Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Practical Context of the Fourth Seminar in Bruges 1993

The discussion about 'culture' entails many issues. It might be, therefore, useful to state at the outset what were the general intentions of the Bruges seminar1. As someone asked just recently to join in on this initiative and this in view of having taken on the responsibility of organising the Fifth Seminar to be held as follow-up in Greece during the Greek Presidency during the first six months of 1994, some things have to be said at the outset to do justice to the philosophical, cultural and political challenges lying ahead when conceiving culture to be a building stone for Europe.

As always there are specific political interests at stake and in play. Moreover many feel first of all the need to relate more consciously to the European integration process. There has been an absence of theory and also so far not many people have been brought into this process. Rather a Conservative elite dominated while the European Left clung to national modes of doing politics for the sake of social justices. They failed to see that power within the European Union meant having control over the new resources made available by the 'extra European value'. A good example for this is the highly inflated Agricultural Budget with another high priority being given to regional development. 

European integration is not only a matter of information, but also what kind of theoretical approaches have been taken to no longer the European Community (a preferred name to the new one), but to the European Union (the new name came into effect with the Maastricht Treaty). That signals a significant change as it makes Europe in its institutional set-up more anonymous and distant to the people of Europe.

To comprehend the Flemish initiative important is the emphasis upon the year 2002. It sets a time horizon in which certain things have to be realised within Europe 2 as wished for and judged (evaluated) by the Government of the Flemish Community in Belgium. 3 In the declarations for this initiative are stated political conditions as to the willingness of a positive political participation, or not, in the European integration process. Flanders is not directly a member state, but indirectly as a 'region' aims to unify itself first of all culturally. That has many ramifications and spells more than mere tension with the French speaking and German speaking part of Belgium.

The fact that the Maastricht Treaty has helped to create the 'Committee of Regions' as an institutional form, gives recognition to the voices of 'regions'. This new pillar of European integration explains still further the purpose of this initiative. 4 In turn, the Committee of Regions could in turn utilise the findings of these seminars by passing them after discussions on in the form of an advisory opinion to the European Commission. Since matters of 'culture' are not subject to direct regulations or directives, all the more important is an appraisal of this institutional set-up whether or not able to contribute to a consensus building within the European Cultural movement. 5 If so, it would have two positive aspects: a much broader sense of culture would be included in future European Cultural Policy considerations and a consensus reached amongst all member states (and through this Committee of Regions with all cultural regions in Europe) would be a powerful guideline for decisions to be taken directly by the Council of Ministers, or as their permanent representation, by the European Commission.

In particular, the initiative by the Government of Flanders tries to bring about more substantial considerations within the European Commission and the European institutions with regards to 'cultural equality' in the whole of Europe. While this involves more than a constitutional and therefore 'legal' process, in order to attain 'equality' (from the recognition of lesser spoken languages to what role the media can play in the promotion of culture etc.), the real negotiating position has to be yet defined. For who shall listen to whom when demands are made to take into further consideration regions like Flanders? They would not be defined by prevailing economic inequalities in-between them to justify the policy adopted for the Regional Fund, but by their wish to have a direct link to the European level rather than continue to face the need to go through their respective capitals e.g. Catalonia through Madrid.

Culturally speaking, there is truly a discomforting reality to be dealt with. With regards to culture not everything is going well with the European integration. Still, the joining of countries such as Sweden can give new impulses. With emphasis upon not only culture, but also 'cultural identity' and 'cultural diversity', the Bruges seminar expresses therefore some of these deeper apprehensions about the European integration process. The aim is to find out in which direction is heading the European Union. Whether now in the wake of real or possible losses of 'identity' (reinforced by specific political movements), it appears that 'culture' has become a key word to replace the loss of future perspectives. 6 This can already be a key to explanations as to why suddenly political initiatives and actions try in the name of 'culture', or more specifically 'cultural identity' 7, to regain something sought to have been lost along the way towards the European Union as it exists now at the end of this century.

Within a context defined by a time constraint (the year 2002 as target date), the question has to be posed if Europe can redefine itself not only politically or economically, but equally along what defines and makes up the cultures of Europe? The Flemish initiative attempts to define the regions of Europe 'culturally'. It is proposed that such regionally understood cultures should be taken as building stones for the European Union in the making. Since it is the underlying assumption, but also value premise of this initiative leading to a series of seminars that this pertains to all of Europe, that assumption has to be questioned in a critical and forward looking way. For instance, certain countries, including Germany, fail to network within specific European programmes by remaining sole national players: at the same time, specific adaptations to these programmes within these countries do not go beyond the cultural borders of either the member states or regions. 8

The Fourth Seminar held at the end of November in Bruges had in brief following intention: to develop such a theoretical framework by which it would become possible to
evaluate the European integration process. This includes assessments of the impact of the Convergence Plans in terms of 'cultural diversity'. It is assumed that 'cultural diversity' prevails throughout Europe, therefore what policy tools are more appropriate if something exists already and rather than in need to be brought out must be protected and promoted in a way that 'cultural equality' can be attained throughout Europe.
A main conclusion of the Fourth Seminar was to recommend such an approach which takes 'cultural diversity' to be a European asset rather than a hindrance for further
European Integration efforts and official procedures.

Obviously, the need to become highly competitive at a world scale while having to cope with fears of an enlarged European Union, a fear which is linked especially to the unresolved issue of the high unemployment, makes this into a vital theme in terms of what social, political and even personal adjustments have to be made. 9

The theoretical approaches discussed at the Fourth Seminar had to take several aspects into consideration.

For one, there was the newly elected President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton. Despite being known for his highly intellectual capacity to grasp economic details and for not being a stranger to Europe after studies in the UK (just like Trudeau from Canada), something was amiss right from the start of his Presidency. His capacity for especially foreign policy matters was clouded by feelings of uncertainty. Only one year after his election, that is 1993, did he start to give full attention to Europe in terms of being worthy of a conscious policy (perhaps necessitated by the unresolved war in Yugoslavia). Until then, he was preoccupied by efforts to revitalise the American economy.

Then, a derivative of Clinton's economic policy was the Euro-American dispute over the GATT agreement. The two sides could not agree about 'free trade' conditions for the world market. Culturally speaking, European film makers got involved. They started to protest against the dominance of Hollywood produced films in all European cinemas (a matter of also who controls the distribution system of films), while vice versa European films were hardly shown in the United States. 10

Along with that concern by the European film makers, others voiced more and more general concerns. They were worried about the massive influence of American culture upon European cultures. In particular, Leonce Bekemans expressed at the Bruges seminar the fear that Europe will succumb to the 'culture of consumption'. Consequently the Fourth Seminar took it upon itself to hear some reflections about the difference between European and American cultures from an American point of view. The task befell upon the American writer Colin Wagner who lived then in Athens. (Conlin Wagner was the designated chairperson in the Fifth Seminar for workshop 8: 'Literature, Identity and Discourse'). Leonce Bekemans, the organiser of the Fourth Seminar, expected him to talk about not only this intermingling experience of American-European culture as part of the global Western world, but more about experiences with 'cultural diversity' in America. The famous 'melting pot' theory about consequences of American advancements to the West and from then on to a full nation, was cited since the Day of Independence as the American integration model. Of particular interest to all participants of the Fourth Seminar were therefore what lessons Europeans should draw out of the mistakes Americans made in their process of integration. To be sure the United States of America stretches today from the East to the West coast, from North to South to include states like New York or California but also little ones like New Hampshire or Iowa.

The fact Europe opted for the name 'European Union' evokes already a slightly discomforting feeling connected with the question what happened in the United States after independence due to the Union states of the South? This feeling can be equated with the worry of Southern European members like Greece, Portugal, Spain or Italy, or even regions like Flanders, that Europe will be run more by the Northerners (the true Southerners of Europe). Yet if there is to be sound conviction in Europe, then that integration must be supported by all members on equal terms and be based as said before on a cultural consensus. The political basis for this consensus must be 'multi-cultural' democratic societies11, and not merely the administrative coercion of a monetary unity as envisioned, for example, by the CDU party of Germany. 12 Thus it will be a crucial test for the Flemish initiative, whether or not it will gain the German support. After Bruges and Athens the Sixth Seminar shall be held in Munich in December 1994. It will take place shortly before the main European conference of the German presidency shall be held in Essen and prior to the New Commission taking office in January 1995.

Then, there is the East-West context to be considered. After the fall of the Berlin wall, itself a symbol for the break-down of the former Communistic regimes ruling Eastern European countries along with former East Germany, prospects for further European integration to include former Communist countries in Eastern Europe has changed dramatically. As stated by German politicians, 'those who do not favour opening up European integration to Eastern European countries will not belong to the core group'. 13 It will mean that Europe shall have to deal in near future with the hard realities in countries like Poland, Hungary, Czech or Romania, to name but a few. This prompted Prof. Bekemans to invite key speakers for the Fourth Seminar along the premise "inner/outer" and "community/non-community" lines. It included as well a delegation from Sarajevo.

The Fourth Seminar started with these plenary sessions; discussons continued then in three workshops dealing with 'culture and economy', 'culture and institution' and 'culture and identity'. The fourth seminar was adjourned by a final evaluation plenary session. Finally the Minister-President of Flanders, Luc van den Brande read the 'Bruges Declaration'.

1 This extensive evaluation became crucial for the participants of the Fifth Seminar since the materials of the Fourth Seminar could not be published in time. In the meantime, these materials have been published. See Léonce Bekemans (ed.), Culture: Building Stone for Europe 2002, European Interuniversity Press, Brussels 1994.
2 See appendix for the Bruges declaration by Minister President Luc van den Brande.
3 The key term used for evaluation purposes is called 'cultural barometer': a most sensitive issue with much research requirements prior to any application possibility. Some work along those lines has
been done by Prof. Bekemans and his assistant Ruben Lombaert who referred to this in his paper given within the framework of Workshop 1: "Cross-Cultural Identities, Language and Values" of the Fifth Seminar.
4 Luc van den Brande refers in his speech to the Fifth Seminar to this fact that it has been established, but states immediately the wish to renegotiate the membership of this Committee in view of the revival of the Maastricht Treaty in 1996. The value premises for that new treaty are most crucial in understanding the political moves various European leaders are making already, i.e. Chancellor Kohl from Germany. It underlines equally the importance of such series of seminars since they can help to create cultural premises with subsequent consequences upon policies adopted by the New European Commission of the post-Delors era.
5 In the section dealing with the concept of the Fifth Seminar reference will be made explicitly to the cultural policy of the European Commission. See also the text written by the Commissioner Joao de Deus Pinheiro on 'Culture and Diversity within the European Community', Nov. 1993.
6 See here especially the paper given by the manager of DIALOGOS which had organised the Fifth Seminar; Thanos Contargyris talks about the need to look more closely at the 'culture of the key decision makers at various European levels' in Workshop 1 of the Fifth Seminar.
7 For purpose of evaluating the various proposals made by the 10 Workshops and the Special Study Groups, Bart Verschaffel has written a special paper on 'Cultural Identity' for the Third Plenary Session of the Fifth Seminar.
8 Vangelis Kassos asks in the context of Workshop 10 dealing with 'Cultural Evaluation and Cultural Exchange' whether in fact even artists can leave behind their national styles and open up to the newly created European 'public space' by the Maastricht Treaty.
9 This is a point which Picht, but also Gilbert Lenssen pointed out at the Bruges seminar; both became chairpersons at the Fifth Seminar, the former for Workshop 7: 'Education for Cultural Diversity' and the latter for Workshop 5: 'Culture driven Economy'.
10 This was a much disputed point in the preparatory meeting for the Fifth Seminar held in Athens, February 1994. Especially the actor and contributor to Workshop 6: 'Roots of Western Civilisation', Manolis Somainis took up this matter. His position was quite clear: 'let us not protest against the American films, but rather we have to ask ourselves why do people go into the cinemas and see them; there is no solution in artificial trade barriers, instead we have to set something creative against this.' It seems a possible general axiom: as long as a culture is alive, creative processes answer to challenges rather than political reactions wishing to exploit for non-cultural aims fears not to live up to the need to remain competitive even in cultural terms.
11 In Workshop 10 of the Fifth Seminar, Doina Popescu made the proposal that future cultural exchange programmes should be based on this multi-cultural facet of modern life hence strengthen individuals to be open and tolerant of other cultures. This includes rights of minorities.
12 See for instance arguments by Karl Lamers, foreign affairs spokesman of Germany's ruling CDU/CSU party favouring a "hard core" of European Union nations, that is, those which can meet convergence criterion. His main argument is the following: "that if a smaller group of countries presses ahead with particularly intensive and far-reaching economic and political integration, this group or core has a centripetal or magnetic effect on the other countries. / As I have said, this is the mechanism underlying the entire process of European integration." THE EUROPEAN - 18 - 24 November 1994, p. 11.
13 op.cit. Karl Lamers, "Where does Europe go from here?" in THE EUROPEAN, 18-24 Nov. 1994

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