WAR OR PEACE
The return of geopolitics, disintegration and the radicalisation of society in Europe
Thursday, September 15, 2016, Orangery of Sanssouci, Potsdam
Buffeted by the euro crisis and a flood of refugees, the closing of internal borders and the conflict in Ukraine, national self-interests and the resurgence of right-wing parties, the European Union is facing its most existential crisis yet after almost 60 years since the Treaty of Rome.
The refugee crisis, which can only be alleviated by joint action, has exposed not only the limits of classical EU policy instruments, but also an ideological crisis within the European community of values. The loss of political control, the disappearance of intra-European solidarity and the gradual erosion of the democratic values that constitute the normative power and appeal of Europe are mutually reinforcing and, when taken together, mark a historic turning point.
War is once again on the minds of the collective consciousness of Europe. It’s reflected in the faces of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing terror and destruction to Europe, but also in the radical Islamic terror carried out on the streets of Europe and its impact on the civilian texture of European societies. Ethnic tensions, populist agitation and incitement are on the rise. ‘The times in which the rule of law, separation of powers and the freedom of the press were simply dull matters of course are history’, writes the Swiss paper Tagesanzeiger.
The disintegration of Europe is also a result of new geopolitical rivalries. Observers are already talking about a new “Cold War” between East and West, giving, in any case, new relevance to historic constellations of conflict such as the antagonism between Russia and Turkey. And while the civil war in Syria awaits a political solution and the resulting stream of refugees throws the cohesion and effectiveness of the European Union into doubt, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine is creating a frozen conflict in Ukraine that threatens to further destabilise not only the country, but also the European security order.
The events of recent months have shown that the border of peace no longer manifests itself today in the absence of conventional wars. Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center 15 years ago, there is no clear distinction between war and peace. In the asymmetric wars of the present, the players do not wear uniforms, they cross no borders and they create no body politic. The war, in the words of Herfried Münkler, has become a diffuse steady state, and peace a state of ‘precarious stability’. Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum worries, ‘We are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it.’
Will Europe fail? What consequences can we expect from the reappearance of nationalism and a shift to the right in many Member States? How do things stand between aspirations and reality in the European community of values? And how can Europe revive its democratic forces to once again meet these latest challenges? What role does the media play in today’s information wars, and how much responsibility should they shoulder?
Against this backdrop, some 60 leading media and opinion makers from around Europe will meet to discuss these issues on 15 September 2016 at the 12th M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in the Orangery of Sanssouci in Potsdam.
The aim of the Colloquium is to initiate a constructive, cross-sector dialogue between representatives from politics, academia, the media and relevant companies and institutions about the prospects of a free and democratic Europe caught between the threat of terror, shifts to the right, renationalisation, streams of refugees, surveillance mania and a loss of political control.