From “Mondays for Markets” to “Fridays for Future”: A Look at the European Forum Alpbach 2021

September 7, 2021
From August 18 to September 3, more than 4,500 participants from 62 countries attended this year’s European Forum Alpbach — on-site and digitally. The focus was on contributions to securing and financing the future of Europe, as well as the current climate crisis and the potential to use it as a stepping stone.

“I am very delighted with what we’ve put together this year. I can tell that people seem to be riding this new wave with us — because you can have quality discussions again!”, Andreas Treichl sums up the first forum he presided over as president. The changes Treichl refers to were plenty: for the first time, the conference was held as a hybrid event. Most of the programme took place on site in Alpbach and was broadcast digitally. The fact that, despite Covid restrictions, more than 4,500 people from 62 countries attended the Forum’s approximately 240 individual events shows that the hybrid concept proved its worth this year.

New at the European Forum Alpbach 2021

Three thematic focal points — The Climate Opportunity, Securing Our Future and The Financing of Europeʼs Future — shaped not only the economic, political and scientific discussions that took place starting on August 24, but also the seminar week that has marked the beginning of the Forum for some time now. Some of the participants had already been working on the main topics since March, developing ideas and presenting solution-oriented project approaches in Alpbach. The best of the so-called “Alpbach Challenges” were honoured by a jury in Alpbach on September 2 and prepared for possible realisation.

Florence Gaub, Vice President of the European Forum Alpbach, is confident that cross-generational and international exchange is the right way to go: “We talked to people from America, China and Europe about migration, conflict and innovation. I’m full of new ideas and looking forward to next year when we come back and go one step further.”

We talked to people from America, China and Europe about migration, conflict and innovation. I'm full of new ideas and looking forward to next year when we come back and take it one step further. 


Involving tomorrow’s generation

The voice of young people in the discussion on European issues of the future was also clearly visible: in “Mondays for Markets”, for example, young adults confronted decision-makers, scientists and entrepreneurs from various fields with new approaches to financing Europe. “The decision to set three thematic focal points, to be addressed throughout the entire period, has stimulated new, increasingly interdisciplinary dialogues, strengthened the diversity of perspectives and enabled constructive discourse,” says Marie Ringler, Vice President of the Forum and Head of Europe at Ashoka.

The decision to focus on three thematic areas throughout the period has stimulated new, more interdisciplinary dialogues, strengthened the diversity of perspectives and enabled constructive discourse.


A Dream for Europe 2045

This year’s Forum Alpbach ended with a roundtable on the topic of “A Dream for Europe 2045”. While Ralf Beste, German ambassador in Vienna, sees Europe as a continent of good neighbours, author Géraldine Schwarz sees the power of the future in votes, Tonica Hunter, curator and researcher, places her hopes in equal dialogue as well as inclusion, and Dritan Abazović, Vice President of Montenegro, would like to see his country set an example in the Western Balkans by joining the EU. Andreas Treichl, President of the European Forum Alpbach, has high hopes for an open Europe and equal living standards across the continent.

Beyond the congress events: Covid prevention measures, Pride Parade & Fridays for Future

Beyond the congress events, the first Pride Parade in Alpbach as well as the Fridays for Future movement in front of the Congress Centrum and a first-time cooperation of the cultural team with Die Tagespresse caused quite a stir.

The organisers responded successfully to the Covid pandemic with a comprehensive prevention concept, which included a limited number of participants, the presentation of a PCR test upon entering the congress premises and the wearing of FFP2 masks. Due to the comprehensive testing on site, the total of seven Covid infections were quickly detected, appropriate measures were taken and a spread of the virus was prevented.

Excerpt of international participants

Contributions from academia included Alberto Alemanno (EU Law and Policy, HEC Paris), Antje Boetius (Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven), Amanda Chisholm (Senior Lecturer in Global Security, School of Security Studies – King’s College London), Lucy English (Reader in Creative Writing, Bath Spa University), Judith Heepe (Nursing Director, Charité Medical University) and Astrid Hopfensitz (Professor, Toulouse School of Economics and EM Lyon).

As an important part of the European Forum Alpbach, art was represented by the attendance of Helga Davis, Justin Vivian Bond, Olga Neuwirth and Anna Artakter, among others.

On the political level, the heads of government Albin Kurti (Kosovo), Zoran Zaev (North Macedonia) and Eduard Heger (Slovakia), the EU Commissioners Margaritis Schinas, Mairead McGuinness and Johannes Hahn, as well as numerous ministers from different sectors and countries participated: Andrej Šircelj (Minister of Finance, Slovenia), Judit Varga (Minister of Justice, Hungary), Fuad Hussein (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iraq), Michał Kurtyka (Minister of Climate and Environment, Poland), João Leão (Minister of Finance, Portugal), Monika Navickienė (Minister of Social Security and Labor, Lithuania), Sophie Howe (Minister of Future, Wales). Michelle Bachelet (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Mathias Cormann (Secretary General OECD) were also part of the event.

In addition, Marian Cramers (Director of Development, Democratic Society), Ivo Degn (Co-Founder of Climate Farmers), Kirsten Dunlup (CEO, EIT Climate-KIC), Sven Egenter (Managing Director Clean Energy Wire &, Alexander G. Soros (Open Society Foundation), Emi Mahmoud (UNHCR Good Will Ambassador) and the Governors of the National Banks in Holland, Klaas Knot, Denmark, Per Callesen, Austria, Robert Holzmann and Croatia, Boris Vujcic, participated.

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