Freedom Games 2019 Gather in Lodz 3,800 Participants

Freedom Games 2019 // Photos: Tomek Ogrodowczyk

On September 13-15, 2019, the sixth edition of Freedom Games – a prestigious annual interdisciplinary forum of ideas was organized in Lodz, Poland. Throughout two and a half days, altogether 84 sessions (including keynote lectures, panel discussions, roundtables, literary meetings, meetings with filmmakers and chefs, and music concerts) took place, covering a wide range of diverse topics, each with a unique link to the past, present, and future of Poland, the European Union, and the world.

The 2019 edition of the forum titled How Do Democracies Win?” gathered in Lodz leaders and renowned thinkers and engaged them in a debate on the most important challenges that local and global communities must face in the 21st century.

The event hosted in Atlas Arena, a large-scale concert hall and conference venue, hosted 3,804 participants. Presenting the attendees with a package of events narrowly focused on several key topics aimed at promoting active citizenship and showing the link between culture and democracy became one of the most central points of the forum this year.

The forum featured contributions from altogether 284 guests from Poland and abroad – with activists, NGO representatives, European Commissioners, MEPs, MPs, politicians, scholars, authors, high-profile filmmakers, journalists, economists, among others.

Day 1

During the Opening Night Gala on Friday, September 13 – which began with formal addresses by the partners of the edition, including a speech by Detmar Doering of FNF Prague, – several high-profile individuals introduced the attendees into the world of liberal ideas, thus already signalling the main premise of the forum.

Radosław Sikorski – a Polish politician and journalist, a Civic Platform MEP, former Marshal of the Sejm, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defense, delivered a keynote speech on European Raison d’Etat: On Security and Democracy in the 21st Century; Balint Magyar – a former Hungarian Minister of Education, MP, and a long-time leader of the Hungarian Liberal Party (Alliance of Free Democrats), spoke about Kaczynski’s Poland and Orbán’s Hungary: Comparing Post-Communist Regime Trajcetories”, based on his own research; Frederic Martel – a French writer, journalist, he holds a PhD in Social Sciences, in reference to his latest book discussed the theme ofHypocrisy and Power in the Catholic Church”.

Day 2

On the second day, Saturday, September 14, in a panel discussion titled 50 Years after Stonewall, 30 Years after the Berlin Wall: LGBT+ Rights in Europe”, moderated by Miłosz Hodun (Member of the Board of European Liberal Forum, a Projekt: Polska representative), with participation of Adam Bodnar (a Polish lawyer, social activist, Commissioner for Human Rights), Julia Maciocha (President of the Board of the Fundacja Wolontariat Rowności), Barbara Nowacka (a Polish politician and feminist activist, the leader of Polish Initiative and Civic Coalition), and Ralf Fröhlich (President of LGBTI Liberals of Europe), the panelists discussed the current status of the LGBT+ rights in Poland and the European Union, focusing on the past and contemporary developments in this regard.

During a session titled Europe: A Community of Citizens”, Marek Belka (MEP, former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Poland), Elżbieta Bieńkowska (European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the European Commission), Kaja Kallas (President of Estonian Reform Party), Csaba Toth (a Political strategist, director of the Hungarian liberal think tank Republikon Institute), in a debate led by Daniel Kaddik (Executive Director of the European Liberal Forum), pondered over in what respects and to what extent societies and individuals inhabiting the European Union may be considered a community, and how it may be further reinforced and strengthened.

Another interesting part of the program was a confrontation about disinformation in the media and its link to the politics – what Detmar Doering (Representative of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for Central Europe and the Baltic States in Prague), Katarzyna Pełczyńska–Nałęcz (Director of the Forum Idei of the Stefan Batory Foundation), Marta Poślad (Head of Public Policy & Government Relations- Central and Eastern Europe at Google), Daniel Milo (Senior Research Fellow at the GLOBSEC Policy Institute), Martin Svárovský (Head of the Security Strategies Program and Senior Fellow at the European Values Think-Tank), debated with moderation by Tomasz Kamiński (Assistant Professor at the Faculty of International and Political Studies, University of Lodz, Liberte!) in a panel discussion devoted to “Value of Information in European Politics. Is Disinformation a Real Threat?”.

Moreover, a panel discussion titled “Election Strategies of European Democratic Forces in 2019” provided a unique opportunity to debate the existing and desired approaches to electoral campaigns in the EU. The session was held with the participation of Katalin Cseh (a Hungarian politician, Renew Europe Group MEP), Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka (Vice-President of the Robert Biedroń’s Wiosna party for legal and legislative matters), Barbara Nowacka (Politician and feminist activist, the leader of Polish Initiative and Civic Coalition), Andrea Virág (a Hungarian researcher and analyst at Republikon Institute), and was moderated by Piotr Beniuszys (a Polish political scientist and sociologist, journalist at Liberte!).

Day 3

One of the most spirited and heated debates on the third and last day of Freedom Games, Sunday, September 15, accompanied the session titled Saving Planet for Our Children. The Tasks for Europe”, with contributions from Katarzyna Jagiełło (Ecological activist, translator, traveller), Agnieszka Pomaska (MP, Civic Platform), Renata Sokol Jurković (Coordinator of the largest branch of Pametno Party and a member of presidential board), Anita Sowińska (Member of the board of the “Wiosna Roberta Biedronia”, leader of the Lodz region), Adam Wajrak (a Polish journalist, nature protection activist, traveler), moderated by Przemysław Staciwa (a TV reporter, journalist, TOYA TV).


With numerous questions from the audience, the environmental activists stressed the need for politicians to take action in preserving the natural ecosystems and fighting climate change without any excuses. Another significant debate was held in the Women to Save Democracy. Can Women Be the Inspiration to Renew Europe?” session. The debate that emerged between Sylwia Chutnik (a writer, commentator, social activist, and promoter of reading), Agnieszka Dziemanowicz-Bąk (a social activist, politician, and educational researcher), Marta Lempart (the initiator and leader of Women’s Protest in Poland), Katarzyna Lubnauer (Chairwoman of the Nowoczesna party, one of the leaders of the Civic Coalition, Vice-Chairwoman of the PO-KO Club), and Sofia Nerbrand (Swedish opinion maker and journalist, the chairwoman of the liberal think tank Bertil Ohlin Institute and a member of the liberal and green think tank Fores Board), led by Anna J. Dudek (Wysokie Obcasy), resulted in a series of insightful remarks on how women can contribute to the development and protection of the democratic values in the modern tumultuous times in Europe.

The last panel discussion, North/South: Two Visions of Europe? Where to Place CEE?”, brought together experts from various parts of the EU to talk about the future of the Central and Eastern Europe as a region that has much to offer, and the existing perspectives on strengthening the European integration by bringing together the existing perspectives. This was possible thanks to the remarks by Jurgen Martens (Member of the German Bundestag and the President of the European Liberal Forum), Ricardo Silvestre (International Officer for the Liberal Social Movement, a think tank in Portugal), Sofia Nerbrand (Swedish opinion maker and journalist, the chairwoman of the liberal think tank Bertil Ohlin Institute and a member of the liberal and green think tank Fores Board), and Ted Urho (Executive manager at a think tank), with moderation by Hanna Cichy (Economic analyst at Polityka Insight).

Finally, a keynote speech was delivered by Tom G. Palmer (Executive Vice-President for international programs at the Atlas Network), who spoke about the links between “Free Trade and Peace”. The grand finale of Freedom Games 2019 began with a formal address by former President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, followed by a short report by Mo Yik-Wong, who spoke about the protests in Hong Kong.

The last segment on the main stage was devoted to a special event titled “Generation of Values” and included a series of power speeches delivered by a group of influential social figures in their respective communities, giving voice especially to the youth.

Concerts, Partners, and More

As in the previous years, each day of the forum ended with a music concert. The bands that performed during the 2019 edition of the forum included: Wojciech Mazolewski Quintet (jazz), LAO CHE (folk & alternative rock), and Ørganek (alternative rock & pop).

Freedom Games were supported by 36 partners (Strategic, Content, Supporting, Technological, Media, Dialogue), which resulted in a wide-scale promotion of the forum in Poland and abroad. Among the partners, several members of the network took an active part in Freedom Games organization: Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Supporting Partner), and Content Partners: Civil Development Forum (FOR), Republikon Foundation, Lithuanian Free Market Institute, and INESS. Moreover, the network was a Media Partner of the event.

The forum was also supported by other like-minded networks and organizations, including: Open Society Foundations (Partner), European Liberal Forum (Partner), Atlas Network (Dialogue Partner), and Movimento Liberal Social (Content Partner).

In a Nutshell

Summarizing, by addressing a set of key issues vital for strengthening the liberal perspective in the European dialogue, Freedom Games 2019 once again utilized its potential to efficiently influence Polish citizens and international audience, including politicians, decision-makers, journalists, opinion-makers, NGO activists, experts, members of academia, students, and the youth, bringing about a real understanding of how to reinvent liberalism and promote pro-European values.

Full program of the event:

Full list of speakers:

Full list of concerts:

Olga Labendowicz