15. 3. 2017

Dear readers,

I am delighted to introduce the newest issue of our quarterly! It addresses the persistent phenomenon of illiberalism. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, we have observed a rise of populism and extremism in politics; hence, this Review offers you several in-depth analyses of current undemocratic tendencies in Europe.

During the recent economic downturn, capitalism and liberal democratic institutions have lost the trust of many Europeans. Interviewed by Maciej Nowicki, Ivan Krastev agrees that an alternative to liberal democracy has arisen in Europe. In fact, some politicians such as the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, argue that liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive and suggested a new course — one inspired by political models of China, Russia, Turkey or Singapore. In Jan-Werner Müller’s article, you will find an analysis of Putin’s and Orbán’s political ideologies and their position in the European political landscape. In the Economy section, José Ignacio Torreblanca asks: “Did Austerity Kill the European Dream?” In his analysis, he compares the 1930’s Great Depression and its effect on democracy with the recent global economic crisis and its resulting imprint on the European Union. Torreblanca connects the swift rise of extremist parties in Europe to the current economic crisis.

Whereas the new Aspen Review issue deals predominantly with general political tendencies across Europe, our activities this fall revolve around the concept of placemaking and its economic impact. In mid September with several other non-profits, we helped organize Praga Caput Cultura conference, devoted to the importance of culture for the development of the Czech Republic’s capital city. In October, we continued with a panel discussion Changing Perception of Public Space: Between Opportunity and Responsibility at the 18th Forum 2000 Conference. Invited panelists, architect Adam Gebrian, artist Krištof Kintera, photographer and activist Illah van Oijen, and Tomáš Ctibor, Managing Director of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development, debated public and private approaches of a post-Communist societies toward public space.

Our key event of this fall was the OPEN UP! Creative Placemaking Festival. The event, spanning over two days and two cities, brought together foreign and local placemaking experts, representatives of local administrations and businesses, who reflected on arts and culture driven revitalization and its economic impact on community development. Among our most prominent guests were Ann Markusen, American economist and advocate of the creative placemaking concept, Andy Robinson, director of Futurecity, Igor Marko, a successful Slovak architect based in London, and Daniel Latorre, an expert on digital media. The speakers and audiences enjoyed typical creative placemaking venues: the conference’s first part took place in DOX, Centre for Contemporary Art, and the second was hosted in Pilsen at two sites: a revitalized Paper Manufactory and old Culture Center.

Also in November, we presented the results of the Crowdfunding Visegrad project. This comparative study evaluates the use and potential of community financing in the “Visegrad Four.” The study, along with a brief manual for crowd-funders, can be downloaded from our website.

Currently, we are preparing the next Aspen Young Leaders Program, a four-day event in the beautiful Slovak Low Tatra Mountains. Talented individuals from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia with exceptional potential in their professional fields will learn about the challenges of good leadership from experienced politicians, businessmen and scholars. The Program, taking place in March 2015, is now accepting applications from potential participants. I invite you to have a look at our website or Facebook to obtain more details.

I wish you a pleasant reading.

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