The Tipping Point Talks 2019

200 years of ERSTE Foundation

1. March 2019
Magazine > Activities > The Tipping Point Talks 2019

In 2019, Erste Bank and ERSTE Foundation celebrate 200 years of the savings bank idea, which, in times of industrialisation and urbanisation, was not only civic-minded and economically viable but also innovative and audacious. Are there still lessons to be learned from the savings bank concept in 2019?

Identity – Normativity – Possibility – Audacity

These four topics will serve as guiding lights throughout the year on the following questions: who are we in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern European region 30 years into an era of profound transformation which has shaped the lives and future of literally every family? What do we strive for as societies? And what are the challenges of our time calling us to do?

ERSTE Foundation serves the common good. We do this by strengthening civil society and contemporary culture, and by fostering social inclusion. Together, we have set out to mark this 200th anniversary with an in-depth debate on topics that define our present and our future, curated by Verena Ringler.

Foreword of Alexander Van der Bellen, Federal President of the Republic of Austria

Thirty years ago, the Iron Curtain divided our continent into Western and Eastern Europe. To many, especially the young, the fact that barbed wire kept us apart from our neighbours in the East for decades is but a faint memory. Yet the repercussions of this past division of Europe can be felt to this day. The fall of the Iron Curtain was followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of what was once Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Some of the conflicts that erupted in the course of these upheavals are just now being settled (note: North Macedonia) or are yet to be resolved.

At the same time, the countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe have achieved great things since then. Many of these countries, among them post-Soviet states, are member states of the European Union today – some of them have been for as long as 15 years. They are an integral part of our shared house of Europe. These countries – and their citizens – have fought for their place in the European Union with great commitment, yearning to be free. This has made the EU what it is today: an unparalleled and without a doubt successful peace project.

All of this we should not take for granted but defend unwaveringly. A return to closed-up, tiny states – and on a global scale, almost all EU member states are tiny – should be prevented in any case. I agree with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has called for an EU that is capable of shaping world politics. We need a strong European Union that, on the inside, protects the fundamental rights of its citizens and, on the outside, jointly represents its interests and the interests of its member states on an international level with perseverance and conviction.

IDENTITY - Francis Fukuyama, 7. March 2019

Francis Fukuyama

In his book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’, Fukuyama postulated that an increase in freedom and prosperity would automatically lead to a demand for democratic governance around the globe. Yet it seems that in many respects, the paths to social and economic well-being diverge. Why is that the case? Is identity politics as it is practised in the European Union today a stumbling block rather than a step towards realising a nation’s vision?

Photo: © Djurdja Padejski

Thirty years ago, the Iron Curtain came down and opened up a tremendous range of opportunities for individuals, societies, and businesses in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Back then, the today world famous political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote the book The End of History and the Last Man. Suggesting that the end of communism would lead to the prevalence of liberal democracy, his theories are still triggering debates to this very day.

Boris Marte, ERSTE Foundation

Francis Fukuyama: Identity Politics – The Demand for Dignity and the Nation State’s Future

On-stage discussion
How do we foster democracy in Europe 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain?

Francis Fukuyama, political scientist
Alexander Van der Bellen, President of the Republic of Austria
Julia De Clerck-Sachsse, EU diplomat
Ivan Krastev, political scientist
Karolina Wigura, philosopher
Chair: Almut Möller

For invited guests on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the ERSTE Foundation.

NORMATIVITY - Timothy Snyder, 9. May 2019

Timothy Snyder

American historian, professor at Yale University and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna. His research focus includes the history of Eastern Europe and the Holocaust.

Photo: © Zsolt Marton

Why are values and standards essential? How can we live up to ‘never again’ in an era this fragile? The keynote address of American historian Timothy Snyder on the Judenplatz square in Vienna will take place on Europe Day 2019 and simultaneously serve as a kick-off for the Wiener Festwochen, which will open on 10 May.

This format is scheduled to become an annual event: starting in 2019, a public lecture will be delivered on the occasion of Europe Day. The date and location are not incidental. Judenplatz square in Vienna is, in its very essence, a site of European history second to none. Every year, we will ask anew: which text is to be derived from this urban space today? In any case, it will be a text that rewrites the European narrative from which present-day Europe has emerged.

It is also a contribution seeking to anchor our idea of Europe, which has ensured peace for so many years, in the centre of the city and our awareness.

In cooperation with Wiener Festwochen.

POSSIBILITY - Marietje Schaake, 19. September 2019

Marietje Schaake

Photo: © Bram Belloni

How can we harness the possibilities of digitalisation to bolster our democratic life and our public and civic space? What could be Central and Eastern European contributions to an EU internet governance?

An evening on stage and a thematic seminar with Marietje Schaake, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament until 2019 and a pioneering global voice on this theme.

AUDACITY - End of 2019

Our future in Europe?

Photo: © Val vesa /

How can we achieve prosperity in the 21st century for the many rather than the few, especially
in the CEE and SEE region? What does the charitable idea of the savings bank mean today and what will it mean in future?

A lecture and an interactive think camp by ERSTE Foundation in cooperation with the Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) in late 2019.

“To shape our European future, we do not lack more small-minded ideas but big and bold alliances of action.”

– Verena Ringler, Curator, The Tipping Point Talks 2019


Curator and chief advisor of the ERSTE Foundation Tipping Point Talks 2019.

Photo: © Peter Mayr

Verena founded and directs European Commons, a network that initiates and realizes transformative formats of dialogue and exchange in European diplomacy, politics, business and the non-profit sector. She developed her user-centered and multi-disciplinary approach to leadership in European integration in longer stints in magazine journalism, diplomacy, as well as philanthropy. She worked as editor with Foreign Policy magazine from 2002 to 2006 (Washington D.C.). From 2006 to 2009, she built the communications side of a transatlantic diplomatic team in Pristina, Kosovo. For more than five years until 2018, she shaped the large Europe program of Germany’s Mercator Foundation.

Verena got her MA from the Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS in 2002. She also studied in Uppsala, Vienna, and her hometown, Innsbruck. She authored more than 300 pieces in magazines and multi-media formats. Her latest piece on leadership in governance appeared in late 2018 in the book “Realistic Hope” (AUP). Verena is a member of the Strategy Council of the European Policy Centre (EPC).
+43 676 48 49 024, Website

Translation into English by Laura Scheifinger and Michaela Chiaki Ripplinger.
Cover picture: On 27 June 1989, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn (right) severed the barbed wire of the former Iron Curtain together with his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock in Sopron, Hungary. Photo: © Bernhard J. Holzner / AP /

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