The 2011 International Conference on Cultural Diplomacy in the European Union

"Crisis, Conflict, and Culture: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in the European Project"

(Brussels; December 6th - 9th, 2011)

Conference Agenda

Germany and France have publicly maintained their commitment to the stability of the Euro, but there is no guarantee that ever more drastic steps won’t be necessary to keep the dream of a “United Europe”. While economic policies are at the top of everyone’s radar screens, increasingly divergent views on military engagement and on the very nature of supranational governance also threaten to divide the Union. A greater reliance on a culture-based brand of diplomacy is in no way a panacea, but will certainly go a long way toward furthering Europeans’ understandings of one another and, in turn, resolving some critical challenges productively and peacefully.

The following issues will be mentioned and explored:

Historical Foundations of European Unity and the Role of Cultural Diplomacy

Exploring the history of the European Union is the first and arguably an essential step toward understanding the current state of the EU and the role of culture within it. The end of the Second World War, the rebuilding of the continent, the fall of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany and the demise of Communism as a legitimate form of human political organization have all informed the revolutionary “European project,” whose latest incarnation was cemented in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. Steadily increasing European integration over the past 65 years has underscored the importance of cultural diplomacy as a crucial tool for intra-EU relations and for weathering the unique crises that now threaten to jeopardize European unity. The conference will facilitate exploration of the following issues:
  • The Postwar Geopolitical Landscape, 1950-1990
    (Focus: History of the EU; integration as a response to World War II; cosmopolitan political theory; East-West ideological battles; European unity; inter-cultural dialogue)
  • The History of Cultural Diplomacy in Europe: New Solutions to Recurring Problems
    (Focus: Inter-cultural dialogue; soft power; European integration; conflict management)
  • East Meets West: Reunification, Integration and Full Union
    (Focus: The collapse of Communism and the fall of the Soviet Union; Eastern states’ transition to liberal democracy; Maastricht treaty; the single currency; inter-cultural dialogue; the “German question”)
  • The East-West Imbalance: Current Disparities and Challenges
    (Focus: Disparities in wealth, income and employment rates from East to West; Eastern states’ integration into the EU; EU enlargement; the single currency; inter-cultural dialogue)
  • Why Lisbon? Costs and Benefits to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty
    (Focus: Federalization of Europe; European democracy; inter-cultural relations; European unity; the future of federalization)

European Economic Challenges and Collective Solutions

The European debt crisis, compounded by the lingering effects of the 2008 global financial meltdown, has ushered in an age of austerity and underscored the need for harmonized, Union-wide economic policies to ensure the stability of the single currency. Yet the conditional nature of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) has caused a rift between European nations like Greece and Portugal—that understandably balk at relinquishing the right to increase government spending to tackle social problems—and Germany and France, that believe an unconditional rescue is unfair both to the recipients and the benefactors. The conference will address the origins of the current crisis and debate the efficacy of collective solutions—from the EFSF to the introduction of Eurobonds to constitutionalized austerity measures.
  • Euro Stabilization: Prospects and Possibilities
    (Focus: The single currency; introduction of national austerity measures; Eurobonds; financial responsibility; inter-cultural dialogue)
  • Burdens of the Euro Zone: Germany/France Versus the PIIGS?
    (Focus: National identity; austerity; inter-cultural dialogue; balance of power in the EU; economic strengths and weaknesses of Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain)
  • Origins of the Euro Crisis: The Role of Culture
    (Focus: Enlargement of the EU; economic power; corruption; cultural disparities; inter-cultural relations; the European Central Bank; under-reliance on domestic industry and production)
  • An Ounce of Prevention: How Increased Diplomacy Can Stave off Future Crises
    (Focus: National and regional financial policies; European Central Bank policy; economic harmonization; balanced-budget amendments to national Constitutions; inter-cultural relations; integration)

Conflict Management, Cultural Diplomacy and Resolution: the European Way

Even in highly-developed societies and fully-functioning states, conflict is inescapable. Properly and fairly managed, it may lead to positive outcomes for all parties involved—but if mismanaged or ignored, it can easily develop into an out-of-control situation with destructive consequences. Since a conflict emerges when two or more parties’ values are of different character, conference speakers and participants will discuss the role of cultural diplomacy in staving off traditional conflicts and resolving extant disputes; diverging European viewpoints and what preventative actions can and should be taken to promote a sense of shared European identity, mitigating unnecessary internecine battles.
  • Culture/Wars: How a “New” Form of Diplomacy Can Prevent Traditional Conflicts
    (Focus: Cultural diplomacy; military engagement; European capital of culture; conflict resolution)
  • Military Engagement: Divergent Views
    (Focus: Military engagement; humanitarian intervention; NATO; German foreign policy; conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; US foreign policy; realism versus idealism)
  • Armies of “Soft Power”: Promoting A European Brand of Public Service
    (Focus: European youth; youth engagement; public service; a “European Peace Corps”)

Intra-EU Governance and Cultural Diplomacy: Convergence of National versus Supranational Interests

The conference will focus on the debate that has galvanized European policymaking since the Union’s earliest inception: How should the EU balance national interests with harmonized, “European” policy goals and objectives? This constant push-pull between subsidiarity—the founding political principle of the EU—versus the prospect of increased federalization (the Habermasian dream of a United States of Europe) has affected intra-European relations and hindered further integration. In order to shed light on current, culturally-rife debates over integration, speakers and participants will explore the rise of radical right-wing parties throughout Europe (discussing how these movements might use culture to unite Europeans rather than divide them); the Schengen area treaty that facilitates free movement throughout the EU; the political principles undergirding the EU in its current form; and the unmistakable cultural differences in theories of governance—how, for example, can the centralized and federalized structural traditions of France and Germany, respectively, be reconciled?
  • The Rise of Right-Wing Movements: Effects on Integration
    (Focus: Right-wing politics; nationalism and nationalistic movements; European integration)
  • Migration as Cultural Diplomacy
    (Focus: The Schengen treaty; integration of immigrants into Western European societies; freedom of movement)
  • Maintaining Subsidiarity: National Interests in the Face of Supranational Governance
    (Focus: National interests; European integration; balance of interests; principles of subsidiarity; federalization of Europe; French versus german traditions)
  • The Future of the EU: 20 Years On
    (Focus: Integration; Europe as an international actor; economic prognosis; balance of interests; intercultural/interreligious dialogue)
  • Europe Represented: Who We Are
    (A European citizen with a particularly interesting back story/career/point of view will share his/her concepts on what it means to be a European and the value of inter-cultural dialogue and understanding within Europe.)