I have the pleasure to present the first voice in the discussion on the future of the Carpathian Europe belonging to Maciej Szymanowski, the director of the Wacław Felczak Institute for Polish-Hungarian Cooperation in Warsaw, to which I invited with a foreword on my website on April 2, 2020.
Europe of the Carpathians
The future. Carpathian Europe as Central Europe. Carpathian Europe as "ige".
We write in different ways. As Poles and Europeans we write from left to right. But in many other cultures, like Arabic or Jewish, we write the exact opposite: from right to left. In still others, like Chinese or Japanese, we traditionally write: up-down. However, in each of these cultures, there is a saying: from the general to the particular, or from the particular to the general. A few thoughts that I take the liberty to cross out below will follow the latter order. In my opinion, it is a good reflection of what is one of the main values of the Carpathian Europe conference today and where its great potential for the future lies.
IGE or word as action
"In the beginning was the Word" we learn in the Gospel of St. John. Hungarians use in this quotation not the term meaning strictly "word" - "szó", but the word "ige" - which means word, but also: "verb", "movement". Carpathian Europe - this series of conferences that have been taking place for many years is a meeting space for people not only from different countries, but above all for people who form their thoughts and use the word "ige". The word behind which stands a concrete idea, project, action. Would the strategy of so called sustainable development, which currently enjoys such great social support in Poland, have come into being without the Carpathian Europe? It is possible. The question is when? Or rather: how much later? Would the new Central European trade route Via Carpathia have been built without the Carpathian Europe? Probably. But rather not before our eyes.
The spirit and the letter of the "Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians" signed in Kiev (2003) or the idea of building a transboundary transport route Via Carpathia appearing since 2013 in almost every document signed with the sign of Europe of the Carpathians are concrete examples of how the formula adopted by the discussed conference works in practice. This can also be seen in the discussions held at Europa Karpatia, which gave rise to the idea of establishing the Collegium Carphaticum. The exchange of professors and classes on Central European topics, from geology to political science, take place systematically thanks to the agreement concluded in 2017 at the 19th edition of the conference between universities from 6 countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary.
CARPATHIAN EUROPE AS CENTRAL EUROPE
As you know, there are dozens of definitions of Central Europe. Considering that a total of a dozen European countries have marked out and celebrated the geographical center of Europe on their own territories with a commemorative obelisk (Czechs in Prague, Slovaks in Kremnica, Poles in Sukhovolya, Ukrainians in Dilove, Hungarians in Tállya, etc.), it is probably fair to assume that Central Europe is where the public expectation exists, where the people want it.
This is also the case with the Europe of the Carpathians. It does not so much gather representatives of the countries through which this mountain range runs, but rather attracts to itself those for whom mountains are a symbol of what is permanent, strong and eternal. Those who know that mountains in a natural way force us to look ... "up". They force - at least for a moment - the abandonment of a horizontal perception of the world, with its various dogmas, such as the famous center and periphery theory. They create a unique space of life and freedom, to which, not by chance, scientists, artists, and clergymen have been so eagerly drawn for centuries. Published in 2019 and edited by Prof. Waldemar Paruch, the book "Carpathian Europe. The thing about cooperation", contains an impressive list of 54 names of Nobel Prize winners coming from the discussed part of Europe, and yet it is only a fraction of the civilizational and spiritual contribution born in this part of the world. The list does not include such giants of thought as St. John Paul II. Or even those who were born before the award was established, such as Ignác Semmelweis of Hungary, who put an end to the tragic death toll from post-menopausal fever among women that had been accumulating for centuries by instructing doctors to wash their hands in a way that we all use today in times of coronavirus epidemics.
THE FUTURE OF CARPATHIAN EUROPE
We see common interests and common threats. Even in the countries of the region, where no common destiny is felt, a sense of interdependence is certainly palpable. The conviction that although we do not know the future, we can co-create future events. Participants and listeners of the 26th edition of the conference have been convinced of this many times. As well as the fact that it is necessary to cooperate constructively in infrastructure projects, security, including energy security, or innovation. Further, that it is necessary to build resilience to external disturbances which are not conducive to further development of the region. The market economy does not operate in a vacuum. Information wars, which have recently resulted in more frequent talk of threats coming from neo-Nazism rather than post-communism in the region, have also become a fact.
In order to effectively work towards achieving at least some of these goals, there is a need for social institutionalization of the idea of cooperation in Poland and in the countries of the region. And for better coordination of the necessary steps leading to it - the establishment of an entity responsible for it. An institute or foundation that would bring together people from politicians, experts and journalists as well as institutions from the countries of Carpathian Europe and beyond willing to cooperate on a permanent basis. The formal, legal and financial structure of the above mentioned institution must enable not so much organizing individual undertakings as working out and implementing mechanisms of responding to challenges we face as states of the region. Multiply the capital of trust in the region by launching new channels of information flow (portal!). Generate new ideas and solutions.
Pragmatism and common sense suggest solidarity as the foundation of cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. The "Autumn of Nations" in Europe between 1989 and 1990 was not caused by solidarity of force but by the force of social and national solidarity. The Carpathian Europe Conference and its people have shown that they are aware of this strength. All that needs to be done now is to unleash this potential, give it direction and set the first tasks to be accomplished. As it was the case when Europe of the Carpathians was created, I think that the initiative or rather initiatives in this regard should come from the Polish side.