Thursday, 17 September 2015, Orangery, Sanssouci Palace

Seventy years ago Potsdam's Cecilienhof Castle was host to the Tripartite Conference of Berlin, attended by the Allied heads of government Winston Churchill (UK), Harry Truman (USA) and Joseph Stalin (USSR). When the conference concluded after nine sessions with the signing of the ‘Four Powers Agreement’, the leaders left confident “that their governments and peoples, together with the other United Nations” would “ensure the creation of a just and enduring peace.”

The Potsdam Agreement (Potsdam Declaration) enabled the Germans to rebuild their country on a democratic and peaceful basis. In 1990, with the end of the Cold War, it was superseded by the ‘Two Plus Four Agreement’. This  agreement, signed by the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, the French Republic, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America, laid the foundations for a European settlement with agreed boundaries and the expectation of a peaceful era of cooperation.

Today, 25 years after German reunification those high hopes for peace and stability in Europe are faltering. The face of Europe, once characterised by freedom, mutual trust and democracy, is now coloured by fear, dissociation, nationalistic tendencies and – in the case of the conflict in Ukraine – war. The war in eastern Ukraine casts doubt on the entire European post-war order and has become the “constant companion of peace” (Herfried Münkler). Meanwhile, the debt crisis in the European Union has brought the structural problems of the unification project clearly into focus. As pointed out by FAZ publisher Berthold Kohler, the closer the European nations have come to one another in the course of the integration process, the clearer their differences in mentality, culture and how they have been shaped by history have become.At the same time confidence in the European Union's ability to cement its greatly enlarged membership has given way to scepticism. Moreover, while the attacks in Paris at the beginning of this year highlighted the potential risks of Islamism in the middle of Europe, Germany’s 2015 Non-word of the Year was ‘Lügenpresse’ (‘lying press’), an expression once used by National Socialists to denounce their critics and justify their conspiracy theory that the press was controlled by ‘World Jewry’.

Against the background of this disturbing development, on successive days in September the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium and the Alfred Herrhausen Society will hold two conferences on the theme ‘70 Years Potsdam Agreement’.  

The M100 Sanssouci Colloquium will take place on Thursday, 17 September 2015 in the Orangery of the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. The following day, the Alfred Herrhausen Society in conjunction with the FAZ will host its ‘Denk ich an Deutschland’ (‘When I think of Germany…’) conference in the Deutsche Bank’s atrium on Unter den Linden.

The goal of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium is to create a constructive, intersectoral dialogue between representatives of politics, the media, journalism, relevant organisations and Internet companies on the heritage of the Potsdam Agreement and the prospects for a liberal democratic Europe in an increasingly blurred world order. (Please find the agenda here.)

The results of the discussions will be incorporated into the Alfred Herrhausen Society conference the following day.

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