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 Report

The 2011 International Conference Cultural Diplomacy in the EU
Crisis, Conflict and Culture: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in the European Project

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


1.0: Conference Report
2.0: Locations
3.0: Conference Speakers
4.0: Lecture Reviews

1.0) Conference Report

The 2011 International Conference on Cultural Diplomacy in the EU: Crisis, Conflict and Culture—The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in the European Project

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy led the 2011 International Conference on Cultural Diplomacy from the 6th to the 9th of December 2011 in the Paul-Henri Spaak and Joszef Antelli buildings in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

The conference brought together more than 50 participants and over 40 leading international speakers from the European Parliament, academia, journalism, cultural institutions, NGOs, embassies and the public and private sectors of international affairs. The conference consisted of interactive lectures and panel discussions; cultural presentations and a documentary film screening; and opportunities for participants to present their own papers and research projects. Topics ranged from the European sovereign debt crises, cultural and political union, UK Euroskepticism and the EU-US trans-Atlantic relationship. Speakers were culled from a myriad of opinions along the political spectrum.

2.0) Locations

The conference took place in the Paul-Henri Spaak and Joszef Antalli buildings of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

3.0: Conference Speakers

  • Alojz Peterle
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Slovenia
  • Adrian Severin
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Romania
  • Vladimír Šucha
    Director, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, European Commission
  • H. E. Amb. Ismat Jahan
    Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium
  • H.E. Amb. Arif Havas Oegroseno
    Ambassador of Indonesia to Belgium
  • Marietta Giannakou
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Greece; Head of the Greek EPP Delegation to the European Parliament
  • Dr. Pieter Lagrou
    Professor of History, Free University of Brussels
  • Kristiina Ojuland
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Estonia; Former Foreign Minister of Estonia
  • Morten Messerschmidt
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Denmark
  • Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Belgium
  • Indrek Tarand
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Estonia
  • H. E. Amb. Ilir Dugolli
    Ambassador of Kosovo to Belgium
  • Sebastien Wielemans
    Documentary Filmmaker, Grizzly Films
  • Dr. Samuel Furfari
    Professor of Political Science, Free University of Brussels
  • Dr. Igor Jelen
    Associate Professor of Economic and Political Geography, Faculty of Political Science, University of Trieste
  • Dr. Stefan Stoev
    Founder and Chairman, Society for International Development and Enhancement of the Arts
  • Henri Malosse
    President of the Employers’ Group, Economic and Social Committee of the European Union
  • Marietje Schaake
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from the Netherlands
  • Csaba Tabajdi
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Hungary
  • Maen Khreasat
    First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission, Belgium Embassy of Jordan
  • Boris Zala
    Member of European Parliament (MEP) from Slovakia
  • H. E. Amb. Salome Samadashvili
    Ambassador of Georgia to the European Union
  • Dr. Gerhard Sabathil
    Director, European External Action Service; Professor, Brugge European College and the Prague Economics University
  • Dr. Fabrizio Cantelli
    Professor of Political Science, Free University of Brussels
  • Paul Dujardin
    Director, Center for Fine Arts, Brussels
  • Giannalia Cogliandro
    Head, European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centers
  • Clive Myrie
    Journalist, BBC
  • Dr. Fabrice Serodes
    Assistant Professor, University of Manchester
  • Birgit Daiber
    Director, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Brussels Office

4.0) Lecture Reviews

This conference boasted an incredible diversity of speakers and participants from countries as disparate as the US, the Palestinian territories, Germany and Nigeria. This heterogeneity allowed for particularly interesting and intense discussions and debates. Below are summaries of particularly noteworthy and provocative discussions.

Tuesday 6th December 2011

4.1: “Political Culture: Export Product of the EU.”
Alorjz Peterle, MEP (Slovenia)
Mr. Peterle devoted his speech to explaining why culture and politics are inextricably linked, and why peaceful, balanced political discourse is fundamental to promoting national culture. For example, Slovenia’s peaceful political transition says as much about Slovenian culture than institutions dedicated specifically to promoting it ever could. In this vein, culture can also be used as a political tool, and as diplomatic leverage to advance not necessarily exclusively national interests but certainly national influence in European (and global) institutions.

Keynote Lecture
H. E. Amb. Ismat Jahan
Ismat Jahan, the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium, spoke about the divide between developed Western nations and developing countries like her own Bangladesh, eager to build relationships with European nations but unsure what part of its culture to promote or how to most effectively do so. The media is a crucial tool, of course, since the image it portrays is often all foreign observers know and are able to learn about Bangladesh; but the Ambassador has hopes for expanding the scope of the cultural exchange because of Europe’s tradition of multiculturalism and ability to build what might start out as foreign traditions into a collective cultural framework.

Wednesday 7th December 2011

4.3: “Language Policy: A Tool for Conflict or Communication? Historical Perspectives on Language Diversity in Europe.”
Prof. Pieter Lagrou
Professor Pieter Lagrou, a professor of Political Science at the Free University of Brussels, devoted his fascinated and invigorating lecture to the history of languages (minority languages and the evolving linguas francas) in Europe and to the interchangeability of language and culture. A language is a necessary part of a group’s culture, and to fail to understand or be able to communicate in that language is to miss out on a integral part of that culture. This is why the minority-language conundrum is such a point of contention—in a linguistically bifurcated nation-state like Belgium and a fully bilingual city like Brussels, what exactly can be said to constitute Belgian culture? Neither French nor Flemish tell the whole story. But the protection of minority languages are essential to ensuring that a particular culture, even if it’s a state culture, survives, and while the EU has rightly undertaken this protection, nation states must shoulder the burden as well, particularly in secondary education.

4.4: “Crisis, Conflict and Culture in EU-Russian Relations.”
Kristiina Ojuland, MEP (Estonia)
Ms. Ojuland devoted her speech to current EU-Russian relations, and specifically how Estonia’s relationship to its Eastern neighbour changed after its admission to the EU. In fact, Estonian history post-reunification of Europe can be divided into two eras: before EU membership and after. Estonia now enjoys the protection of the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy, which guards, albeit obliquely, against Russian influence. The fact that so many Eastern European states formerly under Communist control have not only joined the EU but made that a cornerstone of their foreign policy before the fact has only underscored the divide between “Europe” and “Russia,” which stands apart from the rest of the continent.

“European Identity: Possibility or Limitation?”
Morten Messerschmidt, MEP (Denmark)
Mr. Messerschmidt represents the nationalist Danish People’s Party in the European Parliament and devoted his speech to underscoring the problems with institutions—like the EU—that assume a common cultural, political and economic framework while glossing over national differences. The EU suffers from a “democratic deficit,” and the federalization of Europe was forced upon the European populations from the top-down; there has been little to no support at the grassroots level for forsaking national identity in favor of a shared “European identity.” The current Euro crisis in fact stems from the eagerness of European elites to force member states into binding institutions that simply did not gel with the fiscal, cultural and political divergences between European nations, and the EU is now paying the price.

“The Obvious Case of Cultural Diplomacy?”
H. E. Amb. Ilir Dugolli
Mr. Dugolli is the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to Belgium, and he readily points out that five EU member states do not recognize Kosovo as a legitimate country, which will likely prove problematic for the nascent country’s aspirations to EU membership. Serbia is currently moving toward a path to EU membership as well, and Kosovo is adamant that if Serbia joins the EU, so too should Kosovo. Normalization of Serbian-Kosovar relations is an overt Kosovar policy goal, and the Kosovo Republic sees the EU as instrumental in that effort; the Ambassador claimed that nobody in the Balkans who remembers the suffering of the 1990s would ever advocate another war with Serbia, but that Kosovo’s neighbors and all EU member states must recognize the legitimacy of the nation if Kosovo is to effect its ultimately peaceful foreign policy goals.

4.7: “Connected Walls: The Impact of a Documentary Web Project as Cultural Diplomacy.”
Sebastien Wielemans
Mr. Wielemans provided a much-needed artistic viewpoint of the ability of European culture to shape diplomatic efforts, and screened his documentary web project, “Connected Walls,” for the participants, which explored he concept of “borders” as a tool for separating peoples and why these literal and figurative walls fail to achieve their supposed aims. The film was in large part devoted to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, but lacked objectivity in its assessment of the conflict.

Thursday 8th December 2011

4.8: Keynote Lecture
Boris Zala, MEP (Slovakia)
Mr. Zala devoted his speech to reconciling the current economic crisis with the philosophical/theoretical foundations of European Union, and argued that the debt crises might actually deepen integration efforts.

Friday 9th December 2011

Keynote Lecture
Paul Dujardin
Mr. Dujardin, director of the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, discussed the cultural exchange of art forms both in contemporary Europe and throughout European history, also touching on the historical significance of soft power as opposed to imperialism.

4.10: “Of Europe But Not In It: The United Kingdom’s Relationship with the Mainland”
Clive Myrie, Journalist (BBC)
Mr. Myrie, a lively, engaging speaker, explained the historical foundations of Euroskepticism in the United Kingdom and its eagerness to stoke its “special relationship” with the United States. Prime Minister Cameron is in a difficult position regarding EU integration (especially if he cedes to certain Tory wishes that Britain hold a referendum on EU membership should France and Germany insist on treaty changes in light of the currency crisis) and how he proceeds is critical.