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Marseille debate: More Europe - external cultural relations

There took place the last debate More Europe - external cultural relations in Marseilles on July 11th, 2013.

It touched upon primarily the need to improve mobility of artists by altering visa regulations and improving access to travel grants. As these two practical difficulties hinder cultural encounters and the organization of multi cultural events, discussions tend to remain at this practical level as if this would cover already the cultural dimension in EU foreign relations.

Marseille 2013 emphasized in its original bid the attempt to recrete the necessary premise for a dialogue between Europe and the Arab world. This supposed to be placed on two pillars: Albert Camus and the Arab philosophers. What has happened to this original concept needs to be followed up. Definitely this effort can be linked to the newly opened Museum for Civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as to the multiple cultures which exist in a city like Marseille. A closer relationship to that reality would give the term 'cultural diversity' quite another content. 

The real question is what cultural resources have been developed over this one year with Marseille being European Capital of Culture in 2013, so that in future Europe can tap into that when there is a need to understand developments in the Arab world. It seems that three strands of connections continue to exist and to form their own communication platforms: business inclined to take cultural differences into account; the official diplomatic services working with premises set by member states as well as by the European Commission with the outcome thereof unsure about Europe having a definite voice in international affairs; and cultural actors of all kinds in the way book fairs, film festivals, designer conferences etc. bring about an awareness of who is being recognized by their own cultural mechanisms as to who can make a contribution to international relations. In all three cases, creditable contacts are needed to enter and to sustain this dialogue. It may also mean that all these relationships are subjected and influenced by schools of thoughts which are not guided so much by thought through concepts but rather by stereotypical images, in order to uphold the appearance of 'normal relationships'. This would mean at the same time, things are reduced to the crude judgement of what is the most effective effort, and if that is judged and appraised again in solely economic terms, the 'success' criterion applied will forfeit any need for further understanding and neglect as well the need for further going cultural investments before any claims can be made with regards to dialogue and mutual understanding.

Some further remarks can be made on the basis of the Lit Hub conference held in Valletta, April 2013 when translation strategies were discussed and certain things became apparent as to what is needed to further the relationship between the EU and all Mediterranean countries along with what entails the Arab world bordering on Africa with Algiers, Tunesia, Libya, Egypt, but also Israel and Palestine countries with a vast and rich cultural history but hardly known to Europeans. In many dialogues there are prime sources of inspirations to be noted: the different voices of that world and the rich cultural horizon individuals and groups of people have insofar as their cultural references include many well known European artists, writers, film makers etc. Here then it is a question whether or not recognition within the European cultural terms is a prerequisite for them to be recognized in their own country, even if this does not let them avoid some basic mistakes or misunderstandings of what a Heidegger of Paul Celan stand for in reality, insofar as receptivity plays another role. For the influence of cultural institutes like Institute Francaise, Goethe, Cervantes, British Council etc. leave traces in these cultures as these institutes are gateways to the West in terms of both language and self recognition. The latter can be perceived under post colonial terms and is therefore subject to an one sided relationship which has not altered over the years following Second World War and which has put this Arab world into ever greater turmoils, if not in a constant mode of either being silent and lost, or else rebellious but then subject to other forces which again continue the over alienation in cultural terms.

How come all these political and cultural issues were not touched upon by the Marseille debate may be answered already a bit by the use of the term 'more' Europe in the title. Particularly in times when Europe is going through a crisis itself, it might have been more useful to depart from 'Less Europe' in order to avoid this quantitative term 'more' as if culture is a part of an accumulative process when in reality this European funded debate displaces so many other important topics in need to be discussed.

Hatto Fischer


For more information about the conclusions of this debate go to their webpage and pictures of the debate here.

Mailing address is:
More Europe - external cultural relations

Goethe-Institut Brüssel
rue Belliard 58

Brussels 1040


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