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GMT Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy

January 2009

GMT Day 1: Introduction to Cultural Diplomacy and Citizenship Workshops

The Germany Meets Turkey Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2009 started with a welcome address by Symposium Director Alexander E. Balistreri. This was followed by a seminar on the meaning and the history of cultural diplomacy by Mark Donfried – founder and director of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. The 27 symposium participants, most of whom are young academics of Turkish, German or Turkish-German origin, gained an insight in the current implications of cultural diplomacy.

Starting with a definition of cultural diplomacy as “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their people to foster mutual understanding” (Milton Cummings), Mark Donfried emphasized the actual importance of paying attention to dialogue and cultural identities as a means of exerting soft power (Joseph Nye). Describing the general term “diplomacy” as the alternative to war – be it cultural, political or economic diplomacy, Donfried focused on the cultural aspect of it without denying the importance of the diplomatic role of politics and economy. Pointing out that cultural identity and the expression of an identity (e.g. through art and music) are two major components of culture, it is likely for people coming from different backgrounds to find a common ground though cultural expression.

The essence of the final discussion between the participants and Mark Donfried was that cultural diplomacy is not meant to replace political and economic diplomacy. Rather, cultural diplomacy should play a supportive but important role. After a rewarding seminar in the teaching facilities of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, the participants went out to eat lunch together.

In the afternoon, the young leaders made their way to Rathaus Neukölln in South-East Berlin, where they took part in a workshop entitled ‘Conceptions of Citizenship How do we conceive of citizenship differently and what are its implications for cultural diplomacy?’ followed by a panel discussion on citizenship and integration. The workshop was chaired by Alex Balistreri and resulted in lively discussion from all factions in the room. Whilst citizenship means different things to different people and in the various languages, the participants attempted to find a common definition, taking both historical and linguistic perspectives into account. What does this mean for Germans? In South West Germany, people will often differentiate between lower Bavarian, upper Bavarian, Frankonian and so on. There is an emphasis on the locality and a “lokalpatriotismus”, which is reflected in pride in living in the “Wrangelkiez” in Berlin, for example. In Turkish, the word “Vatandas” places more emphasis on a territorial attachment to the nation. The answer to the question ‘who is Turkish?’ is found in the Turkish constitution and the idea is turkishness is anchored here. It is a more ethnic understanding of the term, which it is important to remember when considering Turkish citizenship alongside that of other countries.

The subsequent panel discussion was an opportunity to hear some different perspectives from professionals working in the field of cultural diplomacy. The speakers were Ercan Karakoyun, an urban sociologist who organises symposia and invites participants from all over the world to partake in intercultural dialogue, and Franziska Giffey, representative of Neukölln borough council. The issues of assimilation and integration were discussed in the context of Berlin’s Turkish-German community; the idea of ‘transnationality’ was put forward as an alternative means of identity formation, where allegiance is held to more than once nation-state. The need for better political representation for Turkish-Germans was also mentioned.

The evening saw the group visit Berlin’s En Passant restaurant/bar, allowing the participants to reflect on their first day at the forum in a more relaxed setting.

GMT Day 2: The Turkish Embassy and Citizenship Laws

On the second day of the Symposium, the participants of the Germany Meets Turkey programme undertook a trip to the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Berlin. They were welcomed and hosted there by Mr. Başçeri and Mr. Evirgen, attachés working on Turkish-European affairs and Turkey’s accession process to the EU. The participants were given the opportunity to pose their questions regarding citizenship directly to the attachés; what concerned the participants primarily was the reaction of the Turkish embassy to the recent changes in German citizen laws (as discussed on Monday) and whether these have caused any difficulties the embassy has to deal with.

Mr Başçeri and Mr. Evirgen elaborated on the Turkish citizenship system, stating that can renounce one’s Turkish citizenship in favour of another one, but this makes it impossible to ever hold a Turkish passport again. However, former citizens still maintain almost every right they had before apart from the right to vote. The speakers emphasised that the concept of dual citizenship would be a milestone for the integration of Turks in Germany and that it is unclear why people living here, working here, and paying their taxes here are not granted any political rights yet, whereas most of the US and EU citizens are allowed to have a double citizenship. This led the participants to the question of the integration of the Turkish community in Germany and whether German citizenship could be seen as the last piece of a successful integration process. Participants and representatives agreed that it takes political and cultural efforts to overcome prejudice as many German participants of Turkish descent reported having experienced discrimination in school, in the media, and in politics. Their conclusion was therefore that more cultural initiatives like Germany Meets Turkey are needed to bring the cultures together, as artistic events such as literature or music festivals reach people better than politics do.

After lunch, the young leaders paid a visit to the world famous Berlin Philharmonic to watch the orchestra rehearse, before returning to the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy for the workshop ‘The Legal Challenges of Citizenship’. The participants were divided into four different groups to discuss the issues outlined in the Nationality Act, and to discuss the clauses that most pertained to citizenship for immigrants from Turkey. The primary principle within German citizenship is Jus Sangunis, meaning that one acquires German citizenship by having one parent who is a German citizen and not by location of birth. However, those born in Germany can acquire citizenship if one of the parents has a permanent residence permit, or has been residing in Germany for at least 8 years. These children are required to apply to retain German citizenship by the age of 23. If they have not applied by this age they will lose their German citizenship status.
Remaining in their groups, the participants then went on to look at the Resident Act of 30th July 2004, which covers the conditions of a foreigner’s spouse obtaining a residence permit and, secondly, the integration course that is required to be taken by a potential foreign resident. Chapter 3 of the Residence Act provided fuel for debate between the participants, many of whom had experienced certain elements of the German Immigration Law themselves, and who found within its specifications many points of discussion. The time spent looking through these acts allowed for a productive forum of debate for the participants. The students had the opportunity to raise their own challenges to certain sections and to also impart their own experiences of some of the processes outlined in the act.

Professor Dr. Gökçe Yurdakul joined the participants in sharing some of her thoughts and experiences about German citizenship. Dr. Yurdakul is a Professor of Diversity and Social Conflict at the Humboldt University. She gained her PhD from the University of Toronto in Sociology, and has studied immigration, integration, citizenship Islam in Europe and issues of Muslim women in Western Europe and North America. Dr. Yurdakul began by discussing basic citizenship laws and integration in Germany: citizenship by definition tends to be exclusive, and citizenship to the European Union is no exception; she raised the question as to whether or not Turkey’s accession to the EU would change the environment within Germany. Although Dr. Yurdakul became a German citizen, she stated that she, just like many Turkish immigrants that naturalize, feels like a second-class citizen, and that although one may hold the German passport, it remains different to being considered German. Following Dr. Yurdakul’s thought-provoking seminar, the participants discussed the lack of viable alternatives to national citizenship, the problems with second-class citizenship, and how this is perceived in literature.

The second day of the forum concluded with a group dinner at the Spreeufer, a popular hangout of diplomats and politicians, where the young leaders enjoyed a taste of German cuisine.

GMT Day 3: Participant Presentations and Kreuzberg

On Wednesday morning the Germany Meets Turkey Symposium participants met in the America House to listen to the talks of two fellow GMT-participants. Ülkem Başdaş who is currently doing her PhD in finance gave a talk on the impact of culture on financial decision-making.

Assuming that it is important to take cultural factors into account when dealing with behavioral economics, Ülkem Başdaş showed that people tend to evaluate goods differently depending on factors such as the intensity of the ingroup vs. outgroup-effect, the framing effect and the morality effect, which obviously vary from culture to culture.

Cihan Kiliç is an M.A.-student of conflict and resolution studies at Sabancı University in Istanbul, and gave a talk on the effects of globalization on cultural diplomacy. He asserted that there has been a reevaluation in the sources of power due to globalization and showed that this also affects cultural diplomacy, which has transformed from an area of persuasion to an area of creativity and independence, looking to the necessity to understand the motivation behind difference.
After a short discussion on the speakers’ contributions, the young leaders went out for lunch together before heading to their next appointment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There they were welcomed by Anne Duncker who works for the Culture and Communication Directorate General. After screening a short film on the fields of activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anne Duncker presented the Ernst Reuter Initiative that was founded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs and Abdullah Gül, the current President of the Turkish Republic, in order to make a significant contribution to German-Turkish relations. The initiative now promotes outstanding projects related to the Turkish-German cultural dialogue in the fields of arts, culture and the media, youth and young professionals, science and integration.

As respite from the abundance of interesting information gained throughout the day, the GMT participants had a cup of Turkish çay (tea) in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district where they also visited the Ballhaus Naunynstraße - a former ballroom built in 1863 now serving as a meeting place for post-migrant artistic expression, theatre in particular. In fluent German and fluent Turkish, Tuncay Kulaoğlu, the dramatic director of the Ballhaus, explained the concept of post migrant theatre: due to the need to tell the stories of families with a third or fourth generation migrant background, the ballhaus has launched several projects aiming at making post migrant culture accessible to the general public. For instance, the project “Kahvehane” was a tour through 12 Turkish coffeehouses in Berlin-Kreuzberg and -Neukölln where various artists with a post-migrant background performed. The current project “ZeyBreak” is a dance performance that tells the story of Kadir Memiş who emigrated from a small Turkish village to Berlin at the age of 10 and created a mix of Zebek-dance (an ancient partisan dance) and break-dance. The resulting hybrid, “ZeyBreak”, expresses the influence of Turkish rural life and Berlin Urban life on his identity.

By the end of the day the GMT-participants were pleased to attend Kadir Memiş’s performance – which was received with a standing ovation.

GMT Day 4: Integration and Citizenship

The young leaders began the fourth day of the symposium with an excursion to the Kreuzberg Museum in one of Berlin’s Turkish quarters. The area is now the borough Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, a place where east meets west. The participants were introduced to the multi-faceted history of Kreuzberg, which is essentially a history of migration. During the War large parts of the district were destroyed, especially in the western area. On Wilhemstrasse, the main street through Kreuzberg, stood Hitler’s Reich Chancellery, and was a prime target for allied bomber pilots.  After the war, city planners were able to easily rebuild the west of the city as they desired, according to an American model of functional space, but they had to tear down eastern Kreuzberg before they could rebuild this part of the city. By the early eighties, the revitalization of eastern Kreuzberg began but the apartments were filled with squatters who protested the destruction of the old buildings that they were living in. Kreuzberg was already a very mixed quarter: tenant houses; the middle class living in the front houses with larger three and four bedroom apartments, with the working-class living in smaller houses at the back.

The history of Berlin, and in particular Kreuzberg, is intertwined with the migration history of Germany’s guest workers who came to Germany after it’s postwar division. It was assumed that these workers would leave after a short stay, however in reality, most of these workers chose to stay. They would often bring their families to live with them in districts such as Kreuzberg, which were considered undesirable to West Berliners due to its proximity to the Eastern sector of the city.
The second half of the morning, accordingly, was devoted to questions of citizenship. As of 2004, the population of Turkish immigrants in Berlin was about 1.7M, making them the largest minority in Germany. There were also about 415,000 Turks with German citizenship. Germany’s citizenship laws have recently changed from the laws established in 1913, laws that are primarily based on Jus Sanguinis. Only as recently as 1999 were the laws changed to include a clause allowing people not German by blood to naturalize.

The young leaders continued their discussion with the definition of citizenship, what it should be, and where they thought that it should go. It was decided that nations should have citizenship laws that reflect the reality of the population and not a population that is intended to reflect the law. A major issue regarding citizenship in many countries, not just in Germany, is the gap between social and political citizenship, in other words, the gap between how one fits in with the social structure and the realities of the legal system of citizenship. Alternatives to the customary laws on citizenship were discussed, including a city-based citizenship, and supranational citizenship such as the European Union.

In the afternoon, GMT visited the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for a panel discussion with Vural Öger, Member of the European Parliament and the Social Democratic party, and Professor Dr. Hüseyin Bağcı, professor at Metu Ankara University in Turkey, to discuss the effects of the citizenship debate on the relationship between Turkey and Germany.

During the first panel, Professor Bağcı discussed the academic role of improving the Turkish and German relationship, the need to improve the image of Turkey in Germany, and how it is essential to look at the converging futures of the two countries, not just short-term, but in the mid-term and long-term as well. There is a need to tell the world about the successes of German-Turks, they both agreed, to tell the stories of Turkish Nobel prizewinners, political leaders and successful artists: “Very little media shows Turkey in a positive light,” said Professor Bağcı about the German media.

A second panel with Kenan Kolat, the Chairman of German-Turkish community, and Peter Altmaier a member of Parliament and the Christian Democratic party, discussed the relationship between citizenship and identity, and the question as to whether it is necessary to be a citizen to feel integrated, in particular the factors at play in the German-Turkish model.  Peter Altmaier was an important agent in the reformation of citizenship laws, adding the clause that allows for non-citizens to naturalize. Both Mr. Altmaier and Mr. Kolat agreed that there were still problems with the laws regarding citizenship in Germany. The people that stay for good should become citizens, said Mr. Altmaier, but that does not mean that they have to give up their culture; they can enter social and political life and still remain true to their culture.

After a packed day of political conversation, the forum members enjoyed a cultural experience in the heart of Berlin at the Divan Restaurant, followed by the Türkü Bar for those who wished to sing along with Turkish classics into the early hours…

GMT Day 5: The Future

The last day of the Symposium began with a seminar given by ICD Director Mark Donfried, in which he posed several questions to participants regarding what was learned and gained from the symposium, and what is expected of participants in the future. What can you learn about a nation in five days? What can we as individuals do? What can we change in such a short period of time?

A variety of different answers were put forward. Cultural background and experiences and the thought processes regarding the issues that had been covered during the week changed from participant to participant. What separates us from understanding and solving of issues is not race, class or sex, but access to knowledge and access to forums in which we can discuss the issues.

Through leadership initiatives such as those offered by the ICD, Donfried encouraged the participants of GMT to promote cultural diplomacy between nations. The ICD hopes that the participants will develop short-term leadership initiatives that can help reach these goals. The forum provides a means to create long-term connections between the participants and the ICD. Previous projects have included starting local exchange programmes between German and Turkish high schools, publications of newsletters, and organization of bilateral conferences. Young leaders are encouraged to use the people they meet, and the resources that they have available to them from the ICD and from past experiences, and to use the ICD online forum to share documents, ideas and literature with other participants.
Several ideas were proposed for future cultural diplomacy initiatives: the ICD already runs a Study Tour that sends students traveling in Turkey and Germany, and further suggestions included a Turkish History Month in Germany to promote the history of Turkey and Turkish Germans, intercultural workshops for teachers and assistance for teachers to encourage students to discuss the issues at hand.

With the Germany meets Turkey forum, the ICD encourages participants take what they have learned and discussed at the forum to initiate programs and dialogue in their home cities and countries. In recognition of week-long participation in the Germany Meets Turkey symposium, and to thank the young leaders for taking part with such enthusiasm, each participant received a certificate of completion.