IN ENGLISH. The cultural branding of Europe

Culture as a binding agent for Europe?

Archive

TUE 18.05.10 | 20:30

Beursschouwburg, A. Ortsstraat 20-28, 1000 Brussels

Can culture stimulate the European integration? Diversity is the creed in Europe, but can the Union survive without adding a shared cultural dimension to her treaties and the communication with her citizens? Katherine Watson, acting director of the European Cultural Foundation, Irini Ivoni Pari, vice-president of the European Economic and Social Committee and Tom Vanderbauwhede, managing director of the communication agency Lemento, will enter into a discussion. Martin Hope (British Council) moderates the debate.

In the beginning of March the European Commission proposed a new European heritage label. As of now a site like the ruins of Ename in Belgium can officially be labelled as European heritage. This should not only benefit the local economy but also ‘enhance the feeling among European citizens that they are embedded in a shared European identity and belong to a common cultural space’.

Can culture stimulate European integration? The United States, where culture and history were and are very successfully used to promote unification, prove that it is possible. But can Europe mirror the US on this topic? The famous expression ‘unity in diversity’, which is eagerly used by European policymakers when talking about integration, may sound nice, but primarily highlights the differences between EU citizens. Can Europe survive the creed of (cultural) diversity?

Culture has always played a relatively small role in Europe. It is one of the few areas in which the European Commission has no authority. We believe that cultural policy can/must take place on a national level. The European cultural policy functions as a mere supplement to the policy of separate member states. Does this get in the way of further unification? Should we have paid more attention to a shared cultural dimension earlier, during the formation of the European Union? And can the Union as it exists today continue without adding this dimension to her treaties and the communication with her citizens?

Katherine Watson is acting director of the European Cultural Foundation. The organisation actively supports cultural collaboration and wants to establish culture as a political priority within Europe. At this moment their focus lies on cultural diversity.

Irini Ivoni Pari is Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The EESC is an independent and a specialist consultative body of the European Union. The EESC functions as a bridge between the European institutions and Europe’s socio-occupational interest groups whose role they want to strengthen permanently.

Tom Vanderbauwhede is Managing Director of Lemento (Antwerp). He founded this communication agency with Nele Slabbinck in 2000. Lemento is a specialist in corporate and public branding. Amongst its clients are not only companies and political bodies (such as the Belgian government) but also cultural institutions.

Martin Hope (British Council) moderates the debate.

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