Made in V4

Robert Kiss
The fifth day of the eleventh edition of the Visegrad Summer School saw Robert Kiss Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary to Poland for over five years from 2007 through until 2012 deliver a fascinating lecture titled ‘Decade of Roma inclusion’. When dealing with such a sensitive topic the lecturer would in normal circumstances shy away from confronting the critical issues, however in this instance from the beginning Mr. Kiss set about the subject with a focus and resolve that made for an engaging and fascinating lecture.
Opening the lecture by addressing the issue of Roma inclusion in Europe but particularly in Hungary, Mr. Kiss outlined the struggles that these populations continues to face in society today. Outlining how 8% of the total population of Hungary is made of Roma people, he outlined the difficulties that this minority faces in Hungary today. Citing powerful examples of crime, exclusion and poverty Mr. Kiss set the tone for what would be a powerful and at times upsetting investigation into the plight of this community. Focusing on a wide range of issues, Mr. Kiss outlined the main elements he felt needed examination if this issue was to find adequate resolution. Providing insightful analysis of the subject throughout, Mr. Kiss allowed the participants room to fully comprehend the range of issues discussed which in turn made for a stimulating discussion at the end of the lecture. Participants actively engaged with the content of the subject and those in particular from Hungary strongly debated the differing complexities of the problem all of which was debated in a friendly and thorough manner. Once again the participants of the Visegrad Summer School were treated to a fascinating lecture on a topic that undoubtedly evokes many differing responses. However, for those in attendance the overriding emotion upon leaving the lecture was one of satisfaction at having received such a wonderful insight into a subject that has become one of the more pertinent issues facing Europe at this juncture. A link to the lecture can be found here: Decade of Roma Inclusion
The second lecture of today was given by Florence La Bruyere on the engaging topic of Tolerance building. This lecture took the form of outlining the idea of tolerance and what people’s own perceptions were of this term. Once Ms. La Bruyere had canvassed a range of contrasting opinions on the topic form the audience, she promptly begun the lecture which primarily focused on tolerance in Hungary. She played a video of homeless people from across Hungary volunteering in specific projects free of charge to illustrate that tolerance can be encouraged but the conditions must be there for this to happen. Moving quickly on from this video, it was explained that in Hungary today tolerance remains a serious issue and that the role of the Hungarian government in this area is most important.
Citing examples of the contrast in cases reported of intolerance between Sweden and Hungary, (Sweden had a vastly greater amount of cases reported, while Hungary has few reported cases!), the idea began to emerge that tolerance is an issue that needs to be addressed to a greater degree across Europe if it is truly going to be solved. Citing the work of NGO’s in Hungary who have fought to improve the situation, Amnesty International were mentioned as having heavily lobbied the Hungarian government on a change to the law which would increase the awareness of tolerance in the region. She revealed that the new law which can be classified as half a success will come onto effect on July 1st 2013, will deal with many problems but ultimately can do more. Concluding by stating tolerance is a problem not confined to one area or region but a global issue, Ms La Bruyere opened the floor to questions some of which evoked passionate speeches and led to some interesting remarks from La Bruyere. Certainly eye-opening, this lecture reaffirmed the notion that tolerance is an issue that cannot find resolution easily and only through more unified work and better understanding will this issue find be adequately tackled.
The third lecture of the day came from Borys Tarasyuk and was suitably titled ‘’Eastern Partnership. What Politics?’’ Opening the lecture, Mr. Tarasyuk stated that Ukraine can playa major role in the European Union in the future. He then proceeded to outline the background to the Eastern Partnership Policy which includes six countries from the region including Ukraine. He explained in a thorough manner how the previous European Neighbourhood Policy placed Ukraine alongside North African countries and outlined why the current partnership was the correct approach. Highlighting how only two E.U. members fought for the creation of the Eastern Partnership Policy, Mr. Tarasyuk explained that the E.U. needed to back Ukraine further if it wished to keep it safe from the grasp of Russia. Explaining the complexities of the nations involved in the Eastern Partnership Policy, it was clearly explained to the audience that these internal issues in many instances were affecting actual alignment with the E.U. and therefore these needed to be resolved. Stating that the E.U. was not yet ready for a substantial agreement with Ukraine, Mr. Tarasyuk expressed his hope that the forthcoming Ukrainian elections in October will help move this process forward.
The lecture continued along these lines for the remainder, albeit several difficult and controversial issues were answered honestly and fully by Mr. Tarasyuk. He criticised the lack of E.U. funding for the Eastern Partnership Policy and said that as the Eastern Partnership is a step in the right direction it should be rewarded as such. Focusing on the challenges within Ukraine, he outlined his hope that the elections will be free and fair and with over 33,000 polling stations within Ukraine he acknowledged rather reluctantly that this will be a difficult challenge. Expressing his belief that Ukrainian membership of the European Union would only bring reward to all of Europe he once again forewarned of increasing Russian influence over European policies and argued that Ukraine within the E.U. would be a far better option than Ukraine in the Russian sphere of influence. Drawing his engaging lecture to a conclusion, Mr. Tarasyuk claimed that in ten years time he envisioned Ukraine would be a fully fledged member of the European Union. Using Poland’s entry into the E.U. as an example he said they faced similar obstacles before they were admitted this message of hope drew a warm round of applause from the audience. Upon finishing, Mr. Tarasyuk was inundated with a wide variety of questions covering a range of questions in relation to all of Eastern Europe. Answering each question in detail, he continued along the path of his lecture by giving full and crucially honest answers to each questions and by the end he earned a rapturous round of applause from an appreciative audience.
The final lecture of the day was given by Magdalena Vášáryová on the interesting subject ‘’No limits? On sexuality, culture and society’’. From the beginning of the lecture Ms Vášáryová provided the audience with a wonderful synopsis of the subject and immediately managed to hold the attention of everyone in attendance. This lecture arguably could be described as being the one of the more interesting ones of the first week of the VSS. From its opening it continued along a path of discovery and revelation, in addition to this the style of the lecture varied from others which had gone before it as it utilized aspects of manipulation and agitation to connect with the audience something that hadn’t been present in any of the lectures up until that juncture. Using history as a means of emphasizing her key points, Ms Vášáryová outlined the struggles that men but in particular woman have endured over time to become equals in society. Using emotive examples to highlight her key points, she explained how woman were often treated as minorities and not afforded the same opportunities as men throughout time. Perhaps her most memorable example in this regard came when she spoke of Gov. Schwarzenegger in California; she compared his election and the chances of a woman of similar stature Jane Fonda being elected in similar circumstances. She concluded the chances were slim if impossible and therefore she used a modern example to illustrate an age old problem inequality between men and woman in society.
Aside from this she spoke of the impact Communism had on societies across Eastern Europe. She outlined how many traditions had lapsed during this period and said that the communist countries were always essentially trying to catch up with the West during this period. She explained how during this period if a person received the Noble prize they could not accept it due to the restrictions involved. However, this lecture was mainly delivered in a positive manner, and the 1960s in America was discussed in detail where several examples of peoples new found attitudes to life were explained and the significance that their actions would have on future generations was explored in detail. Drawing her lecture to a close on a positive note, she explained how society today is a lot more open and willing to allow more freedoms than had previously been the case. However, in saying this she still highlighted the divides that still plague society today and hoped that these will be resolved to the betterment of people all across the globe. Facilitating a wide ranging and intense debate, Ms Vášáryová allowed the participants to fully express their own opinions on the subject which led to some polarizing perspectives on the topics raised during the lecture. Finishing with a message of positivity Ms Vášáryová received a rapturous applause from the crowd who were clearly delighted to have had the opportunity to spend some time listening to such an engaging and fascinating subject.