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Sanssouci Colloquium
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am facing the majority of you for the third time within 24 hours. Let me tell you: I am happy to do so.

Because I am standing here vis-à-vis the leading opinion-formers and media personalities of Europe for the third Sanssouci meeting in the State capital Potsdam where I am the Lord Mayor. I am also standing here with leading representatives of important media of the Arab world who utilised the opportunity given by the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium for an exchange of opinions.

I am the Lord Mayor of a comparatively small town, situated rather on the fringes of world affairs.

However, perhaps not exactly on the fringes.

Let’s not forget: This charming little theatre is part of the Neue Palais. Frederic II had this castle built after the Seven Year War which he led against the great European powers from 1756 to 1763. With this boasting, this “fanfaronade” as he himself called it, he wanted to show that Prussia was still rich and powerful.

For the German Emperor Wilhelm II, who also drove Europe to a devastating war, this castle was a favourite domicile. And after all, the partition of Europe was made permanent for the next 45 years not far from here in 1956 in Cecilienhof, the last castle built by the Hohenzollern. A division which also affected Potsdam as it was a border town.

Let’s also not forget that today the Joint Forces Command of the German Federal Armed Forces coordinates foreign deployment, amongst others, in Afghanistan.

Considering all these facts may help to explain why Potsdam feels a special responsibility to make a contribution to the dialogue between East and West. It could explain why Potsdam gets increasingly involved in playing the part of a bridge between West and East - just as is happening at this conference.

There is another reason for Potsdam’s special part in this dialogue.

Friedrich Wilhelm, who not without justification was called the “Great Elector”, put down in 1685 his policy of tolerance for himself and his successors with the immigration edict for Huguenots who were persecuted in France. Of course, similar examples of tolerance also existed in other regions of Germany.

However, nowhere else, it seems, has the inclusion and integration of people from other cultures and beliefs been so consistently realised as in the Prussia of the Great Elector and his successors. It began with the Swiss and the French, continued with the Jews, the Dutch and the Bohemians, and led to the mass settlement of Polish miners in the then mining and industrial region of Prussia.

At this point I would like to let Frederic II have his say.

Many of his statements have been passed down in which he deepens his great-grandfather’s thoughts. Thus he wrote, for example, in a letter to Voltaire: “Tolerance has to give each citizen the freedom to believe what he wants.”

And I do not want to keep from you what is probably his most well known quote on this subject: “The religions have all to be tolerated but the exchequer has to keep an eye on things so that there is no derogation because here everyone is free to pursue his own happiness.”

Or, in other ‑ albeit also in his own ‑ words: “With me each one can believe what he wants as long as he is honest.”

This tradition, too, seems to me to be a good reason to add considerable weight to the role of Potsdam in a dialogue between East and West.

In an archive in Leipzig, ladies and gentlemen, there is, I believe, a copy of a dispatch from 1588. In it it is explained in detail how the Spanish armada had been equipped against England. How many pigs, barrels of wine, how much gunpowder and how many soldiers were taken on board.

Even then none of the readers were able to prove the validity of these descriptions. And it is even less possible in today’s interconnected world in which news stories emerge and are circulated every second.

During the course of today, ladies and gentlemen, you have discussed such difficult questions such as the journalistic standards after 9/11, the role of the Turkish and Arab media in Europe or the ideological influence on the media.

It is to the third M100 meeting’s credit that it has created a platform for these talks, an opportunity to exchange opinions about these and other topics and perhaps also controversial views. I consider the fact that media professionals from East and West have talked together here in Potsdam is a significant step.

“Together” - this is for me the magic word of the day: When we succeeded in generating understanding for different views on some events and developments in this discussion, when we succeeded in creating a basis for conversation then this gathering has achieved its objective in my opinion. With this, this meeting is looking forward towards a future, a future in which the question about the role of the media in a world that moves closer and closer together has to be more thoroughly analysed and examined with more responsibility.

To throw a glance at the future would mean to ask the question ‘what kind of contribution can the media make towards the peaceful cooperation of persons and peoples?’

It is obvious that the problems of mankind - climate change, resources, famine, Aids, religious fanaticism, terrorism, to name but a few - can only be solved together.

A lot of power is needed in order to tackle these problems, to find solutions and to implement them.

A considerable part of this power, ladies and gentlemen, is in your hands.

Ladies and gentlemen,
This evening’s programme has two more highlights for you in store: the plenary session which is about to begin and the award of the M100 Media Prize.
I have been asked to introduce to you the individuals who will be responsible for the first part of the programme:

John Lloyd Director, Reuters Institute for the
Study of Journalism, Oxford University
Nakhle El Hage Director,
News and Current Affairs, Al Arabiya, Dubai
Nigel Parsons Managing Director,
Al Jazeera English, Qatar
Dr. Mathias Döpfner CEO,
Axel Springer publishing, Germany
Gwyneth Williams Director,
English Networks & News, BBC World Service, UK)
Anna Siitam
Youth Media Workshop Rapporteur

I hope you gain further insights, approaches and courses of action for your future building works on the bridge between East and West from the following plenary session. I wish you success with this work whose significance cannot be overestimated.

I, as the Lord Mayor of a comparatively small town, situated rather on the fringes of world affairs, would, however, welcome it when from this town, from you and this gathering a lasting impetus will emanate for a world that is a little better and a bit more understanding. 

With this in mind I am already looking forward to the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium 2008.

  by Jann Jakobs
  by Mike de Vries
  by Matthias Platzeck
  by Wolfgang Schäuble
  by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall
  by Giovanni di Lorenzo
  by Bob Geldof