What one idea will define 2022?

Over the years, POLITICO’s annual list of the most powerful names in Europe has featured a diverse array of influential leaders. This year, we asked a handful of POLITICO 28 alumni — the dreamers, doers and disrupters — to briefly share their predictions and tell us what they believe will be the one idea that will define 2022.

Sovereignty

Illustrations by Liam Eisenberg

Ivan Krastev is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, POLITICO 28 Class of 2019

In the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “sovereignty is not given, it is taken,” and it is this issue that will undoubtedly shape 2022. In the coming year, Poland and Hungary will weaponize the notion of national sovereignty in their war against the European Union, while the bloc focuses on strategic autonomy — both internally and in foreign policy.

Brussels and Paris will try to define the EU’s sovereignty in their relations with the United States, China and Russia. And at the same time, some of the new libertarian voices on both the left and the right will use the concept as a rallying call in their resistance to Europe’s new normal. Sovereignty will be everybody’s battle cry.

Climate action

Jens Stoltenberg is the secretary general of NATO, Class of 2021

Climate change is a threat we cannot ignore. It destroys resources, devastates communities and fuels conflict. From the Sahel in Africa, where a harsh climate drives extremism and migration, to the Arctic, where melting ice caps provoke geopolitical competition, climate change is making our world more dangerous.

This is an issue that directly affects NATO as well. Some naval bases suffer from regular flooding, and NATO troops in Iraq face temperatures of over 50 degrees. But we are adapting. For the first time, NATO is developing a way to map military emissions, so that we can start cutting them. Allies are investing in sustainable solutions, including biofuels for jet aircraft and solar panels to power equipment.

We must reduce the impact of climate on our militaries and reduce the impact of our militaries on climate. A changing climate affects us all, and we must all take action to be part of the solution.

Freedom

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is the leader of democratic Belarus, Class of 2021

Freedom is what Belarusians are fighting for, and it is this word that will best define the upcoming year.

From August 9, 2020 until today, the people of Belarus have continued to believe and have done everything possible to ensure that their rights and freedoms as citizens exist not just on paper. They have done this so that Belarusians don’t have to leave their country to find that there is freedom in the world; so that the 800-plus political prisoners can finally spend the night in their homes and hug their loved ones. And we are not alone in this.

Solidarity and support around the world, the actions and the desire to help in the struggle for freedom is what really matters. We ask that you be there for us, and be assured that we will do the same for you in the future.

Technology governance

Marietje Schaake is the international policy director at the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University, Class of 2017

For years, the United States governments’ long-preferred hands-off approach to technology governance has had a high price. The erosion of democracy, the trampling of the public interest, a lack of fairness in the economy and a deepening social divide — all these have links to the growing role that technology companies play in governance.

This systemic issue goes far beyond the latest scandal about Facebook, YouTube or Amazon. And the overreliance on corporate business models and the escalation of cyberattacks, all while accountability remains lacking, only add to the loss of trust and justice.

In 2022, I believe technology governance will improve. It will be messy, fragmented and frustrating. But as long as decisions are anchored in a democratic mandate, and overseen independently, we can finally expect improvements compared to the status quo.

Authenticity

Rokhaya Diallo is a French writer, journalist, filmmaker and activist, Class of 2021

The last decade has seen established politicians increasingly fail to maintain the trust of their people. As social media has given the greater majority of people the power to build their own public image behind calculated filters, traditional campaigns using the obvious tools of marketing and political communication have become far less exceptional than they used to be.

More and more voters now seem willing to give their mandate to those who do not appear to use coded language designed to convince them. The more authentic and true politicians appear, the more appealing they become. Exposing oneself as a vulnerable person who can experience failure, who does not pretend to be above the masses, will be an appreciated quality in 2022. For better . . . or for worse.

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