Youth Forward or Backward?

Dear Readers,

Each generation faces their own specific challenges. The youth is usually blamed by elders for all vices in society. My generation viewed with deep suspicion how Communist ideologues formally pushed and praised young generation while cementing a sclerotic system led by gerontocratic politburos. Twenty-eight years after liberation from that ideological yoke, the younger generation in Central Europe seems to be shaped more by concerns of daily life than by events of historic dimensions.

Today’s youth lives in times seemingly free of these challenges but under growing pressure of economic competitiveness. Although young people enjoy more freedom in all directions and higher mobility in real and virtual space, it looks as if they maintain only a shallow sense of purpose and goal. Yet, this impression could be false. As Malgorzata Fidelis boldly claims while referring to Václav Havel: “There are times when the massive assault on human values could become the source of strength for those who defend them.” The spontaneous activities of Central European students reacting to a need to help refugees on Balkan route could be a source of hope.

On the other hand, polls and surveys support the claim that young generation loses trust in politics, politicians, as well as institutions (including international organizations). Why are the young Czech, Poles, Slovaks, and Hungarians rediscovering national conservatism as a hideout from European integration and a refuge from globalization? Why are the other ones leaving their homeland to seek fortune abroad?

Moving to a global perspective there are more questions than answers. What will be the effects of Trump presidency and Brexit on Central Europe in general and on the relations between Germany and V4? Are we facing a return of geopolitics in Central Europe? In an interview, Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute reassures that Central Europeans should not be concerned about Trump’s rapprochement with Putin over their heads. He said that weeks before the US retaliation to the chemical attack in Syria that came as a surprise to Moscow.

The socio-economic interdependence between Germany and V4 remains one of the key topics to explore. In this issue, Hans Kundnani discovers a paradox that V4 is most efficient as an anti-German coalition while remaining deeply connected to German economy. At “Forum V4-Germany” (a joint project launched by the Aspen Institute Central Europe and Aspen Institute Germany) we will search for new ideas and explore how much is the dynamism of our relations inhibited by our inability to unleash the potential of cooperation among the young in Central Europe.

More in the next issue. Stay connected!

Jiří Schneider

Jiří Schneider entered public life after democratic changes in 1989 when he was elected to the Czechoslovak Parliament (Federal Assembly) in 1990 and 1992. In 1993 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held various positions at the Czech diplomatic service. Most prominently he served as Ambassador to Israel (1995-1998) and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic (2010-2014).


Jiří Schneider graduated at The Czech Technical University (ČVUT) and obtained a Diploma in Religious Studies from University of Cambridge. From 2000 to 2009 he lectured on security studies, international relations, public policy, and the role of think tanks in Central Europe at Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, and New York University in Prague. During the International Policy Fellowship at the Central European University in Budapest he published on Think Tanks in Visegrad Countries (2003) and Lobbying and Interest Representation (2007). He was closely associated with the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a leading Czech security think tank, as a Program Director (2005-2010) and most recently as a Senior Fellow and Director of Special Projects (2014-2015).


Jiří’s engagement with Aspen dates back to the early 90ʼs when he was a fellow of Aspen Institute Germany. More recently he supported the establishment of Aspen Institute Prague and served as a member of its Supervisory Board from 2011 to 2014.

Share this on social media

Support Aspen Institute

The support of our corporate partners, individual members and donors is critical to sustaining our work. We encourage you to join us at our roundtable discussions, forums, symposia, and special event dinners.

These web pages use cookies to provide their services. You get more information about the cookies after clicking on the button “Detailed setting”. You can set the cookies which we will be able to use, or you can give us your consent to use all the cookies by clicking on the button “Allow all”. You can change the setting of cookies at any time in the footer of our web pages.
Cookies are small files saved in your terminal equipment, into which certain settings and data are saved, which you exchange with our pages by means of your browser. The contents of these files are shared between your browser and our servers or the servers of our partners. We need some of the cookies so that our web page could function properly, we need others for analytical and marketing purposes.