repressed.  And we now have ways in Europe for dealing with that and it’s called the European Union.  Actually, the European Union has been invented to contain the suppressed, to replace it with interaction, interdependence, institutionalized interdependence as an answer to the politics of the suppressed that we have seen in the 20th century. Our next speaker, Ivan Krastev, has written extensively about the difficulties of post-communist democracy and specifically about the populist backlash.
 
Ivan Krastev
 
I will try to make just two simple points. For the first, let’s start with a story. Four years ago, in 2005, we had an election in Bulgaria and a very radical party was elected to the Bulgarian parliament. There was a TV debate where the commentators were basically split into two groups. One group said: we can’t be a normal democracy because we started electing fascist parties and the other said: at last we’re normal, we’re like the French and others, we have fascists in the parliament. And I think this is very important because one of the things that I believe needs rethinking twenty years after 1989, is this obsession with normality that has been constraining the way we think about our political life. 
 
If Czechoslovakia was about normalization in the seventies and eighties, I believe we have all been very much about the discourse of self-normalization. We are trying to explain all the problems we are facing today as post-communist problems. For example, take populism. Is populism a post-communist problem? How different is Mr. Berlusconi from some of the people that we see in our countries?  Why is what is happening there normal and here pathological? I’m saying this because I do believe it’s very important to understand that democracy has never been the best form of government; it’s simply been the least worst. And when we start with this, the problem that democracy does not mean disappointment is a false assumption. Democracy isabout disappointment and the difference between a democratic and a non-democratic regime is simply that in the former you know how to deal with disappointment and in the latter you’re becoming basically more and more disappointed. And I believe that here Russia provides a good example.
 
In my view this obsession with normality is something we ought to overcome. We ought to start to think more creatively about some of the problems we are facing. One of the problems is that of populist leaders being elected and of the rise of populist parties, but this phenomenon is not quite as straightforward as people believe.  I’ll give you an example.  In all those countries where leaders that have been called populist have been elected, including Slovakia and my country, trust in democratic institutions increased, including trust in institutions such as the courts and the media. This is what public opinion polls say.  I know that opinion polls are opium for politicians but anyway, there they are.   
 
The basic issue is: let’s try to understand why people are so angry and disappointed, even though most of the things that were proclaimed in 1989 were accomplished: we have joined NATO, the European Union, we have constitutional democracy. Let’s take the greengrocer, whom Mr. Havel famously described in 1988, and what happened to him in these twenty years.  Of course, he removed the poster ‘Workers of the World Unite’ and put up the poster ‘Best Vegetables  in Town’ instead. Both posters, in a way, were fake.  But what is more important is that the first thing he started to experience was a totally different set of comparisons.  People do not compare themselves with how they lived 20 years ago. They compare themselves with how people live in the neighbouring countries.
 
This is why I believe this disappointment does not signify nostalgia for communism – people have simply started to compare in totally different frameworks.  There was a famous study in the 1980s trying to measure how happy people are around the world. In the 1980s there was no correlation between happiness and the GDP per capita. Nigerians were as happy as West Germans. In 2000 they repeated the same survey and it appeared that there was a strong correlation between the GDP per capita and happiness. What has happened was that the Nigerians got televisions.  So they can now see how the West Germans live.  And this pressure of comparisons is something that should be taken seriously. 
 
The second thing is what happened to this greengrocer. Of course he did not vote in the elections in which he could change something here and there.  But in a strange way he was important. And he was important because of a deficit. For example, even if you are a member of the nomenclatura and you want to have good vegetables, you should develop a good relationship with your greengrocer. You should ask him how his daughter is; you should be ready to do him small favours. Basically, he felt connected.
 
One of the things that happened in our society – and I believe that this makes people absolutely furious with their leaders – is that they understood that twenty years after the change their leaders have liberated themselves of any relationship with the community they live with. They liberated themselves, in a sense, from the tax system, because they go to off-shore tax havens. They liberated themselves from the public school system because they are sending their kids to private schools.  They liberated themselves from the healthcare system because if you have enough money you can go to private hospitals in Vienna. The only system from which you cannot liberate yourself is the criminal system.   
 
As a result, what you see with the populist movement is that the pressure is not to re-nationalize the economy; they want to re-nationalize the elites. They want their elites to be hurt.  In Bulgaria there is pressure to see ministers in prison. And when we ask: whom do you want to see in prison, they say: it doesn’t matter who it is, as long as somebody is in prison. And I believe this is really important.  It is symbolic of the fact that the elites cannot disconnect from the societies in which they live.  At least for me this is one of the major elements of populism and from this point of view these very difficult relations between the elites and the public, which are not a post-communist phenomenon, are something we should think about more seriously twenty years after the greengrocer privatized his small shop.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
Yes, the elites emancipated themselves from the voters the minute democracy was introduced. This is one of the paradoxes of the system and that’s why we have the populist backlash which is essentially an anti-elite phenomenon. It’s not necessarily a threat to democracy (as you rightly said) but it is definitely an anti-elite movement. Our next speaker, Robert Menasse from Vienna.
 
Robert Menasse
 
Democracy 20 years after… Is there a problem? Evidently yes. Do you understand the problem? Evidently not. Can you describe the problem? Evidently it is easier to feel than to describe.  And if you want to describe and understand and resolve a problem I suggest that you look at the circumstances amid which the problem is growing.  And I see it in the following very, very simple manner.  You will be surprised that it’s so simple. What happened 20 years ago? When I compare Slovakia and Austria, 20 years ago, exactly in the same year, two things happened: the fall of the Stalinist system in the East and the entry of Austria into the European Union. This is what happened: Austria’s democracy was a gift. Nobody had to struggle for it. Nobody had to want it. Nobody was ready to give their life to secure democracy.  It was a gift of the Western Allied powers, the winners of the Second World War. They gave Austrians the Western model of democracy. And the Austrians said: thank you, that’s better than bombs and hunger. This was a long time ago and the Austria got used to the democratic system and realized something must be better about it because we were richer and freer, because we had commercials and so on, and it was nicer than what our immediate eastern neighbour had.  
 
On the other hand, the eastern countries had a Stalinist system that was a gift from the Soviet Union and the other winners of Second World War. They were promised socialism, and – at the end of history – communism, equality of opportunity and freedom for everyone, a paradise at the end of history. But it did not come, so the people did not get used to it, they struggled and they fought, they wanted democracy and they won.   
 
So all of a sudden, there were these two neighbours.  On the one side a democracy that no one had struggled for, with a half a century of tradition it has acquired  since. On the other side there was the beginning of a democracy people had struggled for, they wanted it, but they had no culture and tradition to go with it, they had no idea how it really works, because you need experience of how to live a democratic life and system. The ones who did not fight for it were not really interested to learn how it works or what it is. They just had it, while those who had struggled for it had no experience of what it could be and how it should be. So these two neighbours with completely different histories had one thing in common: neither of them knew what democracy was.
 
And then another thing happened. The European Union.  Austria entered the European Union and very soon after gaining sovereignty Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the other eastern countries also joined the European Union.  And now something very, very funny happened and nobody has noticed it. For the former Western democracies the European Union has brought a backlash in democracy. We had more democracy before but we hadn’t examined it or reflected on it critically; we were simply accustomed to it. But in theory we had more democracy. And now we have less.   
 
One of the basic principles of democracy is the separation of powers: the executive must be separate from the legislature, and so forth. You can’t have all power concentrated in one hand; that is not democracy.  The people who fought for it knew this. We in Western Europe forgot it. And therefore nobody, nobody in Austria or in the Western countries realized that the European Union got itself a constitution that abolished the separation of powers.  In the EU executive and legislative power are in the same hand. It’s the end of a basic principle of democracy. 
 
On the other hand, the eastern countries struggled for liberation, they wanted democracy, but they had no experience of democracy and thought it meant being able to vote, getting more commercials and more competition in the market. They thought democracy meant democracy of the market.  They didn’t know, because they had not experienced it, that democracy means competition of political ideas and ideas of how to organize society.  So they won sovereignty, they won the possibility of democracy and joined the European Union but didn’t realize they did not get what they had hoped for. And now these two neighbours with very different histories are together again, both suffering from the same deficit, both of them thinking that democracy is achieved when politicians in their Sunday speeches tell stories featuring the word democracy as the main character:  we are the democratic Europe, we have to have democracy…  They keep repeating and hearing the word democracy but nobody has any idea what it might be. And for both of us, for the Slovaks and the Austrians, within the whole continent and at least in competition with the so-called world powers, China and the US, our whole future will depend on whether we realize what it could be and that we don’t have it. If we realize what it could be we could perhaps begin to fight for it together now; that’s our big chance. 
 
If we don’t fight for it we will have to live with the fact that we get only substitutes and that we are offered the “satisfaction” that others are poorer and more victimized than ourselves.  And if, for example, the Czechs look down on the Slovaks and the Slovaks look down on the Roma, and the Austrians look down on all of them: that’s not the kind of life on this continent that I wish for myself and my children.
 
Jacques Rupnik 
 
I know the chair should not normally put its oar in but I have to say at least one word about the European factor in this. It’s convenient to blame the problems of our democracy on the European Union.  Is the Berlusconi phenomenon a product of the European Union?  I doubt it; I think it has nothing to do with it.  It has a great deal to do with Italian politics, obviously, and with the political culture of Italy.  As for the EU, you say it has no separation of powers. Well, it has the European Council, where all the governments are represented and which has the European Commission as a tool to implement its decisions; it has a democratically elected European Parliament, it has a European Court. So, it’s not perfect and we are a long way from a European democracy, but to blame the state of our democracy on the European Union is a bit of a cop-out.  I know you always get a round of applause for that, but…
 
Robert Menasse
 
May I respond to that - because we have a discussion here? I know this is a very difficult area but I’m grateful for your answer. But remember the following. Theoretically, looking at the system and how it is organized, Italy, the old Italy before the European Union membership, had a more developed system of democracy, I speak of a system, than the European Union has today.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
You mean before the European Union, Italy had fascism, basically.
 
Robert Menasse
 
Yes, it had fascism but that’s democracy. But …
 
Jacques Rupnik 
 
OK, the moderator must moderate himself. Let me give the floor …
 
Robert Menasse
 
I do admire you for loving the European Union, so do I…  But let me say one thing because you started this discussion. We can vote in the European Union for the European parliament but the European parliament does not have the right to initiate laws. The laws are made by the Commission and the Council which we didn’t elect and this is a lack of democracy.  In the classic democratic system you vote for a parliament, which has the right to make laws, this is the difference.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
We will have to agree to disagree.  And it would be unfair to Ingo Schulze and our audience to continue now, but we will return to this, I’m sure.  Ingo Schulze has the floor.
 
Ingo Schulze
 
Coming from East Germany you are always “in between”. You don’t really count as an East European and you don’t really count as a West European. And now that we have marked the 20thanniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, what surprised me was all the fighting about the past. It was a fight about how to interpret the past in which there were basically two narratives. One described what happened twenty years ago as the journey from dictatorship to freedom.  The other one says – yes that’s right but that’s only half the truth, because we have to describe the change as a change of dependencies.
 
And for me the problem is not really the disappearance of the East but the disappearance of the West.  What it means is the “economization” of every part of society.  It’s something that may have started with Reagan and Thatcher, something that was part of the Anglo-Saxon world but in 1989 it became a global phenomenon.  Democracy means that you have freedom and social justice together.  And my problem is that this connection was severed or maybe these two things are moving apart from each other. When I look at Germany, I see an already polarized society that is becoming ever more polarized.  I would say that with 1989 came a great loss of importance for the writer and the intellectual and even the human being.  We knew a lot about freedom and we knew a lot about dictatorship but we did not have so much knowledge about economics.  Today I have the feeling that the problem is that politicians don’t see themselves as politicians but rather as managers. They want to manage and their big aim is to bring growth, growth and growth. 
 
On the 9th November [2009] a big screen was erected on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the story of 100 years of the Audi car was projected on it over and over again.  It was a story of success upon success, including the 1930s when they won lots of races and there were a lot of flowers and hurrahs. And I thought it’s a shame that on this date, as we celebrate 20 years since the fall of the Wall, there is this Audi advertisement on the Brandenburg gate. Some of my colleagues said: “What do you mean? They paid for it, so what’s wrong with that?” But I thought it’s not right, as a citizen I want to pay for the celebrations, I don’t want a corporation to pay for the celebrations.  And on the same day they adopted a new law in Germany – it’s hard to describe in English, at first I thought it was a word invented by a comedian – theWachstumsbeschleunigungsgesetz [growth-speeding-up-law].  It’s a monster of a word and I think that 20 years ago our politics was more rational.  We used to have five-year plans but now politicians speak only of these economic things and I think if today we don’t want to live the lie, we have to speak out and say it’s wrong that the only solution we have to everything is growth, growth, growth.  We should explain to every child that this is the wrong direction and that we have to speak about how to share out work, how to distribute profits, but all we speak about is how we can grow more and more. And I think that as writers and human beings we have to attack this economic way of thinking. 
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
Growth of growth:  that’s one of Václav Havel’s favourite phrases for the phenomenon you’ve just described.  And now, last but not least, Miro Kusý, the home team.
 
Miroslav Kusý
 
Our discussion is headed “democracy fatigue”. I know what Jacques Rupnik means by this phrase but I believe that in the case of Slovakia it should be slightly modified. What we have here is rather a “democracy deficit fatigue”: people are tired of how badly democracy is working here, how many democratic institutions are not working properly. As a result, our citizens don’t understand these institutions and they don’t trust them.  I would like to illustrate this with a few examples.
 
Example No. 1:  A few years ago, while walking in a park, Hedviga Malinová, an ethnic Hungarian student in Slovakia, was attacked by hooligans, badly beaten up and had the words “Hungarians go to the other side of the Danube” scrawled on her back. Under normal circumstances this would have been regarded as an obvious act of hooliganism with an ethnic background. However, immediately afterwards the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior held a press conference and accused the student of lying.  They said she had beaten herself up, she had written those words on her back herself and by saying this the Minister and the Prime Minister pre-empted the whole investigation since they made their statement before the police even had a chance to look into the case.   Some years have now passed, Hedviga Malinová completed her studies, got married, had a child if I’m not mistaken –  and the case still has not been concluded, as the public prosecutor keeps demanding further evidence.  So how can a Slovak citizen trust our prosecutors, our investigating agencies if they let themselves be manipulated in this way and are not capable of concluding such a straightforward case? 
 
Example No. 2 is the hot air affair.  Slovakia has sold its emission quotas to a garage company – an obscure company based somewhere in the USA, in the middle of nowhere, with a garage for an address, as some journalists accidentally discovered. Nobody knows who is behind this company. We have sold them the quotas well below market price, getting a lot less for them than what the Czechs got for their emissions (I think we got 5 Euros per ton compared to the Czechs’ 10 Euros). This affair would not be interesting on its own; we have seen plenty of similar excesses here, but what makes it interesting is this:  if our authorities could not find out who is behind this garage company, why have we committed ourselves to sell them several more tons over a period of another 10 years or so?  Nobody seems to be able to work this out, even though the Prime Minister claimed he would get to the bottom of it – after first claiming he knew nothing about it he made a U-turn and said we would no longer sell to this company – but nothing has been done about it and there are rumours that further emissions have been sold to this company. 
 
I don’t want to bore you but I could go on listing examples like this.  I will mention just one more case, because it is indicative in this respect.  It concerns the waste dump in Pezinok, a small wine-growing town in the Carpathians, not far from Bratislava.  Right on the town’s edge they started building a huge waste dump.  The whole town rose up against it, reams have been written about it in the papers and it’s been going on for two, three years or even ten years –  in any case, it’s has been dragging on for a very long time anyway and the citizens’ petitions have had no effect.  A delegation went to see the Prime Minister who promised to sort it out but he has apparently forgotten his promise. Eventually, the owner managed to complete the construction of the site despite all protests and despite a building ban.  The dump was completed and just when everyone thought it was all over he started bringing in lorries of waste in spite of the ban, claiming the Constitutional Court granted him permission to start operating the dump. Nobody has seen the Constitutional Court’s decision and the Constitutional Court itself is silent on the matter, neither confirming nor denying the owner’s claims of the owner, who has in the meantime continued shipping in waste, referring to the Constitutional Court decision which nobody has seen but which he claims to have in his pocket. 
 
These are all examples of why people in this country are justified in feeling a democracy deficit fatigue.  And there is also another point.  We are building a new country.  The Prime Minister keeps pointing out that we have to bear in mind our country’s history, our myths, that we have to uphold our traditions.  He himself is very keen on displaying his respect for some of these traditions; on the other hand, yesterday was a state holiday, one of those holidays that the majority of our citizens consider most important: the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Yet on the eve of the anniversary our Prime Minister travelled to Moscow, and the following day he went to London where, although he did speak about the anniversary, he did it in such a way as if, say, you were celebrating your wife’s birthday and then said at the party: oh well, she’s not much of a cook really, and she can’t keep the house clean either.  This was more or less the way our Prime Minister spoke about the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in London.  So, although marks certain holidays very ostentatiously, he gave this one a miss.
 
So these are examples of how a citizen in this country gets a picture of what is democracy, of what does and does not matter in this democracy.  Apropos of historical reminiscences, the Czech communist ideologue Zdeněk Nejedlý once said:  “Communists are the heirs of the Czech nation’s great traditions. What it meant was that the communists had a selective approach to tradition.  It was Nejedlý who said “Smetana – yes, Dvořák – no.”  It was he who said, “the Hussite revolution – yes, the St. Wenceslas tradition – no”.  And our Prime Minister is doing something similar today with respect to our traditions.  He has adopted this approach from the communists; it’s now him and his ideology instead of them and theirs. Now he is telling the nation: these are the traditions that I, the Prime Minister, accept and these are the ones I don’t accept; these are the traditions I will ignore or interpret in my own way.  So obviously, all this decay is reflected in the citizens’ attitude to this country and to democracy. How is the citizen to trust democracy?  The late Milan Šimečka said shortly after the Velvet Revolution – alas, he died very soon after it – “Democracy is upon us: there will be difficult times ahead”.    
 
As we embark on building democracy in this country we cannot pick and choose, discarding the weak points and only taking the good ones. We cannot simply ignore the bad points and say: these are the parts of democracy we don’t want. The freedoms that democracy has bestowed upon us include both the good things and the bad, because democracy provides a fertile breeding-ground for various parasites, thieves, and so on, because democracy is something wonderful for the honest citizen but it’s simply paradise for the fraud who knows how to use and abuse the freedoms.  And it means that now, in this situation, we cannot reject the bad side.  Instead, we have to be very vigilant and make sure our citizens aren’t manipulated.  And this is the key issue when developing civil society – to ensure that the citizen doesn’t just participate in elections once every four years – or not even that often  (in the last elections the turnout was about 20%) and then just waits for four years to see what the politicians he has chosen will offer him.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
Many thanks, especially for the pertinent comment about democracy deficit fatigue. The state of democracy is very closely linked to this democracy deficit fatigue.  Before we open to questions from the audience I’d like to offer the panellists the chance to respond to each other for a brief comment.
 
Ágnes Heller
 
A very brief comment. Dr. Kusý, it is obvious that I cannot come to a soccer match between Slovakia and Hungary without violence, without abuse and without hooliganism.  And I think that’s a terrible thing.  I want to warn you that it’s not only Hungary and Slovakia. Soccer hooliganism and hooliganism in general is widespread throughout Europe and I want to say that Central Europe and Eastern Europe is just an extremely European part of Europe. Because what happens here, happens also in Amsterdam, in Athens, in London, in Paris and in many other capitals of Europe. This democracy fatigue is not just a Central European phenomenon. We are unable to integrate young people: that is a basic and very important problem, not just of Central Europe, but of Europe as a whole.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
I imagine that the question of Hungarian-Slovak relations will come up again  since both countries are on the eve of elections which will be very important for their mutual relationship, particularly for the Hungarian minority [in Slovakia].  This is not only about democracy fatigue, this is about politicians using and exploiting certain situations, including the support of radical nationalists, these new Hungarian movements that we have seen such as Jobbik, that constitute a threat to democracy.  We are talking about a democracy fatigue but is it there potential threats to democracy as such?
 
Krzysztof Czyżewski
 
On the subject of things swept under the carpet, the more I get involved in democratic life the more I have to think about something I had previously not realized: before 1989 we did not have a future. When Czesław Miłosz came to Poland for the first time after 50 years in exile he pointed out that we were the first generation that actually had a future.  For the first time, in this part of the world, our activities had a long-term perspective. But very often I can’t help wondering – have we regained our future or are we still struggling to regain it?  The problem I have with democracy today is that even in discussions about the 20th anniversary we hear that everything had been decided between Gorbachov and Bush, outside our countries, between Russia and the United States, the big world powers.  And that is what makes it so difficult for us to believe that what we are doing on a daily basis in our civil societies is really crucial and that it is not appropriated by the superpowers, who are depriving us of access to the decision-making process, to shaping our own lives. I am saying this because regaining our future depends to a large extent on how we deal with the past and with our history. When the past is swept under the carpet, the future is not possible, it is no longer open for you.
 
Robert Menasse
 
It’s clear that democracy means not just the possibility of voting every four or five years. If elections could really profoundly change something, they would be forbidden, that’s clear. But the quality of a democracy cannot be judged solely on the basis of whether you have the chance to vote.  So what other ways are there? For example, at more than 50 universities in the European Union, students are currently on strike.  It’s very important – I think they show us the simple fact and the idea that the quality of democracy depends on the quality of education. The better the schools and universities are, the better the education system is, the more people have the chance to get educated. Not only directly, for a certain job, but if people got more chances to understand what it means to be a social being, our democracy would be better. So we should support these striking universities in this situation now.
 
Ivan Krastev
 
Listening to this debate reminded me of a famous popular psychological experiment. If very quickly, for five minutes you show a person pictures of a cat and you ask him what he sees, he says he sees a cat.  When you start to mix some pictures of dogs among the pictures of cats and keep asking this person what he sees, he will say: I see cats.  By the end, half of the pictures you are showing him are of cats and the other half of dogs but he continues to see cats.  And I think the problem with democracy is a little bit like that.  We always see what we want to see.  For example, about voting: for some of the younger generation, suing the government is a much more natural way to express their political activity than to go and vote in an election.  Nevertheless, we keep talking of the disappearance of a certain kind of political activity.    
 
I believe that what we are seeing is a transformation of democratic politics everywhere.  Here in this region but also in Western Europe, in the United States.  We are very nostalgic for the Cold War type of Western democracy that we used to know.  But it does not exist anymore. Even this attack on the European Union is, in my view, very nostalgic. You’re saying how good Austrian democracy was; I’m quite sure that 30 years ago you would have written how bad it was.  The discourse of democracy has always been a discourse of crisis.  You cannot solve the problem. The question is basically learning how to live with it.  I don’t believe that we can always have a situation when nothing bad is happening.  But here you have the former President of a country, and there is someone saying that the Prime Minister is not doing very well.  And this is good. Because people are going to hear it, this is important, this is legitimate, and I believe that having these tensions between different views of society, living with the messy beauty of democracy, is something to which we should reconcile ourselves. Democracy does not mean that we are going to be more prosperous. Democracy is never about prosperity – after all, in terms of economic growth, for the past 30 years the Chinese have been doing well – democracy is not about this. And I believe that at least one of the things we can come away with is appreciation of its messy side, because otherwise we will experience an unproductive disappointment. And I believe that democracy is about productive disappointment.
 
Questions from  the audience            
 
After 1989 we have replaced the communist system with Western-style democracy. Have we just adopted a system from other countries instead of finding a different way of implementing it? And have any new political leaders emerged who were not around 20 years ago?
 
Miro Kusý
 
I think the principles of democracy are universal and basically very simple.  I think there is always a problem in trying to seek one’s own way and that is why it makes sense to respect those universal principles.  All the rest, all the additional things that are specific to individual nations ought to reflect the domestic situation.  If it does not reflect the domestic situation, or if it includes some features invented by politicians just to make their job of governing easier, it ought to be rejected.  If these features help to simplify the game on the local playground they should be accepted, but only on condition that they are transparent and acceptable.  Well, here you have a general response to a general question.
 
Václav Havel
 
In my time as President I went on state visits to many countries and politicians in democratic countries often said to me: “Don’t repeat our mistakes! How we wish we could be starting from scratch like you.”  Almost as if they were envious that we had to create everything from scratch, a constitution, legislation and so on.  But we did not learn any of their lessons.  And perhaps this is how it should be – perhaps people have to keep repeating certain mistakes in order to realize that they are mistakes.  I don’t think we ought to try and invent a new kind of democracy. Nevertheless, there are things that could be described as mistakes, which we could have avoided if we had listened to those who envied us. I could mention some specific examples, mostly to do with regulation: to what extent should the market economy, capitalism, be held in check by meaningful limitations, boundaries, principles or rules.
 
Why is the anniversary of the creation of the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1948 no longer celebrated in this country even though the Slovaks played a significant role in the creation of the country?
 
Miro Kusý
 
As I already mentioned earlier, the regime picks those traditions it considers important for the nation. The regime tells the nation – this is something you will celebrate, this is something you won’t. So this is the answer to your question: they have selected certain holidays for us, they have imposed some, while deciding to ignore others.  Personally, I completely agree with you and will always consider 28th October my holiday.                            
 
Mr President, you said recently that we should be vigilant.  Here in Slovakia 5 percent of the population at most reads the daily press and thinks in a wider context.  How can we ensure that more people are vigilant?  Journalists and politicians are not very good at it.  Is it the job of actors, singers or perhaps bishops?
 
Václav Havel
 
The answer is simple. It should be done by people such as Miro Kusý.
 
Where there is fatigue, there is a vacuum.  A few years ago, accepting an honorary doctorate in Bratislava, President Havel said that strange demons we thought had long disappeared, have started creeping out of their holes all over Europe – demons of nationalism, xenophobia. This morning Slavenka Drakulić said that art will not stop them because many of these demons are artistically inclined; it seems that education won’t stop them either because many of those beasts are educated; it seems contemporary politics won’t stop them either because it has been exhausted, and it seems that in the 20th century it wasn’t religion either because it was either neutered or abused.  So my question to Mr. President, and perhaps the other panellists is: do you see any potential forces that might chase those demons back into their holes or, preferably, that might transform them?
 
Václav Havel
 
These demons are likely to have several causes. One of them is the globalization of the world: nowadays you can’t tell whether you are at a Tokyo airport or in a Los Angeles shopping mall or in a Prague hotel.  And this homogenization creates a counter-pressure – for those who want to define themselves and their own identity in contrast to others, this is precisely the terrain and the need that helps the demons to crawl out.  Because usually these demons are nationalist and they feel strangled by the homogenization of the world.  The effect of globalization, combined with all the modern technologies that are still developing at a frantic pace, seems to be that people, nations and continents are pushed more and more tightly together and this unifying pressure results in a kind of compression and this is what these various entities seem to be reacting to. My experience from prison is that the more prisoners you put in a single cell the more likely they are to fight among themselves.  So, to keep to today’s central image, we’re talking of a kind of civilization fatigue, globalization fatigue but this is by no means the only cause, just the one that occurred to me on the spur of the moment. But I won’t go on because I want to give others a chance to speak too.
 
Ágnes Heller
 
The demons are not a problem that can be solved. None of us can give you a recipe for solving this problem.  In fact it’s not a problem: demons are born together with democracy because everyone knows that la nation – the nation state – and democracy were born in Europe simultaneously, and they make very uneasy bedfellows. So the question is which controls which. And I think the best thing that we can achieve is that democracy keeps these nationalistic demons in check, these demons that come from the nation state. Perhaps the task for us is to learn to tolerate frustrations, because in democracy toleration goes hand in hand with frustration. You can’t have only the benefits. There are no benefits without corresponding losses. And democracy fatigue breeds nationalistic movements because it is very difficult to integrate young people. Families are falling apart and families are not just the source of the traditional values that we inherit.  Universities, as you mentioned, are basically job-creating machines, they educate young people for jobs.  So what remains are phoney values.
 
Twenty years ago many new political parties were created amid great enthusiasm. The Green Party was very successful for a while, it had seats in Parliament but then it lost support and currently is outside parliament. Mr. President said that nowadays we tend to regard politics as something suspicious.  Another problem is that many educated young people are leaving the country to build their careers abroad. If there is a democracy deficit what do you think might motivate decent, bright, well-educated people to participate in public life and get involved in politics again?
 
Václav Havel
 
How can young people be motivated to be involved in public affairs, to take on political positions? The answer is simple – responsibility. It’s something that we human beings are born with, it is the other side of the coin of liberty.  To put it very simply, people ought to get involved in politics when they feel they are fed up with what is going on, they cannot take it any longer and want things to change.  I experienced it myself: for a long time I resisted the idea that I should stand for president when it was first suggested in 1989 but in the end the following argument disarmed me: “As someone who criticized them all his life, you should now demonstrate how it should be done better”.  So it is responsibility that keeps pushing one into doing things one would otherwise not wish to do but one cannot help doing.  I think this is a very basic human impulse. Responsibility, of course, resides deeper down.  I believe responsibility is suspended from a kind of metaphysical nail, it’s linked to our relationship to eternity and infinity.
 
We’ve been told that we’ve achieved everything we had longed for: we had called “Havel na Hrad” and it did happen, and rightly so, because Václav Havel was the unquestionable moral authority. One of the things you said in those heady days, Mr. President, was: “Let truth and justice prevail over lies and hatred”, challenging us to keep politics and public life ethical. Why has this moral dimension completely disappeared from public discourse? 
 
Václav Havel
 
During one of those big rallies on Wenceslas Square, there was a huge crowd of around 150,000 people and at some point we sensed they were getting a bit restless. I was about to deliver the main speech I had written in haste, and I felt that the speech ought to conclude with some lofty rallying cry so I shouted “Let love and truth prevail over lies and hatred”.  It ought to be seen in the context of those days.  But this does not mean I would not shout this again tomorrow or that it is no longer valid.  Because the exact wording was: love and truth MUST prevail over lies and hatred. And at a certain moment it did prevail: the communist ideology, as we know, was based on class hatred. Class hatred was integral to it and so it was used as a tool to oppose those who were “against us”, as a legitimate principle of good social development. “Truth will prevail” had been our country’s traditional motto.  So all I did was ad love to the mix. It seems to me that in the present-day world of modern technologies we have stopped differentiating information from truth. There are billions of bits of information floating around the globe but nobody can vouch for any of it.  Truth, by contrast, is information that someone personally vouches for and is prepared to prove by sacrifice. It seemed to me that after decades of civilization’s development it was necessary to emphasize this personal element, this personal guarantee. And this is linked to my answer to the earlier question – this personal guarantee is an expression of responsibility. So we’ve come full circle.
 
And as I have the floor, perhaps I may be allowed to add one more thing. It is necessary to carefully distinguish idea from ideology. An ideology is a complex of ideas that pretends to have an answer to everything. It is a closed, complete thing, as opposed to an idea that exists on its own, as if thrown to the wolves.   Ideology is terribly comfortable, it’s very simple and very nice, because then you don’t have to think, everything has been thought of and nicely packaged for you. So another thing that I consider very important is that we should keep opting for ideas while taking care to avoid ideologies.
 
Jacques Rupnik
 
This seems an appropriate point on which to end our discussion so there’s no need for me to summarize.  Perhaps I’ll add just one thing: someone here, I think it was our Polish colleague, said that before 1989 we felt we had no future, that we could not envision our future. Then, following 1989 everything seemed to get on a clear track. It seemed obvious what we had to do: we would establish democracy, introduce the market economy, return to Europe, join NATO, and so on. This programme has been more or less accomplished and now we all feel that this cycle that we embarked on 20 years ago has somehow become exhausted.  We have democratic institutions but they work the way Miro Kusý has described them. We have a market economy but we are in the midst of an economic and financial crisis. So suddenly we are realizing that this cycle is itself becoming exhausted and this is forcing us to articulate our predicament anew.  However, this is no longer specifically a problem of the countries of Central Europe – it is a problem shared with all of Europe. Ágnes Heller pointed out that these countries reflect European problems in a more pronounced way. There are two ways we can respond to this: we can say that our democracy fatigue demonstrates that we have succeeded because we are now are suffering from the same problems as the West. That is the positive, optimistic version. Or, on the other hand, we might express concern that democracy has become so tired after only 20 years and that being so young it lacks traditions and established institutions, and perhaps that makes it more vulnerable. And that is why, as Mr. President has said, we have to be more vigilant.  With this I will conclude.  Thank you all very much. 
 
Translation Julia Sherwood

17 listopada 2009 - Forum Europy Środkowej w Bratysławie


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