The European Forum Alpbach brings together young people from Europe and from all over the world, leading scholars, thinkers, scientists, policy makers, business people and civil society actors to engage and contribute to this mission of shaping a stronger Europe for the good of all.
The Forum’s initiators agreed wholeheartedly on the foundations of their dream: the fight against Nazism and Communism, and the dream of democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity, as well as the nurturing of science and education. They agreed to meet in Alpbach for a couple of weeks each year to discuss the content of their dreams and to convert this content - if they found an agreement - into reality.
As is always the case, the founders of Alpbach discovered that in the pursuit of a common dream, opinions about how to make it come true, diverged – both content and procedurewise. Out of these discussions however grew a platform with a think tank populated by European intellectuals and doers, who had a profound influence on the shaping of Europe in the decades to come. Left or right was not the differentiator, but liberal and anti-liberal was.
The following decades brought about an astonishing development of the European integration project — politically and economically – and much more profoundly than the Forum Alpbach’s founders could have ever dreamed of. Several years after the first Forum Alpbach meeting — in 1958 — six countries founded the European Economic Communities with the goal of creating a common European market. When this task was completed, in 1992 a new treaty set the stage for the European Economic and Monetary Union, characterised by an everdeepening political integration. By the late 2000s the European Union had expanded to 28 states including 11 members of the former communist bloc. Such an achievement was probably far beyond the dreams of any Alpbach founder.
Europe’s role in world history was by no means flawless; it ranged from aggressive to destructive, from very brutal to just brutal. Rare were the times when Europe assumed a role that brought peace and prosperity to other parts of the world. Also because of its history, the European Union had never attempted to achieve military power, however the rapid development of its economic strength gave it a chance to defend its values of democracy, rule of law and a socially-oriented market economy on the world stage.
When the European Forum Alpbach was founded in 1945, it was created with a dream — a dream about the future of Europe. Thus, as Europe’s value to the world is eroding, we must find the power and the courage to reverse these processes. During the past 75 years Europe has demonstrated to the world that the pursuit of peace, democracy and the creation of a strong civil society, in combination with strong economic and scientific performance, can create something very valuable, not only for Europe but for the entire world.
Still today, we ought to be worried about Europe’s future. Twenty years ago the European Union was growing and so was Europe’s economic position in the world. Today the EU is shrinking and so is Europe’s economic power. For the first time our Union has lost a member, our economic strength seems to be fading away, our defence systems appear weak, and political tensions are rapidly on the rise. In short, Europe’s position as a strong influencer in the world is at risk. Europe is about to lose its global scientific and economic edge in a rapid manner, while the values of its societal strengths diminish.
In this new context, the Forum Alpbach will be as important for Europe today as it was in 1945.