The fourth annual Athens Democracy Forum wrapped up last Sunday, after four days of discussion, debate, contemplation (and leisure) under the Greek sun.
The yearly event has become one of the staples of the Athenian calendar, bringing together politicians, policy-makers, journalists, scholars and experts from the fields of business, finance and technology to explore the challenges to liberal democracy and ways to face them.
Organised by The New York Times under the auspices of H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos (and with Neos Kosmos as one of the media partners), the 2016 ADF focused on migration.
The forum’s main theme was stated as ‘Religion, Migration, Power and Money’.
Staged among the Greek capital’s historic landmarks, the key themes tackled included: Is democracy good for business? Is liberal democracy compatible with religion? Should the major institutions of global governance be reformed, or scrapped? Do terrorist attacks justify giving greater powers to security forces?
The forum allowed for challenging panel discussions, debates and interviews, while gaining crucial insights into our brave new world. Participants connected with global leaders for an unparalleled experience of diverse events in the birthplace of democracy.
Among the highlights of the four-day event was the appearance via ‘Google Hangout’ of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who argued that privacy is more important than freedom of speech in a discussion with Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, who was also presented with the Democracy Award of the City of Athens.
Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate economist and columnist for The New York Times, repeated his views that Greece would be far better off if it left the euro currency and returned to drachma.
He also moderated a panel on democracy and business, featuring Yanis Varoufakis, who blamed EU leadership for not responding appropriately to the financial crisis and the failing bank sector.
European commissioner on migration Dimitris Avramopoulos admitted that the EU needs Turkey in order to handle the refugee influx, while Roth urged against the demonising of migrants, which is a rising phenomenon in many western countries.
After an initial two-day succession of panels in various places in Athens, the ADF then moved to the luxury resort of Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese, for a weekend of leisure activities and ecotourism, with a panel on the interaction between democracy and architecture.
Videos of the panels, addresses and discussions that took place during this idea-filled four-day event, can be found online, at the official Athens Democracy Forum website: www.athensdemocracyforum.com/