July 26th-30th, the progressive family resumed meeting, to discuss the current global and US situation, the future of Europe, and topics such as the lifelong learning systems, narratives of wars and progressive movements of care, energy renaissance, the Balkans, the BRICS. Striking a balance: both in person, the good old way, and through Zoom, the good new way.
Despite the pandemic and other shut borders odds, the Symi Symposium, annually organized by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation, could this year again gather George Papandreou’s political and academic, influencers, friends. Since 2017, The Bridge Tank is being part of what this year was perhaps the first “Hybrid Forum”: a fine combination of core in-house, closed doors debates with tailored amount of Zoom exchanges with leaders such as f. Secretary Madeleine Albright, NATO’s Dy SG Geona, f. Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Colette Avital former Presidential candidate in Israel.
Symi Symposium conversations take place under the aegis of the “Chatham House” rules; not disclosing the positions of various speakers, topics revolved around pressing issues: with Madeleine Albright and later with Richard Parker from Harvard on the growing understanding that racism in America has something “systemic”, and how generally speaking the US situation relates to the agony of an age when Americans were 80% rooted in American-European white population, now evolving towards a 4-5 streams of populations origins trying to organise a domestic polity; the US now stand at a point where they have to internally negotiate new political alliances: this might possibly be one root of America giving the impression it is now in a mess.
As Greece now chairs the Council of Europe, this edition was additionally a week long opportunity to discuss current issues with
Frank Schwabe, Chairman of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or Francesca Abrogast, Executive Secretary of the Group.
We also had the usual Symi Symposium conversations with leaders in the Balkans or struggling progressives of different parts of the world, such as Isadora Zubillaga from Venezuela, the Special Representative in Paris of Juan Guaido. Conversations with leaders who have just emerged out of democratic struggles (North Macedonia), or who are now into these (Venezuela) attested that “Democracy is the longest meeting”. In this line, Joel Ruet from the Bridge Tank advocated for a continued discussion with the weavers within all systems.
During the same session, a special conversation with Mircea Geoana gave us the sense that NATO’s Secretariat is quite active at foresight on the risks and threats of the future.
We also discussed the pandemic development through the lens of lifelong learning systems, over three time horizons: so far the reaction against the Covid was a “Defense”, we’ll now need to “Exit” this temporary space and actively prepare to engaging into transformation, e.g. “Enlarging” humanness of systems. On all issues with no boundaries, a care Leadership has to emerge through the right bundle of community, participative democracy, technology, and an Education designed for world and life, not just for jobs. Economics too need to be mobilized: in the eve of automation, how shall robots contribute into revenue, and revenue support a “positive idleness”, that is not a pure ensure but contribution to the society.
It is all the more important to continue this work and not to be blinded by strategic competition, frictions and gaps, but rather recognizing at areas of strategic collaborations: Covid, climate, finance cooperation. The Symposium closed with ground for optimism, noting that in the long course of Energy history, for instance, the world sees the first policy driven energy transformation. It si in a great way also industry-driven and transition has to be Just with a real energy-society integration by policy; this may serves as a case study for a larger renewed Social contract.
Last but not least, Symi was also the occasion to continue exchanging ideas beyond the sessions.
Joel Ruet, Chairman The Bridge Tank
NB: This post is only a personal reflexion on the event and discussions and does not bind in anyway the organizers nor any participant. Quotes are not necessarily attributable to any of the participants, nor to the persons mentioned in this post, but are rather reformulations of some formulas that may have circulated in the forum at some point.