Campaign for More Europe outside Europe launched
Leading European opinion leaders came together in Brussels on 8 December 2011 to strongly unite behind a new civic initiative More Europe. The event launched a 12 month long campaign, which aims to convince politicians and policy makers to place cultural relations - one of the strongest assets that Europe has - in the heart of the EU’s external affairs.
Guest speakers at the conference held in Bozar expressed regret that cultural relations, which are ever more important in emerging countries, is absent from the newly established European External Action Service and its policies.
Participants agreed that at the time of deepening economic crisis and a loss of ground as a democratic, economic and social inspiration, it is important to pool resources and coordinate activities of national cultural institutes around the globe to reinforce European weakening external voice.
“Europe needs more capacity, visibility, more results in democracy building and strong impact in civil society. We need a joined up vision and strategy matched with some form of European cooperation. That is why we need More Europe in external relations,” said Wolfgang Petritsch, Chairman of the Board, European Cultural Foundation.
Leading European cultural foundations offered the newly established EU embassies access to their cultural programmes and to benefit from their grassroots level experience. For example the Network of European Union cultural institutes EUNIC has a strong presence in over 70 countries.
During the course of the next year, debates and workshops addressing citizens and policy makers in the EU capitals should ideally result in a structure to coordinate cultural relations on an European level, according to Gottfried Wagner, Special envoy for the Austrian ministry of culture and More Europe project adviser.
Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary-General of the European External Action Service admitted that new EU embassies lack the expertise in the field of culture and given the budget cuts in all member states it is important to confront this challenge together.
Leila Chahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg described how cultural relations succeeded in raising Palestine’s profile. “As a Palestinian diplomat I organised in Paris a culture project called ‘Palestinian Spring’. It was spectacular, how the perception of people of Palestine changed in just three months. Through writers, poets, film makers, I was able to make people understand who the Palestinians are.”
Journalist, writer and author Frédéric Martel pointed out that culture was one of the reasons, why we have created Europe. “And today it has become one of the last elements of our identity,” said Martel and added: “I do believe we have to act in favor of cultural diversity abroad as well as at home, we need strong cultural diplomacy but we have to create it for the moment.”
According to Yudhishthir Raj Isar, Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at The American University of Paris, some in Europe still assume that Europe possesses some kind of dominance in the field of culture. “This is an illusion, many people outside Europe are not particularly interested to become like us, they are not that attracted to us as they might have been 30 years ago.”
Speakers jointly expressed the need for Europe to listen and understand other cultures better and to live the values that we promote within our own continent. “Initiative is about modest, humble attitude, not so much about diplomacy even in the modern form, but about cultural relations, about a new habit of listening,” said Gottfried Wagner.
The culture tour of the More Europe initiative will take place in the following capitals: Paris (14th of March), Berlin (April), Copenhagen (June), Amsterdam (September), Lisbon and Warsaw. The closing event will be in Brussels in December.
More Europe is a civil initiative of leading European culture foundations like the European Cultural Foundation (ECF), the Fritt Ord Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Allianz Kulturstiftung, and the Goethe Institute, the British Council, the Institut français, the Danish Cultural Institute, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IFA), and -as key liaison partner- the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC).
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Notes for the editor: Goethe Institute www.goethe.de is acting as a coordination point on behalf of the core partners: European Cultural Foundation, Fritt Ord Foundation, British Council, Institut français, Danish Cultural Institute, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations/IFA.
The first confirmed patrons are former European Commissioner Franz Fischler and Stephan Hessel.