Between Ambition and Disarray: The Future of Democracy

Thursday, 14 September 2023, Orangery Palace, Potsdam/Germany
Hashtag: #M100SC
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09:00 – 20:00


09:00 – 09:30


Conference Chair: Christoph Lanz,Trustee Thomson Foundation, Member of the M100 Advisory Board

09:30 – 09:40


Sabine Sasse, Head of Programme M100, Germany
Prof. Dr Christoph Martin Vogtherr, Director General Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Germany
Dr Leonard Novy, Director Institute for Media and Communication Policy, Germany

09:40 – 10:00
Interactive round of introduction

10:00 – 10:30

OPENING SPEECH              

with Q & A

Pankaj Mishra

Essayist, literary critic, author, India

10:30 – 10:45

Coffee Break

10:45 – 11:45

Is democracy losing its lustre?

In theory and in practice, from within and outside: Liberal democracy faces severe challenges. Its normative and institutional underpinnings are under attack, with authoritarian forces effectively taking advantage of internal vulnerabilities, pushing boundaries, and creating divisions between liberal principles and democratic implementation. While support for democracy remains robust worldwide, the Western notion of democratic governance appears to be losing some of its global appeal. Is liberal democracy in need of a new narrative?

Input: Christopher Walker Vice President for Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA

11:45 – 12:15


Presentation of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop

12:15 – 13:15


13:15 – 14:30

I. The new global divide: Regaining trust for democracy

Geopolitics, while never gone, is back with a vengeance. The geopolitical rivalry of our time is also a struggle over the role, meaning and, ultimately, future of democracy. Perspectives vary from region to region, but the ongoing war in Ukraine has brought to light differences, if not outright divisions about the state and future of international politics. While liberal democracies find themselves closely aligned, countries in the global south have expressed their frustration with the perceived double standards and imbalances within the current system. At the same time, authoritarian regimes seek to exploit these grievances and expand their spheres of influence, casting doubt on the effectiveness of liberal democracy in addressing the challenges of the present.
What factors have contributed to the dwindling moral authority of liberalism? How can Europe and its allies assume a leading role in promoting and upholding democratic principles?

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


II. Whole and free? Reenergizing EU enlargement

The question of enlargement is back on the agenda. And with it the question of institutional reform. Granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and potential candidate status to Georgia was an unimaginable decision prior to 2022. Yet, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought a renewed sense of urgency to the topic of EU enlargement, which had long been regarded with little enthusiasm by existing EU member states. After nearly ten years of disappointments how can the current momentum be maintained? And after a decade without even seriously discussing treaty reform: is the Union itself prepared for another large round of 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


III. Technically obsolete? Journalism and democracy in the age of AI

This Strategic Working Group is hosted by Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Recent breakthroughs in machine learning and the spread of AI applications to all parts of our society do not stop at the structures and processes of democracy. What are the effects on democratic decision-making and our civic conversation? How do news organisations and journalists have to adapt? And how can we harness the potential of AI while guarding ourselves against the risks it poses?

Input: Sven Gösmann, Editor-in-Chief dpa, Germany
Input: Prof. Dr Gerard de Melo, Chair for Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering, Germany
Moderation: Antonia Marx, Senior Project Manager, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, Germany


IV. Democratic defence: Trends, challenges and side-effects of the fight against disinformation

While the 2008 US-presidential election is often considered the first social media election, the 2024 elections could go down in history as the first elections of the age of AI. As a result, there is an increasing need to ensure the integrity of election-related information. Disinformation not only threatens to undermine free and fair political competition worldwide, but also polarizes societies and weakens democracies overall. Where do we stand in the fight against information manipulation? What does it take to defend democracy in the age of AI?

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 Lalwany, 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, Germany


14:30 – 14:45

Coffee Break

14:45 – 15:30

The new (far-right) normal: Are journalists to blame for democracy’s discontent?

Italy, Sweden and Finland are just the latest examples: Once considered fringe, rightwing populist parties and far right parties have been on the rise for years in Europe and beyond, scoring electoral success and assuming government roles. Attributing the rise of any political figure or movement solely to the media is an oversimplification of a complex phenomenon. Nevertheless, excessive horse race coverage and sensationalism are widely considered to have played a central role in the rise of populist leaders such as Donald Trump in 2016 while exacerbating public disillusionment and division. Against the backdrop of the landmark elections taking place in 2024 (US, EU etc.) this roundtable examines the media’s role in democracy’s discontent. What lessons can we draw from the experiences of recent years? And how should journalists cover the “new normal”?
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

15:30 – 16:00

The path ahead: Recommendations

Presentation of the working groups and conclusion of the conference
Moderation: Dr Leonard Novy
, Director Institute for Media and Communication Policy, Germany

16:00 – 18:00


18:00 – 19:00

M100 MEDIA AWARD             

Welcome: Mike Schubert, Lord Mayor State Capital Potsdam, Germany
Laudation: Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Germany
Acceptance Speech: Shima Babaei, Women’s Rights Activist, Iran
Political Statement: Mersedeh Shahinkar, Women’s Rights Activist, Iran, Jasmin Tabatabai, German-Iranian Actress and Musician, Germany, Düzen Tekkal, Journalist, Founder of, Germany

Moderation: Pinar Atalay, First Journalist, RTL, Germany

19:00 –  22:00