On September 24, 2012, the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) with the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) organized in Bratislava an international workshop “Liberalism and Liberal Politics in Central Europe: Value and Cultural Ethical Issues”. The workshop was the fourth event to have taken place within a research project called The Liberal Parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Weakness and Potential.
The aim of the project is to map the factors influencing positions of the parties of liberal orientation in several countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic). Project activities include the elaboration of analysis of the state of liberal milieu and liberal politics, the role of non-party actors and media, study of liberal discourses in the mentioned countries.
The Bratislava workshop was focused on the topics of liberal values and cultural and ethical issues in liberal discourse as well as their embodiment in electoral programs and real political actions of liberal parties.
The morning sessions were dedicated to the situation in Slovakia. The first panel, entitled Two decades of liberal-conservative dispute in Slovakia: Views of liberal politicians, covered the past, present and future of liberal politics in Slovakia. The subject was talked over by four discussants: member of parliament Richard Sulík (chairman of the Freedom and Solidarity party – SaS); member of parliament Martin Poliačik (chairman of program council of SaS party); member of parliament Rudolf Chmel (vice-chairman of Most-Híd party) and Kálmán Petőcz (vice-chairman of MOS party in 1992 – 1998). The debate was circulating around liberalism in Slovak politics since 1989 and its current challenges, cooperation of member states within European Union, cultural and ethical features of liberalism, and the quality of independent media in Slovakia and their coverage of liberal themes.
The first panel. From the left: Rudolf Chmel, chair of the panel Grigorij Mesežnikov, Richard Sulík, Martin Poliačik and Kálmán Petőcz.
The second panel Two decades of liberal-conservative dispute in Slovakia: Views of civic activists and liberal thinkers deepened the philosophical and historical grounds of the debate. Fedor Blaščák (philosopher and political scientist) explained his view of the differences between liberalism and conservatism; Egon Gál (philosopher and essayist) spoke about the same topic and about human individuality. Civic activist and journalist Hana Fabry talked about the relation of liberalism to human rights advocacy and Juraj Mesík (blogger and teacher) presented his view of the development of liberalism in Slovakia and its trends for future.
The second panel participants. From the left: Egon Gál, chair of the panel Grigorij Mesežnikov, Fedor Blačšák, Juraj Mesík and Hana Fabry.
The afternoon program entitled Liberal discourse on values in Central Europe consisted of the speeches of scholars and political experts from several CEE countries. Oľga Gyárfášová and Zora Bútorová (both from IVO) prepared a presentation entitled “Public Opinion in Slovakia on Cultural-Ethical Issues”, in which they introduced the socio-demographic profile of SaS voters and other topics related to liberal values and politics. Paulina Bilska-Marek from the Wroclaw University in Poland discussed the Polish case, namely the positions political parties in Poland and their voters’ attitudes in the lecture “Cultural and Ethical Issues in Poland: Poles' Opinions vs. Politicians' Propositions”.
In the third part of the workshop Zora Bútorová and Oľga Gyárfášová (left) and Paulina Bilska-Marek (right) presented their contributions. The panel was chaired by Blagovesta Cholova (Free University of Brussels; in the center).
The fourth session began with the presentation “Value and Cultural Ethic Issues in Romania: The Case of Liberal Parties”, prepared by Ovidiu Vaida from “Babes-Bolyai” University in Cluj-Napoca in Romania. Irena Todorova from the New Bulgarian University in Sofia gave a lecture on “Liberalism and Liberal Values in Bulgarian Society”. Political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov from the Institute for Public Affairs in Slovakia completed the speeches with a lecture “Value Agenda of Slovak Liberal Parties: Success or Failure?” The workshop was concluded by the summary remarks from some of the participants.
The fourth panel. From the left Ovidiu Vaida, Irena Todorova, chair of the panel Joakim Frantz (ELDR) and Grigorij Mesežnikov.
Besides the above mentioned participants, the workshop encountered the attendance of diplomats, former and current politicians, scholars, students, representatives of the ELDR party and of the Free University of Brussels.
Program of the workshop [PDF]