Tempus Fugit – Time Flees
The 15th Lennart Meri Conference will take place on 13-15 May 2022, in the Radisson Collection Hotel, Tallinn, Estonia.
For the second time in a row, the title of the conference has been inspired by a Roman poet—the phrase fugit inreparabile tempus (it escapes, irretrievable time) appears in Virgil’s Georgics. With the Doomsday Clock set just 100 seconds before midnight, the search for solutions to the world’s problems could not be more urgent.
The war in Ukraine has demonstrated both the fragility of peace and order in Europe, and the need for coordinated and robust responses to an aggressor. The atrocities taking place in the middle of our continent are evidence of the shallowness of civilisation. But at the same time the energy and commitment that civil societies and governments have shown in their solidarity with Ukraine may mark a turning point in the democratic West’s awareness of the need for collective resilience.
This year, however, we intend to think about the world not only in terms of its numerous urgent problems and its shortage of lasting solutions, which can be disheartening, but also to focus on the possibilities it sometimes offers. Windows of opportunity can be rare and are not always obvious. It takes experience, and often a little luck, to find and exploit an open window, just as it takes patience and skill to hold back when the window is partly or completely shut.
Estonia, a solid and constructive member of NATO and the EU just 30 years after the collapse of the USSR, exemplifies what can be achieved if the thread of optimism is preserved and the moments when aspirations can be met are seized. As the Irish poet Seamus Heaney says: But then, once in a lifetime/The longed-for tidal wave/Of justice can rise up/ And hope and history rhyme.
The world’s challenges demand constructive and quick thinking, cooperation and coordinated approaches. In our conference, we will explore how hope and history might be made to rhyme more often.
The human, geopolitical and economic consequences of a war in the middle of Europe will inevitably be a major focus of our conference. The war has ushered in a new era that demands quick thinking, flexibility, and non-traditional solutions. We will consider whether our societies can live up to this challenge.
The subject of climate change, where mankind has no time left to waste, will be high on our agenda. We will ask whether there is sufficient global intellectual capacity and willpower to create coherent and sustainable programmes to meet the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement. We will also consider how we can avoid social confrontation and regional marginalisation and discuss the role of nuclear energy.
The war has also brought the topic of nuclear weapons back to prominence. This topic will feature on our agenda too.
As the conference will take place just a few weeks before NATO’s Madrid summit, the future of the transatlantic alliance will be another key theme. Against the background of the new NATO Strategic Concept expected to be agreed at Madrid, our discussions will deal with NATO’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and, more immediately, to the unfolding situation in Ukraine. We will discuss its political leverage and possible military roles.
Our conference is well known for its Russian expertise. An authoritarian and belligerent Russia has turned itself into a pariah state. We will seek to contribute to an enhanced understanding of Russia and of the processes unfolding inside the country, as well as debating proposals for future policies.
We also aim to broaden the scope of the conference this year and to bring more attention to countries such as Australia, India, the regions of Central Asia and the Middle East, not least because China’s ambitions increasingly affect these locations.