Peter Pomerantsev: How We Connect in the Public Digital Space

Forum on European Culture

Programme editor
Reka Papp
For centuries, ‘the Forum’ was the centre of day-to-day life in ancient Rome: the site of processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, and the heart of commercial events. In modern life, the function of the forum has largely been taken over by media and the online. And how’s that working out for us? In this programme, we debate the need for a European public space as an important element of democracy and announce a new initiative: The Council for European Public Space. A conversation with Peter Pomerantsev and Francesca Bria.

A crucial gab of European democracy is the lack of a public space, where citizens from all backgrounds can inform themselves, debate society and share culture. This leaves Europeans disorientated, distrustful and disengaged. Traditional media mostly report from a national perspective, suppressing solidarity between Europeans from different countries.

Social media is based on algorithms that prioritize profit maximization over democratic values, which results in a toxic space, where nobody listens, arguments are short, and the response is hostile. Moreover, many inhabitants of Europe, such as refugees and migrants, are marginalized or invisible in the media.

The Council for European Public Space will be a think-and-do-tank that develops evidence-based and politically viable strategies to create a more open, fair, and safe European Public Space.


Peter Pomerantsev, journalist and writer of This is Not Propaganda, will give a speech on the difficulty of ‘bubbles’ and what is needed to create a common space in which we actually can create interactions that have meaning, and what is needed to make that happen.

With Francesca Bria, Digital and Innovation Policy Expert, who works on the project New European Bauhaus, we will discuss in what way the interests of companies and states – and more broadly the European Union align and differ. Is the European Union fully aware of the steps that need to be taken to make the internet a better, more civil place that (perhaps) functions as a state, or should that not be desirable? How can we use data and innovations that defends and embraces the concept of democracy instead of defeating it?

Oyidiya Oji Palino is a digital rights advocate, intersectional feminist and researcher. She is Policy Advisor on Digital Rights at the European Network against Racism. Oyidiya will speak about how tech is another tool that reinforces systemic inequalities, as it does not take into account the realities and needs from everyone, leaving behind underrepresented communities.

Matthias Pfeffer is a renowned journalist from Germany and the founding director of the Council for European Public Space. He will reveal the plans of this new institution and invites the audience to contribute.

Forum on European Culture 2023

From 31 May until June 4, the 4th edition of the Forum on European Culture takes place. Artists, activists and intellectuals from all over the world come together to explore the meaning and future of democracy in Europe. For the full programme, see


Peter PomerantsevJournalist, writer
Francesca BriaDigital and Innovation Policy Expert
Oyidiya Oji PalinoDigital rights advocate
Matthias PfefferJournalist
Afbeelding: Marit Breuker