Risks and Trends

R&T 2021: On media and security

Preview 2021-02-15
What shape will the debate on free speech take and who would win the war between the US and China - follow Risks and Trends to find out.

Media, information, democracy (10.00 am)

How to fix the public debate. On the one hand, 2020 marked a moment of change and re-evaluation of the media and, more broadly, of mass media. On the other hand, it was probably a moment when we needed reliable information about the situation we were in more than we had in a long time. The starting point for our morning discussions on Risks and Trends is the information and technology revolution that is affecting the media in Poland and around the world. Will brevity, cheapness and tribalism destroy the media and deform public debate? Will it speed up the process of degenerating democracy or, on the contrary - will a new, better information and knowledge industry emerge, with new business models germinating and audiences getting new, smarter media?

Krastev on whether the crisis of trust has disrupted the media landscape. Ivan Krastev is a political scientist and political philosopher, as well as being the head of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, a research fellow at the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences, and a board member and co-founder of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In the first discussion of Polityka Insight's annual conference, PI Managing Director Andrzej Bobiński will talk to him about the state of liberal democracies. He will ask about the crisis of trust in the West and how it affects the state of the media. Krastev and Bobinski will talk about the January attack on Congress, the necessary upcoming debate about the freedom of speech, and how the media should help shape public debate in the face of increasing polarisation and tribalism in politics.

Rosiak on whether we need public media. Dariusz Rosiak is the creator and host of a programme entitled "Raport o stanie świata" [Report on the state of the world]. He hosted this programme for 13 years on Radio Three. In 2020 - thanks to listener funding - he moved it to streaming platforms, where it airs in the form of a podcast. Rosiak has been involved in the media since the 1980s, working for RFI in Paris and the BBC in London, among others. Bobiński will ask Rosiak about the reasons and consequences of his departure from public media. They will discuss the shrinking space for quality debate and the functioning and funding of the media. Rosiak will discuss whether he believes in pluralism and objectivity in the face of an identity media offensive and what he would do if he were head of TVP.

Security (3.00 pm)

How 2020 has changed our perception of threats. The pandemic has made (in)security a part of every citizen's daily life. The state' s strength, hitherto associated mostly with the military sphere, suddenly began to be measured by the amount of medical supplies, logistical efficiency and the level of knowledge and development of a country's science and medicine. China, seen by many as the biggest global threat, has become the world's biggest worry. How has this shift in the perception of risk translated into the security paradigm in Europe and the world?

Kleine-Brockhoff on whether the pandemic has reinforced the need for cooperation. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is head of The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) office in Berlin. From 2013 to 2017 he was an advisor to German President Joachim Gauck, responsible for preparing the President's speeches and political agenda. Prior to that, he spent 12 years in the US, where he worked as the Washington bureau chief of the weekly Die Zeit. In his interview with Kleine-Brockhoff, Marek Świerczyński, head of PI's security and international affairs department, will try to establish what actually happened in 2020. Was there a permanent and irrevocable change in the world order, or an acceleration of processes and trends already in place? Or was it a combination of both - an acceleration that upended the existing world and ushered in a new order?

Hodges on whether we are facing a war with China. Ben Hodges, Lieutenant General (Ret.), has been working with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) think tank on strategic studies since February 2018. Before ending his military career in January 2018, he was the operational commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq (as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2005-2006) and the commander of US ground forces in Europe. Świerczyński will ask Hodges about whether a prediction he made a few years ago that a war with China would break out within 15 years is still valid, and whether America knows how it could win a possible clash with China. The interviewees will also look for differences and similarities between the 20th century US-Soviet Cold War and the current escalation of tension between Washington and Beijing.

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PI Alert

EU summit: Member States launch discussion on financing joint defence initiatives

State of play

Leaders approved appointments to top posts. At the EU summit that ended on Thursday night, they nominated Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as head of EurCom, former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa as head of EurCou and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas as head of EU diplomacy. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni abstained from voting for von der Leyen and voted against Costa and Kallas. This means that Meloni is preparing for tough negotiations and may demand a high political price in return for his party's support for von der Leyen in her approval in the EurParl. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán voted against von der Leyen and abstained on Kallas.

They adopted the Union's strategic agenda for 2024-2029. Over the next five years, the Union's goals include a successful digital and green transformation by "pragmatically" pursuing the path to climate neutrality by 2050. Another objective is to strengthen the EU's security and defence capabilities.

Von der Leyen spoke of EUR 500 billion for defence over a decade. This was the EurCom estimate of needed EU investment presented by its head at the EurCou meeting. Poland and France were among the countries that expected the EurCom to present possible options for financing defence investments before the summit, such as EU financing of common expenditure from a common borrowing. This idea was strongly opposed by Germany and the Netherlands, among others. In the end, von der Leyen decided to postpone the debate until after the constitution of the new EurCom, i.e. in the autumn. And the summit - after von der Leyen's oral presentation - only launched a preliminary debate on possible joint financing of defence projects.

Poland has submitted two defence projects. These might be co-financed by EU funds. On the eve of the summit, Poland and Greece presented in writing a detailed concept for an air defence system for the Union (Shield and Spear), which Prime Ministers Donald Tusk and Kyriakos Mitostakis had put forward - in a more general form - in May. In addition, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia presented the idea of jointly strengthening the defence infrastructure along the EU's borders with Russia and Belarus. Poland is pushing for the EU to go significantly beyond its current plans to support the defence industry with EU funds and agree to spend money on defence projects similar to the two proposals. But EU states are far from a consensus on the issue.

Zelensky signed a security agreement with the Union. The document, signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky in Brussels, commits all member states and the EU as a whole to "help Ukraine defend itself, resist efforts to destabilise it and deter future acts of aggression". The document recalls the EUR 5 billion the EU intends to allocate for military aid and training in 2024 (in addition to bilateral aid from EU countries to Kyiv). It says that "further comparable annual increases could be envisaged until 2027, based on Ukrainian needs" i.e. it could amount to up to EUR 20 billion. Ukraine's agreement with the EU comes on top of the bilateral security "guarantees" Ukraine has already signed with a dozen countries (including the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy). As Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed in Brussels, talks are also underway between Ukraine and Poland on the text of mutual commitments on security issues.

PI Alert

KO wins elections to the European Parliament

KO received 38.2 per cent of the vote and PiS 33.9 per cent, according to an exit poll by IPSOS. Konfederacja came in third with 11.9 per cent, followed by Trzecia Droga with 8.2 per cent, Lewica with 6.6 per cent, Bezpartyjni Samorządowcy with 0.8 per cent and Polexit with 0.3 per cent. According to the exit poll, KO gained 21 seats, PiS 19, Konfederacja 6, Trzecia Droga 4 and Lewica gained 3. The turnout was 39.7 per cent.

According to the European Parliament's first projection, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which includes, among others, PO and PSL, will remain the largest force with 181 MEPs in the 720-seat Parliament. The centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), whose members include the Polish Lewica, should have 135 seats, whereas the liberal Renew Europe club (including Polska 2050) will have 82 seats. This gives a total of 398 seats to the coalition of these three centrist factions (EPP, S&D and Renew Europe) on which the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen has relied on so far. The Green faction wins 53 seats according to the same projection, the European Conservatives and Reformists faction (including PiS) 71 seats and the radical right-wing Identity and Democracy 62 seats.