The Illiberal Turn?: Reasserting Democratic Values in Central and Eastern Europe 

Together with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), this conference addresses the political, economic, and social currents that challenge the region’s path toward greater cooperation, prosperity, and freedom. Inspired by President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel’s ideal, this event aims to foster strategies for the region today, drawing from Havel’s historic accomplishments and leadership. 
Welcome Remarks:

Mr. Thomas Melia
Assistant Administrator
United States Agency for International Development

Introduced by:

Mr. Damon Wilson
Executive Vice President, Programs and Strategy
Atlantic Council

Panel 1: Democratic Backsliding? The State of Democracy in the Region

Dr. Jeff Gedmin 
Senior Fellow, Future Europe Initiative
Atlantic Council  

Dr. Maria Stephan 
Senior Policy Fellow
United States Institute for Peace   

Mr. Brian Whitmore
Author of the Power Vertical
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Dr. Alina Polyakova
Deputy Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center
Atlantic Council  

Dr. Ivan Stefanec
Member of the European Parliament

Panel 2: The Illiberal Turn and Media Freedom

Ms. Zselyke Csaky 
Senior Researcher, Nations in Transit
Freedom House 

Mr. Aleksander Dardeli
Vice President

Ms. Jill Dougherty 
former Foreign Affairs Correspondent 

Mr. Steven Lee Myers 
The New York Times

Mr. Francisak Viachorka
Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Panel 3:  Managing Economic Crises and Combating Corruption: The Role of the Business Community

Ms. Heather Conley 
Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and Director, Europe Program
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Mr. Hans Timmer
Chief Economist, Europe and Central Asia
World Bank

Mr. Andras Loke 
Transparency International Hungary;
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, 

Ms. Sally Painter
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer
Blue Star Strategies 

Mr. Marc Schleifer
Regional Director for Europe, Eurasia and South Asia 
Center for International Private Enterprise

Panel 4: Strengthening Pro-Democracy Forces: How Should the Transatlantic Community Respond?

Mr. Carl Gershman
National Endowment for Democracy 

Ambassador Kurt Volker
Executive Director
McCain Institute for International Leadership

Mr. Robert Benjamin
Senior Associate and Regional Director, Central and Eastern Europe Programs
National Democratic Institute

Ms. Miriam Lexmann
Director of EU Office
International Republican Institute 

Havel’s Atlanticist vision laid the foundation for the transatlantic future of Central and Eastern Europe. The shared history of this region overcoming authoritarianism and embracing liberal democracy underscores the transformative power of Euro-Atlantic cooperation. However, the pressure of recurring crises across the European Union has paved the way for populist and isolationist movements and the closing of civic space in Central and Eastern Europe. These emerging trends put at stake Havel’s legacy, the region’s transatlantic accomplishments, and the future of Europe whole, free, and at peace. This event brings together key European and US voices to discuss democratic backsliding, media freedom, and economic changes.