“What kind of Europe? Learning from the Crisis”
Potsdam, 6 September 2012
Since its foundation in 2005, the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium has developed into one of Europe’s most important conferences on media and politics. Held in a setting as personal as it is exceptional, around 80 international leading opinion-makers and public media figures are invited annually to the legendary Sanssouci palace to discuss in person the current issues and problems facing society and politics, including from a global perspective. M100 provides a truly international dialogue forum to examine the differences and commonalities in the media’s role in various cultures and regions and to promote democracy and freedom of opinion and the press.
Beyond the media industry’s commercial symposia, the colloquium facilitates a personal exchange of views on the highest level, investigating genuine political issues and the related topic of the media’s role.
Topic and Objective 2012
Europe is in the midst of one of its most grave crises, in a financial, political and social way. In this crisis, politicians seem to be preoccupied with extinguishing one financial and political fire after another, without however explaining what they are doing. Meanwhile, two things have long since been proven illusory: not only faith in the integrative power of markets, but also the idea that the purpose of the EU is self-evident.
The political sphere’s helplessness in dealing with what Jürgen Habermas has called “unbridled financial capitalism” has recently become quite apparent. Even the European project itself is in the midst of a crisis with regard to its structures and ideas. What kind of consequences will this have for the “European idea”? What is the EU going to develop into? Will there be a true democratisation of the project or a “Super Europe” of expert committees and heads of government who rule sometimes within, sometimes beyond what the treaties dictate? Could we even see the end of the EU as we know it?
What role does the media play in this? In light of the crisis, what is the state of the oft-quoted European public? And beyond the usual dichotomy of “more” or “less Europe”: What kind of a Europe do we actually want? Is politics in Europe still capable of any impact, or is it at the mercy of forces greater than itself? Is the crisis widening the gap between politics or the political system and citizens, and if so, how can this be countered?
Because it has spread to almost all of the Union’s areas and activities, the EU’s current crisis – says Charles Gati, Senior Acting Director of Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Foreign Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. – is more severe than any that came before it. Historian Niall Ferguson has also already predicted that the financial crisis of the last few years will go down in history as a “world war, without the war”. Even so, is there still a chance for a new beginning? And how can Europe’s problems be used as basis for building a positive, future-oriented reform agenda?
The first conference in 2005, titled “Quo vadis, Europe”, was already specifically dedicated to the topic of Europe. Even then, the word “crisis” dominated discussions, and participants came to the conclusion that Europe was going through several crises.
Seven years later, the European house appears on the verge of collapse. Several countries are facing financial bankruptcy. Others are leaving the path they had entered towards democracy and the support of freedom and human rights, and are now reverting back to nationalist, repressive, and authoritarian structures. Peripheral powers are on the rise, as are nationalist tendencies.
Yet the crisis also harbours inherent opportunities, because the future will no longer be about more or less Europe but about what Europe stands for. Conflicts concerning the relationship between competition and social security, between the state and the market are also attracting attention and publicity. Here, the media’s role must be to follow the debates and cover these topics – not just from a national viewpoint – and to fit them into a European frame of reference. It will be crucial for the Union members’ media to engage in European issues in order to help create the Europe-wide publicity necessary for launching a sustainable process of transparency and democratisation. The colloquium will focus primarily on the issue of how Europe’s current problems can be used for a positive, future-oriented reform agenda.
Following the conference, the M100 Media Prize will be awarded in the Raphael Hall (Raffaelsaal) of Sanssouci palace. Previous recipients have included Lord Norman Foster, Bernard Kouchner, Bob Geldof, Ingrid Betancourt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Kurt Westergaard and Michael Anti. The laudatory speech has in the past been given by Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Vossenkuhl, the Polish ambassador Marek Prawda, ZEIT editor-in-chief Giovanni di Lorenzo, and Federal President of Germany Joachim Gauck. Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has also participated in this event twice, giving highly regarded speeches.
In 2012, the conference is supported by the Federal Capital of Potsdam, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Bertelsmann AG, Google, and Audi. Co-operation partners are Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e. V. (IASS), Land Brandenburg, Axel Springer Academy, Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, and Human Rights Watch.
The M100 Sanssouci Colloquium is an initiative of the Federal Capital of Potsdam, the association Potsdam Media International and takes place as part of Medienwoche@IFA.
Dr. Asiem El-Difraoui, Institute for International Politics and Security (SWP), Berlin
Dr. Leonard Novy, Institute of Media and Communications Policy (IfM), Berlin