Speech: A Soul for Europe
Berlin Conference for European Cultural Policy, November 26 and 27, 2004
++ check against delivery ++
I would like to remind you that on the 22nd of January 2003 there were about 1000 people who convened in Versailles that were deputies from the National Assembly, from the German Parliament as well, that gathered in Versailles in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty. 40 years Elysée is a treaty which was based on the idea that people, citizens, should come together; that citizens and civil society have to do with each other. And the representatives got their first possibility of getting together with their colleagues from the parliament of the other country. All of them, you know, just getting together and everybody who was not familiar with that world was very impressed by what they saw. They said: „This really showed me what the process of reconciliation is all about, what such a process of exchanging views and experiences can mean.“
How is it that we have been at war with each other for 500 years and now we are suddenly sitting together and to a certain extent really are Europe's soul? And really, these MPs were only mirroring what went on in society. We have also had 7 million youths who had gone on student exchanges from Germany to France and vice versa. I also got to know young people who just started their careers who have also gone to other countries, and who found there that they didn't know enough about that country, you know, whether they were vehicle mechanics, bakers or whatever, they said, „Now, I really have got to learn this language so that I can understand these people's culture“. And I think that really shows us the only way to really grasp Europe's soul: if people manage to get together. It's not just a matter of experts or scholars and governments and conferences, governments exchanging communiqués and so on. No, it's the people who've got to meet each other, they have got to know how they differ. After all that's established and laid down in the European Constitution namely that diversity of our cultures within Europe is one of our strengths and that is one of the differences to what you see in the United States which, after all, is based on having a melting pot. And I think if we understood this is a principle, namely that diversity is our strength and that we also have to get to know this diversity, then automatically I think we will have to re-adjust our priorities or establish new ones. This also means that people who are today only perceived as administrators also provide money – not only for meetings, not only for mustard ordinances or guidelines regarding „TV without borders“ or the exchange of goods. How are we going to make sure that people see more of Europe and meet each other, that they see more of other cultures, accept and understand these cultures, and then proceed to start taking joint actions?
This leads us to the demand to think about other encounters as well, e.g., in the form of youth exchange programmes, city exchanges, exchange schemes for choirs and sport clubs. And things like that affect the political level! And then there should be deeds that follow words. I think there can only be a common foreign security policy, if we include the field of culture in this work, and not just talk about coordinating our soldiers and missile systems. We need to talk about how we, as Europeans, can work together in order to establish, to speak a common voice. Then we can really show strength and won't have a situation where, as we see at the moment, we are being divided, if you like, from outside because we have different histories or traditions. This became very clear in connection with the Iraq war. We were split up in old Europe and new Europe, those who supported the war and those who didn’t. This has to do with the different backgrounds and histories. There is, then, a call to the politicians which must be communicated to the citizens, the civil society. We need a joint appearance of European cultures in other counties, not only in Eastern Europe but also in the Arab and Asian world. We should present ourselves together there, not just as Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Poles, Czechs or Bulgarians, but instead on joint platforms. Here, we can make it clear that we have differences in Europe - we have different types of music, we have differences in our art, we have different languages - but we also share something. What we have in common is this shared Europe that brings us together, that glues us together and helps us to live in peace. And I think this is something that we really can put on a platter and show the world, because after all I think this personal reconciliation process really is a very good example of something which perhaps could or needs to be learnt in other parts of the world: namely that although we have been at war, you still can get around the table and talk, and that means people have to get together. So I think we need the largest possible number of platforms where people, citizens, can get to know each other.