Young Leaders´ Forums

Cultural Diplomacy in Europe

October 2009

Day 1: Introduction & the EU Ever Deeper and Wider

The third 'Cultural Diplomacy in Europe' Young Leaders Forum began on Monday 19th October with a welcome reception at the ICD House of Arts and Culture. Once everyone had arrived, the group was welcomed with an introductory lecture by ICD Director and Founder Mark Donfried. The lecture began with the Young Leaders briefly introducing themselves and talking about their reasons for attending. This was followed by Mr. Donfried introducing the concept of Cultural Diplomacy and soft power and laying out the aims and intentions of the forum.

After lunch we made the trip to the European Commission next to the Brandenburg Gate, where Willem Noë gave a talk entitled The EU - Ever Deeper and Wider. Noë discussed the issue of EU integration and posed the question of why member states would commit to giving up such a large amount of sovereignty. He outlined three major reasons for giving up such sovereignty: shared history with EU states, the economic incentives of joining and political reasons. Noë then went on to discuss some of the costs of integration, focusing here on the issue of identity. In particular the group debated whether a European identity is possible, and if such an identity was to appear, whether or not people would lose their national identity. Noë believed this not need be the case and that more than one identity can live side by side with another; however, many of the participants took the opposite opinion.

Taking advantage of a beautiful day and setting, a group photo was taken in front of the Brandenburg Gate by our in-house photographer. The participants then returned to the ICD House. Here, Mark Donfried outlined the fine line between cultural diplomacy, propaganda and advertising. In the discussion that followed, it was genuinely agreed that it is often very hard to distinguish exactly what cultural diplomacy is and the notion of stereotypes was also discussed.

The day ended with a long-established social activity where participants could relax and unwind. A group meal was organised in En Passant, Savignyplatz, and was the perfect chance for participants to get to know each other  informally, whilst reflecting on the day's events.   

Day 2 - Culture and EU Integration, Music & Sport as Cultural Diplomacy

The second day of the forum began with Karl-Erik Norrman of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy academic board giving a lecture on Culture as a Pillar of European Integration. Norrman, one of the founding members of the European Cultural Parliament, gave a passionate lecture on the importance of culture as a uniting factor in the EU, particularly highlighting the shared history and shared values of the Enlightenment. He went on further to describe the reason for the recent split in Europe as primarily being a result of US foreign policy, and that to avoid such splits in the future there is need for a common EU defence policy, allowing the EU to compete in a globalised world. In the question session that followed, an interesting debate ensued focusing on the problems with creating and promoting a European culture or identity and on the rise of nationalism and ethno-centrism.

Following this we made the short trip from the ICD House to the Berlin Philharmonic just off Potsdamer Platz. Here we were met by Larissa Israel, a project manager from the Philharmonic's education department, who gave an extremely interesting talk on music as cultural diplomacy and the projects that the Philharmonic undertake in the community. She explained that the aim of the education department was to go into schools, prisons and other institutions in deprived areas and bring people together through music and dance. One of the main reasons for undertaking these projects is to bring people into contact with music who otherwise would not have the opportunity, especially as the Philharmonic is still largely an elitist West Berlin institution. After the talk the group was lucky enough to witness a fantastic lunch-time concert at the Philharmonic.

Following lunch, it was back to the ICD House for a lecture on sport as cultural diplomacy given by ICD Development Director Peter Rees. Peter explained how sport can be a vehicle for inter-cultural exchange and interaction, in a variety of ways. He cited a number of examples including the ping-pong diplomacy between the USA and China during the Cold War and the Peres Centre for Peace, which brought Israeli and Palestinian children together to play football. Following the lecture the participants split into groups to discuss plans for sports initiatives and then came together to discuss these proposals. During the discussion we came across many of the problems with setting up a sports initiative. Sports can often exclude certain people and create winners and losers with certain individuals being blamed for losing. The group came to the conclusion that sport can be an important aspect of cultural diplomacy, but its limitations need to be realised and any projects need to be carefully planned in order to be successful.

After a short break for refreshments, Mark Donfried gave a short debriefing which turned into a highly charged debate on culture and in particularly the issue of Islamic headscarves. The debate was particularly interesting as one of the participants was a Muslim woman who fights for minority rights in Belgium. Due to the long and intense debate the evening activities were cut short and there was only time for a meal.

Day 3: German Identity and Immigration & Migration

The participants met outside one of Berlin's most famous landmarks, the Reichstag, where Agnes Ciuperca and Ulrich Finkenbusch, both members of the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) met us. Here the group joined another group of American students to listen to the lecture on German Identity and Immigration Policy. It was perhaps most interesting due to Agnes Ciuperca's background as a German Romanian, which enabled her to give firsthand experience of the a migrant's life. The speakers gave a brief discussion about the history of Germany, before moving onto immigration into Germany in the 1950's with the Gastarbeiter Program. This was followed by a discussion on the problems of integration into German society and the problems and difficulties of becoming a German citizen. Many issues were raised including questioning the idea of integration. The notion of cross-cultural dialogue as perhaps a better way to find consensus was raised as an alternative. The Turkish Diaspora was also debated as well as how they could be integrated and accepted into society, especially when some schools in Germany are almost fully Turkish. The talk was followed by a tour of the German Reichstag.

Following a short lunch break we returned to the ICD House where the participants were welcomed with a lecture by Marc Helbling, where the topic of migration was continued. Mr. Helbling focused primarily on Muslim migrants in Western Europe and dismissed the notion that there is a clash of civilizations, as there are no homogenous cultural groups. For example there is no one Islamic culture, but many different Islamic cultures. The lecture went on to cover why Muslim migrants have different problems integrating in different countries. However, it was noted that Muslim migrants were not the only migrants to have problems of integration. Mr. Helbling cited an example of German migrants to Switzerland, where despite being culturally similar and having the same language, they have been viewed as being well-educated and taking Swiss jobs.

The afternoon ended with Peter Rees discussing the ICD Leadership Initiatives sessions, where the Young Leaders discussed what they could do in the future. The participants were asked to split into groups and think of projects that they could potentially work on. They then had the chance to present their ideas and receive constructive feedback along with examples of successful case studies.

Day 4: EU Expansion and Czech Identity

The day began with the Young Leaders meeting at the Bundeszentrale für Politischebildung (BPB), the Federal Agency for Civic Education. Here the participants of the forum received a lecture from Dr. Ulrich Brückner, who is a member of the academic board at the ICD and also Jean Monnet Professor for European Studies at Stanford University in Berlin. Dr. Brückner gave an extremely interesting lecture on European expansion and European identity, where he argued that the EU must give more than just economic growth and integration into a single market to attain a European identity. He presented a slightly different view than some of the previous lectures and argued that although many people do not feel particularly European in identity, they have more bonds than people realise and are definitely more European in identity than our parents. Dr. Brückner also raised an interesting point claiming there was no need for an exclusive European identity, as this is not wanted by the majority of people. In the question and answer session that briefly followed the lecture, a number of interesting points were raised by the Young Leaders, including issues of European identity being an elite-led phenomenon. The issue of whether Europe is moving towards a cosmopolitan society was also raised, where the debate moved away from Europe as a cosmopolitan society to whether it should be a global cosmopolitan society, a purely European concept would create a border between us and them. Following the lecture the Young Leaders had the opportunity to look around the BPB library, where they sell the books that they have printed for a discounted price.

After lunch the group moved to the Czech Embassy, which is perhaps one of the most impressive embassies in Berlin.  Nicknamed the 'spaceship' and built in the 1970's, the inside of the Embassy is designed using a mix of orange, red and yellow. Here we were greeted by Thomas Ehler an attaché who told us a bit about Czech identity. However, the debate focused on the reasons for why the Czech Republic has not ratified the Lisbon Treaty and why it wanted to opt out of the Human Rights law, due to it being in conflict with areas of Czech law about German reparations following the Second World War. This was followed by a lecture by Czech Cultural attaché Michal Bucháček who spoke about the various efforts of the Czech embassy to promote Czech cultural events in Berlin, including a number of concerts and photo exhibitions.

In the evening, participants were invited to join a panel discussion that was to be hosted in the ICD. Guest speakers included the Ambassador Klava of Latvia to Germany, Mr. Syrjala, Gesandter of the Finnish Embassy, Dr. Guz-Vetter, European Commission Berlin and Prof. Dr. Brückner, Stanford University Berlin ICD Board of Directors, who was the mediator. The two main issues discussed were general thoughts about the Lisbon Treaty and the widening/deepening of the EU. It was said that the treaty would define a new quality of the EU and would push the EU to finally stop talking about reforming its institutions and actually reform them. However, there are still unresolved issues, including who will take over the new posts. The Lisbon Treaty is a must in order to improve the EU's operational capacity, but in general, there are pros as well as cons to the treaty. One of the greatest problems however, is that the public does not know what the Treaty is comprised of. Again, the issue of a European demos was discussed and there was a suggestion that the public only sees the EU as a pragmatic thing, such as NATO. It was also stated that further EU enlargement would not be possible without the new treaty.

After the interesting and engaging discussion the participants and ICD staff members and guests had a chance to relax and socialise with a live band and a buffet.

Day 5 - German Cultural Diplomacy in the European Context, Greek Identity within the European Context and Leadership Initiatives

The final day of the forum concluded with a trip to the German Foreign Office to listen to the guest speaker, Benjamin Hanna. He delivered an impressive presentation on Germany's cultural diplomacy, from the perspective of the Foreign Office, as well as explaining the idea behind embassies. The session started with a short introductory DVD explaining what exactly the Foreign Office does and the roles of Foreign Ministers. Benjamin Hanna explained the three-pillar model of German foreign policy.

The third pillar was invented under Willy Brandt to represent Germany's values and has two focuses; Germany and Europe. The Foreign Office cultural activities and institutions were explained to us, including the Goethe Institute, DAAD, Deutsche Welle and German schools abroad, which all involve some kind of cultural exchange. The Foreign Office is also responsible for improving Germany's image abroad. There was also an opportunity for a short discussion and some important issues were raised. For example, the way in which Germany dealt with the issues surrounding the war in Afghanistan and the recent case of the Muslim woman stabbed in a courtroom and Germany being described as having "Islamophobia."

The afternoon session was hosted by the Greek ambassador, Tassos Kriekoukis who spoke on culture and Greek's identity within the European context. Mr. Kriekoukis provided a stimulating lecture on what is really meant by the word "culture". After learning that every country has its own take on culture, we learned that rather than static, culture is actually very dynamic. It is very much dependent on external factors and is adaptable to any situation. Not only is culture about language, the arts, religion, customs and structural organisations, it is also about the way of life. Culture goes hand in hand with tourism too. A state's cultural policy is very much about preserving their heritage and diffusing their culture, so that it can reach as many people as possible. He explained that part of this cultural policy is also cultural diplomacy, for example representing national minorities in foreign territories and erasing stereotypes and xenophobia. It is there to create bridges of common understanding and tolerance. He also described the difference between tolerance and acceptance, and the idea of a "Leitkultur." Furthermore, the history of Greece and the Greek language, which is very important to the Greek identity, was discussed. He provided very detailed answers to questions posed to him, one of which was whether the Greek government made any effort to promote Greek culture abroad. The Greek Institute for culture is present in many countries, which adapts its policies to each host country and is connected with universities and museums for example. Embassies are also a good way to provide a service to society.

The day ended with leadership initiatives led by Mark Donfried. Here the participants had the opportunity to reveal any sort of projects they had in mind and many good ideas were raised. Throughout the week we had discussed what it meant to be European and whether there was a lack of a European identity. One group shared their initiative to hold a meeting place for Europeans in the Cultural Capital City for that given year. Another initiative was that there should be more intercultural dialogue between students at universities, for example, introducing the German "buddy system" in British universities. Another initiative focussed on cultural diplomacy in Cyprus and between South Africa and Germany.

The Cultural Diplomacy in Europe Young Leaders Forum week finished with the group receiving their certificates of attendance.