The European Forum Alpbach is more than just a conference. It is the biggest intellectual gathering in Europe with a long history that dates back to 1945. Nobel price laureates and statesmen, but above all young people have shaped it through the years.
The European Forum Alpbach is an interdisciplinary conference held every summer in the Austrian village of Alpbach. Established in 1945 to support the continued unification of Europe, it has since hosted Nobel Prize laureates, international politicians and artists from all over the world. Originally envisioned as a summer school that would foster the art of scholarly symposia and finding a path back to “real dialogue”, the Forum has become an intellectual platform of discussion where Europe’s cultural, scientific and humanitarian heritage are developed in a future-oriented way and where European integration can be promoted.
The European Forum Alpbach Today
The Forum takes place over the course of two weeks and is divided into a seminar week for young people and the thematic symposia. Each year, an overall topic guides the discussions of the seminar week and the symposia.
The seminar week offers young people the opportunity to dive into areas closely related to each years general topic. Investment bankers from Goldman-Sachs, together with theologians from Trinity College lecturing on Ethics in Finance or in-depth briefings on the situtaion in Syria by experts from the foreign office and the EU diplomatic service have been among the most memorable in recent years.
Next, specific symposia cover technology, politics, economics and finance. The panels offered during these events are characterized by the high-ranking selection of speakers. In 2018, the presidents of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo met during a historic discussion on the future of the Balkans.
Finally, the cultural program offeres something for every taste: If the Alpbach Choir performing in the village church is not for you, then perhaps an Alphorn mixing with the sounds of an electric guitar might be. As another example, in 2018, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts of London performed Shakespeare and some more modern pieces on the balcony of the Gemeindeamt every day at noon.
The History of the European Forum Alpbach
The European Forum Alpbach traces its roots back to the summer of 1945, shortly after the end of the war in Europe and a few days before the Second World War ended in the Pacific arena. Austrian resistance fighter Otto Molden had envisioned a summer school that would foster the art of scholarly symposia and finding a path back to “real dialogue”. After all, universities in central Europe had suffered greatly from first the persecution of its scholars and then from the war itself.
The summer school grew in size every year and was soon attended by scholars from France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany. In 1949, the summer school was renamed the European Forum Alpbach and its mission clarified to be the support of the continued unification of Europe.
Pictures from Alpbach’s early years: The opening of the Forum in 1949, then still called the “International Summer School”; a study group convenes in the fields outside the village; representative from the Club of Rome at Alpbach in 1974.
As the iron curtain was drawn up in Europe, politicians and decisionmakers flocked to Alpbach, in the heart of the Alps of non-aligned Austria. Newsworthy encounters between top-level officials became part of the Political Symposia of the Forum. In the 1970s representatives from the Arab League and Isral shook hands after heated debates, and more recently the heads of state of Serbia and Kosovo talked of coexistence and answered questions from young audience members.
Pictures from present-day Alpbach: A fireside talk at the foot of the Gratlspitz mountain; a performance in the village church; former Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis during the Financial Market Symposium.
In the 1990s, the Technology Symposia were introduced, as Austria was assserting its role as a leading nation in academic research. Nobel Prize laureates have since frequented the Forum and offered insights into their work. Today, the Forum welcomes nearly 5000 visitors. In 2019, 665 young people from 95 nations were attending on one of the highly coveted scholarships.
The Forum Alpbach Network
Today, the Forum Alpbach Network oversees a large number of regional associations that are affilliated with the European Forum Alpbach. Like Club Alpbach Zurich, they organize events throughout the year and grant scholarships for young people to attend the European Forum Alpbach. Learn more about some of our closest friends here:
Club Alpbach Liechtenstein
Founded in 2012, this club is our closest geographical neighbour and hosts events in the Principality of Liechtenstein as well as in Alpbach.
Club Alpbach Senza Confini
Founded in 2003, this interregional club, serving Italy, Slovenia and southern Austria, has been operating across borders and language barriers for a good long time. Their Alpe-Adria receptions in Alpbach are truly legendary.
Club Alpbach Brussels
Founded in 2016, their events throughout the year see top European officials as well as aspiring young diplomats debate the future of Europe.