Europe of Cultures: Cultural Identity of Central Europe
The Conference assembled about 100 participants from 14 European countries and from more than 30 different institutions, academic, cultural and professional governmental and non-governmental bodies. 25 papers were presented and about 40 participants took the floor to discuss or raise relevant issues.
The programme of the conference included the opening session, three working sessions, two special sessions and the presentation of the Culturelink Network. The concert dedicated to the Croatian composer and violin virtuoso Franjo Krezma (1862-1881) and the exposition of the contemporary Croatian painter Boris Demur took place on the occasion of the conference.
Ms. Marija Pejčinović, director of the Europe House Zagreb opened the session. Mr. Ljubomir Čučić, President of the Europe House Zagreb, welcomed the participants and presented the theme of the conference. Ms. Seadeta Midžić, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, highlighted the significance of the conference for Croatian culture.
Mr. Maté Kovacs greeted the conference on behalf of UNESCO. H.E. Mr. Volker Haak, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany,
greeted the participants by reminding them that only a few years
ago the notion of CE was not self-understood as it is now and
that Europe was deprived of its centre, which is now being reinstated
through the rule of law. Ms. Tijana Defar welcomed the participants
on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
In his message read
to the audience Mr. Raymond Weber, Director of Education, Culture
and Sport, Council of Europe, particularly stressed that the Central
Europe is a prime example of the place where the diversity is
combined with a feeling of common belonging and that the contributions
made by Central Europeans to art, music, literature and science
have enriched the whole continent.
First Working Session: Central
European Cultures and Cultural Identities
The First working session: Central
European Cultures and Cultural Identities started by a short
presentation of reasons, objectives and methodology of work of
the conference. The geographical and historical notions of Central
Europe (CE) were discussed.
Central Europe has a symbolical meaning
of an open and contradictory project. It represents a mixture
of cultures that contradict one another and reflect Eastern and
Western extremities. Particularism supports the peripheral position
of CE, although cosmopolitism has been constantly present in the
provincial areas of CE.
The will to be together in Europe defines
the effort to identify the area itself, and it is reflected in
the constant reevaluation of the particular identities of peoples
and their cultures, which was illustrated by the example of Austria.
Nationalisms may support the identification of cultures, but the
quality and identity of nationalism also change.
of old dreams and totalitarianism have produced tragedies. On
the other hand, universality should not be confronted to patriotism.
The multiple identification: national, regional, continental and
global is not contradictory, and might be typical of CE.
Second Working Session: Cultural
Identity in the Perspective of Development and Transformation
The Second Working Session: Cultural
Identity in the Perspective of Development and Transformation
was inspired by the fact that cultural identity lies at the hearth
of debates on change in cultural studies and social theory.
reflects an interplay of social forces who are shaping the new
social order, which is particularly felt today in CE. It is no
wonder that Central European, and particularly smaller and more
vulnerable nations, want to integrate into Western Europe by accepting
democratization and observance of human rights. Acceptance of
universal European identity limits collective obsessions with
The interplay of universalism and particularism
may be balanced by a strong intercultural communication that helps
the full emancipation of cultures and provides for democratization
of their relationships. This process, provoked by the fast social
change, produces different patterns of adaptation and modernization
of CE cultures. It openly challenges the values of traditional
cultures (folklore) through the process of selective acceptance
of new values.
However, in cultural terms the ongoing transformation
is the process that supports the revival and development of strong
basic cultural structures, including distinctive cultural identities
of all ethnic and national groups living in the states of CE.
Such self-reliant and self-sustainable cultural structures multiply
cultural differences through cultural communication.
in contact produce varieties rather than mixtures. They resist
superficial political manipulations, and although they stand for
national and ethnic cultures, they do not promote intolerance.
Cultures able to strongly express their identities cannot play
any role, let alone the central one, in political ethnic and national
Third Working Session: Central
Europe in the European Context
The Third working session: Central
Europe in the European Context was devoted to a number of
specialized comparative analyses of cultural values, experiences,
types of intercultural relations, media influences and policies,
functioning of cultural networks, the formation of the multicultural
CE context through an interplay between nationalism and multiculturalism,
the relevance of multiculturalism for arts, languages, etc.
question of cultural identity was highlighted in the context of
cross-border regionalism, the character of state borders in contemporary
Europe and emergence of the newly independent states on the European
Special Session: Cultural Policies
The Special session: Cultural Policies
started with an overview of the cultural policy of the European
Union and the most important European cultural programmes. The
position of CE countries and cultures in such programmes was discussed.
It was observed that non-member states of the EU can hardly be
involved in such programmes, which limits their active integration
and participation in cultural life and activities in Europe. More
flexible approach of the EU and democratization of its cultural
cooperation might be favourable for more active participation
of the CE cultures in European cultural life.
Observing that the process of transition goes well beyond economic and market concerns, UNESCO has launched a specialized Programme for Central and Easter European Development and established networks, centres and projects supporting the culture of democracy in CE countries.
Special Session: Presentation of the "Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development"
The Special session: Presentation of the "Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development"
was organized by the Croatian Commission for UNESCO.
The Concluding remarks
by Ms. Nada Švob-Đokić offered a brief overview
of the discussion. The efforts to build up a new identity of Central
Europe were particularly emphasized. CE is indeed a contradictory
and an open project, confronting universality and particularity,
the outstanding cultural diversity and the necessity to standardize
and harmonize some values, the will of particular cultures to
self-identify themselves and the need to develop stronger cultural
communication and cooperation.
Central Europe is today far from
being a central concern for Europe. It is no longer in "the
middle of Europe", neither in between Western and Eastern
Europe. It has lost its context and stands on the edge between
the integrated West and the chaotic East, insecure, unstable and
pressed by the necessity to quickly reevaluate and reaffirm its
values and development options.
Being a project, CE has to remain
open for a period of time so that the self-identification of national
and ethic cultures, as well as the management of their coexistence
may get a democratic shape and that the cultural identity may
serve to define the type of development that the local societies
would like to chose for themselves.
Closing the conference,
Mr. Ljubomir Čučić thanked the participants,
the organizers and the technical staff for their contribution
to the conference. He expressed the hope that the conference may
intensify the interest in this issue and support multiple efforts
to study and analyze the Central European cultural identities.