Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation

4.9.2003 | Von:
Andrei Kurkov

Love The Neighbour-State

Abstract

The United States of Europe is growing, bringing an ever larger territory under one set of rules and one currency. Now that Poland is about to enter the union, the border between Europe and 'non-Europe' lies between Poland and Ukraine.

The United States of Europe is growing, bringing an ever larger territory under one set of rules and one currency. Now that Poland is about to enter the union, the border between Europe and 'non-Europe' lies between Poland and Ukraine. Poland´s proximity to Germany; one of Europe´s most powerful States, and her frontier status during the Soviet and post-Soviet eras facilitated the integration of Polish culture into European culture long before there was any talk of a referendum. On a social level, the border between Poland and Germany was reduced to a formality as soon as ordinary Germans lost their fear of ordinary Poles. The principle of European expansion is very clear. Neighbours who share the same values become friends and partners while neighbours whose unpredictable behaviour generates fear are perceived as a threat which is held at bay by the building of high walls.

European expansion does not only mean a bigger market, it also means more influence for European culture. It is a good thing that culture, like radiation, recognizes no frontiers. Culture crosses borders without asking permission or obtaining a visa. Twenty odd years ago some careful fiddling with my radio tuner allowed me to listen to Polish jazz for the first time. When, some years later, Polish jazz appeared in Soviet record shops, I already knew what I wanted to buy.

Politically, unified Europe is a complicated and cautious beast. Standardization is sought in the diameter of pipeline, bananas and tomatoes, but member states are in no way asked to standardize culture. France has no quota on the number of books that can be translated from German. Germany is not restricted in the quantity of French or English films it may import. Nonetheless, there is a sense of standoff between a vaguely defined 'European' culture and the powerful force of American culture. Europeans are in danger of being seduced by the idea of cultural protectionism. True, no countries are more at risk from this seduction than those like Ukraine who, while dreaming of joining the European 'club', have been unable to sufficiently develop and promote their own popular culture so as to withstand any onslaught from imported cultural products.

Ukrainians better understand Polish culture than Belgian or Greek culture, and more is known about Ukrainian culture in Poland than in France or Germany. In this sense, Poland´s entry into the European Union gives Ukraine an extra boost. It would be sensible for Ukraine to be more pro-active in developing its links with Poland now and not just on a political level.

In the shadow of each new member state lies a Ukraine with its complex problems and frustrated desires. I would hope that all new member countries will look not only towards Brussels, but around, towards its non-member neighbours, encouraging the initial cultural partnerships which could be the foundation for future political integration.


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