Between Ambition and Disarray – The Future of Democracy
Thursday, 14 September 2023, Orangery Sanssouci, Potsdam
“Between Ambition and Disarray – The Future of Democracy” was the title of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, which took place on 14 September in the East Hall of the Orangery Palace in Potsdam-Sanssouci.
For the 19th time, leading representatives of media, political institutions and think tanks from all over Europe and the USA met at a long table and in smaller strategic working groups to discuss the state and future of our (Western) democracy and the role of the media. Once again, the Colloquium provided a platform for an open and constructive dialogue on the evolving state of democratic systems in a world of upheaval, crisis, war and a concomitant restructuring of the world order.
The plenary was attended by about 70 participants from 20 countries, as well as 20 young journalists from 14 countries who had participated in an intensive workshop on climate reporting in the days leading up to the conference.
The main topics of the colloquium included the tension between democratic aspirations and the reality of democratic governance, the impact of technological progress on democracy, the increasing global disorder and polarisation within democracies, and the influence of disinformation and the role of the media in the rise of populism.
The conference was divided into three plenary roundtables – long table discussions – and four parallel strategic working groups of about 20 people each.
In a short welcoming speech, Prof. Dr. Christoph Martin Vogtherr, Director of the Palace Foundation and host of the Orangery, pointed out that one of the burning issues on the agenda of the M100SC was also one of the major challenges facing the Palace Foundation: “If you look out into the park and take a closer look at the trees, you can see that a large part of the tree population is extremely threatened by the consequences of climate change. Making the parks fit for the future and passing them on to future generations will be one of the Foundation’s major tasks in the coming years, he said.
M100 curator Dr Leonard Novy pointed out that M100 is not just a one-day conference, but a true network and platform that connects regions, sectors, and generations. “It is in this spirit of networking that we have begun to organise small M100 Media Forums in other places, such as New York last year and Tbilisi in June, with the financial support of the Alfred Herrhausen Society,” said Novy. “The conflicts we saw and discussed at the M100 Media Forum in Tbilisi reflect a larger, more universal challenge. A challenge to the meaning, practice and future of democracy. President Biden said that the struggle between autocracies and democracies defines the challenges of our time. If that is the case, it is not only a struggle between nations, but also a struggle within our societies. The sign of our times is the rise and appeal of elected autocracies, or “soft autocracy”.
In preparation for this year’s colloquium, the organisers had asked members of the M100 network a few weeks earlier in a survey about the state of media and democracy in their respective countries. When asked about the impact of AI on journalism and society, almost 80% of participants believe that neither political institutions nor the media are sufficiently prepared for the consequences of AI. Almost 55% of respondents are concerned about the impact of AI technologies such as ChatGPT on democracy, with only 27% seeing this as a positive development. However, when asked about the future impact of AI technologies such as ChatGPT on journalism, the same respondents gave 34% a positive or very positive view, while 39% had a negative to very negative view (27% were neutral). These and some other results from the (non-representative) M100 survey partly fed into the discussion of the afternoon’s strategic working groups.
Indian bestselling author and essayist Pankaj Mishra (“The Age of Rage”, “Friendly Fanatics”) was invited to give the opening address. In his speech, he confronted the participants from Europe and the US with a view from the so-called “Global South” on the concept of democracy as shaped by the West (the recording of his speech can be found here).
In his essays and books, Mishra has for years criticised the West for not only exploiting but also ignoring the countries of the Global South, and for considering itself “the measure of all things” in its drive to shape the world order according to its own ideas, and for ignoring and bypassing the majority of the world’s population. According to Mishra, at the latest since Russia’s war in Ukraine, this order no longer applies. The war and its consequences for the global energy and food trade have shifted the coordinates, and the West is finding that it is suddenly alone in its search for new partners – countries in the global South.
According to Mishra, the unstable and “confusing” situation in the world, the shifting of the supposedly secure world order, accompanied by wars and crises, is also and above all due to the failures, arrogance and ignorance of the West in recent decades. And it blames white Westerners for not having “paid enough attention to the history, politics and economics of non-white countries” – and for still not doing so. As a result, Indian Prime Minister Modi is now portrayed in the Western media “as a great ally of the West and the kind of leader of the global South that the West can work with”, says Mishra, while politicians and the media turn a blind eye to corruption, human rights abuses, restrictions on press freedom and a despotic leadership. The West should consider forging alliances with illiberal and opportunistic leaders in the Global South. Because: “The reality is that India needs cheap manufactured goods from its strategic rival China, cheap oil from Russia, military equipment and technology transfers from the United States and Europe, and investment from the United Arab Emirates. Accordingly, India cannot avoid a foreign policy that carefully hedges against binding commitments to this or that country or bloc in the multipolar world”.
“We live in a world where the future of democracy is not assured even in Europe, let alone in India,” Mishra said in his speech. “Capitalism has created far too much insecurity, which is now creating a vicious backlash. Demagogues and despotic leaders are on the rise in Europe and beyond”.
And he concludes: “Instead of re-legitimising authoritarian rulers and further damaging their credibility, Western leaders and opinion-makers should maintain their commitment to democracy – and not just rhetorically. Those who claim to be fighting for freedom and dignity in Ukraine should not be prepared to condone their destruction in India, Turkey and other potential partners of the West. The greater common and universal good of democracy is even more worth striving for in our complex multipolar world.
PLENARY ROUNDTABLE I
“Is Democracy losing it Lustre?”
Input: Christopher Walker, Vice-President for Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA
Moderation: Christoph Lanz, Trustee Thomson Foundation, M100 Board, Germany
The first plenary roundtable – a discussion with all participants at the long table – addressed the question of whether and why democracy is losing its appeal, its lustre. The discussion was introduced by Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA, who has just published a book entitled Defending Democracy in an Age of Sharp Power. In it, a range of authors explain how authoritarian powers around the world are trying to shake the pillars of democratic societies and exploit the openness of the free world – and what we can do about it.
Walker explained that over the past 17 years, more countries have experienced democratic decline than improvement. Democracies in particular are suffering a crisis of confidence and are beginning to lose faith in democracy as a system of government that is better able to protect individual rights and deliver prosperity than other systems that do not offer these guarantees. Walker warned that liberal democrats ‘need to be much more aware of their own responsibility to defend their values’. Autocratic countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are joining forces to restrict freedom of expression online. Together with other autocracies such as Egypt, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe, they are no longer just persecuting journalists and opposition figures within their own borders, but around the world. Journalists, sports stars and officials have mysteriously disappeared, from high-ranking Chinese foreign ministry officials to a Chinese tennis star who accused a CCP official of sexual abuse and has since disappeared. Then there is the internment of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang, which the Chinese leadership has no intention of changing any time soon.
Combined with the war in Ukraine “as the essence of the modern Russian colonial enterprise expressed in brutality and inhumanity”, Walker said, this was “certainly a grim situation, but all the more reason for people who believe in democratic values and safeguards to be even more resolute in advocating and defending them”. The task, he said, is “not only to support those values when things are going well, but even more so when things are going badly”. Part of the challenge today, he said, is to find more creative and innovative ways “to work with people on the front lines of these struggles”. These include the women in Iran fighting for their rights (and who received the evening’s M100 Media Award), the people in China fighting for a different future, the people in Russia fighting against Putin’s regime and, of course, the people in Ukraine fighting not just for their existence but for the existence of a free, liberal Europe.
In the ensuing discussion, the following points were raised:
Does liberal democracy need a new narrative?
• The problem of two-party systems in democracies: In the UK and the US this has led to a shift to the right and polarisation in both countries in recent years. In the US, a third party in the elections would actually strengthen Donald Trump.
• For us, the concepts of liberalism and democracy are still closely linked, but they are increasingly diverging. On the one hand, democracy is losing its lustre for many people, but on the other hand, the same people want to live liberally according to the motto: I want to make use of my opportunities, realise my ideas and live according to my beliefs – but not burden myself with politics and take responsibility for my environment, my society and the people in it.
• Not only liberals should stand up for their own values, but also European institutions like the European Union. Example Victor Orban: The main actors have now completely adopted Orban’s narrative, while Orban is colonising the Visegrád Group in order to use it as a disintegrating force in the EU. Although the EU has plenty of opportunities to discipline Orban, it does not use them for various reasons, including the fact that Germany gets tax breaks for car manufacturers in Hungary. The EU says, punishing Orban would punish all Hungarians, but in reality, it is punishing the whole region, and confidence in the European institution as a strong defender of European values is eroding. So, if you don’t defend your own values, how can you be attractive to others?
• Authoritarianism can also be found in so-called liberal democracies, there are enough examples of restrictions on freedom of assembly, press and expression in countries like France, Germany, or the UK.
• Even in Germany there is a growing number of people who find the Chinese model comparatively attractive.
• China is buying its way into more and more smaller countries, bringing with it all its resources, workers, technologies, media, and propaganda, which individual democracies find very difficult to deal with. That is why democratic societies need more common and strong collective action and unity.
Challenges posed by Technology and (Dis)Information
• Germany is the main target of Russian disinformation attacks and is unable to counter them. After 1,5 years of war in Ukraine, polls show how strongly the Russian narrative has taken root on social media and in the minds of many Germans. RT is officially sanctioned, but it still cooperates with other platforms and spreads its propaganda, as does Ruptly, which even still has an office in Berlin. It is remarkable that Germany is being successfully attacked by what is part of a hybrid war.
• Proposal to establish a larger alliance to repel these attacks and defend our values within our borders. Finland has just formed an alliance with security agencies, government, media, journalists, and civil society representatives, creating a whole of society movement to resist Russian disinformation and undermining of opinion.
• More decisive action by Germany against Russian disinformation would also send an important signal to Eastern Europe. After all, if Germany is too weak to defend itself against Russian disinformation, how will smaller Eastern European countries manage? Media professionals in Germany should make a concerted effort to keep our information space free and to expose the fakes that rain down on our society every day.
• If we do not set standards and limits for the big tech companies and new technologies, it will be the autocracies that will use them to undermine democracies and open societies even more.
• Despite the many differences in individual countries, cultures and perspectives, democratic societies – and journalists too – should try to find the highest common denominator to defend democracy, freedom of speech and thought, and to repel authoritarianism and dictatorship.
Media and the State of Democracy
• We have to strengthen civil society and democratic institutions, especially the fourth estate, the media.
• China has spent 6.6 billion $ on media outside China. Russia has spent 1.5 billion on media influence operations outside Russia, Qatar is currently spending 5 billion a year on influence operations outside the country. The entire OECD together spends 500 million a year. If you don’t resource the media, you have media extinction, you have a weakened fourth estate and autocratic expansion. In the UK alone we have lost over 250 news titles in the last 15 years. They are gone forever. OECD and democratic powers should do more and and take concrete action to defend democracy and fight disinformation.
• Functioning media are directly related to the state of democracy in the countries. But it is very important for countries to have good and healthy media, high professional standards, especially for public broadcasters. It is sad to see how public broadcasters in many European countries are under political and financial pressure.
• Journalism and media institutions can do a better job in tackling the phenomena of polarisation, becoming more transparent and diverse in their work, and devoting more time to explaining what democracy is, rather than just focusing on sentimentalism in a kind of competition and campaigns.
M100 YOUNG EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS WORKSHOP
REPORTING ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The 20 participants of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop then presented the results of the previous four-day workshop. The young journalists had researched climate reporting in four European regions: Caucasus, Balkans, Southern Europe, and Western Europe. They stressed that it is important to keep in mind that democracies are different and sometimes work differently. Different countries, different political systems, but in all of them the media play a crucial role. The participants said that the media had let people down in recent years. And although most of them work for the media themselves, the young journalists also wanted to represent the voice of the people at the presentation and voice their concerns.
At the start of the session, they asked participants at the table to use a QR code to enter what they thought was the biggest challenge to climate reporting in the newsroom. Responses included: lack of funding, complexity, greenwashing, corruption, crime, lack of resources and lack of training. Another survey revealed that of all the journalists around the table, only three said they called the climate crisis a crisis – the others called it climate change. This came as a surprise to the young journalists, as they themselves see climate change as a crisis.
In different groups, they presented the results of their research:
1. The Caucasus: Georgia as an example
Georgia’s main problem is democracy. And many media do not report independently. The independent media and citizens lack access to unbiased information, which affects the functioning of a healthy democracy.
2. The Balkans: Turkey as an example
In Turkey, the battle between online media for the most clicks to get more coverage and thus more advertisers is particularly problematic. Issues are not treated objectively but hyped and hysterised. This is also a problem in the area of climate reporting, because it does not educate, but stirs up climate fears. The gloomy, exaggerated headlines are meant to grab attention and get people to click, but they mainly make the audience depressed and lethargic, and lead to polarisation in society. This kind of apocalyptic journalism turns people away from the media. They have no capacity to deal with this kind of news.
3. Southern Europe: Italy as an example
The Mediterranean is a hotspot of climate change, temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else in Europe, and this summer all the countries of southern Europe were hit by heat waves and forest fires. Yet the media would not face up to the challenge. They report on the events, but not on the causes. The media focus on the human tragedy but ignore the scientific aspect. In Italy, misinformation, the dissemination and citation of false studies and climate denial are a major problem.
4 Western Europe: France as an example
The situation in France is similar to that in Italy. Even France’s largest daily newspaper, Le Monde, reported on the many large forest fires in 2022, but did not link them to climate change.
The young journalists’ criticism is that although more and more media are linking events to climate change, most coverage focuses on the extreme nature of the event and not on its links to climate change. This is no different in Germany.
The race for attention and clicks, the international group concluded, is usually at the forefront of climate change reporting. In addition, journalists often fail to make the link between natural disasters – forest fires, floods, tornadoes – and climate change, instead reporting on the event as a disaster. Clearly, journalism is still in its infancy when it comes to climate change. It is putting journalism to the test and forcing the industry to reflect and change.
• Closer, more intensive exchanges between newsrooms about the impact of stories on climate change, both from a socio-political point of view (has anything changed in society or in the decisions of policy makers?) and from a financial point of view (have more subscriptions been sold, more readers attracted?)
• Make climate change reporting part of the journalistic business model
• Integrate the issue into all departments
• Acquiring scientific skills, training in newsrooms, attending workshops and seminars
• Explain science in a way that everyone can understand
• Not doing more, but doing better
• Constructive, solution-oriented journalism. Away from pessimism, towards proactive reporting.
Just two examples:
1. Concrete rather than abstract
To make climate change more tangible, the German weekly “Die Zeit” offers a kind of climate change calculator (paywall). For example, you can calculate what the world will look like when you are 65 or the CO2 footprint of your holiday trips. In this way, climate change becomes a so-called “I-topic”, moving from an abstract to a private level.
2. Join forces
Like the international Solutions Journalism Network which aims to bring about a global change in journalism on climate change.
Please find here a comprehensive summary of the M100YEJ workshop.
PARALLEL STRATEGIC WORKING GROUPS
After lunch, the participants divided into four strategic working groups, which they had chosen when they registered for the conference. The following topics were discussed:
I. The new global divide: Reclaiming trust in democracy
II. Whole and free? Re-energising EU enlargement
III Technically obsolete? Journalism and democracy in the age of AI
(The Strategic Working Group was hosted by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft)
IV. Democratic defence: Trends, challenges and side-effects of the fight against disinformation
The individual Strategic Working Groups were introduced by short inputs and took place under Chatham House Rules. The results were presented at the end of the conference by the moderators of the working groups (see below for results).
PLENARY ROUNDTABLE II
The new (far-right) normal: Are journalists to blame for democracy’s discontent?
Input: Dr Gregor Peter Schmitz, Editor-in-Chief, STERN magazine, Germany
Input: Dr Edit Zgut-Przybylska, Visiting Fellow CEU Democracy Institute, Hungary
Moderation: Anja Wehler-Schöck, International Editor, Der Tagesspiegel, Germany
“The new (far-right) normal” and whether journalists are “to blame for democracy’s discontent” were the questions of Plenary Roundtable II, for which all participants gathered around the long table again. Anja Wehler-Schöck started by asking Dr Gregor Peter Schmitz, editor-in-chief of the magazine STERN, who had made the controversial decision to put an interview with AfD leader Alice Weidel on the cover. This sparked a heated debate about whether Stern had contributed to the AfD’s popularity and whether the media should pay attention to or ignore a party like the AfD.
Since the AfD is a democratically elected party and Weidel has also expressed interest in running for chancellor, Schmitz argues that it is legitimate and necessary to pay attention to the issue and the person, along the lines of “sunlight is sometimes the best disinfectant”. But of course there was a red line he would not cross, for example he would never give journalistic space to someone who denied the Holocaust.
Dr Edit Zgut-Przybylska, a Hungarian national living in Poland, who has been researching democracy for years, noted that the appropriation of the media is the lynchpin of democratic backsliding in Central Eastern Europe. Balázs Orbán, political director to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, said a few weeks ago. “Whoever controls the media controls the mentality of the country and therefore the country itself.”
The result, he said, is that public broadcasters in Hungary and Poland broadcast only state propaganda. There are hardly any independent media, as it is extremely difficult to finance oneself in these conditions, which include repression and arrests. In Poland, where parliamentary elections will be held on 15 October, the main propaganda is that opposition leader Donald Tusk, together with Germany and Russia, is trying to undermine the will of the Polish people and their sovereignty. In Hungary, the discussion focuses on how Ukraine is not a real country and how sanctions against Russia are destroying both Hungary and the European Union. Edit Zgut-Przybylska criticised the fact that all this has been going on for 13 years with EU taxpayers’ money and under the EU’s nose, without any significant action being taken.
“The EU is stuck in a loop with informal power in Poland and Hungary,” said Edit Zgut-Przybylska. She said the European Commission must launch infringement proceedings to stop the politicisation of media ownership and the abuse of state advertising. (Read her recently published text on this issue “The EU is letting Hungary and Poland erode democracy” here).
Gregor Peter Schmitz also sees growing pressure on the media in the German debate. Because of the many crises of recent years, there is a lot of resentment towards the media that he would not have predicted a few years ago. “You can be very critical of the reporting of recent years,” says Schmitz. “We as a media were for a long time too hesitant to criticise some aspects of Corona’s policy, and we were initially too supportive of Merkel’s migration policy.” But the way the media are now being attacked head-on is a very worrying development.
In Hungary and Poland, more and more independent platforms are starting to turn directly to their audiences for financial support. Crowdfunding is very popular as a way of upholding journalistic principles and providing independent news and fact-based information.
2. there is a greater demand in society for access to information and people are willing to pay for and contribute to their work. Unfortunately, these efforts are being undermined by successive economic crises. And more and more editors are concerned that this business model is not sustainable. We need to come up with alternative ideas, such as setting up foundations.
3) Some local online media have started to work together to develop common strategies on how to survive, finance themselves and become more resilient. They say there is no interference in each other’s editorial work.
4. more cross-sectoral collaboration with academia, civil society organisations and the media to expose government lies on social media, public television and 80% of the media.
In the US, 64% of Americans do not trust the media, according to one poll. Some major media companies were extremely supportive of Donald Trump on his way to the presidency. In the UK, parts of the media also played a big role in creating the mood for Brexit.
This is not yet the case in Germany. No so-called mainstream media have supported the AfD so far. Nevertheless, the question is when the first domino will fall and traditional media will start to support the AfD, and when the state will fall into the hands of this party.
So what role does the media play in society’s shift to the right, how much are they to blame for the dissatisfaction with democracy, and how should they deal with extreme parties? Turkish journalist Dr Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the German-Turkish news platform Özgürüz and in exile in Germany since 2016, answered this question with an urgent warning: “We also discussed 20 years ago in Turkey whether we should give the radical Islamists a platform as part of society. Some said no, because these people are trying to destroy our democracy. But others said this is the power of democracy, if they are in the democratic sphere, we have to give them a platform. So here we are, 20 years later. I am in exile, we have lost all the media platforms to the radical Islamists who will not give a platform to anyone in Turkey who thinks differently from them. I think we need some kind of distinction between real democracies and weak democracies, because without democratic institutions, independent media and independent traditions, these countries are not strong enough to defend democracy. And in the absence of that strength, unfortunately, the radicals can easily seize power and destroy the democratic process.
PLENARY ROUNDTABLE III
The path ahead: Recommendations
Presentation of the working groups and conclusion of the conference
The concluding plenary roundtable briefly summarised the results of the strategic working groups and formulated recommendations for further necessary steps and actions. The aim was to develop practical ways, strategies and ideas to help us adapt to the complex and challenging realities of our time.
IV. Democratic defence: Trends, challenges and side-effects of the fight against disinformation
Input: Tamar Kintsurashvili, Founder and Executive Director MDF, Georgia
Input: Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė, Chief Executive Officer Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT), Lithuania
Input: Nishant Lalwani, Chief Executive Officer at the International Fund for Public Interest Media IFPIM, United Kingdom
Moderation: Prof. Dr Alexandra Borchardt, Senior Journalist, Book Author, lecturer, Media Adviser, M100 Board, Germany
• Debunking disinformation is just the tip of the iceberg, we need a healthy media ecosystem, which means a healthy public interest media ecosystem.
• Propaganda is mostly spread by political actors. So it is not only journalism that has to fight disinformation, but also politics.
• It does not matter what kind of disinformation is being spread. It is more emotionally than factually motivated. It’s about appealing to emotions, making people afraid and exploiting those fears, for example fear of war.
• Not enough investment in journalistic innovation. If there was enough high-quality and innovative journalism that really reached the public, including young people, we wouldn’t have such a big problem with disinformation.
• We have been fighting disinformation for so many years, but there is no reflection on what works and what does not work in the fight against disinformation. Artificial intelligence is making things worse, he said.
• Truthful information is a human right!
• More investment in investigative journalism in the field.
• Donors who invest in quality journalism should not do so alone, but work together to achieve more quality journalism on the ground.
• Disseminate quality information. Work with influencers. The White House now has a press room for influencers. It is important to reach as many people as possible with quality information.
• Public and commercial media should end their rivalry and work together for quality journalism.
• We need to go where the different audiences are, which means the challenge of providing news in different languages.
III Technically obsolete? Journalism and democracy in the age of AI
The Strategic Working Group was hosted by the Alfred Herrhausen Society
Input: Sven Gösmann, Editor-in-Chief dpa, Germany
Input: Prof. Dr Gerard de Melo, Chair of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems, Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering, Germany
Moderator: Antonia Marx, Senior Project Manager, Alfred Herrhausen Society, Germany
• Artificial Intelligence has the potential to impact the processes and workflows of news organisations and is therefore key to transforming the future of journalism.
• AI can and will affect not only the creation of content, but also its distribution, and has a significant impact on the distribution and revenue side of news organisations.
• AI can improve the quality and creative value of journalism by freeing up resources.
• Many newsrooms are already experimenting with AI. Journalism can benefit from the potential of AI in content creation and distribution by freeing up resources for deeper journalism. As one participant noted, “AI does the boring stuff.
• In an age of disinformation, quality journalism is all the more important.
• As beneficial as AI can be for journalism, it can also be used to produce and disseminate more misinformation. This makes journalism’s role as a trusted source of information even more important.
• AI is challenging the business model of journalism.
• AI generates its content from existing information on the internet. This raises questions about ownership and the business model of journalism: should editors make their content available to AI applications? And if they block their content, what are the consequences? One of the biggest fears is that quality and trustworthy content will become more exclusive and the knowledge gap in society will grow.
Should we be afraid of AI? Or do the benefits of AI outweigh the risks? The technology of AI already exists and will definitely be used. It is less a question of being afraid of AI and more a question of being aware of how this technology can be misused to do harm. Cooperation and collaboration between journalism and technology platforms could be a solution to prevent the misuse of AI, as well as (self-)regulation – and education and awareness.
Let’s break the monopolies and build collaborations!
II. Whole and free? Re-energising EU enlargement
Input: Prof. Dr Wolfgang Ischinger, former Chair Munic Security Conference, M100 Board, Germany
Input: Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, Director Belsat TV, Poland
Moderation: Anja Wehler-Schöck, International Editor Der Tagesspiegel, Germany
• At the moment, there are a number of countries waiting to become candidates, or already candidates waiting for the accession process to move forward: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, as well as the countries of the Western Balkans, which are beginning to grow impatient. Quote: “The waiting room is quite crowded.
• The question is how fast and in what direction the EU enlargement process can continue. The vision is an EU of 30, but when and how was hotly debated at the round table.
• Possible obstacles: Enlargement can only work if there is consensus among all members.
• In the case of Ukraine’s accession, all members would have to accept that they would become net contributors, including the countries of Central Eastern Europe, which have been the main beneficiaries of EU funds, which would have a significant financial impact on them.
How to get there:
• Seizing the historic momentum.
• Thinking more creatively about EU enlargement than before and not saying so strictly “either you’re in or you’re out”, but finding ways to invite the foreign ministers of partner countries to the Council of Ministers during the accession process, for example, or finding other ways of cooperation that we are not doing at the moment, and implementing partnership models.
• Discussing the Copenhagen criteria (respect for human rights, institutional stability, democratic and constitutional order, respect for and protection of minorities), which would be possible without amending the treaty.
• Dealing with problematic behaviour that violates EU standards, as is currently the case in Poland or Hungary: incentives rather than sanctions, so as not to widen the gap.
• Using the accession process for reforms, as in countries like Ukraine or Georgia, to work very intensively on the reforms needed to achieve the goal.
I. The new global divide: Regaining trust for democracy
Input: Saad Mohseni, Co-founder and Chairman MOBY Group, Afghanistan
Input: Dr George N. Tzogopoulos, Lecturer and Senior Fellow CIFE | European Institute Nice, Greece
Moderation: Dr Ali Fathollah-Nejad, Director CMEG, Germany
• The discussion picked up on Pankaj Mishra’s opening speech. On the one hand, the “hypocrisy” of the West in relation to the Global South needs to be addressed and criticised, while at the same time the tyrannies in large parts of the Global South should not be ignored.
• The discussion on trust in democracy in the world is largely associated with the Global South. It is therefore important to understand what this term means, to examine its historical use (first by Willy Brandt) and to understand the priorities of the countries of the Global South through their own prism.
• The West can only regain trust by defending its values and ending its still widespread hypocrisy.
• Trust in democracy can only be regained by ending the double standards and lack of principles in international politics.
• Participants from Europe, in particular, stressed the need to improve our own democracies and to defend more resolutely those that still exist (see Poland, Hungary or Slovakia, whose upcoming parliamentary elections could bring the pro-Russian populist Robert Fico back to power).
• Uprisings for more freedom and democracy, such as in Iran against the dictatorship, must be supported.
• Unfortunately, there is still a Western tendency to favour authoritarian stability and order. Sadly, nothing has changed on the political level in recent decades.
• The West needs to take care of its own problems first and foremost if it wants to serve as a beacon for others. The situation in the United States, especially after the attacks on the Capitol, has shaken things up. From a European perspective, the outcome of the 2024 US presidential elections should be viewed with concern.
• As the debate on the new global divide and the meaning of democracy evolves, it is very positive that the US and the EU are strengthening their synergies. Their cooperation in the Trade and Technology Council is a notable example. So too is their cooperation in the G7.
•- The emphasis on democracy is crucial, but this emphasis should not preclude cooperation with non-democracies to achieve common goals, such as fighting terrorism and tackling climate change. This requires political skill to protect democracy while contributing to global stability and prosperity.
“If there is one thing we have learned from the past two decades, it is that the democratic promise is not an end in itself and certainly not, as we now know, the end of history,” said Dr Leonard Novy, summing up the conference. “It needs constant renewal and constant engagement, and that is what we are doing here with and at M100. Because there is no engagement without exchange of views and dialogue at the international level”.
M100 MEDIA AWARD
The conference was followed by the presentation of the M100 Media Award to the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran. The award was accepted by Iranian women’s rights activist Shima Babaei.
The laudation was delivered by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
Political statements: Mersedeh Shahinkar, Iranian activist in exile | Jasmin Tabatabai, German-Iranian actress and musician | Düzen Tekkal, journalist, human rights activist, founder of HÁWAR.help.
The evening was hosted by Pinar Atalay, First Journalist, RTL.
A summary of the award ceremony and all speeches can be found here.
The recording of the live stream of the award ceremony with simultaneous English translation can be found here.
We thank our supporters, sponsors and partners!
M100SC: City of Potsdam, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Federal Foreign Office, German Postal Code Lottery, Alfred Herrhausen Society, Institute for Media and Communication Policy, Medienlabor Agency, BFB, AFP, MVFP, Reporters Without Borders, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation
M100YEJ: Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, Journalismfund Europe.