Brussels Conversations 2012

Brussels 29 November 2012

 

Cultural Catch-up: the Brussels Conversations 2012 Discusses the Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe

 

The European House for Culture together with the Marcel Hicter Association, the Access to Culture Platform, “A Soul for Europe” and the Philosophy Festival, as well as its partners, organised the Brussels Conversations 2012 on 16/17 November 2012. It was the second of three events held in November to launch the initiative A Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe. Over 100 participants and 25 contributors from 28 countries around Europe and abroad were hosted by the Académie Royale de Langue et de LittératureFrançaises de Belgique at the Palais des Académies. The conversations set the key action points to be developed during the European Year of Citizens 2013, discussing such topics as arts and culture bringing “added value” to citizenship, fear and resentment, and the state of democracy in Europe.

 

Citizenship in Europe

 

In his opening remarks, Luuk van Middelaar (Historian, Political Philosopher, Author and Press and Communication Collaborator with the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy) stated: “A common identity is always about self-identification with a group: you cannot force people to feel European.” This point highlights the aim of the Cultural Coalition that believes people have to discover their common identity through sharing and taking part in culture. It is the moment to change behaviour and support citizens to act as the owners of Europe, since the citizens are Europe.

 

The Brussels Conversations 2012 continued with further talks by Patrice Meyer-Bisch (Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Ethics and Human Rights and UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and Democracy) and Alicja Gescinska (Philosopher and Writer).

 

An over-arching theme of the discussion was the responsibility of cultural actors, revealing that it is not only politicians that carry responsibility – cultural actors must also play their part. The crisis is an opportunity to put artists back in the spotlight, allowing them to create new and alternative narratives for our ways of life. These narratives are not just about “us” as Europeans, but also the construction of Europeanism in multi-cultural and transnational contexts.

 

A Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe

 

The initiative A Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe strives to make European policy and European citizens aware of their rights and responsibilities as Europeans: giving the European Year of Citizens 2013 a sense of urgency. Throughout the event the diversity of participants from various regions, professional, and cultural backgrounds allowed for stimulating conversations and establishing of goals for the future of citizenship in Europe. The Brussels Conversations 2012 further developed a working plan for the Cultural Coalition over the coming years:

 

  • There is a need for new narratives which help us (re)imagine Europe;
  • Citizens need to be involved on wider scale and in more “outside the box” thinking; 
  • Citizens need to empower themselves to shape a true democratic system in which together we are all co-creators. Let’s be creative and experimental!
  • Europeans need to brainstorm across borders with new online techniques;
  • Citizens need to trigger the co-responsibility and cooperation of politicians, business leaders, intellectuals, and cultural actors in working towards a common future. We must all tap into our creative potential, moving away from short-term thinking towards a long term vision that allows and fosters innovation and collaboration between all parts of society.

The Cultural Coalition was kicked off by a series of events: the Berlin Conference 2012 by “A Soul for Europe” on 10 November; the results of the progress made in Berlin were carried over to the Brussels Conversations 2012. The new perspectives will continue to the Amsterdam Conversations 2012 by the Genootschap Felix Meritis/Felix Meritis Foundation on 30 November, setting the programme and content streams of the Coalition for 2013.

 

The consensus of the Brussels Conversations 2012 called for the creation of a new culture of politics, economics, and social life for the whole European sphere, and a new and inventive relationship between citizens and politicians stressing the need to move beyond a simple concept of citizen participation towards one of global responsibility. There is a need to trigger the co-responsibility and cooperation of politicians, business leaders, intellectuals, and artists in working towards a common future. We must all tap into our creative potential, moving away from short-term thinking towards a long-term vision that allows and fosters innovation and collaboration between all parts of society. The Brussels Conversations 2012 confirmed the need for more civic involvement across Europe and the willingness of the cultural sector to play a pivotal role in its development.

 

The event was made possible thanks to the partnerships of the European House for Culture its co-producers: the Marcel Hicter Association, the Access to Culture Platform, “A Soul for Europe” and the Philosophy Festival, as well as its partners: European Festivals Association (EFA), ENCATC, the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), and euro|topics.