In the hierarchy of values the cultural ones range above the economic ones
“The EU has reached a stage of its history where its cultural dimension can no longer be ignored." With this widely quoted statement, José Manual Barroso opened the first Berlin Conference A Soul for Europe in 2004 at the Dresdner Bank next to the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin.
Now, more then ten years later, his assertion did not loose a tithe of its relevance. On the contrary, it became the programmatic basis for the initiative’s work.
The first Berlin Conference immediately began well: the brand new President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso gave a big kick-off by to place culture above the region's economic interests, and emphasis on a Europe that should be more than a market of goods and services. Barroso stated: “The timing of this conference is perfect ... The questions on what Europe can do for culture, and what culture can do for Europe are not new. But in this context they have acquired a new sense of urgency."Present at this conference was the nomenclature of Europe: ministers, members of parliament, politic, the media, cultural institutions, artists and scientists, but also the younger generation decision makers of tomorrow from all corners of Europe was invited by Felix Meritis to participate in the European debate.
The purpose of A Soul for Europe
The chiefaim of the initiative is tostress the need of harnessing culture for the European integration process and to employ strategically the Europe’s cultural potential in every political and policy making field. Culture is the crucial issue when talking about the multifaceted European idea and Europe’s profile, both internally and internationally. Culture solely can explain the derivation and concepts the European Union is evolving from and clarify what is hoped to be achieved by pursuing this development.
Culture, Citizenship, Democracy
A Soul for Europe connects and mobilizes citizens and democratic institutions across Europe, foster a sense of responsibility for the future of Europe and democracy through culture. A Soul for Europe connect communities in order to build a common European public space and a culture of proactive citizenship. All levels of governance are linked with change-makers from the cultural field, business world and civil society, developing projects that ensure Europe makes dynamic use of its cultural assets and creative potential. The annual Berlin Conference is as a civil society platform to define and initiate concrete common steps in order to strengthen the cultural component of the European development.
One of the major interests of the initiative is to involve the young European decision-makers in the process. The younger generations from all over Europe and beyond are asked to face the responsibility of shaping their own future. Felix Meritis, as a cooperation partner of the "A Soul for Europe" is responsible for the “young bright Europeans” to participate in A Soul for Europe. They are questioning European policy makers and intellectuals, and continue to present their views on Europe and its future as well as developing strategies which transform their ideas into action.
A Soul for Europe
Following the great success of its first edition in 2004, the Initiative A Soul for Europe are continuing to organize each year the Berlin Conference on the month of November. The conferences establish a platform which initial value is to define the future prospects of Europe. A Soul for Europe strives for a paradigm shift in European, national and local policies towards the greater implementation of cultural aspects into various policy areas such as, social affairs, foreign policy, freedom, security and justice. The civil society nature of the initiative aims to strengthen a bottom-up process of building a diversity while still keeping an integrated Europe. It is furthermore believed that a coherent and strong European Union can only exist if it is an union of Europeans rather than one of governments and institutions.
Martin Schulz - 2015
“The time has come to fight for the basic European values solidarity, respect and tolerance. They are very much under pressure”. These were the words of Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament in his welcoming address (A Soul for Europe conference, 11 November 2015), told with respect to the current refugee crisis. “ It is time to fight against those who are in favor of re-nationalisation and de-solidarisation.” Schulz gave a passionate inspiring speech about the refugee issue. At the moment we are being faced with the largest migrant movement we have ever experienced. Schultz and many others could imagine that this might happen; Europe has not been prepared to deal with this problem. “If one is unable to protect its citizens, the task of Europe begins. Now it comes to solidarity, ecological solutions, and environmental issues. Europa is very strong, we must use the economic strength to achieve solidarity.”
Peter Vermeersch - 2015
Another speaker of A Soul for Europe Conference 2015 was Peter Vermeersch, who advocated for more creativity to improve democracy in Europe. He came up with four observations that are important for cultural activists who wish to increase the creative strength of democracy by thinking beyond existing institutions and ordinary democratic practices.
- We are already part of the experiments. So it is time that we took them seriously, and learn from.
- And this is not something only for young or faltering democracies. It is about the core of what democracy is.
- It is not simply how to encourage citizens participation and get involved with the issues that matter to them. It is more, it is about encouraging the right type of citizens to get involved.
- Therefore, the cultural activist have an important role to play – especially in urban areas.
Forum X is a series of meetings, workshops and conferences held in various cities (from Sofia to Tblisi, from Belgrade to Amsterdam) across the European continent. Forum X events are organizes by local civil society actors in close cooperation with the A Soul for Europe initiative. The first Forum was held in Oporto in 2005, followed by several annual Forums in various European cities. In 2007, for example three forums were held in Belgrade, Pécs and Tbilisi.
Conversations on Europe
What can culture do for Europe? Who can answer this question best? A Soul for Europe is collecting personal stories from citizens to present and discuss in the European public space. A Soul for Europe invites representatives of European arts and culture to Brussels for a discussion with leading EU- politicians about Europe, its aims, opportunities and risks.During the third edition Nilüfer Göle (author of Musulmanes et modernes and Interpénétrations: l'Islam et l'Europe) gave a lecture on "The Secular Modernity” in Brussels. “The growing presence of Islam in the West calls for a new definition of the boundaries between the public and private domain”, said Nilüfer Göle. She gave examples of the practical consequences of this phenomenon, but also explain the theory behind this. José Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission) opened the discussion after the lecture with, among others, Paul Scheffer. Moderator was Michaël Zeeman.
A Soul for Europe comprises a broad network of young European actors. The messengers list shows all events where representatives of the network participate.
Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe
A civil society project that aims to strengthen participation of citizens from all sectors of society in building a better Europe. Involved are citizens, including politicians, artists, intellectuals and civil society leaders, in shaping the future of Europe.