Europe on the Move


Civil society has begun to fight, but it must be encouraged to move even further. Civil society initiatives have become more effective than governments, and not only in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In its ancient Greek origin, democracy was thought of as an identity, albeit selective, between citizens and politics. The agora functioned, without distinction, between those who were politically active. In today’s representative democracies, there are voters (= citizens) on one side and institutions, such as parties, chambers, etc., on the other.

To put it openly and in broad terms: civil society in various countries has recently achieved more than its respective governments, in terms of handling the current crises. While the strengthening of civil society is a positive development, governments and administrations are still needed in order to move forward sustainably. What has been left of the European vision? Recent developments in the EU member states have been very dangerous. More and more parties have been founded, or are gaining in strength, to work against Europe, against global responsibility, and against active engagement with strengthening the EU. Instead they have considerably increased their aggressiveness against ‘the others’. This is a danger, not only for the European Union but for democracy. Better politics are desperately needed. As Jacques Delors put it in October 2010, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of German unification: it is necessary to give Europe a soul. By no means did he mean this in a spiritual way; he was concerned with empathy and compassion. As it turns out, Southeastern Europe might play a crucial role in defining Europe’s common future, in all its relations to the rest of the world.

Erhard Busek at the Berlin Conference 2004 | Photo: A Soul for Europe

Erhard Busek is Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe in Vienna. He was Vice-Chancellor of Austria between 1991 and 1995. From January 2002 until June 2008 he served as Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Correspond directly with the Author via

Read more about the A Soul For Europe Pre-Conference debate here.