CEU Launches Frontiers of Democracy Initiative

CEU launched Frontiers of Democracy, an initiative that aims to promote open debate, discussion, and exchange of ideas with a diversity of views about the nature of democracy, on Sept. 18. 

The concept of democracy, in particular as it has developed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, is now being contested in many parts of the world. CEU was founded in 1991 to study what makes an open society, and to prepare leaders and citizens for democratic societies in the post-communist era. Today its mission is to study democracy, including the imperfections of democracies around the world, and to educate academics, professionals, thought leaders and critically minded citizens about the principles of open society.

CEU President and Rector John Shattuck introduces Gerald Knaus. Photo: CEU/Lazar Todoroff.

“We aim to examine the virtues and faults of constitutional democracy, to determine what its meaning is in today's complex world,” said CEU President and Rector John Shattuck at the inaugural event Sept. 18 while introducing speaker Gerald Knaus, founding chairman of the European Stability Initiative. "This is at the heart of what CEU has been doing for 24 years."

Frontiers of Democracy is a far-reaching initiative encompassing a series of conferences, debates and other events that will engage scholars and practitioners, domestic and international government officials, as well as students from the Central European region and beyond in a broad and open discussion from many perspectives about the meaning and future of democracy. It will explore the challenges to basic democratic principles such as freedom of speech, assembly and the media, a market economy, the rule of law, the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, protection of minorities, support of civil society, and the intellectual freedom of universities and cultural institutions.

Gerald Knaus, founder of the European Stability Initiative. Photo: CEU/Lazar Todoroff.

"We need to define clearly what is not a democracy, what are not free and fair elections, what is a political prisoner, what is a dissident," Knaus said in his lecture, "The Rhetoric of Reaction - Pessimism, Complacency and Newspeak in 2014," hosted by the School of Public Policy at CEU. "And we need to tell the stories. Here at CEU we have the stories, the archives, of the dissidents. This university is the right place to tell the story."

Professor John Dunn of Cambridge University. Photo: CEU/Lazar Todoroff.

The launch of Frontiers of Democracy continued Sept. 19 with a keynote address by John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory at King's College, Cambridge University: "Toleration, Trust and the Travails of Living Together Globally," hosted by CEU's Department of History as part of the Third International Conference of the European Society for the History of Political Thought.

President and Rector John Shattuck also described the initiative to the CEU community at the University's 24th Annual Opening Ceremony the same day. Download his address below.