Karel Schwarzen­berg, born in 1937, has seen many polit­i­cal bound­aries emerge and dis­ap­pear in his life. Schwarzen­berg is root­ed in the whole of Cen­tral Europe and there­fore „bound­less”. In 1989 Schwarzen­berg was award­ed the human Rights Award of the Coun­cil of Europe for his inter­na­tion­al engage­ment for human rights. From 1990 to 1992 he was Czech Chan­cel­lor under Václav Hav­el. Between 2007–2009 and 2010–2013 he was Czech For­eign Min­is­ter and he is still one of the most pop­u­lar politi­cians in the Czech Republic.

He was in Gmunden as an expert at the SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM 2014 and talked about the future of Europe, polit­i­cal bound­aries and par­ties, about which crises are ahead of us and what Europe must do to avoid becom­ing a mean­ing­less penin­su­la of the Asian con­ti­nent. Below tthe inter­view with Karel Schwarzen­berg is summarized.

Turn of an era — the period of peace and prosperity in Europe is over

The upturn over the last 25 years in Europe has been remark­able and it was accom­pa­nied by a time of peace almost entire­ly. But this peri­od is over now. The open vio­la­tion of the law, which Rus­sia com­mit­ted with the annex­a­tion of the Crimea, wiped aside the con­ven­tions that have been large­ly respect­ed in Europe since 1945. In the moment in which a vio­la­tion of law is accept­ed, there will be anoth­er one fol­low­ing soon. Rus­sia has already occu­pied Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia a few years ago — now fol­lowed by the Crimea, and per­haps soon by the east­ern parts of Ukraine.

His­to­ri­ans say that the short 20th Cen­tu­ry last­ed from the year 1914 to the year 1989. „Obvi­ous­ly it’s hap­pen­ing again that the 21st Cen­tu­ry starts in a ’14 year (…)”, Schwarzen­berg said. Since the younger gen­er­a­tion does­n’t know what a war is like in real­i­ty, many politi­cians have devel­oped some kind of „trig­ger hap­pi­ness”, i.e. the readi­ness to pull the trig­ger. One has to take note of this in Europe and start to react ade­quate­ly to it.

Europe and Austria in a crisis of the old political parties

A symp­tom of the cri­sis in Europe is evi­denced by the decline of the major demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties. Again, an era comes to an end. The for­mer­ly dom­i­nant Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Chris­t­ian-Social par­ties are shrink­ing in all coun­tries and new phe­nom­e­na begin to dom­i­nate the polit­i­cal scene — either the old nation­al­ists or some kind of wide-wing pop­ulist par­ties. Why? Because the politi­cians of today have for­got­ten the ideas and roots of their par­ties. They are all some­how open and lib­er­al, but exchange­able and with­out intel­lec­tu­al con­tent for which one could be enthusiastic.

The terms „right” and „left” are los­ing more and more impor­tance and the major ide­olo­gies of the past, will final­ly be a thing of the past soon. At the same time, the dis­tance between „Brus­sels” and the cit­i­zens is increas­ing. There­fore the inter­est of the cit­i­zens in pol­i­tics dis­ap­pears and politi­cians see their work no longer as a ser­vice to their coun­try — which is why the pol­i­tics of today degen­er­ate more and more into a kind of pure inter­est pol­i­cy for one’s own clientele.

The Euro­pean polit­i­cal sys­tem, as it has exist­ed for over 150 years, is com­ing to an end and there is the risk that, because of the absence of real lead­ers in Europe, the call for a strong hand increas­es again. Because after all, the most seri­ous politi­cians are bor­ing com­pared to the new pop­ulists, at least when you look for entertainment.

Is Europe becoming the Venice of the 21th Century?

The era in which Europe could be sure that it can live com­fort­ably under the Amer­i­can umbrel­la, is over. Under the pro­tec­tion of the Unit­ed States, Europe could con­cen­trate on boost­ing its econ­o­my and achieved an unprece­dent­ed pros­per­i­ty for the major­i­ty of its inhab­i­tants. But the Amer­i­can inter­ests are more and more focussing on the Pacif­ic region and Europe is not yet capa­ble to defend itself. It has no com­mon secu­ri­ty and defense pol­i­cy and the dan­gers in and around Europa are ris­ing again. Why should the U.S engage in the Mid­dle East any longer — now that they have become as inde­pen­dent from ener­gy-imports as 100 years ago?

Europe must be „con­sid­ered” in the world again — a com­mon defense pol­i­cy is required for that. It also needs a „new” type of politi­cian: less „house­keep­ers” who just want to obtain the sta­tus quo, but per­son­al­i­ties who want to guide their nations.

How­ev­er, it is just as impor­tant that Europe has to invest more mon­ey in its schools and uni­ver­si­ties. Too few Euro­pean uni­ver­si­ties are among the best of the world. The con­se­quences are already evi­dent: while Europe has export­ed tech­ni­cal patents to the whole world for over 200 years, it has now become a „patents-importer”. This is the fun­da­men­tal threat to the future of Europe; because what are we with­out our knowl­edge? — Only a penin­su­la of the Eurasian con­ti­nent, which is run­ning the risk of shar­ing the fate of Venice. For sev­er­al cen­turies Venice has dom­i­nat­ed the Mediter­ranean — but today it is only inter­est­ing for tourists and not because of its pol­i­tics and econ­o­my. Today we see a Europe which is head­ing inex­orably in the same direction.


  • „The Euro­pean polit­i­cal sys­tem goes to its nat­ur­al end.”
  • „For 200 years we have been patent-exporters, now we are patent-importers.”
  • „We must make Europe con­sid­er­ably in the world.”
  • „Great crises pro­duce per­son­al­i­ties who can man­age them.”
  • „The pur­pose of polit­i­cal lead­ers? They show their nation the way.”
  • „Europe must do some­thing for its own safety.”
  • „We have to invest more in our schools and universities.”

Connecting facors for ACADEMIA SUPERIOR

Points for fur­ther discussion

  • Does Europe have future-proof con­cepts for its secu­ri­ty policy?
  • How can Euro­pean uni­ver­si­ties become „bet­ter”?
  • Could bor­ders in Europe have only an admin­is­tra­tive function?
  • Aggres­sive expan­sion pol­i­cy in Europe
    — Which mis­takes did the Euro­pean pol­i­tics make in the 1930s?
    — What would a fur­ther divi­sion of the Ukraine mean?
  • How will the polit­i­cal par­ty of the future look like?

Tools for development

  • Devel­op a future sce­nario: what would change if Europe would get a com­mon military?
  • Define basic val­ues of a Euro­pean for­eign policy.
  • Define a cat­a­logue: which areas can be decid­ed by the regions in Europe — where is the need for pan-Euro­pean (frame­work-) decisions?