Almost three decades after the end of the conflict between capitalist and state socialist´systems, a new division is emerging in the world – between functioning parliamentary democracies and authoritarian governments. The past ten years of crises have been marked not by close, peaceful cohesion between the member states of the European Union, but by the rise of nationalist movements and increased disintegration. Europe is weakened, and meanwhile finds itself confronted with new realities that make joint action seem all the more important, particularly in matters of foreign and security policy. Great Britain’s BREXIT decision and the presidency of Donald Trump have suddenly thrown decades-old structures and certainties into question – all at a time when relations with Russia and Turkey have reached a low point. Many observers took heart in Emmanuel Macron’s election victory as a chance to reform and take new strength. But historian Andreas Rödder cautions against the return to living an integration-politics lie: “The moral charge of the ‘ever-closer union’ has pushed the great idea of the European Union too far, turning it into an ideology. This impairs its willingness to apply self-criticism and the ability to correct problems, endangering its unique historical achievements. What Europe needs is a clever mix of realism and ideas – a flexible union of its so very different member states.” What’s left of project “West”? How can the growing centrifugal forces within Europe be countered? Could the politics of Donald Trump ultimately lead to a strengthening of the EU? What steps are needed to reform the EU and overcome the economic and fiscal-political lines of conflict between northern and southern countries? With these questions in mind, the opening session of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium discusses political visions and concrete strategies in an international order under new auspices. This is inextricably tied not only to the question of the future of transatlantic relations, but also to future prospects for the EU, for whom the defence of liberal democracy, both internally and externally, has suddenly become one of the major tasks at hand.
11:30 – 12:00 Coffee Break
12:00 – 13:30 SESSION II: FAILING DEMOCRACY? Input I: Jason Brennan (McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, USA) Input II: Victor Erofeev (Writer, Russia) Moderator: Christoph Lanz (Journalist, Media Advisor, Germany)
Liberal democracies are rightly regarded as extremely stable from a historical perspective. And yet acceptance of and consent to democracy have always been based on the fact that it has consistently guaranteed prosperity and stability. Many people today feel cut off from prosperity developments; inequality is on the rise, and globalisation certainly does not benefit everyone equally. The result is an erosion of support for democracy, as more citizens doubt the democratic quality of political decision-making processes and their concrete effects. The Harvard political scientist Yasha Mounk warns: “The percentage of citizens who feel it is important to live in a democracy is declining – in Germany, the US and in many other countries. Meanwhile, the percentage of citizens who are open to alternatives to democracy is growing. These two factors together amount to a global crisis of liberal democracy. Our system is fighting for survival.” What becomes clear is this: The threat isn’t disinterest in the sense of “disillusionment with politics”, but the populist distance to democracy. “Western states have lost control,” journalist Ursula Weidenfeld notes. “Once powerful countries now stand helpless before the decaying world order that they themselves have created.” Digitisation and globalisation “ravage the democratic foundations of the Western world, breaking its order and leaving both states and individuals behind with their experiences of powerlessness.” This affects the established parties, the media, and – as collateral damage – what has hitherto been the basis of political debates: the assumption that every human being has the right to their “own” opinion but not “their own facts”, as former US Senator Patrick Moynihan put it. These developments have found a powerful catalyst in digitisation, the advent of “fake news” and new forms of manipulation. How crisis-proof are liberal democracies? Have populists reached the zenith of their success? What has to change to win disappointed citizens back to the idea of democracy?
13:30 – 14:30 Lunch
14:30 – 15:45 SESSION III: THE NEW(S) MEDIA Input I: Mathias Müller von Blumencron (Editor-in-Chief Digital Media Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany) Input II: Áine Kerr(Manager, Journalism Partnerships, Facebook, USA) Moderator: Ali Aslan (TV Moderator and Journalist, Germany)
“Given the scandalisation of politics, defamation of rivals and the split of the electorate, it isn’t just the classic parties that will have to deal with it but also the media, without which this strategy would not work,” German media scholar Dietrich Leder writes. For the media, the lesson of the US election is “that it isn’t enough to cut this web of lies, accusations, and denunciations with rational means, you also have to analyse the circumstances in which a strategy like this is successful.” But analysis is proving difficult for those affected, both traditional and social media alike. Digitisation and the growing importance of social networks not only raise numerous problems; they also seem to be overwhelming everyone. One feature of the current situation is the simultaneity of transparency and confusion, of huge amounts of facts and propaganda. We are experiencing a crisis of public communication that comes not from a lack of information, but from the “communicative abundance” (John Keane) that blurs truth and illusion. The US elections were also characterised by maximum transparency, and journalism was better than ever in many respects. In short, users have never had so many sources from which to gain a detailed picture, practically in real time and often for free. Nevertheless, we are experiencing a kind of “system failure”: the products of classical journalistic craft, all the research, all the fact checking proved ineffective. In the words of US journalist Susan B. Glasser: “We’ve achieved a lot more transparency in today’s Washington – without the accountability that was supposed to come with it.” The demand for “fake news” and crisis of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic are inter-related in this respect. Meanwhile, freedom of the press and of opinion is under greater threat than it has been for years and decades. This applies to autocratically led countries such as Russia and Turkey, but also to established democracies in which independent media and journalists are facing greater and greater restrictions. So where do our public spheres develop from here? And how can journalism – in light of today’s rapidly changing political, social and technical conditions – do justice to the diversity of expectations laid at its door?
15:45 – 16:30
SPECIAL TALK and PRESS CONFERENCE Natalia Sindeeva(Founder & CEO, Doshd TV, Russia)
Moderation: Ingo Mannteufel(Head of the Russian editorial section and Head of Department of Eastern Europe, Deutsche Welle, Germany)