Václav Havel's contested legacy in Central Europe

Havel picture in Wenceslas Square in Prague

Václav Havel's contested legacy in Central Europe

Tuesday, 26 October 2021 - 5:00pm
Zoom webinar
Jacques Rupnik (Sciences Po, Paris)
Michal Šimečka (Renew Europe; European Parliament)
Jessie Barton Hronešová (UNC Chapel Hill)
Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
European Studies Seminar

Václav Havel was a towering figure of Central Europe's transition from dictatorship to democracy. As we approach the 10th anniversary of his death in December 2011, this panel considers his contested legacy. Nationalist populists across the region challenge it, but others, such as the president of Slovakia, youth protesters in the Czech Republic and the European Commissioner responsible for the rule of law, draw upon it. How stands his legacy today?

Jacques Rupnik has been an advisor to the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel (1990-1992) and continued to work with him after that. He is a member of the board of the Vaclav Havel presidential library in Prague. Among the various positions held: advisor to the European Commission 2007 - 2013. Member of the scientific council of the Prague Institute of International Relations (2007-2017). Member of the board of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in The Hague (2010-2017). Member of the board of directors of the European Partnership for Democracy in Brussels (2008-2013). Member of the Research Council of the International Forum for Democracy Studies in Washington (since 2013). He has been a visiting Professor in several European universities and in the Department of Government, (2006) at Harvard University where he was Senior Fellow at the Davis Center (2008) and at the Center for European Studies (2011, 2016).

Michal Šimečka is a Slovak politician, journalist, researcher, and a Member of the European Parliament since 2019. He is the vice president, and one of the founding members, of the liberal party Progressive Slovakia, having successfully led the party's candidate list in the 2019 elections, where they received the highest percentage of the national vote. In February 2020, Šimečka was elected as vice president of the liberal fraction Renew Europe. In parliament, Šimečka serves on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In addition to his committee assignments, he is part of the parliament's delegations to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee and to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. He is also a member of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights. In November 2019, Šimečka was elected rapporteur on the establishment of an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights.[7] In October 2020, he presented his proposal for a mechanism combining several tools which monitor the respect of rule of law and European values, which received majority support in the European Parliament. Šimečka argued that the EU should do more to address the abuse of EU funding, writing that "an implicit bargain between net contributors and net recipients – we pay for market access, you are free to abuse funds" should end.

Jessie Barton Hronešová is the Marie Curie Fellow at UNC Chapel Hill, and Associate Fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House.

Jessie previously worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Sarajevo and Belgrade.

She has authored several studies on identity politics including Post-War Ethno-National Identities of Young People in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Peter Lang, 2012, and a recent monograph on transitional justice The Struggle for Redress: Victim Capital in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palgrave, 2020.

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