Young Leaders´ Forums

Cultural Diplomacy in Europe

March 2010

Cultural Diplomacy in Europe: A Forum for Young Leaders

(Berlin, March 15th-19th, 2010)

Forum Report

The Forum for young leaders on “Cultural Diplomacy in Europe” took place in Berlin from the 15th to the 19th of March 2010. It brought together young students and professionals interested in the role of culture to foster productive diplomatic relations within the European Union. Speakers were drawn from academia as well as from the diplomatic circle in Europe, non-governmental organisations as well as cultural institutions. The main themes and debates of the week were centred on the role of arts, music and sport for cultural integration within Europe and the representation of the Union abroad. The consequences and implications of the Lisbon treaty were discussed in detail, as well as the issue of Europe forging a common foreign policy to tackle together the challenges of globalisation. The forum also benefited from specific countries’ perspectives on the future of the EU, as well as the ongoing importance of national identities for Europeans. Generally, the forum triggered enriching debates and discussion, thanks notably to workshops and panel discussions. The participants also had a chance to discover the historic city of Berlin through cultural and political lenses.

Forum Speakers

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brückner (Professor, Stanford University in Berlin, Member, Team Europe, European Commission, Member of the ICD Academic Board)
H.E. Mitja Drobnič (Ambassador of Slovenia to Germany)
Mark Donfried (Director and Founder of ICD)
Peter Rees (Development Director, ICD)
Markus Löning (Regional Chairman FDP)
Larissa Israel (Berlin Philharmonic representative)
Ali Murat Başçeri (Deputy Head of Mission of the Turkish Embassy in Germany)
Efthymios Efthymiades (Consul General of Greece)
Almut Möller (Program Director, Alfred von Oppenheim-Zentrum für Europäische Zukunftsfragen, German Council on Foreign Relations)
Christos Katsioulis (Co-ordinator for activities on the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin)
H.E. Dr. Dietrich von Kyaw (Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the European Union)
H.E. Ilgvars Klava (Ambassador of Latvia to Germany)
Axel Schäfer (Bundestag DP)
Prof. Dr. Gert-Joachim Gläßner (Professor of Political Science (German Politics) Humboldt-University)
Heike Baddenhausen (Heike Baddenhausen, Bundestag Secretariat of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union)
H.E. Ruth Jacoby (Ambassador of Sweden to Germany)
Karl-Erik Norrman (Swedish Diplomat and founder and President of the European Cultural Parliament)


  • ICD House of Arts and Culture
  • European Parliament
  • Berlin Philharmonic
  • Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
  • German Parliament

Summary of Events

Monday March 15th, 2010: The first day of this year’s Cultural Diplomacy in Europe forum kicked off with an insightful introduction to the field of cultural diplomacy from ICD founder and chairman Mark Donfried. ICD managing director Peter Rees shed light on leadership initiatives that would be the focus for the week ahead. A trip to the European Parliament on the historic Unter den Linden in central Berlin followed. Late afternoon was marked by a speech from Slovenian ambassador H.E. Drobnič about Slovenia’s perspective on the individual’s contribution to united governance.

Tuesday March 16th, 2010: Day two of the forum began with an orientation in cultural diplomacy by ICD founder Mark Donfried. A trip to the Berlin Philharmonic followed, which gave participants an invaluable opportunity to see firsthand the orchestra that has played a leading role in Berlin’s musical life for more than a century. Sport was also explored as a tool for cultural diplomacy. Finally, the implications of the financial crisis for the EU were exposed to the participants.

Wednesday March 17th, 2010: Day three began with an intriguing discussion on “The United States of Europe – Dream or Reality?” This was followed by two talks on the treaty of Lisbon and its implications for Europe’s future. A speech by Ali Murat Başçeri, Deputy Head of Mission of the Turkish Embassy, on Turkey’s accession to the EU. The day ended with an introduction to a the Greek perspective on united governance.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010:
The fourth day of the conference centered on the motif “The Future of the Economic Union,” and began with a speech by Karl-Erik Norrman, a Swedish diplomat and founder and President of the European Cultural Parliament. Norrman spoke about the cultural pillars of the European Union. Additionally, the potential clash between an European identity and national identity was explored, and a Latvian perspective on EU membership was offered.

Friday, March 19th, 2010:
The final day of the forum began with a speech on EU foreign policy, with emphasis on Russian-European relations, by the Ambassador of Finland, H.E. Harry Gustaf Helenius. A tightly packed morning continued with two more speeches before lunch. The afternoon was marked by a trip to the German parliament, where the ICD’s Mark Donfried moderated a presentation of leadership initiatives. The forum proved to be an overall success, and closed to the tunes of salsa at the Havana Club in Berlin.

Monday March 15th, 2010

Central Daily Themes
  • Cultural diplomacy can be defined as "the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding“.
  • Diplomacy has developed throughout time according to specific political and social contexts. Throughout the 20th century, it has come to play a crucial role in the conduct of peaceful relations and interactions among countries.
  • The political system and the structure of the EU are very complex, which makes cooperation and understanding quite difficult. The lack of a common European identity among its citizens also makes the task harder. Different opinions and visions for the EU can clash and thus halt the progress of integration.
  • Also, the EU suffers from a democratic deficit and lack of transparency which could explain the resistance often felt against further integration. Its legitimacy can only be enhanced if its citizens have sufficient information on its decision making process and internal structures. 
  • With the recent accession to the EU of several ex-Soviet states, democracy in the now enlarged union would only be possible by creating a federal European state or by having sovereign national states and no comprehensive democratic system.

Tuesday March 16th, 2010

Central Daily Themes
  • Music is a powerful tool for cultural diplomacy. There are many examples of countries using it as a means to represent their cultures and traditions abroad. However, it can also be used for “internal” cultural diplomacy”, when strong social divisions exist within a state or region.
  • The School Orchestra Extravaganza, for example, is a series of educational workshops aimed at providing school children from different districts of Berlin with an opportunity to discover the world of classical music through music and dance classes, which culminate in a stage performance with professional Berliner Philharmonic musicians.
  • Sport is also a strong tool for cultural diplomacy. Famous examples include Danish football diplomacy.
  • Sportsmen also act as international ambassadors as they represent the face of their nation in the media. The values of sports such as teamwork and respect for common authority, can be applied to cultural diplomacy in Europe.
  • After the financial crisis, one of the biggest challenges facing the EU is getting economics to work in a sustainable way. Today’s financial crisis is bigger than the Great Crash of 1929, and was made worse by governments’ instincts to save rather than spend. In addition protectionism remains one of the biggest economic issues between world regions.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Central daily Themes
  • The EU’s future will most likely consist of mixed characteristics of a union, federation and federal state.
  • The EU will need to move forward from just an economic and monetary union develop research and development, as well as the single market and a coherent energy policy if it wishes to be a primary actor in the international arena, side by side wth the Untied States.
  • The main changes after the Lisbon Treaty were: the introduction of a permanent President of the European Council, the introduction of a fairer voting system (double majority), a stronger foreign policy representative, more majority voting (especially on sensitive issues, such as security), and a stronger say for national parliaments.
  • Turkey’s accession to the Eu is still a controversial topic between the existing members of the EU. The cultural differences between Turkey and countries with a more “Western” culture are considered a great hindrance by many. Here cuktural diplomacy could help bridge the gap between the different cultures in order to foster understanding and agreement.
  • The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), an NGO dedicated to promoting cultural diplomacy on a global platform.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Central Daily themes
  • The member states of the European Union could be united under one cultural umbrella. Although it still quite difficult to determine what a European culture would look like and comprise, there are many elements of culture, history and traditions that unites European countries.
  • Cultural figures can contribute to a greater cultural identity and common references for Europeans and Europe as a whole.
  • Although many European countries are still not yet a part of the European Union, they do not feel any less European. Therefore, exchanges are needed within the university framework in Europe in order to further promote culture between these countries as well as stronger communicative networks between the youths and academia.
  • Although it seems too early to talk about “the United States of Europe”, there is a clear effort to construct a European Spirit and culture, based on common histories, values, and norms, as well as efforts to strengthen the union authority towards more uniform policies.
  • Every country can individually contribute to promoting European culture, not only within their own territory and population, but also to the outside world. A cultural umbrella will have to take into account every culture present on the European continent.

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Central Daily Themes
  • the EU failed to appreciate the cultural differences between Russia and Europe in the early 1990’s, where Europe expected Russia to adapt European values. However, it is now an issue more open to political discussion.
  • Embassies are crucial to a country’s relations with other states. Indeed, they are an opportunity for nations to present their culture and history abroad and thus work at the intersection of two nations.
  • However, although they have existed for over 500 years alongside formal diplomatic bodies, and have been pivotal to international relations, they are a more traditional form of diplomacy, between governments and maintained by the civil service.
  • Cultural diplomacy in contrast, refers to interactions carried out by different actors, such as civil society, the private sector and even individuals. It refers to the art of using cultural means to create a platform for understanding and cooperation, based on knowledge and tolerance of different cultures and backgrounds.
  • The development of a common European policy for all its members is needed, especially in the face of the new international challenges that have arisen with globalisation and a new multi-polar international structure. The economic crisis as well as global warming and climate change for example, will not be successfully tackled if nation-states continue to act individually. An agreement on a common policy however, will not come about without cultural diplomacy to foster divergences.