On Thursday, September 17, 2015, the international media conference M100 Sanssouci Colloquium took place for the 11th time. In the historic building of the Orangery of Sanssouci, 51 international media representatives gathered to discuss this year’s topic: "70 Years Potsdam Agreement -  At new Crossroads?"

Today, 25 years after German reunification, those high hopes for peace and stability in Europe are faltering. The image 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 refugee crisis is also forcing Europe to redefine its outlook on everything from humanitarian aid and democratic values to the concept of a European Union as a whole.

This year´s opening speech by Germany’s former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher was not only eagerly awaited, but also hit the mark of Europe’s central questions. In his speech he outlined five rules:
1. Define your core values and vital interests – equally, understand the values and respect the interests of your partners and adversaries.
2. Look for the right partners in defending and advancing your objectives.
3. Never, never give up dialogue.
4. Always prefer confidence-building and cooperation to confrontation.
5. Stick to your obligations and use the existing international institutions and fora.

SESSION I: The post-war order in Europe: is it drifting apart – can it survive?

Dr. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Emerging Security Challenges, NATO, opened the first session with an input. For him, Europe is experiencing a new time of trouble: in the East with a resurgent Russia keen to demonstrate new power, in the South with the breakdown of order in North Africa and the Middle East leading to the current and dramatic refugee crisis, and last but not least, globally, with the return of geopolitics, territorial competition and assertion of military power. He emphasised that it is up to Russia whether it wants to join the western partnership, but with Crimea in mind advised Moscow not to hinder other nations in doing so. Shea expects Europe to be confronted with new challenges because the US is no longer willing to play a major global security role as they were during the cold war. To meet the challenges ahead he pleaded for solidarity and a collective approach as a European Union with equal partners, a common strategy and a great deal of resilience to learn to live with vulnerability.

Ali Aslan, journalist and moderator of the first session, asked the participants of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium how optimistic they felt about the European future.
The refugee crisis has dominated not only the world headlines but also the first session. Ali Aslan asked Hungarian journalist Tamás Bodoky, editor-in-chief of Atlatszo.hu, to enlighten the table about the reactions towards the refugee crisis of the Hungarian government. Bodoky called the Hungarian government Eurosceptic, meanwhile it is taking European funds and using it to feed the oligarchs close to the government.
Martin Kotthaus, Director General European Affairs at the German Federal Foreign Office, said, the refugee crisis is a joint challenge that Europeans have to face together. "We as Germans believe that we as Europeans can manage that but at this moment only three countries out of a unity of 28 take the burden.” He concluded that so far Europe has stood up to its challenges. Hella Pick from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London said, Europe lacks charismatic leaders who can unite the different opinions in the member countries. Götz Hamann, deputy head of the economic department, DIE ZEIT, Germany, noticed, with the new threats today being Russia and fundamental Islam, “Europe must rethink its values and live up for them”.
“Has the focus on the refugee crisis taken away the media spotlight from the Greek crisis?”, Ali Aslan asked Anna Diamantopoulou, president of “DIKTIO” – Network for Reform in Greece and Europe in Athens. She answered that the refugee problem is as big as the economic crisis and that a clear vision for whole of Europe was needed. Dr. Ulrike Guérot, founder and director of the „European Democracy Lab, Germany, added that there is no more union in European Union, so European values are being deconstructed: “The moment you put comfort as an absolute value of society, you lose something.” Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, analyst, journalist and author from Greece, asked what solidarity in Europe means and added, it was not clear how it should be applied in day to day politics. He noted a division in Europe between North and South and reminded Italy and Greece cannot be left alone with the refugee crisis. The European Union need to have a long term vision for the day after when dealing with migration and foreign policy for the day after. Martin Kotthaus referred to a fund of 400 Million Euros for refugees support and the building up of Frontex as a European border management. Jamie Shea concluded, that the solution to the problems that are drifting Europe apart would be more integration. Though he would not underestimate the resilience from the European Union – “The EU has the habit to take a long time but it gets there in the end” – he also warned that Germany cannot do the leadership alone.


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