Dear Symi friends,
Indeed, following the consequences of a drawn out Covid-19 Pandemic, few could have imagined that some months later we would seriously be discussing a possible, even nuclear, Third World War.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a shock even to those who had warned us that such an aggression may occur.
This war happened after a number of consecutive crises: the financial crisis, the refugee crisis, the pandemic, as well as the continuing climate crisis.
Along with these, inequalities have both been exposed and dramatically increased creating a fertile ground for demagogues, extreme racists and fear-mongering nationalists. Yet, for progressives in Europe and around the world, this challenge should and can become an opportunity to re-imagine our societies, our democratic institutions from a radically different standpoint. In this context, culture is the best vehicle for nurturing democratic values and inclusive societies.
The Ukrainian drama highlighted the dangerous unpredictability of authoritarianism and its abuse of power. Simultaneously, it brought out the vulnerability of democracy as captured by powerful players in and outside our democratic societies.
Will this become a bipolar ideological confrontation instrumental in defining our world’s future? Will geopolitical antagonisms hide the necessary reforms needed to strengthen our democratic values, social cohesion as well the just transition to a model of green development?
How are we going to face those daunting challenges and build trust in a new critical but vital pathway towards peace, cooperation and democratic rule? Can we learn from the flaws we either inherited or have seen widening over the past years? Can we learn, include, and maintain a rational approach in times that may bring on panic and chaos? Can we use this new technological era for the common good, in these “meta” times where our citizens feel disempowered and marginalized?
Can we build on new forms of participatory processes, such as the philosophy of «Convivencia» an ideology of symbiosis, a possible progressive tool in dealing with the new cleavages of our time?
It goes without saying that Ukraine will be central to our thinking and discussions this year at Symi.
Yet, it has highlighted so many more geopolitical, technological, socio-political, humanitarian, developmental economic, cultural challenges – not least of which is the threat of new (or old) weapons of mass destruction.
Recent developments in health, energy, food security, defense have proven that we need a holistic change in the way we see governance, participation for creative solutions, inclusive in order to muster the potential of our societies as we confront unprecedented crises situations.
To this end, we intend to host thought provoking panels on the above topics.
The Balkans, the Middle East and Turkey will also be part of our agenda, a region at a crossroads, facing important dilemmas both internally and in the broader European and international scene in the context of a new geopolitical landscape.
Our Symposium will take place a few days after the conclusion of the Conference on the Future of Europe, so it will be extremely timely to ask ourselves «and now what?». A question we asked ourselves – with great optimism then – at our first symposium on the island of Symi.
Last but not least, political developments in the United States, in the current circumstances, need to be analyzed as their consequences will have an important global impact.
These are some of the many issues we hope to deliberate on during Symi 2022.
George A. Papandreou
f. Prime Minister of Greece – Founder of the Symi Symposium