This week's editor

Mariam Ali

Mariam Ali is Associate Editor for openDemocracy's Arab Awakening page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Philosophy as a model of active and responsible life

The task of philosophy then becomes an opportunity to dialogue. We have to risk being in search of what joins us in our dissimilarity. 

Political dissidence as care for the soul: reflections on Jan Patočka

In the experience and activity of political dissidence, care for the soul realized itself through denying the falsehoods imposed by the authorities and exalting truth above any imposed scheme.

Charter 77 and the “solidarity of the shaken”

The individual should learn to expose himself to the risk of giving up his egoistic prerogatives, in order to build a new form of community.

Heretical Europe: Jan Patočka as symbol of dissident contingency

Post-Europe, for Patočka, must be acutely aware of its own contingency even when it proclaims (above all when it proclaims) the sanctity of universal principles.

The crisis of means without ends: two forms of rationality in the foundations of Europe

Patočka calls for a renewed effort in Europe today to reestablish some kind of equilibrium between “the rationality of means” and “the rationality of ends”.

Introducing three old ideas for a new Europe: flourishing, solidarity and care for the soul

These ideas--care for the soul, flourishing, solidarity--are ideas that according to Jan Patočka could be useful for reinterpreting our political space, in the face of a crisis which is shattering it.

Life after Europe: the Post-Europe Project

The joint editors of Europe – the very idea introduce the next stage of their project – a discussion inspired by the Czech philosopher and political dissident Jan Patočka. An invitation to discussion.

State surveillance in the Czech Republic

The Czech state doesn't have the capacities to develop a mass scale internet surveillance programme – but resorts to more 'old school' surveillance methods. From our 'Joining the dots on state surveillance in Europeseries.

Notes from the Prague underground, part 2

Part 2 of an interview around Roger Scruton's new novel, Underground Notes. The contrast between Prague in the early 1980s and Washington in the late 2000s is the backdrop for a reflection on the nature of love, freedom and necessity

Notes from the Prague underground, part 1

Part 1 of an interview around Roger Scruton's new novel, Underground Notes. Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s is the backdrop for an exploration of a conservative existentialism. 

A reflection on Czech Euroscepticism before the EU elections

Euroscepticism seems to be a constant in the Czech political landscape. How will this reluctance toward the EU affect the upcoming European elections? Euro elections landscape, 2014.

Britain’s Gypsy moral paranoia

If only the politicians and journalists would try to understand a bit more not only the lives of Roma migrants, but also the poverty conditions and structural inequalities in which so many different groups of people live in Britain today.  

Who holds power after the Czech elections?

The ANO party of billionaire Andrej Babis came a close second in last month's Czech elections. Is the political life of the Czech Republic about to be berlusconised?

Post-election Prague: a new Czech EU policy?

For the EU, the Czech Republic has long been Britain's partner in trouble. But the victory of a more Europe-friendly left in the recent elections might signal a radical new turn for Czech foreign policy.

A Czech election with consequences

With a number of new parties seeking to win seats and an anticipated victory of the left, the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic might lead to the biggest change in the country's political map since the 1989 revolution.

Program, May 2013

Programme of the Prague Press Forum 2013  

Sunday 12 May 

Evening, 20.00 

Dinner   (get-together) 

Venue: Strahov, Klasterni restaurace, Strahovske nadvori 302, Prague 1 


Monday 13 May 

Czech Republic: when a political scandal is a sign of better times

In June, PM Petr Necas and his cabinet resigned after a major political scandal. In spite of the current uncertainty and power play between political parties, may this also be a sign that democratic accountability and the rule of law have finally come to the young republic?

China may be far away but Foxconn is on our doorstep

Drawing on support from permissive governments, multinational manufacturer Foxconn has set up shop in Central Europe. Yet the transitory nature of the many migrant workers employed in these factories will have serious consequences for the future of labour in Europe.

Russian vodka and Czech crown jewels

Despite his vow to uplift Czech political life, new president Milos Zeman made no excuses for his 'tired and emotional' appearance at a highly symbolic state event. His call for closer ties with Russia have raised further concerns in a traditionally anti-Russian society.

EU flag over Prague Castle

Milos Zeman, the new president of the Czech Republic, has clearly distanced himself from the Eurosceptic views of his predecessor. Yet, a recent standoff with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows unexpected tension over foreign policy might be just around the corner.

Reconstructing the Czech state

While clientelism, corruption and nepotism are still an ailing element of post-communist political reality in the Czech Republic, a new civic initiative seeks to bring more transparency and accountability to the Czech state. Can it succeed?

Czech presidential vote: a society divided

This Saturday's election saw the victory of former PM Milos Zeman over current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The duel between a decried populist and an old-school aristocrat revealed a division previously unseen in modern Czech society.

After the election, Czech political transformation is not over yet

On Saturday, the Czechs elected Miloš Zeman, an important figure of the democratic transition of the 1990s, to be their new president. Although this role is mostly a symbolic one, expectations were high for a change in public policy. Are Czech voters bound to be disappointed?

Czech nuclear power in the shadow of geopolitics

The upgrade of Temelin, a nuclear power station, has become the backdrop of a power struggle between the Unites States and Russia. Worryingly, a discussion on Czech energy policy is being silenced by the competition of foreign strategic interests.

There and back again? Media freedom and autonomy in Central and Eastern Europe

Collusion between the press and politicians is not confined to western Europe. Central and Eastern European countries are also plagued by their own mini-Murdochs – and in these more fragile democracies, they represent an even bigger threat.

What to expect from the Czech presidential election

For the first time in their history, Czech citizens will directly elect their president next year, to replace the notoriously Eurosceptic incumbent Vaclav Klaus. The stakes are high in this election, for it will be a large-scale stress test for Czech democracy and European integration in Central Europe.

Failing Roma, again

Roma need to become respected but also responsible citizens in their own countries. There are solutions. But none of those solutions are immediate or cheap.

A tableau for Václav Havel

Vaclav Havel

Tjebbe van Tijen presents a montage of graffiti and photographs in honour of Václav Havel

‘Mr former Havel': the kind of politician we need

Warm memories pay tribute to Vaclav Havel who died today

Milan Kundera and the Invisible Tribunal

A recurring idea in the work of Milan Kundera is that the spirit of totalitarianism lives on in our mass media. In a world without privacy, will we all be perpetually on trial?

East European Geographobia

There are particularities of fear in a post-communist Europe bewildered by the demands of neoliberalism, which also tap into a legacy of aversion matured during Communism.

Are media relations in central and eastern Europe being Berlusconised?

The ideal of business, media and political separation is never fully achieved. But the trend in Central and Eastern Europe seems to be towards a worrying degradation. A podcast conversation with accompanying presentation.

Science funding: what would Patocka say?

The philosopher Jan Patočka is something of a national hero in the Czech Republic, and deservedly so. A teacher of Vaclav Havel, he was, in addition to one of the most important Central-European thinkers of the twentieth century, a martyr to the struggle for freedom in the Czech Republic during Communist rule. In 1977, at the age of 70, he died from a brain haemorrhage after a prolonged police interrogation.

South East Asia’s ‘most wanted’ killed in raid

Noordin Mohammed Top, one of the most wanted terrorists in South East Asia was killed this morning in a raid on a militant hideout in central Java, Indonesian officials claimed. The raid, which resulted in the deaths of Top and three associates, followed a nine-hour siege. Top was the Malaysian born head of a violent splinter group of the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle. Sign up to receive toD's daily security briefings via email by clicking here

The ToD verdict: Since its establishment over two decades ago, JI had grown to include cells across South East Asia - most notably in Indonesia, the south Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. JI aims to create a united Islamic state across Muslim South East Asia and is suspected of being responsible for a string of bombings, including the Bali bombings seven years ago that claimed 202 lives.

Top and his followers were believed by analysts to have increasingly alienated themselves from the mainstream JI, who are thought to be adopting a less violent approach. Top and his splinter group, thought to be affiliated to al Qaeda, have taken a more violent path and are consequently suspected of being responsible for the Jakarta hotel bombings in July.

The July bombings renewed the resolve amongst leaders of ASEAN, many of whose countries face significant threats, to tackle Islamist violence in the region. Thailand and the Philippines in particular have seen growing insurgencies and attacks in the Philippines in July were thought to bear the hallmarks of JI. The news of Top's death will consequently come as a relief to many, but whether the extremist wing of JI will die with him is, as yet, unknown.

Mogadishu AU base hit

An African Union base was the target of two bombs this morning, leaving at least six wounded. Witnesses say that the blasts were caused by two suicide car bombs. Reports that the bombing was a retaliation for the US strike which killed a prominent al Shabaab member on Monday may underwrite fears of the attack causing further destabilisation. Concerns had been voiced all week about the effect of the US strike - one of the first direct military interventions in Somalia by the US since its withdrawal from the country in 1994 - with some suggesting that it will cause a rift between the Somali TNG and the US. A dispute over US tactics and influence in Somalia was made open today after the UN's special representative in Somalia challenged the US position on the possibility of talks with al Shabaab.

Civilians killed in Yemen air strike

At least 80 civilians, mostly women and children, were reported dead on Wednesday afternoon after a refugee camp in Amran governorate was targeted by a Yemeni Army strike in the north of the country. Witnesses and the military claimed rebels were hiding among the displaced people but Human Rights Watch have called for an investigation into the strike. The month long campaign, the latest in six ‘rounds' of fighting between the government and Houthi rebels in a conflict that has been ongoing since 2004, has left around 150,000 people displaced and living in poor conditions. The UN has predicted a humanitarian disaster in the country for some time, but recent appeals for funds have gone largely unheard.

Large blast targets NATO in Kabul

A suicide car bombing close to the US Embassy in Kabul today killed at least ten civilians, in addition to six of the Italian NATO troops it ostensibly targeted, and injured many more. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the high-profile attack which they claim demonstrates their ability to target coalition forces anywhere in the country.

The explosion comes a day after President Karzai dismissed any allegations of fraud on a significant scale. His campaign office had reacted angrily to the EU Election Observation Mission assessment of the extent of the fraud, but Karzai promised to abide by the results of any investigation. His assurances may be an attempt to avert possible protests, which may provide an additional target, as well as posing a security risk of their own. The Taliban has stepped up attacks in the Afghan capital, previously seen as a relatively safe area of the country, with today's blast the fourth major attack in five weeks.

Honduras overlooked in independence celebrations as sanctions discussed

The ‘Torch of Freedom' that travelled across the Central American states to celebrate their 188th anniversary of independence did not pass through Honduras as concerns about the political crisis in the country mount. Central American governments have refrained from recognising the current Honduran administration, which took power following a coup in June.

At talks to discuss possible sanctions on Wednesday, the EU denounced ‘ongoing constitutional violations' and expressed concern at ongoing human rights abuses and the administration's unwillingness to participate in talks which could see the peaceful return of ousted President Zelaya. Spain has already blocked ten members of the new Honduran administration from travel to the country and wants the application of an EU-wide ban. Current sanctions in place include the suspension of budget support to the country.

Obama scraps plans for European missile shield

Plans for the controversial US missile shield that was set to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic are likely to be scrapped today. The missiles were nominally intended to prevent a long-range strike by Iran, although the Putin administration, among others, suspected Russia to be the target. While the US still fears Iran could build a nuclear weapon, it now doubts its ability to develop such a long-range missile and claims the planned interceptors are not necessary for its defence.

Poland has requested that the US should stand by its promise of assistance, which the country valued as a measure of strategic independence from its former-overlords in Moscow. Russia, by contrast, is likely to welcome the news, having repeatedly denounced US plans as an attempt at encirclement and requested their termination.  There was further evidence of a possible warming of relations between Russia and the US after Medvedev yesterday announced he would consider sanctions against Iran only days after his foreign minister appeared to rule out the possibility of energy sanctions sought by the US.
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