Budapest Forum 2022: Opening speeches



  • Gergely Karácsony, Mayor of Budapest
  • Benedek Jávor, Head of Brussels Representation, Budapest City Hall
  • Shalini Randeira, President and Rector, Central European University
  • Péter Krekó, Executive Director, Political Capital Institute

Main takeaways

  • The central theme of the conference is the sustainability of democracies and the environment. The aim is not only to collect best pracitces, but also to explore the darkest tendencies from what is happening to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. 
  • During conference the main questions are about democratic resilience and strenghtening democratic practices. Why are some democracies more resiliant than others to crises, to sudden and dramatic changes, to polarization, and to demagogues? What can we do to nurture democratic practices, how can we strengthen the local level, and protect the civil sphere which is actively working to sustain democratic practices?
  • There is a tendency among young people to prefer strong, populist leaders in lieu of democratic leaders who are perceived as weak. This is a worrying trend and does not favor democratic tendencies. 
  • The narrative of illiberal populism, identified by Timothy Snyder as the creation of Putin, is antithetical to Western democratic values. Western democracies make a distintion between good and bad, populism creates a wedge between “us” and “them”, making truth and facts relative while moral standards disposable.
  • Our future needs to be both democratic and sustainable. Our task is, on the one hand, to find a credible democratic offer against right-wing populism, EU scepticism, illiberalism, and the ligitimization of war. On the other hand, we have to find a way to step up against the climate crisis, under heavy time constraints and pressure from Russia.
  • Modern wars have almost always been about fossil fuels as they are easier for autocratic rulers to monopolize. Renewables, however, safeguard peace for democracies.
  • We are facing the era when peace and prosperity have disappeared in Europe. It is our responsibility to ensure that this chapter of history is written by ourselves and not to let it to be written by others. We might feel too insignificant to alter the course of history, but the Budapest Forum conference offers a chance to make a difference, by looking for solutions to strengthen democratic resilience and to tackle the energy crisis.

Policy recommendations

  • It is important to adopt a comprehensive civil society strategy at the EU level.
  • Placing a bigger emphasis on renewable energy is paramount.