As Europe looks for its place in the face of current tectonic shifts of geopolitics, multiple dynamics are at play. In a number of member states democracy is backsliding, as are signs of the Union’s vitality such as enlargement. The rule of law within the European Union continues to be challenged by a variety of internal and external forces. A sense of powerlessness and disenfranchisement has led many on a search for simplistic and illusionary solutions, readily offered by nationalist-populist parties and identitarian movements bent on instigating enmity towards all that is seen as “foreign” to a perceived “authentic” home culture. Others, a majority, continue to believe that the liberal democratic model, based on the rule of law and human rights, with all its faults, is still valid and worth upholding, and fighting for. The EU will have to put in a great deal of effort to maintain what has been painstakingly built and nurtured since the peace after 1945.
Democracy is a fragile institution that needs to be nurtured on a daily basis, through civic engagement at all levels of society and across institutions domestic and European. It is key that the institutions be preserved and functioning, and that they be much more responsive to the grievances of citizens. Europe needs to stand in a rapidly changing world as the bearer of the messages of the Enlightenment: democracy, the rule of law and human rights, a world in which the public space is open for all to engage in. In 2018, we initiated Europe’s Futures, a network of some of the leading Austrian and European civil society organisations with prominent academics, activists, journalists engaged as fellows under the auspices of the Institute for Human Sciences’ (IWM) leading intellectuals Ivan Vejvoda and Ivan Krastev. We research processes driving illiberalism, nationalism and populism. We look for innovative responses to major challenges faced by the European Union in relation to the rule of law and migration. We advocate for a better functioning and enlarged European Union.
We are gathering and supporting people with ideas in creating, and promoting, new perspectives for a reinvigorated, unified and democratic Europe. We engage liberal-democratic voices from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in high-level academic, social and political debate on the future of the European Union, making Vienna a particular point of encounter. It is an endeavour based on in-depth research, concrete policy proposals, and encounters with state and civil society actors, public opinion and the media.