In 2024, we face the moment of truth: Countries with more than half of the world's population will vote in the biggest election year in history. This has the potential to shake up international relations. Citizens of the European Union will cast their votes in June and a new European Commission is expected to form in autumn. Therefore, the European Forum Alpbach has a unique opportunity to shape discussions on the EU's political priorities for the next five years.
The elections are likely to reveal growing political and social polarisation in Europe, with truth being contested by different groups within our societies. Attempts of disinformation and foreign interference will accompany many elections, undermining trust in our democratic institutions. Tensions are exacerbated by ongoing wars, cost of living crises and climate disasters. This polycrisis will put Europe's democracy and cohesion to the test. 2024 is the moment of truth, with the future of the continent at stake. If Europe does not stand united and act decisively, the threat of disintegration looms large.
Living Within Planetary Boundaries: The ecosystem sets the ecological budget for all human activities. In order to preserve and regenerate our planet’s biospheres, we need to shift our economy from continuous growth expectations towards finding the balance between humans, technology and nature.
Climate Action Without Borders: It is essential to consider the universality of climate policies. Climate action at unprecedented scope will only happen if people across society are invited to step up, and the burden of the crisis is shared fairly. Social and global cohesion and a solution-driven and just transition are the basis for reaching global climate targets.
Financing Innovation and the Green Transition: Our transition to net-zero carbon emissions, the promotion of innovative companies that generate employment,and demographic change cannot be financed by banks alone. The mobilisation of different sources of financing and the development of a strong and fully integrated European capital market are crucial to ensure Europe's prosperity.
Tackling Economic and Social Inequalities: To counteract the negative effects of globalisation and technological change, businesses must collaborate with policymakers and civil society. Lifelong learning and upskilling, inclusive social and labour market policies and responsible business practices lead to a more equitable future for all.
Strengthening European Sovereignty and Security: The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine highlighted Europe’s dependence on the United States for security and defence and on Russia for energy. The EU needs to reduce those dependencies, increase its competitiveness, and assume responsibility for its security. A geopolitical EU must also be able to handle conflicts and provide for security in its neighbourhood.
International Relations in a Multipolar World: International Relations are increasingly characterised by the rise of new powers, growing global competition and the erosion of multilateralism. At the same time, the pandemic, the climate crisis and the Russian war have shown how interconnected the world is. Europe should shape international relations in accordance with its interests and values and contribute to reinvigorating multilateralism.
Countering Polarisation and Strengthening Social Cohesion: Societal fragmentation is fueled by the construct of antagonistic “enemy” groups. This growing phenomenon is heightened by economic grievances, the changing social and media space, and attempts to capitalise on divisions. Understanding the causes of these dynamics helps counteract them.
Building Democratic Resilience: In 2024, the demand for representation, voter choice and accountability is big. No democracy is immune to the challenges presented by anti-democratic forces. We need to protect our institutions, the rule of law and the rights and freedoms that underpin our democracy, and deepen civic engagement.