At the end of November, participants of the seventh annual conference of the Aspen Institute Central Europe filled the extraordinary space of the Prague Crossroads. The event, aptly named “Where Are You Going, Czechia?” and co-hosted by the Economia media house, aimed to provide an overview of the political, economic, and social development of the Czech Republic in the context of Central Europe.
This year’s conference focused on three cross-cutting areas: education as a way to increase competitiveness, defense spending as a means of increasing security, and reducing regional disparities in quality of life. Expert studies conducted by the Aspen Institute Central Europe during the year served as starting points for the discussion. Panelists included representatives from the business, academic, and non-profit sectors, as well as members of the government.
The conference analyzed the state of the Czech Republic in the above areas and addressed concrete recommendations for their improvement to the Czech government. During the discussion over the conference’s final recommendations, the participants agreed on the importance of education not only in schools but also in companies. Panelists emphasized the importance of adapting education to the evolution of society and technology, announcing that an exit from the comfort zone as well as from their own social bubble was crucial.
The conference concluded with an evening gala, including special guest Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources. In his speech, he pointed out that unity and cohesiveness are essential for a strong European Union. The highlight of the evening was an award ceremony for the first-ever Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award 2019. The award recognizes successful young professionals for excellence in their field in one of the following areas: leadership based on principles and values, the active promotion of responsible citizenship, and innovative positive social impact in Central Europe. The first prize went to Do Thu Trang, author of the blog Asijatka.CZ, where his unique portrayal of the Vietnamese minority in the Czech Republic contributes to mutual understanding. Roma historian Michal Mižigár was the first of the Písek Roma community to graduate from university despite a congenital health defect and tied Do Thu Trang for first place.