Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation

17.9.2003 | Von:
Thomas Krüger

Opening Address

The Federal Agency for Civic Education was founded 51 years ago. Probably unique in its organisational form, it grew out of specific German experiences with dictatorial systems of the past.

The President of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Thomas Krüger, at the International Think Tank "Thinking Europe" on the 12 - 14th September 2003, at the Villa La Collina, Italy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome at the Villa La Collina. The hosts for the next two days will be the European Film Academy and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, and we are pleased that you have taken the time to join us at this attractive and historically significant place to give some thought to the future of Europe.

Some of you are familiar with the work of the Federal Agency for Civic Education; for all the others, mainly our guests from abroad, I shall take this opportunity to outline the work of our organisation.

The Federal Agency for Civic Education was founded 51 years ago. Probably unique in its organisational form, it grew out of specific German experiences with dictatorial systems of the past. Historical and current issues are being addressed through its products and on the national level, that means in Germany, the Federal Agency is one of the major players within the area of public-civic education and cultural framework.

On the one hand, our products and competence are in the fields of content, that means, to compile and organise political and comtemporary experiences and to offer that knowledge in various modules and formats to the different interest groups; on the other hand, we act increasingly as the driving force for civil-social organisations and as mediator between those and the public-political area. We consider it our duty to initiate and strengthen a participationary process, to increase the awareness of citizens for democracy and political culture, resulting in active participation and engagement.

Our ultimate aim is to transfer this activity onto the European level – the internationalisation of political and cultural education is a necessary and future-oriented challenge in view of the globalisation, especially when considering the totally changed foreign- and security-oriented parameters.

A strategic aim in this international concept is the identification of, and networking with similarly minded organisations on both levels, governmental and non-governmental. It is in this context that we see the work of such Think Tanks, an open but not public inter-disciplinary discussion circle, enabling us, in a relaxed atmosphere, to discuss a Europe before and after such deep considerations and to evaluate the pros and cons of a European identity, diversity and the obstacles of a European culture, - in short - to reflect upon the institutional, political, as well as the humanistically enlightened and civil character of the Europe of the next decades. If the issue is such a future-oriented European character description, it is my opinion that two major subject areas must be dealt with over the next few days:

Firstly, the positioning and therefore the self-determination of Europe, be it political or cultural, within the framework for a new quality of the transatlantic relationship. The future of Europe will depend entirely on the development of a new emancipated self-understanding of Europeans. Could we, in this context, agree with the simple analysis of Robert Kagan on a new world order, that the Americans are "cowboys, international sheriffs, welcomed with open arms, who are endeavouring to reach a certain measure of peace and fairness in a world that seems lawless to them and in which criminals often have to be deterred an eliminated by using armed force. Europe is rather more like the saloon keeper. Bandits kill sheriffs, but not the saloon keeper," he concluded. Is this a generally accepted description of a new world order?

I am sure that we shall debate this point at length. Further, I am looking forward to hearing Paul Berman from the USA, who, with his new book "Terror and Liberalism" tries to find answers to forms of a modern revolutionary nationalism and other totalitarianisms, dictating the intellectual discourse in the Islamic world.

A second area of topics important to me is concentrating on the change-effect of "Culture is Europe is Culture" on the way to a European society. When it comes to a European process of agreement, the cultural dimension always plays a part, that is to say, the common cultural heritage has to be found for the creation of a European identity. The remaining question for the next few days will therefore be: Just how much actual influence have culture, the arts and the media on a broader form of "States of Europe"? How can this process of building a civil society be enhanced and remain sustainable?

In this regard I am pleased about the participation of the European Film Academy as well as numerous filmmakers and artists at this Think Tank. The European film is not to be considered equal to the glamorous Mayorfilms of American origin, but provides a pole for European independance and self-assurance, provides pictures of Europe´s cultural diversity and difference. I think we can all look forward to the presentation of Michael Winterbottom´s prize winning film "In this World!" this evening.

Due to the recent expansion and, in particular, to the question of the inclusion of Turkey, the slogan of the cultural heritage of Europe has moved to the centre of the current europe-political debates and is one of the major issues on the definition of the expanse of the "region Europe". In this sense the "region Europe" has always been vague and uncertain, particularly as one could never have stood for all the facets one wanted to find. Do not Asia Minor and Mesopotamia also belong cultural-historically to Europe?

If one looks at the history of today´s Europe, it presents itself foremost as history of demarcation and loss up to recent times. The formation of the European idea grows along a constant process of self-definition in the dispute with the alleged "others". Was not, for example, the Islamic threat during the 7th century responsible for the formation of a European feeling of identity among the traditionally splintered Christian communities?

The cultural heritage and the cultural diversity of Europe are often mentioned in one breath when one wants to set a binding canon on what Europe is. What makes "Europe" according to the opinion of the Austrian publicist Karl-Markus Gauss, has been published in his remarkable book "The dying European". He was on his way to the sephars of Sarajewo, the Gottscheer Germans, the Sorbs and the Aroumen. His travel pictures and stories of the divided, the banished and the small tribes, which played no role in Europe and were hardly acknowledged, paint an almost mystical but also wounded European soul in an almost forgotten and through many crisis and wars marked region. Out of his fateful descriptions emerges a European identity in which past and present melt into tragic unity.

Moshe Albahari, for instance, a pensioned off commander of the Yugoslavian Airforce, who tells the story of his life: "My wife is dead, my son has gone, my friends have left the country, the five-hundred-year history of the Jews in Sarajewo nears the end...and this end...cannot be stopped anymore....I am no Israeli. I am not American. Yugoslavia does no longer exist. Bosnia only exists in the imagination. I am a Sephard Jew who cannot speak Spanish....I do not look back, only forward: And my history goes cemetery".

The future is Europe and without the culture and the creation of a European public the idea "Europe" will not work. The public discussion during the European reform convention was the first step in the right direction, but has left no satisfactory status quo. The creation and establishment of a public European discourse will strongly depend on the cultural framework conditions and the possibilities of cultural influence on the civil society. That is why the cultural dimension of the changing-processes at European level must be more strongly emphasised than in the past. Cultural politics as a task when newly creating and modifying European economical-, developmental and social politics must be included more rigorously. The resulting increased importance of culture and culture politics will lend more weight when dealing with activities and initiatives for as yet unorganised European communities and set the outlines for individual countries, but will also give a voice in Brussels.

I should now like to welcome Dr. Stölzl, Senator for Culture, Research and Science in Berlin until 2001, and since 2002 Scientific Consultant at the "Villa Grisebach" in Berlin. However, today he is representing the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. I am also looking forward to welcoming the representative of the European Commission, Department Education and Culture, Director-General Nikolaus van der Pas. I hope, Mr. van der Pas, you will be able to take to Brussels many ideas and impressions from this Think Tank.

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