Event hosted by: Friedrich Naumann Foundation
Event location: University of Munich
Event date: February 15-16, 2020
On February 15-16, the Young Security Conference was held by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation parallel to the Munich Security Conference. The event gave multiple young students the ability to understand current challenges and topics drive security politics and address possible approaches and solutions. Speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and organizations and thus created a mutually beneficial environment and lively discussion for the attendees.
Topics addressed included, among others the issues of refugees, European integration and, the current developments concerning China. The discussion among panelists was especially lively around the highly salient issues of defense spending and the relationship with the Anglo countries post-Trump and Brexit.
A unique and engaging method used during the event was when the audience was divided into two groups. We, the audience, could discuss with each other our opinion on two topics, European Centralism vs. Autonomy and the creation of European Values that are worth sacrificing for. The discussion on European Centralism was especially livid. The majority, if not all, of the audience, was pro-integration. Potential drawbacks were also mentioned as European countries are not a monolith and that the security concerns of one nation are not inherently tied to another. This ought not to be forgotten as this would confound the sovereignty of individual member states.
European Centralism tied into the second discussion on the creation of European values that are worth sacrificing for. I had brought up multiple times that security policies can lead to people being sent to fight and die depending on the issue, and that remembering the human element to international security can put finding solutions into a new light. What European values even were worth fighting and dying for were discussed intensely, although a common theme was democracy and support for human rights. Some of us claimed we would gladly fight and sacrifice ourselves for another nation with shared values, but only if we were confident that said country would do the same for theirs, stressing the need for multilateralism even if it has to be forged from the ground up .The majority of the audience proclaimed they would be willing to die in a defensive war for freedom and democracy. Furthermore, nearly nobody would fight an offensive war for these values as offensive actions were seen as contradictory to European ideals of cooperation and democracy. In addition, no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests. Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values. no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests.Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values. no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests. Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values.
Regarding Europe, a topic brought up in these discussions was the fact that the conference had dealt entirely with a pro-European Union perspective. Nations like Russia and China were framed in antagonistic terms, and the perspectives of the EU’s allies, such as the United States, were framed only regarding how the EU would be affected by them. The few Russian students in the conference, for instance, noted that it felt odd to be hearing about a centralized European army for the sake of countering Russia as if they were attending a conference held by enemy generals. These moments stressed the need to look at the human element of international security, as seeing adversaries as a faceless mass helps us lose track of realistic solutions and the fact that we can commit unnecessary harm towards innocent people for the sake of a goal.
A potential insufficiency of the discussion is that it had the tendency to engage in a repetitive debate on specific topics. While topics like refugees, the European Integration, and China are always salient, an approach entailing different perspectives would have been even more valuable.
Overall, the event helped inform a young audience on the modern dilemmas we face in international security today, as well as the complex difficulties in finding solutions to these problems.