Democracy Under Stress: Time to Get Out of the Comfort Zone!
The unspeakable has eventually struck our city, too. The vile attack against a Berlin Christmas market has shaken us to the core. Our heartfelt sympathies are with those who have lost their lives or their loved ones. Despite our grief, however, we stand determined not to have our way of life crushed by anyone. We are glad to see Berlin’s Christmas markets open again already some days after the catastrophic evening. “Our response to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, yet not even more naiveté. We owe this to the victims.” Those words spoken after by Norway’s then prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in the aftermath of the 2011 Utøya and Oslo attacks remain as true today as ever.
It hardly comes as a surprise that the leaders of an increasingly right-wing radical AfD have sought to draw political gain from horror within hours of the attack. Will their strategy of fear-mongering and agitation come to fruition? To say the least, Germany’s right-wing populists have felt a rising tide as their political counterparts in countries as Poland, Hungary or France have achieved more and more victories. Recently, liberal democracy has found itself under a tightening siege all over the globe. This trend must alarm all Progressives – regardless of the diverse political currents they identify with, respectively.
Therefore, our motto for upcoming 2017 should be obvious: let us get out of the comfort zone! Let us fight the populist arsonists with democratic politics. Let us find ways to fulfil once again the promises of upward mobility, prosperity and equal opportunity for all. Let us have a fair and open debate about whether and how our democratic institutions and processes should be renewed. Let us raise wide awareness for the historically unique achievement that is our liberal democracy.
To achieve these goals, Das Progressive Zentrum is willing to do its share in 2017 at least as well as it did in 2016. Over the last 12 months our operative team has grown by one third. In a total of 12 countries, we have worked with 18 partner organisations and dozens of speakers from Germany, Europe and America to organise an overall 450 hours of events most diverse. We will get straight back to work after the holidays – with all our energy and in close cooperation with you!
We will start the next year with a highly relevant and controversial debate to which extent austerity reinforces the State as the key player in society. Within this context, Lukas Haffert from University Zürich will present its new published book “Die schwarze Null. Über die Schattenseite ausgeglichener Haushalte” on 16 January 2017. Save the date!
But first things first. Today we would like to wish you all peaceful holidays and a happy New Year – a year with many crossroads ahead, both politically and societally. It will be up to all of us to find the right way!
Dominic Schwickert, Tobias Dürr, Michael Miebach und Katarina Niewiedzial Managing Director and Executive Board
Coming from Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France or Germany - in our Dialogue On Europe-project young and committed Europeans work on progressive policy recommendations on major challenges and questions on the future of the EU. After accomplishing our successful European Town Hall-Meetings (Video) the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave the starting signal for the second project phase on June 28, 2016 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Selected young pioneers develop in transnational Thinking Labs their policy recommendations for the topics “Migration & Integration”, “Social Cohesion”, “Populism” and “Sustainable Growth”. Insights on the intermediate results were given on the European Thinking Lab Summit end of November 2016 in Lisbon, carried out in cooperation with the Guerrilla Foundation and the Institute of Public Policy.
Last but not least, the political successes of Trump, Le Pen, Hofer, Orban and Petry show: populists within and outside of Europe are growing - the pro-European fundamental consensus is crumbling. Against this background we initialized as a part of the program “living democracy” the project Countering Populism and Political Disaffection in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. In the upcoming months we will develop new ideas and strategies towards strengthening our liberal democracy.
The first Roundtable of our new discussion series was taking place on 7 December 2016, with impulses from renowned international experts such as José Ramón Montero (University of Madrid), Paul Taggart (University of Sussex), Susan Neiman (Einstein Forum, Potsdam), Marc-Olivier Padis (Terra Nova, Paris), Giuliano da Empoli (Volta, Rome) as well as Sophie Gaston (Demos, London, see picture above)
In our project "TruLies: The Truth about Lies on Europe", we deconstruct populist and eurosceptic claims by fact checking them. In the fields of "Migration and Refugees", "Monetary and Financial Policy" and "European Democracy", we analyse myths, false allegations and prejudices against the European Union. With the help of factsheets, which aim at an objective assessment and contextualization of the statements, we want to bring the emotionalized discourse about issues such as migration and the Eurozone to a more rational level. In addition, we discuss the project results in different formats, such as expert workshops and lunch talks, among others. With experts and experts such as Manuel Sarrazin and Michael Roth. On our TruLies blog, you will find contributions that examine populist parties and developments across Europe from AfD to UKIP, and take a look at past and future elections.
The project is accomplished in cooperation with:
Public Utilities of the Future
What kind of roles and tasks do public utilities have in a successful energy revolution? In cooperation with the Trade Federations (VKU) and several further partner organizations we want to discuss the challenges and chances of municipal utility companies, in order to develop sustainable scenarios. At our opening event on 7 November 2016, Timm Fuchs (alderman of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities) and Michael Wübbels (Deputy Managing Director of VKU) gave us some proposals on how energy supply can be reconstructed in a more future-oriented manner.
The project is accomplished in cooperation with:
Selected events and articles of the last months
"Europe & the World"
In the last months the emphasis of our agenda topic “Europe & the World” lay on political debates and actors of Poland. For example at the:
European Town Hall Meeting in Warsaw on 7 December 2016: The German-Polish bilateral talk expanded the scope of DIALOGUE ON EUROPE towards an Eastern European perspective in terms of civil society and the importance of culture in International Relations for a European integration.
German-Polish Seminar in Wrocław on 20/21 October 2016: Together with Polish and German representatives of civil society and sciences, challenges and chances of a changing political culture in Europe were discussed.
German-Polish Roundtable in Berlin on 11 October 2016: On the occasion of recent political developments in Poland, the discussion was concentrating on questions of national and European identities, the future of the German-Polish relations as well as on the successful arrangement of European integration.
You can find here selected articles of the event series. These event series have been organised in cooperation among others with the following partners:
For discussions on European politics such as the Brexit Referendum, the political future of Europe and the US election you follow this link.
"Future of Democracy"
Selection of events:
Roundtable “On the Value of Freedom in Turbulent Times” on 3 November 2016 in Berlin dealing with the central question: “What is happening with freedom in times of growing populism and authoritarian forces?” On the background of this question and the publication of the book „Qualitative Freiheit. Selbstbestimmung in weltbürgerlicher Verantwortung“ we hosted a discussion round with the author Claus Dierksmeier (Director of Weltethos Institute, Tübingen University) as a generator of inputs as well as Ralf Fücks (Head of Heinrich Böll Foundation) and Oliver Schmolke (Department Head of the Federal Ministry of Economics) as discussants.
Highly recommended articles on populism, the future of democracy in Europe as well as a call for more passion in politics can be found here.
Discussion round on social market economy on 15 September and 24 November 2016 in Berlin: Within the framework of the project “Inclusive Growths” political thinkers gather regularly, to discuss challenges and potentials of social market economy in a globalized and digital society. The event was accomplished in cooperation with:
Roundtable “After the Storm – Review of US elections and lessons for Europe’s 2017 campaigns” on 17 November 2016 in Berlin: At this post-election discussion round, results of the US presidential election were analyzed under consideration of several upcoming elections in Europe in 2017. A special focus was given on the elaboration of effective strategies, in order to antagonize populist rhetoric in the political communication of election campaigns. The event was accomplished in cooperation with:
Roundtable “How to Win Elections – Lessons from France” on 4/5 October 2016 in Berlin: The French political adviser Guillaume Liegey gave us some insights of his work as a campaigner and discussed with Heiko Kretschmer (Managing Director Johanssen+Kretschmer) and Robert Heinrich (Head of PR, Bündnis 90/die GRÜNEN) on how right-wing populist trends should be faced in election campaigns and how voter participation can be enhanced.
An outlook on the election year 2017 in Europe as well as expert opinions on the strategies used in the US election campaigns can be found here.
"Life & Work"
Selection of events:
Roundtable “The Digital Revolution and the Future of Work: Policies and Politics” on 15 September 2016 in Berlin: Discussion round with Steven Hill (Columnist and Holtzbrinck Fellow, American Academy Berlin), Philipp Steinberg (Head of the Department, Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy) and Petra Pinzler (ZEIT-correspondent and author). Political strategies and concepts with regard of digital revolution and its meaning for the constitution of life and work were discussed.
Event series “Women in Politics”: The younger network of Das Progressive Zentrum discussed in its fourth “Werftgespräch” on 31 August 2016 the possible reasons, why there is still a lack of female representation in executive positions. The reconciliation of family and work but also the meaning of different management cultures were discussed. The networking of young women and the debate on gender equality were continued within the scope of the first Female Future Forum on 5 and 6 November 2016 in cooperation with the young liberals.
Selected articles, such as ideas for reshaping the labour market as well as for promoting women in politics, can be found here.
New People at Das Progressive Zentrum
Ann Cathrin Riedel
Social Media Manager
Social Media Presence
For our projects coming up in 2017 we are currently hiring for the following positions:
Project Manager for the agenda topic “Future of Democracy” (at least 3 years of professional experience, from 1 February 2017 on, full or part time)
Project Assistance for the agenda topic “Future of Democracy” (at least completed B.A. degree, from 1 February 2017 on, full or part time)
Editor (at least 2 years of professional experience, from 1 February 2017 on, full or part time, journalistic background is preferred)
(Student) Assistant for technical support and IT management (from 1 February 2017 on, 8 till 15 hours/week)
Intern (from 1 April 2017 on, for three months, full time)
Please take into account that all job descriptions are written in German. We look forward to receiving your application! Please send your documents to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support our non-profit organisation!
Your donation helps us to continue our political work and to keep on promoting progressive ideas! Please transfer your donation to Das Progressive Zentrum at Deutsche Bank, IBAN: DE11100700240129382800. In return to your assignment we will issue you a donation receipt.