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News Overview 2014

The Robert Bosch Academy: New Impulses for the Key Issues of Our Time

The Robert Bosch Stiftung opened the Robert Bosch Academy at its Berlin Representative Office on June 20, 2014. As the Foundation’s new institution in Berlin, it provides renowned decision makers and opinion leaders from around the world with the opportunity to spend time working in Berlin and to participate in community life and political dialog, both in Berlin and Germany, for the duration of their stay.

"This is a time for reflection and we need to draw the right conclusions," said the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt during his opening speech, addressing the current crisis in Ukraine. He brought up the outbreak of the First World War a hundred years ago and that most of the borders in Europe today had been "drawn in blood." "The last century began in 1914," explained Bildt. "Someday, historians of the future may say that the 21st century began in 2014." The primary aim is therefore to respect and maintain territorial integrity. The effects of the Ukraine crisis can be felt well beyond the borders of Europe. "Rather than changing borders inside Europe, we should be taking borders down," said Bildt. He went on to say that the dissolving of the Middle East is also cause for worry, as the safety and stability of this region will have a direct influence on Europe’s neighbors. "The obvious conclusion is that cohesion within our union – and with our partners – is the key factor to ensuring the cohesion of our continent."

The following discussion with the Richard von Weizsäcker Fellows Brahma Chellaney (India), Huang Jing (China), Ivan Krastev (Bulgaria), and Soli Özel (Turkey) addressed a whole host of issues, including crises and protest movements from the South China Sea to Turkey, Bulgaria, and the Middle East. Soli Özel criticized China for not getting involved in distant regions such as the Middle East, despite its increasingly important role. The political scientist doesn’t see a turning point in global policy through Russia’s intervention in Ukraine like Carl Bildt, but through the financial crisis that "paralyzed the West."

The Bulgarian sociologist Krastev adds, "The turn began with Occupy Wall Street and ended with Occupy Crimea." He pointed out that the crisis has shown the West just how vulnerable it is. "But the biggest change is that we don’t know how we’re going to react to critical situations in the future. This kind of security and predictability of reactions is now lost."

Huang Jing noted that for this reason the world has also developed into a multipolar world, because established powers such as Europe have stagnated. The Indian political scientist Brahma Chellaney emphasized that "failing states" have become regional and cross-border threats in Asia and North Africa.

The Role of Social Media

The fellows also represented a variety of positions when it came to evaluating the role of social media. Chellaney considers social media to be very powerful instruments. For example, it’s no longer possible to implement large-scale dam projects against the will of the population. On the other hand, it is in China because there’s no developed civil society. Soli Özel is more skeptical when it comes to social media and names the Taksim Square protests as an example. "There was no organization behind the protests there, as there was for instance in the civil rights movement of the 1960s." Krastev responded by saying that the reaction of the general public is increasingly unpredictable. "There are calls every day to take to the streets and demonstrate for or against something. And you never know when the people are going to respond."

The profile of the Robert Bosch Academy reflects precisely this demand for a global discussion about the key issues of our time. However, the fellows won’t be addressing traditional questions regarding foreign and security policy alone. "In many discussions about key social policy challenges, not enough attention is paid to the international perspective," says Dr. Ingrid Hamm, Chief Executive Director of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. "By inviting highly renowned experts and decision makers to the Robert Bosch Academy, we want to enrich the political and policy-related discussion in Germany with valuable impulses from other regions of the world." The Robert Bosch Academy therefore reflects the topics and focuses of the Foundation’s work, ranging from sustainability and health to excellence in schooling and international understanding.