Third Big Multinational Event “EU Future” in Slovakia

The third big multinational event “EU Future” in Slovakia was organized online on 23. and 24. May 2022.

The main event theme of the big event in Slovakia was the future of EU and the challenges of Euroscepticism, particularly in the partner countries. This event was focus on the on different types of Euroscepticism which are present in the partner countries and wider EU. The strategies to combat Euroscepticism and the reason for Euroscepticism increases. We will also address the future of EU and the challenges which are going to face the state of EU in the next decade. The EU is largely viewed as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. For much of the last decades, however, many EU countries have faced considerable economic difficulties. Despite an improved economic situation in the EU since 2017, economic pressures and societal changes have contributed to the rise of populist and anti-establishment political parties, at least some of which harbour anti-EU or “Eurosceptic” sentiments. Such trends have complicated the EU’s ability to deal with multiple internal and external challenges. Among the most prominent challenges are

  • COVID 19 pandemic challenges;
  • climate challenge challenges;
  • democracy and rule-of-law concerns in some EU members;
  • the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU (“Brexit”);
  • migration and related societal integration concerns;

Amid these difficult issues, some are questioning the future shape and character of the EU. Supporters of the EU worry that certain aspects of EU integration could be stopped or reversed. Others contend that the multiple crises could produce some beneficial reforms and ultimately transform the EU into a more effective, cohesive entity.

One of the biggest challenges, which is facing the future of the EU, is certainly Euroscepticism. In the aftermath of a decade of crisis, the 2019 European Parliament elections confirmed the results of the 2014 elections as voters turned away from the traditional political families to vote for parties with a strong message on Europe, including Eurosceptic parties. It further evidenced the normalization of Euroscepticism, which has become a stable component of European politics.

The event “EU Future” was attended by participants from the civil space in Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic. The event featured different experts from partner countries and keynote speakers from Slovakia, where the discussions were organized in three panels:

  • PANEL I –  Tackling Euroscepticism via teaching, campaigning and projects
  • PANEL II – Belonging to the European Union
  • PANEL III – Looking out to the future of the European Union

The themes of the speakers and panels where:

State of EU in regards to Euroscepticism and the EU future

Simon Wltavsky, Institute TREND-PRIMA, Maribor

Presentation of the state of EU, what are new and old crisis. The future of EU depend on finding solutions that are acceptable and improve life in all it’s member state. The old crisis (Euro-crisis 2009-2012; Migration-crisis; Rule of law crisis) and new crisis (Brexit and EU enlargement; Multi-annual financial framework; Covid-19; Russia). Share of vote for parties that oppose EU integration in the EU-28, 2000-2018. Votes by party position on EU integration? Presentation of the results of the eurobarometer study on the Future of Europe. 

Youth Participation – funding opportunities for your future campaign

Katja Lenic Salamun, Verein InterAktion

Did you know that Erasmus+ also supports youth participation projects? Activities outside formal education and training that encourage, foster and facilitate young people’s participation in Europe’s democratic life at local, regional, national and European level. Provide young  people with opportunities to engage and learn to participate in civic society. Raise young people’s awareness about European common values and fundamental rights. Bring together young people and decision makers at local, regional, national and transnational level. What does
this kind of project consist of?

Teaching civics to build active (euro)citizenship skills: Experience from elementary and high schools around Slovakia.

Jana Feherpataky Kuzmová, Institute for Active Citizenship

Discussion about the importantce of participation in the democratic process and the challange that “The greatest weakness of democracy*is thatit inevitably relies on active citizen*.” Presentation of the teaching experiences of civics studies in Slovakia. The Slovak experience of civic education teachers in primary and secondary schools incl. vocational schools (10-19 yo): Facts > practical (civic life) skills, values, attitudes; frontal instruction > experiential learning; low expertise + low eu citizenship of many (not all!) teachers; no politics in the classroom!; eu being too distant. LESSONS LEARNED, WHAT MATTERS: Authentic & active teachers; Lifelong learning; Courage and personal experience & skills of teachers; Support from the headmasters; Participation & extracurricular activities; Student councils & democratic school climate incl. local govt; Modern, practical and available teaching & learning materials; EU in the curriculum; Interactive, non-formal, experiential & reflective learning starting to; be popular and accepted. HOW TO (HOPEFULLY) ACHIEVE IMPROVEMENT: Experimental testing of the new civic education curriculum & methods. 

State of Euroscepticism in the EU and particularly in the project partner countries, combating Euroscepticism with the EU projects

Franja Bučar, DRPDNM

Reasons for Euroscepticism: “Integration undermines national sovereignty and the nation state”; “the EU is elitist and lacks democratic legitimacy and transparency”; “the EU is too bureaucratic and wasteful”; “it encourages high levels of immigration”; “it is a neoliberal organisation serving the big business elite at the expense of the working class”; “the EU is responsible for driving privatization”; “Recession, Eurozone crisis …”; “Covid 19 crisis”; “EU‘s reaction to the Russia-Ukraine war”; “Lack of knowledge?”. How do we distinguish Euroscepticism soft or hard. European parliament elections. This time I‘m voting: big campaign to raise turnout in the EU elections in 2019 – successful or not? Why are people Eurosceptic? Fighting Euroscepticism, key point is education. EU projects (large founding, promoting EU values, multiculturalism, opportunities for young people, solidarity, critical thinking, open-minded citizens …).  Conferences on the future of Europe, EU year of Youth …

Euroscepticism, membership in the EU and public opinion – research results for CEE region

Miroslava Sawiris, Globsec, Government Office of the Slovak Republic

Presentation of GLOBSEC Trends report, which is a series of reports providing a unique insight into the trends in public attitudes in Central Europe. How EU membership is seen in your country? What is GLOBSEC Vulnerability Index? It measures vulnerability towards foreign influence in eight countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia on a 0-100 scale, where 0 is the most resilient and 100 the most vulnerable. It assesses five key dimensions: public attitudes, political landscape, public administration, information landscape, and civic and academic space, with a particular focus directed towards the Kremlin’s and Beijing’s activities. Stereotypes about EU? Information Vacuum and insufficient strategic communication. What needs to be improved on the EU level.

Historical Evolution of the pro-Russian attitude in the Czech lands

Pavel Vitek, ICM Jindrichuv Hradec

Presentation of the history of pro-Russian Attitudes in the Czech Lands.  From 19th Century of pan-slavic romantic and nationalist ideas, Czech lands under „germanic“ Habsburg domination, illusionary vision of a big Slavic nation and different tendencies than in Poland which was repressing any attempts for Polish independence.  20th Century – some of the famous Czech artists were openly Russophile. The Czech author Hašek, known for his „bohemian lifestyle“ for example, spent a substantial part of his life in USSR where he is known as a serious military commander though. The famous music composer Leoš Janáček was inspired mainly by Russian authors, like Dostoyevsky. The communist occupation changed the mind of many, yet, the pro-Russian sentiment stayed strong in some parts of the society. Mostly those, who were openly collaborating with the new régime, kept a strong pro-Russian sentiment and were influencing even younger generations with it. A theory exists according to which ethnically Russian armies didn‘t get involved in the repressions in the end of 60‘s in order not to deteriorate this „pro-Russian sentiment“. The situation today? Conspiracy Mindset and Distrust towards Media?

Selective Euroscepticism: how Slovakia strongly opposed EU immigration policies while reaffirming its belongingess to the EU.

Clarissa Tabosa, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences – Comenius University in Bratislava

Discussion about: Euroscepticism and anti-immigration (Strong link between anti-immigration and Eurosceptic attitudes, Weak correlation between a de facto increase in immigration and increase in Euroscepticism, There is no strong link between immigration levels and public Euroscepticism); Migration and Euroscepticism in Slovakia: contesting but not rejecting (2015 Migration “Crisis”: The Visegrad Four as a united group + strong anti-EU sentiment?, “The End of Central Europe: The Rise of the Radical Right and the Contestation of Identities in Slovakia and the Visegrad Four ”, ); Future prospects: Ukrainian migrants (Russian War in Ukraine, The Visegrad group: From V2+2 to V3 + 1?)

It´s a shame (to be a European). Is it?

Erich Mistrík, Faculty of Education – Comenius University in Bratislava

Discussion about: Who is a European subject? (What is „Europe“?; Borderlines; Who is a citizen of Europe?); Shameful Europe (Based upon roots; Aggressivity / intolerance; Individualism; Many inhibitions; Beaurocracy); Pride in Europe and Arguments against Euroscepticism (Based upon roots: Greek democracy, Phoenician economic life, Christianity, Roman law; Advantages: Democracy, Freedom, Co-operation, Rule of law, Openess, Flexibility, Prosperity and comfort, Peace?)

Future of the EU and Hungary, main challenges of the upcoming years

Máté Deák, Municipality Sopronkövesd

Topics of the discussion: What happened in the EU in the past 5-10 years; Hungary within the EU in the past 5-10 years (Hungary also suffered from: Economic crisis; Migrant crisis; Covid-19 pandemic; Ukraine-Russian war conflict; Status of democracy infringement procedures); Key challenges in Europe and Hungary in the next 5 years (Economic crisis; demo graphical challenges; Climate change – European Green Deal; Global security) 

The Future of EU, Euroscepticism and the Importance of European Citizenship Education

Iva Sedlic, Europe House Slavonski Brod

Presentation of the Homo Europeanus Research. Discussion about the image of the European union: more then half of respondents are optimistic about the EU future. The added value of the EU: trade, employment, scientific research, foreign policy, education, agriculture, immigration, health, gender equality, environment, industry, inflation and the cost of living, energy, economy, data protection. The EU institutions: citizens believe that EP represents EU better then EC. Juncers’ Plan – public money should be used to stimulate private sector investment at EU level; a common energy policy among EU; free trade and investment agreements between the EU and USA ; common European policy on immigration; immigration of people from other EU members. Where are we now? What should be done? The Future of EU?