Tag Archives: Eastern Europe

Horst Seehofer visits Prague

Now, I appreciate it doesn’t exactly rank alongside Willy Brandt’s remarkable fall to his knees in Warsaw, Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” moment in West Berlin, or Franz-Josef Strauss’ trip to the GDR in 1983. But Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer’s official visit to Prague is interesting for at least two reasons.

First, it’s a really promising sign that an utterly senseless conflict between traditional Christian Democratic politicians (exmplified by the Seehofer and some colleagues in the Bavarian CSU), and the Czech political elite, can perhaps be overcome. The background is conflict over the expulsion of Germans from the Czech lands after the Second World War, and in particular the notorious Benes decrees. Polemic is common on both sides of the argument, with some on the German side expressing discontent at the country’s modern-day boundaries, or not putting the expulsions in their historical context. Meanwhile, on the Czech side, the Benes decrees have not been repealed and have acquired an unwelcome political symbolism of their own (with the Slovak nationalist Jan Slota bringing a motion to endorse them as late as 2007).

I have no data on public attitudes on either side, but it seems that this is a conflict being promoted by political elites, rather than the wider population. German-Czech relations in the border regions work perfectly well, and for large sections of the German political elite, including much of the CDU and CSU, Erika Steinbach, the long-standing Chair of the Federation of German Expellees, seems something of an anachronism. Steinbach, in announcing her decision to stand down from the CDU’s Federal Executive, complained about the lack of support for her cause amongst parliamentary colleagues.

Secondly, it says something interesting about the CSU. Having lost its overall majority in the Bavarian state parliament 2008, the CSU’s leadership has presumably decided that it’s worth risking the wrath of expellees’ representatives in order to put to rest a conflict which the rest of Bavaria stopped fighting a long time ago.

Welcome to Aston Centre for Europe

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Welcome to the Aston Centre for Europe blog!

Aston Centre for Europe has had an exciting year.  We have grown in size, won research and event funding and put on a series of interesting events. Over the last twelve months, we’ve hosted  high level speakers who addressed our audiences on a diverse range of topics.

In December 2009, we started with the first of our series of events funded by the European Commission. We discussed the European parliament with Prof Simon Hix as the keynote speaker, with Gisela Stuart MP, Malcolm Harbour MEP, Phil Bennion (Liberal Democrat MEP candidate), and David Harley (former Deputy Secretary General of the European Parliament and a practitioner fellow of Aston Centre for Europe) taking part in the debate.

In April 2010 we hosted a conference on the Legacies of 1989, another European Commissions funded event, which examined democratic change in Eastern Europe. We were very privileged to hear Sir Christopher Mallaby, former British Ambassador to East Germany, Prof Alan Mayhew (Sussex) and Prof George Kolankiewicz (UCL) who provided a fascinating insight into the twenty years of democratic change in Eastern Europe.

Our final event of the academic year was a high level conference on Green Growth and Sustainability.  The conference was funded by the European Commission and we worked very closely with the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. At the conference we heard from Ian Robertson (BMW AG), Peter Vis, (Head of Cabinet to European Commissioner for Climate Action), Fiona Harvey (Financial Times), Prof David Bailey (Coventry University), Naresh Kumar (Rolls Royce), Chris White MP and Paul Tilsley (Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council) amongst many other notable speakers.

In between the larger conferences, we kept busy hosting smaller lectures and guest speakers.  We discussed the Cambodian genocide with Denise Affonco; examined the reasons behind global conflicts with Prof Daniel Chirot (University of Washington); talked about Eand examined the future of the Euro with David Marsh, and discussed population change with Prof Jane Falkingham during the British Science Festival 2010.

Our series of exciting events and lectures continues this year. To make sure you keep up to date with the latest, join our email list by sending us your details to europe@aston.ac.uk