Hittisau – ESI co-organises seminar on confronting authoritarians in Europe

26 September 2023
group discussion
The 2023 Hittisau seminar group discussing the rule of law in Poland. All photos: ESI/Kristof Bender

From 26 to 28 September 2023 ESI organised, together with the and Erste Stiftung, its fourth Hittisau Seminar, gathering a small group of concerned Europeans in the Austrian alpine village of Hittisau. ESI’s Gerald Knaus, John Dalhuisen and Kristof Bender moderated the event and presented relevant ESI research.

The focus of the seminar was on how to confront autocratic movements – in EU members like Poland, Germany and Austria, as well as in candidates countries like Serbia; and how to use and strengthen instruments to defend the European Convention on Human Rights and European law at a time of unprecedented strain. As always in Hittisau, our goal was practical: How can focused writing and advocacy make an impact on policy in the coming 12 months, helping policy makers deal with big challenges to human rights, democracy and peace? What might analysts with connections to policy makers focus on?

The group to discuss these issues included Kori Udovicki, a former deputy prime minister of Serbia now leading the Center for Advanced Economic Studies (CEVES) in Belgrade, journalists Florian Klenk (Falter) and Michael Martens (FAZ) as well as this generation of IWM/Erste FoundationEurope’s Futures fellows: Vladimir Arsenijevic, writer and political activist, Belgrade; Ieva Česnulaitytė, founding head of research and learning at DemocracyNext, The Hague; Ilir Deda, former politician and think tanker, Pristina and Sarajevo; Katy Hayward, professor of political sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast; Kadri Liik, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin; Hanna Shelest, Security Studies Program Director at the Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism and editor-in-chief at Ukraine Analytica, Odessa; and Karolina Wigura, sociologist and journalist, Berlin. They were joined by Ivan Vejvoda, Dino Pasalic and Felix Filnkössl of the IWM’s Europe’s Futures team as co-organisers and Boris Marte and Hedvig Morvai of Erste Foundation which funds the Europe’s Futures programme.

In addition, in a session on the Council of Europe the group was joined by Frank Schwabe, German MP (SPD) and leader of the Group of Socialists, Democrats and Greens in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as well as Günter Schirmer, Head of Department of Legal Affairs and Human Rights at PACE.

session with Florian Klenk
Session with the editor-in-chief of the Austrian weekly Falter, about the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the strength of Austria’s democratic institutions.
walk around Hittisau
Fresh air for fresh thoughts.
discussion on Poland
Boris Marte (Erste Foundation, Vienna), Ivan Vejvoda (IWM Europe’s Futures programme, Vienna), Vladmir Arsenijević (writer, Belgrade) and Katy Hayward (Queen's University, Belfast.
Walk at river in Hittisau
From right to left: Hanna Shelest, Katy Hayward, Kadri Liik, Ieva Česnulaitytė, Ilir Deda, Vlado Arsenijević and Felix Filnkössl.