Rethinking Europe

The OLF is monitoring and seeks to exert a positive influence on the changing idea of Europe and the current EU situation by hosting intellectual discussions, sharing conceptual insights and valuing a culture of dialogue. The OLF maintains its traditional cooperation with the academic community and other partners, especially young people. It also provides an independent analysis of politics and sociocultural phenomena, and discusses current affairs and prospects for the future of Europe.

Open Satyrical Conversations
Two prominent public figures: philosopher, journalist, political analyst, social media figure Paulius Gritėnas and lawyer, tv writer Andrius Zimaitis held the discussions in small regional towns of Lithuania (Švenčionys, Tauragė, Alytus, Kėdainiai). In order to make it even more fun other famous people were invited to discuss with them. It was actors and TV hosts Giedrius Savickas and Mantas Stonkus, TV host, producer, writer Rytis Zemkauskas, Vilnius institute for policy analysis media programs director Donatas Puslys, TV writer and author of famous satirical info-show Haroldas Mackevičius. These conversations invite people to look from different and more satirical perspective to the life and people that surrounds them. Satire gives broad opportunities to reflect current political situation, psychological sociological spirit of society. The duet of moderators was provoking their famous guests for entertaining and filled with self-irony talks about the Europes influence for Lithuania and vice versa.

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European Solutions Lab
  In the times of Euroscepticism, there is a need for improved spaces for political debates linking policy-makers and citizens, rebuilding trust and creating new ‘bottom up’ based modes of collaboration. The project “European solutions lab” (EU-LAB) developed by a consortium linked to the organizers of democracy festivals across Baltic States and Belgium aims at facilitating the engagement of citizens from partner countries into the local, national and European policy-making processes. The project encourages bottom-up based modes of collaboration between citizens and the policy-makers. Being an international project, “European Solutions Lab” was also implemented in project partners’ countries – Latvia, Estonia and Belgium. The project events focused on European issues, future of Europe and participation took place during the Latvian democracy festival LAMPA, Estonian conversation festival ARVAMUFESTIVAL and European conversation festival JUBEL in Belgium. As a leading organization, the OLF was responsible for the coordination of common communication activities in the project. You can read more about these events here. Lithuanian events: The afternoon of open conversations „Open City“ was organized on 1st May 2019 in the small city of Kėdainiai by Open Lithuania Foundation in cooperation with informal group „Resilient Society Kėdainiai“ and Kėdainiai Students‘ Council. The afternoon was aimed to provide a space for open and engaging discussions about the Europe, city, its citizens, challenges they are facing and the ways how these challenges can be dealt. One of the objectives was to bring distant Europe-related issues closer to the local context and explore how European dimension can be displayed in the life of small local community. Short presentations on current European challenges from the perspective of Lithuania (Linas Kojala); arranging public urban spaces according the needs of its people (Jekaterina Lavrinec); power of humour combating authoritaric regimes (Donatas Puslys) were offered for the citizens that took part in the event. Many thoughts and reactions inspired by the presentations were shared and discussed at the open conversations‘ circles moderated by the members of local school students‘ council: participants had an opportunity to meet the speakers, ask questions, suggest their insights. The most interesting moments of the discussions were captured by graphic facilitator and shared on the big screen. The activity was finalised by the satyrical discussion „In the middle of Europe“ with one of the authors of the famous satyrical TV info-show Haroldas Mackevičius. Photo Video During discussion festival “Butent!” (6-7th September 2019) OLF initiated 4 events related to the European challenges and citizen participation in the decision making processes: “How much power do I have in city decision making?” – a discussion on lack of dialogue between local communities and municipalities. The discussion brought together Dr. Jekaterina Lavrinec (an expert in urban anthropology), Saulius Dambrauskas (a lawyer, who defends public good), Povilas Poderskis (the head of Vilnius municipality administration), Vita Geluniene and Ed Carroll (representatives of Sanciai neighborhood, who organized many protests against unjustified urban development). “Citizens assemblies – a unicorn in deliberative democracy” – a discussion about innovative ways to involve citizens in urban, national decision making and policy deliberations. Dr. Marcin Gerwin – a specialist in sustainable development and deliberative democracy, coordinator of citizens’ assembly initiative in Gdansk (Poland) and Noelle O’ Connell – executive director of European Movement Ireland discussed about citizens’ assemblies, their implementation peculiarities and lessons learnt. “I’ve emigrated accidentally” – an interactive, dynamic theatre performance about experiences of being an immigrant in Western Europe from the former Soviet bloc country. The performance was created and acted by professional storyteller Milda Varnauskaite. “Allowance dependents, women and Polish: debating controversial issues” – dialogue-oriented discussion with participants through forum theatre performances on controversial issues. Mini-situations were performed by professional actors Paulius Tamole, Augustė Pociūtė, Oskar Vygonovski and Povilas Adomaitis. Festival visitors also were invited to join the act and offer their perspectives for the solutions of the controversial situations. Each situation sparked lively discussions and reflections with public. Project coordinator: Open Lithuania Foundation Partners: Foundation for an Open Society DOTS (Latvia) fosters creation of an environment, process, and dialogue for an open society in Latvia, helping to seed ideas and conceive solutions since 1992. Jubel – European Conversation Festival (Belgium) focuses on piloting program ideas in public space, evaluating them, refining them, and reporting back in order to hand over the long term development to the existing, competent actors, such as municipalities, the Brussels Region or the European Institutions who have a legitimacy to assure the durability on the long term. Open Estonia Foundation (Estonia) runs initiatives that help to increase and enhance openness in decision making, boost a meaningful dialogue across the society and develop a sustainable and viable civil society. The project is co-funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme.

Rethinking the democratic future: Lessons from the 20th century
Following 30 years since the popular uprising in 1989 that eventually led to reunification of Europe, we are facing a new crisis: freedom, self-rule, unified Europe – the ideas that mobilized the democratic revolutions are in peril. In this political climate, 1989 is becoming both – an inspiration as well as a point of division. 1989 symbolizes the struggle for freedom and self-rule all around the world: from the 2014 Maidan Revolution in Ukrainian to 2019 civil protests in Hong Kong. In the region, the memory of 1989 is becoming increasingly political, with the symbols of Velvet Revolution employed in protests in Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia as a sign of recommitment to the ideals of 1989. At the same time, there is increasing sense of dissatisfaction with the promises of freedom, self-rule and justice, that activated and solidarized people around 1989. Diverse meaning placed in 1989 symbolizes the collision between different visions of political future. The event “The future of Europe: why 1989 matters today?” is aimed at reconceptualizing 1989 and will focus on the meaning of 1989 for today and invites to ask, if the promises of the 1989 were realized, do we need to rebound ourselves by this promise?  And how to stand up for the ideas and memory of 1989 in new, 21st century Europe? 

Through diverse type of activities (study visits, international public debates, non-formal education) and targeted yet wide dissemination of results the project will propose meaningful political participation through learning from the democratic revolutions in digital age. Implemented by 3 partners covering 4 countries (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Hungary) with wide regional reach to European countries (extending the scope up to 7 countries through international events). The project will create synergy through wide partnership of cultural/political journals, civil society organizations, think-tanks and academics, involving up to 250 -330 people directly, including young people. Indirectly through digital and print platforms with wide regional reach it will reach 30 000 people. Project partners: Res Publica Foundation  (a Warsaw-based publishing house and a think-tank) and  the Jan Nowak-Jezioranski College of Eastern Europe in Wroclaw (KEW)

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