Nearly 70 participants from 20 countries took part at the 12th edition of the ‘conference unique to Europe’ (rbb, 15/9/2016), which invited leading media- and opinion-makers, historians and political organisation representatives to discussions at the Orangery Palace in Sanssouci, Potsdam for the 12th time (click here for a short video about this year’s M100 SC).
With ‘War or Peace’, most participants of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium found the title ‘very well chosen’ (please find all participants here).
Among them is Dr Ulrike Guérot, founder and director of the European Democracy Lab in Berlin, Professor of European Politics and Democracy Studies at the Danube University Krems / Austria and author of Warum Europa eine Republik werden muss! (‘Why Europe Must Become a Republic!’, Dietz Verlag). Guérot notes that ‘the smell of war is already in the air. We see this in the whole security discussion, but also in the militarisation of our cities.’ She wonders whether processes such as renationalisation, populism, disintegration and radicalisation of society – also addressed in the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium sessions – haven’t already brought us to ‘civil war-like conditions’, or at least made such conditions more likely, and stressed that we are in danger of ‘de facto losing the political system, that is, the system that is still governable.’
Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News, praised M100 as ‘a remarkable and fantastic meeting of people from both journalism and politics. There is a very thoughtful European focus here, very refreshing. It offers a kind of perspective you do not find in London, and this contrast is one of the most useful aspects here.’
Gabor Steingart, editor-in-chief of the ‘Handelsblatt’, appreciates M100 for the opportunity to meet ‘foreign colleagues who you would not otherwise meet. This gives us a different impression of the situation in Europe – about countries such as Ukraine or Romania, for example, where we German journalists do not travel as often.’
‘Bild’ editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann noted that, given the crisis currently facing Europe, ‘one that, given the many conflicts, is unlike anything we have experienced since the end of the Cold War, with the conflict in Ukraine and impending, but already decided Brexit’, it is important to try to see things from another perspective, so that we can comprehend why, for example, the British opted to leave the European Union, or to understand the Russian view of Europe. ‘This meeting is ideal,’ Diekmann continues, ‘because in the end, it is the media that creates the audience and communicates what is happening in Europe – and this is a perfect opportunity to benefit from the competence of our colleagues from other countries.’ (see also the ‘Bild’ video: ‘Warum dieses Medientreffen für Europa so wichtig ist’ [in German only]).
For Ulrike Guérot, M100 is outstanding for its ‘large turnout of journalists from really every European country and even countries outside of the European Union, many from the southern European area who are not yet members of the European Union, from Ukraine, and this is truly one of the M100 Forum’s strong points.’
And Vazha Tavberidze, editor-in-chief of the "Georgian Journal", wrotes in an currently published article: "When you first arrive at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium, it can be emphatic: the very crème of Europe’s press is there: The really old names, big guns, top people, you name it. As classy and prestigious as it gets without erring to the side of elitism (hey, not every media event gets attended by the Bundeskanzlerin herself – Frau Merkel was there to attend an award ceremony, more on that later). And when you are just a simple (not exactly a humble) editor hailing from Georgia, with its proud but still relatively little-known media community, this kind of euphoria is easily explainable. Even if it’s your second coming here, there is much to learn – it’s not every day that you listen to top intellectuals of European media muse about such intrinsic things as Russian propaganda or investigative journalism.” (The entire article is available here).
The predominant theme of three Conference sessions spread throughout the day was Europe’s current, crisis-ridden situation. The participants discussed ‘Europe between autocratic challenges and disintegration’, European foreign policy, Europe’s media and the information crisis.
Another exciting programme point was a ‘Special Talk’ in which Kai Diekmann interviewed Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily newspaper ‘Cumhuriyet’. Dündar and a colleague had reported on Turkish arms deliveries to Syria, and both were arrested for it. After a five-month prison stint, Dündar was released for the time being and fled to the EU. His wife’s passport was taken away and she has been refused permission to leave Turkey. A new arrest warrant has been issued for him in the meantime. Dündar called Turkey ‘the world's largest prison for journalists. A police state where more than 120 journalists are imprisoned.’ Though it is theoretically possible to write what you want, there is a high price to pay for doing so: ‘You risk being indicted or murdered.’ He wants Germany to pressure Turkey to return to democracy.
German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, who gave the evening’s key political speech at the end of the M100 Media Award ceremony for Roberto Saviano, also commented on the title of the event, remarking that: ‘Hearing these words, I personally am immediately reminded of the famous words of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who warned that “Europe remains a question of war and peace.” This sentence is particularly resonant and credible coming from a man who experienced the catastrophe of World War II first hand as a child and teenager. The concept might be difficult for many of us in younger generations to understand today. And yet: The sentence is no less true now. It is correct. Because it is always about war and peace, or – to pick up on the title of your colloquium – war or peace.’ It is now more critical than ever, she says, ‘to defend the values and achievements of the European Union, which has given us so many freedoms, in these increasingly heated debates.’ The Chancellor remarked that it has never been more urgent ‘to oppose rhetorical oversimplifications, to resist simplistic national reflexes and walk the more complex, laborious, long but ultimately more successful European path instead.’
(Please find the entire speech here.)