What will be the future of democracy and free market economy – the Forum’s plenary session

Sergio Cantone, journalist of Euronews kicked off the debate by saying that its topic is particularly hot and controversial. He addressed the first question to the Speaker of the Senate, asking him to take a stand on the thesis that migrants from Africa, North America and Middle East can pose a threat to Europe.

Stanisław Karczewski, Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Poland said that the subject of migration was particularly important and electrifies the public opinion in Europe, however, he also pointed out that “devil is in the details”. In his opinion, this refers also to such notions as democracy, free market economy and others, a deeper analysis of which gives rise to doubts of a theoretical nature. The issue of migration is particularly complex as the situation differs depending on the country and we try to write the same scenarios for all of them. Democratic government should carry out the will of the people. It’s also important to search for the causes of the migration in the first place. He said that we must use all the available political and legal capabilities to eradicate the causes of migration. That’s where the assets should be allocated. Europe’s grave mistake was inviting all immigrants to come. We just cannot afford it. He expressed the opinion that Angela Merkel’s decision was wrong. Instead of encouraging the migrants to come to Europe, we should unite ourselves here to collect funds to rebuild the territories destroyed as a result of armed conflicts. We should strive to ensure an equal standard of living on the individual continents. The European Union was founded so as to prevent a war and we must do our best to prevent World War III, bearing in mind the tragic toll taken by World War II.

Later the moderator asked Andris Piebalgs, former EU Commissioner for Energy and Development, an expert at The Florence School of Regulation (FSR) from Latvia to share his experience in the European Commission related to migration. Andris Piebalgs said that the European Union’s role in this context is exaggerated. He also mentioned that the relocation offer was bound to be unsuccessful. In Latvia, migrant families were provided with accommodation, but they moved in search of their own community. In his opinion, this is not a threat to free-market democracy even in there was social opposition towards the imposed quotas in Latvia.

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Europe said that the issue of migration is related to the problem of the future of democracy and the migration crisis. It’s important to differentiate between the terms: economic migrants and political refugees. It’s also important that the member states are allowed to make independent decisions. She noticed that migration has become a European problem, for many years Italy had to tackle the problem of Lampedusa. She also reminded that in 1992 Francis Fukuyama talked about the end of history and the victory of liberal democracy. Now Fukuyama has concluded that liberal democracy is being undermined. She also stressed that research proves that the people who undermine democracy and reject its values often display anti-Semitic tendencies. The traditional leftist and rightist political circles have not come up with any solutions to the direst problems, such as migration, Islamic extremism, economic security and this paved the way for populists.

Later, Sergio Cantone asked Stjepan Mesic, former President of Croatia whether democracy is also rejected in the Balkan region. Stjepan Mesic remarked that at present Europe is intensely involved in keeping the EU whole in the aftermath of Brexit and in the face of migration; however, he thinks that we should not talk about migrants but refugees. Today’s crisis has been triggered by masses of people looking for a way out and Europe replies with quotas that some countries cannot or don’t want to accept. We all lose because of that. The model of imposing democracy has proved unsuccessful and that’s why we can see people fleeing their homelands. Their escape resembles that of the Jews fleeing the Third Reich. What we should do is deal with the root causes that are responsible for the wave of refugees. President Mesic also talked about the conclusions from the talks with Assad and Kaddafi, namely that we cannot expect western style democracy to be introduced in other parts of the world because the Arab spring is not a spring but a winter that hasn’t finished until now.

Speaker Karczewski agreed that we should differentiate between who is a migrant and who is a refugee: it is impossible to tell who is who because sometimes we are dealing with people that have a few or several passports. On the other hand in Poland, we are dealing with a mass influx of migrants from Ukraine. I don’t see any threat to democracy in Poland, I am convinced that democracy is doing fine and will be alright in the future. If the decisions regarding relocation were wrong, then let’s change them and not criticize those who were the first to notice that. Why force people to settle down in Poland if that’s something they do not want to do.

Andris Piebalgs added that in his opinion one should openly inform the society about the existing problems and react to them as they appear. A change must be introduced that will give the society access to information that it desires and the political class should deliver. He also expressed his fear that democracy might not survive if populists gain power and create autocratic systems.

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen said that people are losing trust in politicians, who according to surveys conducted in Europe are perceived as corrupt and pursuing only their personal interests. This applies not only to Europe as the last presidential campaign in the US proved. There is this feeling that only large cities and elites benefit from the European Union. The Internet and fake news also play their role and make us stick adamantly to our opinions, which are often false. It seems that Western Europe’s problem is that it has lost its ideas and forgotten about its values.

Stjepan Mesic added that smaller countries have no influence on their space or the market and they depend on large economies which, in turn, depend on political decisions. At present important decisions are made by big countries and small countries cannot influence them.