On the new anti-EU campaign of the Hungarian government

Péter Techet spoke with the French daily newspaper “La Croix” about the new campaign launched by the Hungarian government against Ursula von der Leyen and the son of George Soros, Alex Soros. Techet also analyzed the recent, ideological motivated constitutional amendment, which aims to protect the “sovereignty.”

The whole article is only available to subscribers.

My Danube Story

On the occasion of the IDM’s 70th anniversary, we are looking back at the eventful history of the region, the river and its people – and we wanted to know what the Danube means to you! As part of the challenge #MyDanubeStory, people shared with us their experiences, stories and thoughts, and told us how the fluctuations of history in the Danube Region have touched their life.  

The result is this little book with 16 of the best stories we have received, each telling a unique story about the currents of life along the Danube. The reader can find personal travel reports, as well as stories about the struggles of generations living at the shores of the river. Some date further back into history, taking us behind the Iron Curtain, while others even dare a look to the future of Europe. 

The stories show how diverse the role of the Danube can be in history and in our personal lives. It is sometimes a border that divides, or one  to overcome. It can be a place of longing and escape or a new beginning. Always fluid, continuously flowing, regardless of wars, walls, personal victories and failures. The stories also show that the Danube can unite disparate parts to become one diverse whole. In the future, the Danube will hopefully continue to be just that: a connecting element between lives, friends, generations, peoples and countries – “our Donau, Dunaj, Duna, Dunav, Dunărea, Dunay”. 

Available to order online or at your local bookshop. A book presentation will take place at the IDM next year – details to follow.

Eines der drängendsten Themen unserer Zeit

Warum das österreichische Veto gegen den Schengen-Beitritt von Bulgarien und Rumänien aus vielen Gründen kurzsichtig ist, erklären Sophia Beiter und Sebastian Schäffer im Gastkommentar in DiePresse.

Lesen Sie es hier.


Der Gastkommentar wurde in internationalen Medien rezipiert:







Young Leaders Transnational Reflection, Event in Vienna: A Summary

As a part of the EUact2 Project, the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM), in partnership with GLOBSEC, ELIAMEP, and European Movement Ireland, held a three-day Transnational Reflection Group event from 15-17 November 2023 in Vienna, Austria. The event gathered young leaders and professionals from 11 Member States, including Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia. The aim of the event was to reflect on pressing matters for the EU today and in the next 20 years, while working to draft recommendations for the EU and national policymakers.

The working groups discussed the topics of climate, migration, digital transformation, and EU enlargement. The interrelatedness of these themes was a recurring consideration, and participants were eager to think cross-disciplinarily. The discussion was enriched by four keynote speakers with expertise in thematically related fields. These speakers represented research institutions, national governments, and intergovernmental organizations, and were able to provide a broad perspective on the current condition of the EU as well as possible futures.

Katalin Tünde Huber, Head of Unit for EU Enlargement at the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, outlined enlargement as the EU’s most effective strategic tool. She warned that there is “no vacuum in geopolitics,” and stressed the importance of not losing sight of the Western Balkans. The philosophical question, “Where does Europe end?” remains an ongoing debate at the highest level of EU politics.

Erika Piirmets, Digital Transformation Adviser at e-Estonia (online), and Julia Haas, Adviser to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, emphasized the need for transparent regulation of digital technologies. Reliable information should be the foundation, and goal, of digital advancement. The speakers made important connections between digitization and human rights, reminding participants that “technology is for humanity’s sake and not the other way around.”

Daniel Huppmann, Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis, imparted the cautiously optimistic message that we have all the technologies we need to reduce carbon emissions, but the challenge lies in social transition. He linked energy transition to questions of climate justice, explaining that equity must always be at the forefront of societal change. He left participants with the thought-provoking reminder that change is not only about outcome, but about whether the change process mirrors the equitable world for which we strive.

Judith Kohlenberger, post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Social Policy, University for Economics and Business (WU), discussed the complexity of managing migration in a way that accounts for the interests of EU member states, sending countries, and the migrants themselves. Maintaining EU-wide standards and control of migration is a continual challenge. Bilateral agreements and externalization practices risk worsening human rights violations against migrants. In the midst of these debates, scholars and policy analysts have the capacity to contribute to decision-making processes by presenting an empirical basis for lawmaking, exposing harmful narratives, and contextualizing the issue at large.

Education, communication, and public engagement were recurring topics of discussion within each thematic issue. Through their recommendations, the young leaders and professionals emphasized the importance of reliable information access, inclusive democratic participation, and active citizenship.

How political parties used TikTok to target young voters in Poland’s general elections

Malwina Talik was interviewed by Gezim Hilaj/Interhackitives about the role of social media, especially TikTok in targeting young voters in Poland`s general elections.
You can read (and watch) it here.

A Summary: Shaping Democratic Resilience in the European Union: The Future of European Democracy in the Eyes of Citizens

The sentiments of young people on the condition of democracy in Europe constitute an ongoing challenge for democratic institutions. In partnership with GLOBSEC, the IDM organized a panel discussion on questions of democratic resilience in the EU: Elena Avramovska, Senior Researcher for Democracy, Society and Youth; Helfried Carl, Founder of the European Capital of Democracy initiative; Wilhelm Molterer, Chairman of GLOBSEC Board of Directors; Nini Tsiklauri, Writer, Artist and European Activist. The discussion revolved around what challenges democracy faces at large and the importance of finding opportunities for intergenerational collaboration.

In response to GLOBSEC’s report “Young Minds, Democratic Horizons: Paving the Way for the EU’s Promising Future Attitudes of Young People from Austria, Greece, Ireland and Slovakia,” Elena Avramovska warned that young people lack faith in the legitimacy of democracy. Young people do not feel represented, she explained. The reality of demographic changes in Europe means that politicians have difficulty winning elections when catering to younger generations. This is due to both a growing population of older people and the high mobility of young people.

Wilhelm Molterer reminded the audience that democracy and economy go together, and should not be debated separately. Although globalization is playing an increasingly significant role in the world, democratic toolkits remain bound by the borders of the nation. National politicians become thought of as responsible for things which they have no control over due to a globally oriented public consciousness. This leads to disappointment among the people, and disappointment among the people, in turn, leads to the “end of democracy.”

Helfried Carl proposed that politics is ultimately about global competition over resources. There is always a realism in international politics, he explained. At the same time, there is a competition of systems, and he is confident that democracy is winning. Wilhelm Molterer expanded on this idea by claiming that the EU must decide whether it wants to play a global role. He described a situation of “co-opetition”, meaning “cooperation + competition,” that explains what this global role realistically looks like.

Elena Avramovska highlighted the rise of right-wing populist parties as one reason young people need to become more civically engaged. Namely, the issue that voters continue to voluntarily elect autocratic politicians. One reason for this, she explained, is that young voters

are more prone to forgive politicians who are undemocratic as long as they stand for a particular issue. There is evidence to suggest that young people care more about hot-topic issues perpetrated by “culture wars.” In this context, Nini Tsiklauri addressed the importance of critical thinking and media literacy.

Helfried Carl raised the critical debate of “what can the youth do?” For him, the key is intergenerational work. He emphasized the need to find intergenerational discourses that would make that which is important for the future feel important to older generations. This means democratizing technologies and infrastructure in the digital sphere. Europe needs to regulate social media and organize these platforms of discourse in a democratic way. As a closing remark, Elena Avramovska centered the importance of promoting civic education; teaching the public how to recognize patterns of political manipulation and mis/disinformation is crucial for fostering democratic resilience.

These are some of the main topics raised in the panel discussion “Shaping Democratic Resilience in the European Union: The Future of European Democracy in the Eyes of Citizens ” held at Raiffeisen Bank in Vienna on 15th November 2023. The discussion was moderated by IDM director Sebastian Schäffer. This event was co-funded by the European Union.


Recommendation for more resilient EU democracy:

• Ensuring Russia does not win the ongoing war, and taking inspiration from Ukraine, whose democratic and civic systems have been more resilient than Russia or anyone assumed.

• Fostering civic education, strengthening civil society, and promoting media literacy.

• Reaching young people through media platforms dedicated to EU topics.

• Making young people voice on the EU level heard, so that they stay committed to building EU democratic resilience.

GLOBSEC’ summary of the event


Karel Schwarzenberg (1937–2023)

On Saturday, former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg passed away. Another prominent Central European figure has left us: a Viennese born in Prague, a Praguer who died in Vienna; an Austrian-Bohemian aristocrat who in Czechia became a liberal politician and nearly the president; a freethinking intellectual whose family and life reflected the contradictions and commonalities of Central Europe – a region disintegrated after 1918, divided after 1945, but growing together since 1989. 

As a Viennese intellectual and as the President of “International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights”, Schwarzenberg advocated for the peoples of Central Europe who were oppressed under Soviet communism. When Czechoslovakia regained its freedom in 1989, he returned to his birthplace, Prague, where he initially served as the chancellor (chief of staff) to President Václav Havel, later becoming the foreign minister of Czechia. 

He was a close friend of Erhard Busek, the longtime chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM). Together, they embodied a type of politician who remained intellectually open, thinking and acting across borders in Central Europe. 

Péter Techet 

Maintaining a Conflict: Putin’s Shadow Hand in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Crisis

On 4 March 2022, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg warned that Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth Bosnia) are the next countries vulnerable to Russia’s malign actions, following the war in Ukraine. Why Bosnia? What are Russia’s interests in Bosnia?  

Bosnia was the first country in Europe to undergo genocide genocide since the Second World War, which is why the slightest crises in the country bring back memories of bloody conflict. In addition, the perpetrators of the genocide are portrayed as heroes heroes or publicly endorsed. Most of Bosnia’s unresolved problems are not caused by Russia, but are exploited by Russia for geopolitical interests in the Balkans and beyond.  

Bosnia’s political architecture is extremely complex. All three main entities have uncompromising political desires: the Serbians are looking for independence, the Bosniaks are seeking a further centralization, and the Croats want to create a third entity. While the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 ended the bloody civil war that caused over 100,000 casualties, it left the country ungovernable and dysfunctional, frequently described as an ethnocracy. With two entities, three presidents in rotation (one Croat-Catholic, one Serbian-Orthodox and one Bosniak Muslim), 14 governments, 165 ministers, and dozens of hundreds of local authorities, there are too many conflicting interests to form a coherent political framework.  

Russia’s staunchest ally in Bosnia and Europe is the president of Republika Srpska, hardline nationalist Milorad Dodik. In his opinion, Bosnia is an artificial state. Since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine in February 2022, Dodik is one of the few European leaders to have visited Moscow for a private audience with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, and to have endorsed Russia’s sham referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine. In January 2023, Dodik awarded Putin with the highest medal of honour. Due to his destabilizing actions, Dodik and the entire leadership of Republika Srpska were subject to sanctions and put on a blacklist by the USA.  

Dodik shares many of the same ideologies as Putin: they both oppose NATO-expansion and what they call “West degenerative ideology” such as liberalism and LGBTQ rights, while favouring extreme nationalism and an autocratic style of governing. Putin is not the only authoritarian ally of Dodik, he has also built up good relations with Hungary’s Viktor Orban 

Because of Dodik’s veto, Bosnia is the only European country other than neighbouring Serbia not to have placed sanctions on Russia. To Putin, Bosnia is irrelevant, merely a playground to undermine NATO and the EU and to create further trouble and disruption for them. Russia was one of the Dayton signatories and even deployed troops on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia in the mid-1990s, but since Putin became president, Russian relations with the West have deteriorated. One of their favourite channels for expanding Russian influence is the UN’s veto power. The EU and the USA have played their card with have played their card with the High Representative for Bosnia, currently held by the former German Minister of Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, who has the final word on all matters. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Putin’s famous speech in Munich in 2007, Russia supported Republika Srpska’s secession agenda, questioned Bosnia’s sovereignty, regarded the Hague Tribunal as illegitimate and vetoed the recognition of Srebrenica as genocide. At the UN Security Council on 11 May 2022, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya referred to Schmidt as an illegal High Representative, thereby playing the Dodik card.  

Although Russia is the main spoiler in the Bosnian crisis, it has hardly exerted any economic or financial leverage. The EU is Bosnia’s main trading partner, Russia accounted for only 0.3% of exports and 1.6% of imports in 2022. For direct investment, Moscow ranked 9th out of the top 10 investors in Bosnia, accounting for less than 3% of total investment. Moscow’s ability to play a role in a country with virtually no economic tools is remarkable. Yet this is due to Moscow’s willingness to work with anyone without trying to change its actions or ideology. More recently, Russia has employed entities such as the Night Wolves, who were involved in the 2014 Crimea secession, and were reported to be present in Bosnia. In 2018, it was reported that Russian mercenaries were training paramilitary forces in Bosnia on behalf of Dodik, and in 2022 it was suspected that the Wagner Group had established a recruiting office in Balkan.  

With the USA debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and EU attention diverted by multiple internal crises, Dodik seized the moment in December 2021 to take a further step towards his desire to secede from Bosnia by unilaterally withdrawing Republika Srpska from the tax, defence, health and judicial systems. Every action of secession that Dodik takes is vetoed by the High Representative, the only person able to stop Dodik’s path to secession.   

Lacking the funds to back the secession of Banja Luka, Russia has exploited every alternative to maintain the crisis in Bosnia at no cost, and it appears to be continuing this trend. Russia has managed to maintain a dysfunctional state in the middle of Europe with minimal capital investment. In holding Bosnia in a permanent crisis, Putin’s main aim is to demonstrate the weakness and unreliability of the USA and the EU in preserving peace and stability in its own backyard. Putin is trying to position Russia as rule-maker rather than rule-follower and sees opportunity whenever a crisis occurs; in the case of Bosnia, he is a rule-breaker. Nonetheless, it was not Putin who triggered the dysfunction, corruption or democratic backsliding in the first place.  

The Russian aggression in Ukraine, along with Russia’s malicious actions of interfering in the local and national elections of Western democracy, as well as using the internet for a misinformation campaign to provoke further division, have made the US and the EU better understand Russian agendas and tactics. If the EU pays more attention to the Bosnian crisis, it could close the Russian channels of interference. However, this depends entirely on the general outcome of the war in Ukraine and further enlargement of the EU in the so-called Western Balkans. Although Russia is far from challenging the EU directly, it is pursuing a realistic and opportunistic scheme to undermine the EU via the weakest members or, in the Bosnian case, via the accession candidates. One of the ways to stop Russia meddling in Bosnian affairs is further integration into the EU, as well as a clear path towards full membership.  


Rigels Lenja is a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Eastern and Southeastern European History at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. 

IDM Short Insights 29: EU Elections 2024: Which path will Europe choose?

In 2024 the citizens of the EU will vote in the European Parliament Elections. At the moment, polls still indicate a majority for the traditional centre-right, centre-left coalition of EPP, S&D, and Renew Europe. In the newest IDM Short Insight Sophia Beiter explains how right-wing and Eurosceptic parties are expected to gain votes at the expense of centre parties. They are profiting from the worries and concerns in the population caused by the war in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, inflation, the energy crisis and migration.


In 2024 the EU will vote. Behind me you can see the building of the European Parliament in Brussels. And from 6th to 9th June a new European Parliament will be elected. Since the last European elections in 2019, Europe has had to face lots of crises. Especially the covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have deeply affected the whole of Europe. The energy crises and the inflation are causing concerns in the population, and are leading to distrust in national governments and the EU. A special Flash Eurobarometer survey from autumn 2023 shows that a majority of EU citizens are discontent with the overall course of the European Union. 39% of EU citizens think that things are going in the wrong direction in the EU currently, while only 26% think that things are going in the right direction. In some Central European countries these rather negative attitudes towards the EU are even more evident. In Austria 50% of the population are not satisfied with the situation of the EU. And in its neighbours, Slovakia and Hungary, this proportion rises to just over 50%. Far-right parties are using these sentiments, the economic uncertainty and the topic of migration for themselves. In the future they are expected to secure votes not only in national governments in Europe but also on EU level. For now, the polls still indicate a majority voting intention going towards a traditional centre-right, centre-left coalition of the European People’s Party, the Socialists and Democrats, and Renew Europe. However, polls also show that right-wing parties are making up ground at the expense of centre parties. The outcomes of the 2024 European Parliament elections will shape the political scene in the EU for the next 5 years. Therefore, already now these elections are greatly awaited not only here in Brussels, but in all member states. 

A Summary: The Schengen Area Enlargement: In Need of a Constructive Solution

At the beginning of December, the Council of the European Union is expected to hold another vote on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. Ahead of this, the IDM organized a high-level discussion on the future of the Schengen Area at its premises in Vienna, exploring the possibility of enlargement. The panel featured a selection of distinguished speakers: H.E. Daniel Glunčić, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia; H.E. Emil Hurezeanu, Ambassador of Romania; H.E. Desislava Naydenova-Gospodinova, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria; Tom Snels, Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, Deputy Director-General in charge of Schengen & Internal Security, European Commission; and Georg Stillfried, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Austria. 

The discussion addressed the issues surrounding Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area in light of the recent successful example of Croatia. While Croatia was admitted to the Schengen area as of 1st January 2023, Romania and Bulgaria are still waiting to join. For nearly a year, Austria has maintained its veto on their accession, and there have also been concerns expressed by the Netherlands.  

One of the main reasons for Austria’s continued veto of the proposed Schengen enlargement is the multiple illegal external EU border crossings, which have put pressure on Austrian Schengen frontiers, as well as the issue of security. For example, three quarters of those arriving in Austria have not been registered before. Austria is not the only country that has concerns: It is worth noting that 11 member states have recently reinstated internal border controls. 

There was no consensus among panellists as to what extent the Schengen zone has become dysfunctional, whether the expansion should happen before or after it is fixed, or whether it should be adjusted if all EU member states join. While many countries criticize the functioning of the border-free area, the Schengen zone attracts over six million travellers in one year, and only around 0.05%, a small but tricky proportion, arrive illegally. 

Bulgaria and Romania have made significant progress in meeting the requirements for joining the Schengen Area. In view of this, accession is arguably a right, not a privilege. Moreover, the proposed enlargement is not merely a technical or symbolic issue but also has very practical implications, allowing students, workers and the transport sector to cross borders with considerably less delay, as well as reducing the pollution caused by long queues of vehicles at the borders.  

The Schengen Area is one of the greatest achievements of European integration. Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession would further promote this integration within the EU, paving the way for an effective joint external border management. While the timeline for an expansion of Schengen remains to be decided, there is still hope that a positive decision could be made at EU level by the end of the year. H.E. Daniel Glunčić stressed the idea of solidarity and the importance of supporting Europe, channelling national identity into the European idea. 

These were some of the key points raised in the panel discussion “The Future of the Schengen Area: Exploring its Enlargement” held at the IDM in Vienna on 7th November 2023. The discussion was moderated by managing director Sebastian Schäffer. It was implemented within the project EUact2 “Towards Democratic and Inclusive Europe: EP Elections and Active Citizens Participation and Contribution” funded by the European Union. 

The event was recorded and can be watched here: