Politics and Knowledge: the role of think tanks in democracy

Politics and Knowledge: the role of think tanks in democracy
                                                                                                                              30 March, Monday, 9:30 -12:30, SOHO, 4 Iskar Str., Sofia

Modern democratic politics are based on two main sources - representativeness of politicians and expertise for the governance of society as a whole. Thinks tanks are among the institutions that support the relationship between representativeness and expertise. In this sense they are situated between the people and the politicians, between the voters and the voted in. On the one hand, they must be sensitive to ideas that could receive broad public support. On the other, they must convey expertise, attempt to rationalise the political choice of society. That is why, to be effective, they should retain their relative autonomy and critical distance.

Think tanks in Eastern Europe are peers with democracy or a little younger than it. CLS, for example, is celebrating 21 years in 2015 - age, which in many societies is considered the age-based threshold of maturity.

This is one of the reasons to look with an analytical and largely critical eye upon the time behind us. We researched think tanks in comparative perspective in six distinct contexts: five national - Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Poland and Slovakia and one supranational - think tanks in Brussels dealing with EU politics. We analysed their role in political processes, the guarantees of ‘independence' which they enjoy, their thematic orientation and the character of the policies they pursue.
The second reason to study the activities of think thanks in a European context were the criticisms these organisations are subjected to. Criticisms which are often the result of ill will or misunderstanding but also carry grains of rationality, which should not be lost in a shallow media politicization. The power of liberal democracy - apart from the protection of liberty and equality - is its ability to adapt to new realities and to cope with new challenges.
Being part of democracy's institutional structure, do thinks tanks manage to respond to changes; to rediscover the models which work; to filter the adequate from that what already has historical value only? Do they manage with these tasks, how and to what extent? On the basis of the research conducted by CLS we will discuss these questions with representatives of the think tank community in Bulgaria, journalists, experts and academics, as well as politicians.

9:30 - 10:00                      Registration
10:00 - 10:15      Opening of the seminar
                                                        Meglena Kuneva, Deputy Prime Minister of European policy and institutional issues
                                                        Ivan Krastev, CLS
10:15 - 11:00      Presentation of the main results of a comparative study by CLS of think tanks in Europe
                                                        Daniel Smilov, CLS
11:00 - 11:50      Expert panel:
                                                        Prof. Georgi Bliznashki, Sofia University;
                                                        Prof. Lily Deyanova, Sofia University;
                                                        Parvan Simeonov, Institute ‘Ivan Hadzhiyski' and Gallup;
                                                        Tihomir Bezlov, Center for the Study of Democracy;
                                                        Assoc.Prof. Rumyana Kolarova, Sofia University
11:50 - 12:20      Discussion
12:20 - 12:30      Concluding remarks: Ivan Krastev and Daniel Smilov

                   Link to audio recording of the meeting: [in Bulgarian]