THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS

01-03 June, 2018

The 12th Lennart Meri Conference titled “The Next Hundred Years”  focused on our future through the prism of the past. What matters is that we learn from the past. And that we apply these lessons both to cope with an ever changing present and to shape the best future. A solid appreciation of history can bring a proper perspective to complex and frequently unnecessary conflict. When facts, the rule of law and rational politics replace emotion, outcomes can be built upon consensus, rather than the desires of those with the loudest voices.

Although the past year has seen many difficult challenges and many disputes remain unsolved, there have been bright spots too. The results of the Dutch, French and German elections were expressions of the continuing belief of Europeans in the values on which our continent was built. The US, although it has often given out contradictory messages, has so far kept its promises to its Allies and has not ceded its leading role in security, even as it has urged Europe to take more responsibility. Daesh has suffered severe losses in Syria and Iraq.

But still, uncertainty and unpredictability prevail. Technological change is meeting geopolitics on every level, creating new power centres in states and among non-state actors. The future stability of the EU and NATO is more than ever dependent on the cohesion of their member states, but this is constantly challenged militarily and digitally by third countries. Right and left wing extremism, populism, separatism, anger and political alienation have grown in Europe. Political identities are as likely to be built around shared conspiracy theories as they are around shared ideologies and values. Fake news and fake history are used by both leaders and their opponents to write the present and rewrite the past to suit their needs and ends. We can depend less and less on the internal logic of democracy and the ability of citizens to hold their leaders accountable.

The Conference held in the year that Estonia celebrates 100 years of statehood, was an excellent venue to discuss the challenges we face and the role of history in making sense of the present.