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Europe (both as idea and as geography) finds itself confronted with challenges of a magnitude it has not experienced since the crises of the 1930s. In a time of deep uncertainty about the future, societies and individuals are confronted with the complexity of political, economic and social dynamics and thus are losing, or perceiving that they are losing, a sense of stability. Public discontent is palpable.
Trust in institutions is faltering, social capital is eroding, economic growth is in question, demographic decline in some countries, nationalism is growing and the fear of the “other” in whichever guise (migrant, foreigner) is seen as endangering one’s sense of community and identity.
Europe and the liberal democratic order based on the rule of law are being challenged internally and externally.
Citizens of Europe are feeling that they are losing what Machiavelli called the vivere civile vivere libero – civic engagement, civic participation coupled with a sense of possibility to voice their views in the sphere of the political. In an atmosphere of discontent with elites and institutions, with feelings that paths towards a better more prosperous future are closed, simplistic, populist, nationalist solutions appear. Turning inwards, relying on one’s own community, nation, state, believing that on our own, without others, we shall somehow regain our wealth stability, prosperity, certainty about the future – is an illusion.
In a Europe that faces a North-South and a West-East divide, it is of the essence to create a space to understand the current dynamics and to bring people from the different corners of Europe to speak and listen to each other on the enumerated challenges. Beyond reacquiring a sense of certainty it is imperative to open the path to a future, to solutions that can make these societies prosperous again.
Europe has lived through dark and difficult times, no matter how protracted these times were, it emerged from them to consolidate and prosper. Europe’s futures lie in the hands of its citizens.
Led by Ivan Vejvoda, Europe’s Futures sets out to research some of the key risks and problems Europe and its liberal democratic order are facing. A step further, findings will shape practical responses and solutions to be advocated for in unison with a pan-European network of partners.
An initiative by ERSTE Foundation and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM)