Young Leaders´ Forums

Cultural Diplomacy in Europe

September 2012


The ICD would like to extend its sincere gratitude to all those who contributed to the organisation of the conference and to the entire Cultural Diplomacy in Europe team, including team leader Giuseppe Colucce, Eryk Kazimierczak, and Helena Filatova.

The ICD and all of the organisers would like to thank the participants and speakers, whose enthusiasm and participation were a vital contribution to this international event.

Conference Summary

The ICD was delighted to welcome a sundry of young leaders to Berlin to discuss bridging cultural relations between the North and South of Europe.

Tuesday, 11th September

The conference began with a welcome address by Norma Wright, Program Director for the ICD Human Rights Program. The address was followed by participant and intern introductions, after which the participants engaged in a cultural diplomacy exercise where they learned about the other’s cultural background. This was followed by a word exercise, where each participant would attempt to assign meaning to a word another participant had written, exposing cross-cultural differences in perception and meaning. Ambassador Karl-Erik Norrman, former Swedish Ambassador, founder and Secretary General for the European Culture Parliament, and professor at the ICD Center for Cultural Studies, gave an address that explained the history of ICD and the history, meaning, and dilemmas of cultural diplomacy and its constituent parts. The day concluded with participant papers. Okopi Ajonye, a researcher at Stockholm University from Nigeria, gave a presentation entitled “The Nature of Cultural Difference,” differentiating between norms and values as the sources of culture. Eduar Jak Neumann, a jazz composer, saxophonist and social scientist from Romania, gave a presentation entitled “Music as Cultural Diplomacy, Improvisational Potential of Folk Music,” discussing the potential of cross-cultural collaboration through the medium of music as a means of both preserving tradition and exploring cross-cultural integration. Participants were then taken to sample Greek cuisine at 'Ach Niko Ach', where a wide range of traditional foods were served, after which a large group went to see the Brandenburg Gate.

Wednesday, 12th September

Wednesday began with a lecture from Ulrich Brueckner at the ICD House, regarding cultural diplomacy between north and south Europe. His lecture touched on a number of key topics including: indentity and its role in culture, the modern threats that face cultures, and the potential future of a unified Europe. Following this was a lecture on the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, elucidating on its abstract and metaphoric design and anti-redemptive nature as memorial. The next event was the rollout of the annual Transatlantic Trends Survey at the German Marshall Fund, which covered transatlantic relations, the economy and the Euro Crisis, Obama’s first term and the 2012 elections, transatlantic security, and a special section on Russia. Shortly after, Dr. Marco Michel of the Federal Centre for Political Education held a topical discussion, including a debate on Turkey's potential future role in Europe and claim for EU membership. Fittingly, this was followed by Buelen Evsen presenting his paper on Euroscepticism in Turkey at the ICD house, explaining the history of Turkey's unique status and involvement with Europe. The participants were then taken to the East Side gallery where prominent artist Guenther Schaeffer led a walking lecture of the murals painted on the former Berlin Wall. The tour concluded with a reception at the International Boat Party, where participants were able to have drinks and converse at the Eastern Comfort ship amid mixing cultures and languages with other young people in Berlin.

Thursday, 13th September

The group was warmly welcomed by Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhal at the Irish Embassy. A brief account of the Ambassador’s experiences in the Department of Foreign affairs provided the participants with an insight into the evolution of the diplomatic service, the role of Ireland as a small country that has maximized its profile through cultural achievements rather than more common sources of influence, and the importance of the Irish diaspora. After the talk, the participants moved to the Scandinavian Embassies where former Swedish ambassador and Secretary General of the European Cultural Parliament Karl-Erik Norrman addressed the group about Nation Branding in Europe. The group returned to ICD House where choreographer and programme director of ICD cultural diplomacy in practice program Marc Bogaerts spoke about the potential of sports and dance as means of cultural diplomacy to bridge northern and southern Europe. The participants spent the rest of the evening at the famous Pakistan Restaurant and bar SWERA.

Friday, 14th September

The participants met at the Bundestag and were met by Brigette Otto the Policy planning unit.
She introduced the group to the make-up of the German parliamentary system giving a brief overview of the electoral process, which developed into a lively discussion on both the merits, and potential flaws of the democratic and federal systems. Unforeseen issues facing the coalition government include the EU financial crisis and the renewable energy. Ms. Otto admitted that the financial crisis has been the root of much prejudice and antagonism in Germany and in Europe today. Looking to the future, she predicts that peripheral parties such as Germany’s ‘Piraten Partei’, while popular, are not well suited to forming an effective policy and at will likely be the main parties which continue to hold power. She stressed the importance of stable French-German relations. Domestically, the reduction of unemployment and effective integration of minority groups are the priorities. The participants then enjoyed a tour of government buildings after ascending the famous glass dome enjoyed the spectacular views from the roof the of the Reichstag building. Afterwards, they returned to ICD house.

Speaker list

Okopi Ajonye, Researcher, International Relations Department, Stockholm University
Alastair Bassett, Head Operations, British Council Germany
Marc Bogaerts, Program Director, ICD Cultural Diplomacy in Practice Program, Chief Choreographer, Deutsche Fernseher Ballet
Professor Dr. Ulrich Brückner, Member of Board of Directors, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, Jean Monnet Professor of European Studies, Stanford University
Bülent Evsen, Researcher, Istanbul Faith University, Social Science Institute, Political Science and International Department
Dr. Marco Michel, Professor, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
Ambassador Dan Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to Germany
Eduard Jak Neumann, Jazz composer, Saxophonist, and Social Scientist
Ambassador Karl-Erik Normann, Professor, ICD Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies, Secretary General, European Cultural Parliament, Former Swedish Ambassador
Günther Schaeffer, German Historian, Artist and Activist

Conference Voices

“There are 25 million anti EU supporters, belief in Turkish involvement is fading.” - Bülent Evsen, Turkey

 “The memorial is metaphoric of disscommunity, displacement and acts as a proxy for trauma.” - guide at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Anti EU supporters are in favour of Turkish involvement, becuase they believe it will collapse the EU.” - Bülent Evsen, Turkey

“Culture is a constructed image, and like all representations, there is an element of reality, but also an element of careful construction. Therefore, what you get in cultural diplomacy might not necessarily be reflective of what the culture really is.” - Okopi Ajonye, Nigeria

“We have to observe that we are speaking within the culture, so seeing each others’ points of view on particular matters will help us better understand the environment in which we actually are.” - Eduard Jak Neumann, Romania

“Art can tell us a lot about different cultures, and it can also lead to further exchange between cultures and better understanding.” - Sonja Pohle, Germany

Participant Testimonials

Okopi Ajonye, Nigeria
Okopi is presently undertaking his undergraduate studies in International Relations at Stockholm University in Sweden. His main field of interest is international security and global risks, but takes an interest in a wide range of subjects, considering himself something of an educational “smorgasbord.”
Okopi heard about the form and, largely unfamiliar with European issues, saw it as an opportunity to be introduced to something he could be interested in and wanted to learn more about. His initial impression of cultural diplomacy was centered on the idea of propaganda, the export of culture, and culture as a constructed image.  He felt that therefore what you get through cultural diplomacy might not necessarily be reflective of what a culture is really like. However, throughout the week’s lectures and in his exchanges with other participants, he felt he developed a better understanding of the positive potential of cultural diplomacy.
The son of an ambassador, Okopi is very interested in diplomatic relations and cultural interaction. He is interested in working as an intern or doing his Masters with ICD in the future to further his knowledge on issues related to cross-cultural interaction.

Anna Howard, United Kingdom
Anna studied Fine Art History and English in university before deciding on the field of History as her main passion.
She took part in a cultural exchange program to Japan, which sparked her interest in Japanese history and interested her in traveling more around Asia. She would like to do a Japanese teaching exchange program with the hope of becoming a coordinator for international relations in Japan.
Anna came to the conference feeling a bit naïve about issues of cultural diplomacy and politics, but has decided this week that the two most important things in cultural diplomacy are communication and dialogue. She feels that through these, you can reach out to anyone on any level, using any number of vehicles such as art, to communicate any message in any setting. She feels she learned so much in just the space of two days about so many cultures, things she never thought she would know. Anna called her experience “inspiring,” and it has made her want to go out into the world and engage more, participating and working together with people, possibly in the area of human rights or gender equality.

Eduard Jak Neumann, Romania
Eduard has a Bachelor degree in Sociology and Political Science, and this year finished his Masters degree in Folk Culture in Bucharest.
Eduard is a saxophonist and jazz composer with a keen interest in music and the cross-cultural potential of musical exchange. Eduard has spent considerable time playing music in the UK, which he considers a sort of informal education. He has experienced cultural diplomacy first-hand in the different ways that you would work with musicians of different cultural backgrounds, in the different instruments and songs they play.
Eduard has led initiatives in Romania to help organize and create a musician’s union. He would like to start an initiative aimed at creating a larger organization for musicians to engage transnationally and transculturally, especially in the jazz scene.  He believes that his experience at the conference will help him in this pursuit, and hopes to work with the ICD in the future to initiate this musical cultural exchange.

Gry Waagner Falkenstrøm, Denmark
Gry has her Bachelors degree in Global Studies and Journalism, and has just begun her Masters degree in the same field.
Gry has previously worked as a student organizer, where she worked on dialogue trips to the Middle East, which sparked her interest in cultural diplomacy outside of Europe with regions that are not as much in the focus of Denmark or Europe. She would ideally like to focus on Central Asia to see what political bonds we have, but also what the culture is and how we can cooperate with this region that we know little about.
She would like to eventually work as a journalist covering international affairs. She feels that culture can often be popularized, and would like to give it more weight as a topic in a political context. Gry is moving to Berlin in the spring, and is very interest in the Masters program at ICD.

Sonja Pohle, Germany
Sonja is a BA student of Political Science at the University of Manheim. She will be graduating next semester.
Her internship at the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees nurtured her interest in meeting people of a different cultural background than her own. She is aware of the importance of dialogue and learning in overcoming cultural differences, especially in conflict situations.
Her experience at the Cultural Diplomacy in Europe Conference further broadened her horizons in terms of interaction and the building of cultural bridges with other Europeans. She was particularly enthusiastic about the cultural exchange of art, which when placed in a cultural context, can provide invaluable insights and lead to further understanding. 
Her ambition is to work one day in research.

Aleksandra Silén, Finland
Alexandra studied French, political science and contemporary history and has Master’s degree in French and political science.
She is particularly interested in the cultural aspect of diplomacy and the CDE Conference allowed her to not only broaden here knowledge of the field but also make contact with the other participants and meet ambassadors and professors.   
Her experience working in Brussels for the Finnish Cultural Institute and with the embassies in Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands helped shape her desire to break down stereotypes of other nationalities and it for this reason that she is interested in working in cooperation with the ICD.

Bülent Evsen, Turkey
Bülent has completed two Master’s degrees. Having completed his second Master’s in Germany, he returned to Istanbul where is currently working on his PhD.
For Bülent, the term ‘cultural diplomacy’ is a new one and he was eager to attend the CDE Conference to learn more and present his participant paper.  He is particularly interested in the concept of cultural diplomacy in the context of Turkey and the EU. Promoting an understanding of multiculturalism in Turkey is something he believes is very important. Cultural exchange, he says, can help to remove people’s prejudgments. He has worked on a project examining cultural gaps between German and Polish nationals and having worked as a specialist international trade in the banking system, experience in the business side of cultural diplomacy.