One of the events accompanying this year’s Forum 2000 conference was the Festival of Democracy, which featured discussions on what freedom and democracy mean for young people in the Czech Republic today. Given the mixed bag of opinions surrounding the current direction of the democratic system in the Czech Republic, I went to the discussion in order to find out more about how democracy is explained to teenagers and what they think of it.
The Forum 2000 conference held under the theme “Democracy: In need of a
critical update?” got underway in Prague on Sunday. The annual three-day
conference, now in its 22nd year, is hosting a wide range of politicians,
philosophers, authors, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers.
Among other topics, discussions will examine current social and economic challenges to democracy, growing populism and nationalism. Forum 2000 is looking to engage the younger generation to share their views on these issues and discuss ways to renew trust in democratic governance.
The Forum 2000 conference held under the motto Strengthening Democracy in
Uncertain Times is due to end in Prague on Tuesday with a closing debate on
what can be done in defence of democracy.
The three-day conference focussed on threats to democracy in the present day such as corruption, organized crime and a rise in populism and extremism. Attention was also devoted to the impact of social networks and the so called post-truth era on democracy.
Former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez warned that functioning democratic political systems had only been maintained in Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand which is roughly 27 percent of the whole world. He said these states had a duty to defend and support democracy around the world.
Democracy is seriously threatened in the present-day world due to a rise in
corruption, organized crime, populism and extremism, participants in the
Forum 2,000 conference concluded in the first panel debate on Monday.
The conference which brings together thinkers from around the globe is also focusing on the impact of the social media on democracy. German political analyst Yasha Mounk pointed out that thanks to social networks extremists have become more voluble and more connected, a process that has fuelled populism in many states.
Former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzáles noted that functional democratic systems had only survived in Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand which is roughly 27 percent of the world.
The 21st Forum 2,000 conference opens in Prague on Sunday. The annual
event, established by the late president Vaclav Havel, brings together
personalities and thinkers from around the world to discuss issues related
to democracy and human rights.
This year’s theme is strengthening democracy in uncertain times and will focus on the impact of social media on democracy, the situation in Turkey and other topics.
Among the participants this year are Albert II, Prince of Monaco and the former Austrian president Heinz Fischer.
The Festival of Democracy, an associated programme of the upcoming Forum 2000 conference, is kicking off in Prague and other Czech cities. In its first full year, the event broadens issues examined at the conference for an even wider audience, adding a cultural component with live music, discussions and film screenings.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka continues his review tour of ministers on Tuesday. It’s the turn of Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek and Minister for Industry and Trade Jan Mládek. Zaorálek came under fire recently when he masterminded a declaration of four top Czech officials ostensibly seeking to calm Chinese anger over a meeting by the Christian Democrat culture minister with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Prague. The declaration was dubbed servile by opposition parties. Zaorálek also likened culture minister Daniel Herman’s action to a Czech meeting with the Sudeten German leader in the 1930s. He later apologised for that remark. Mládek offered to resign ahead of his, eventually unsuccessful, attempt to be elected to the upper house, the Senate, in recent elections. Sobotka has kept him on in the post though appears to be considering a wider Cabinet reshuffle.
Culture Minister Daniel Herman should leave the government, president Miloš Zeman said in an interview for the website Parlamentní listy published on Sunday. Mr Zeman said the culture minister had harmed state interests, referring to his meeting with the Dalai Lama. The president did not rule out that he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka during their meeting on Tuesday. The president has also accused Mr Herman of lying about being threatened not to meet with the Dalai Lama.
China’s ambassador to Prague was called on Thursday the circumstances surrounding Beijing’s last minute ban on agriculture minister Marian Jurečka heading a delegation to the country. The ambassador met with deputy foreign affairs minister Martin Tlapa where the subject was raised. The meeting had been scheduled previously. Christian Democrat Jurečka has been an outspoken backer of party colleague and culture minister Daniel Herman in a recent row over the circumstances of his meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The Czech agriculture delegation was part of an agreed programme aimed at cutting China’s massive trade surplus with the Czech Republic. Deputy minister Tlapa said after the meeting that the ambassador could not give reasons for the ban and apparently did not know them. Attempts will be made to fix future dates for Jurečka's visit.
Though it is two weeks since a visit by the Dalai Lama to Prague, the repercussions continue to be felt on the Czech political scene. In the latest turn of events, the Czech minister of agriculture – whose party colleague received the Tibetan leader – said China had put the kibosh on a visit during which he was to meet two cabinet members in Beijing.