Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Introduction by Hatto Fischer

As Anna Arvanitaki points out in her commentary, this workshop had began already at the Fourth Seminar held in Brugge, November 1993. At that time, Frank Moulaert gave in the workshop 'economy and culture' the paper entitled "Interaction between economic and cultural integration in regional development strategies". He along with Anna Arvanitaki and Juergen Eckhardt who attended as well that Brugge seminar thanks to Prof. Bekemans's support of the Fifth Seminar, helped to prepare the grounds. In other words, it appeared to be the beginning of a new approach to European Policies, in particular in the fields of regional and urban planning, for the Fourth Seminar had started to address cultural constellations and conditions of the respective regions of Europe.

Since that November several ideas helped to shape in particular this workshop. Initially thought to demonstrate various applications of regional policies initiated in the past by the European Union, the workshop's premise started to shift as it became clearer that certain themes linked to particular participants will shape the character of discussion in the group: architects like Andre Loeckx or Juergen Eckhardt who deal with space in a concrete sense (physical) and who see through their own experiences how configurations in space have an immediate impact upon identity building processes; urban or regional planners with 'local' experiences in the case of Stefan Nieuwinckel and Arantza Rodriguez; or people like Frank Moulaert and Pavlos Delladetsima who have become increasingly aware at both theoretical and practical project level of the fact that no planning can take place without giving due consideration to culture (i.e. planning for even a Greek island like Poros to save what is left of the environment, it does make a difference if activities - tourist villages vs local service centres - have or have not the 'cultural support' of the local inhabitants), while there is the 'rhetoric's' of planning debates which so often seem to be out of touch with reality; then people like Phil Cooke or Michael Parkinson who have already a wide range of experiences with the EU and who are in a position to make specific policy recommendations to the European Commission, especially when directed towards innovation, new infrastructural improvements (telecommunications) and urban policy; and those who work for institutes or administrations linked indirectly or directly with the state (the municipal level included) when it comes to initiate policies as the case of Anna Arvanitaki (who is an architect, but left that profession due to her passion for regional planning and now works already over ten years for the Greek Ministry for Physical Planning and Environmental Protection; one of her major European experiences results from her being the official representative for Greece to the 'Save the Rural Country Site from further Urbanisation Sprawls' European Campaign) or V. Gavrielatos (the latter is concerned with the 'cultural policy' the Municipality of Athens could initiate, given the serious constraint that almost all cultural matters in Greece are in the hands of the Greek Ministry for Culture: a reflection of a highly centralized institutionalisation of the administration of cultural affairs).

The entire group of workshop 2 gave right from the start the Fifth Seminar a very serious and conscious tone with regards to policy advice. This has to include possible options and an assessment of respective consequences if chosen by politicians or the EU. Already in their attitudes and willingness to enter this debate about culture in EU policy matters, they reflected right from the start abilities to come to terms with the real substance of politics. It begins by creating an independent (i.e. free from political influence wishing to stipulate a desirable outcome of the studies) source of knowledge about the issue(s) at hand. Thus the workshop group demonstrates that this goes hand-in-hand with becoming aware of the real problems involved and the difficulties that various policy choices carry with them. In turn, it underlines what practical 'politics' is really about, but which is generally not considered to be of great importance.

As used to be the practice in Eastern European countries, is also the case in the West, but often overseen, namely that intellectuals and scientists end up delivering the goods, so to speak, what politics wants right from the start. Rather than reflect really seriously the issues and connect them if necessary to negative consequences, if so the case, and hence really contradict the political wish, their discourse follows a predetermined outcome. A group of intellectuals or scientific body can be easily misused to legitimize something which was decided over their heads or worse they give their 'voice' to the overall 'wish' out of personal, equally ideological convictions conveyed by the desire to be favoured by the government or political leadership in power. By even legitimizing only 'indirectly' the already decided upon course, they stand loosing their reputation as independent thinkers. Yugoslavia is a case in point: the academic community joined in the chorus of those shouting for a policy of ethnic cleansing; the voices of contradiction went unheeded - with disastrous results.

This is said especially due to the Flemish initiative being behind these series of seminars and how the Flemish government has in general treated these seminars. For instance, the introductory papers for each workshop were written for the Brugge seminar without any prior consultation with the chairperson responsible for that workshop, and after all was over, the minister president van den Brande used the Fourth Seminar as a mere platform to make his declaration independent of anything what was said during that Seminar. Officially and publicly, it appears, however, as if the Fourth Seminar stands behind this declaration despite the fact that policy of invitations, structuring of discussions and expressions of opinions did not come to decisive conclusion that the future of Europe should be based on a coalition of interest having to do with a 'majority of minority languages, cultures and regions' within Europe.

Due to the very concept and structuring of the Fifth Seminar, i.e. emphasis on small workshop groups, autonomy of chairpersons to invite their own speakers, such possible abuse or manipulation was avoided. The outcome has been sofar, that the Flemish government has chosen until now to ignore really the outcomes of the Fifth Seminar. There was no effort made to ensure, as was the case between the Fourth and the Fifth Seminar, that a continuity or substantial linkage between the Fifth and Sixth Seminar (the latter took place December 2 and 3, 1994 in Munich) would exist. In particular, the findings of this workshop was completely ignored and instead a political resolution linking a single culture to regions of Europe was announced in Munich. Furthermore, the evaluation report written by Prof. Bekemans referred to the Fifth Seminar only generally, while claiming that one "concrete proposal dealt with the organization of a touristic trajectory involving 20 historic villages" (Lιonce Bekemans, Europe of the Cultures. A Project in Progress: Perspectives and Reflections, College of Europe, 1994). A review of all proposals for 'cultural actions' made at the Fifth Seminar will indicate that this was, however, not the case. Instead this workshop focused truly on a growing crisis within Europe having to do with urban problems and the 'social cohesion' altogether within Europe.

Perhaps the Flemish government chooses to ignore the policy advises contained in this workshop, due to being directed much more towards the European Commission. At a second look, however, this reveals a tremendous gap between the participants' understanding of the intention of these seminars and the kind of usage the Flemish government wishes to make of them. There is a big difference between true evaluations and just picking out that, what fits to the particular political concept, even if that means a very distorted interpretation of what took place at the Fifth Seminar. The latter expresses a kind of 'political understanding' which works with openness, trust and human inspiration, in an effort to bring about such knowledge, as it enables us and others to deal with the urgent problems in time. That is possible only on the basis of democratic principles, in search of the consensus all cultural matters require before actions are undertaken. In addition, the very complexity of 'cultural actions' need to be understood prior to anything else. This requires further networking, continual research and dissemination of all information.

Substantial issues in need of reflections in daily practise are often left behind by politics too often engaged only in superficial directions. This includes the 'rhetoric's' of the election campaign, but does not explain altogether the discrepancy between advises given and in the end what opinions, or interests are heeded. Especially P.M. Delladetsima deals with this widening gap between what he calls the "development rhetoric's and the notion of city culture". The latter aspect can be extended to culture in general; all too often the 'new', whether information highways or other new technologies are advanced with the enthusiasm of a clever salesman. What is needed instead are critical intellectuals not easily to be convinced, except by 'reason' and 'conscious decisions', that is in knowledge of all the risks involved and what responsibility for that decision has to be taken by whom?

Connections can be made to workshop 1 whose participants have a background of experiences gained out of specific EU projects, in particular ARTICULATE: the means, theories and values by which the introduction of new technology can be evaluated. In other words, evaluation as an entire complex must re-enter the debate what policies any government, whether at local, regional or European level ought to adopt, if there is really substantial interest to solve the problems at hand. This assumption is unfortunately not a given fact. European politics has chosen too many times the easy path and thus solicits only the wrong advice and friends who cause more damage to the European integration process in the long run, than those who have remained sofar at a distance to this process. It is a matter of governments and the European Commission to choose independent opinions, that is critical advice as based on a 'friendly attitude' towards the world, ' or else succumb to an aggressive lobbying leading to overall manipulation process of decisions taken with 'moral' standards, if applied, then only in a double minded sense.

For example, the argument heard at the Brugge seminar and especially advanced by Prof. Bekemans was that Europe should not succumb to a 'culture of consumption'. Continuity in intellectual thought and inquiry is there, where this negative aspect of culture is perceived and taken up as an issue in need to be dealt with. These Seminars can then become valuable 'lessons of freedom', if they comply at the same time to a wish by the European Commission, that all activities related to European affairs contribute towards a 'systematisation of knowledge' about that problematic area. Thus the Fifth Seminar in general, and this workshop in particular confronted a huge problem. It is reflected in the one question Anna Arvanitaki raised in her introductory paper as chairperson of this workshop, namely can the 'model of consumption' be reversed? For that, she adds immediately, there are no solutions in sight, if not at the same time the technocratic bias within the EU decision making apparatus is overcome. This criticism touches upon a crucial complex of interrelated factors at EU level, while at the same time it considers implicitly human behaviours (kinds of thinking evolving), system constraints (as European states developed and opted for certain things after 1945), etc.. As a stated condition, it is equally a response to the question about 'culture': what value premises have been followed more or less everywhere, since no one, not even the smallest village can ignore the latest technological developments. Indeed, everyone's life is affected by cars, television, computer, FAX-machines and Electronic Mail devices, etc.. In turn, that has a substantial impact upon 'culture' as it is lived and experienced everywhere. Thus this question, whether or not can the 'model of consumption' be reversed, is as realistic an approach to this problem, as it gives authenticity to the workshop's intention. The European integration process is thereby not blamed automatically, as some politicians overtly tend to do when wishing to discard their own failures, but other factors are included when considering the latest consequences of recent developments. Thus the clarification, whether or not culture can and should be included in regional / urban planning considerations by not only the EU, but by politicians at all levels, outlines the work to be done.

The underlying theme of these seminars is that if Europe continues to ignore the 'cultural factor' in a substantial sense, then practical decisions will end up contrary to their original intentions not an improvement in living qualities and the ability to regulate developments in a democratic manner, but the opposite. Conditions will be imposed upon people by which they become less and less able to live under such conditions. The burdens have increased then too much. If then 'irrational' reactions set in, the 'political understanding' needed for continuing European integration as a living process would under the technocratic conditions be severely damaged. 'Politics' as part of culture would be lost to the many who have lost their touch with reality; that is, they will go about doing things without regards to the policy choices offered to them by experts such as the regional and urban planners. Yet if independent, equally important advises go unheeded not by people in general, but foremostly already by the political forces, experts and intellectuals involved in the initiative, no one should wonder why only the negative model of consumption continues to dominate, even if it makes the regions and cities unliveable.

There is furthermore a strong 'political' ambivalence in the debate about 'culture' being a building stone for Europe, especially when linked to the notion of region. There exists not only a vague notion as to the kind of administrative back-up needed if policies were to be implemented regionally. There is also no clarity on how the development of democratic values can be easily translated into decentralised forms with the promise of more participation by all citizens. It seems rather that regions would acquire their own powerful political lobbies and a specific societal anchorage to feel secure. At the same time, valid regional interests can easily bloc other forms of articulations, in particular 'multi-cultural' ones. While historical space and cultural adaptation go hand-in-hand with seeking ways of finding new forms of dynamism that lends support to retaining an competitive edge on world markets, the real issue of European integration is whether or not all these issues linked to culture can be communicated more easily at regional level? The creation of the 'Committee of Regions' by virtue of the Maastricht Treaty tends to suggest that the EU is at least willing to give this assumption some 'voice' within the European decision making process. However, in reference to preliminary discussions leading up to the Fifth Seminar, it was already clear that 'cross-cultural identities' and structures in support of the European identity are as much in need, as is the value orientation combining local and global factors of development. While it is true that capital does not easily allow itself to be 'anchored', the real issue for an initiative like the Flemish one is how 'culture' is used to secure such an anchorage. It is doubtful that a true 'cultural identity' can coincide at regional level with a sort of new patriotism of capital owners, so that they invest primarily in that region. Aside from the fact that it would make local artists into advertising agents for the region, such a culturally anchored investment drive would mere reinforce already established linkages between ownership and cultural belonging, thus assuming economic and vital cultural interests to be one and the same. That assumption would lead naturally to an exclusion of all the findings by regional and urban scientists and planners, because the approach to the region would be reduced to that of vested interests.

These then are difficulties in organizing such a seminar with multi-purposes of a highly political nature. It is expected that these issues are taken up also by Workshop 5 of the Fifth Seminar related to the theme 'Culture driven Economy' and that, furthermore, a networking between all workshops will take place. One parameter for such networking should be how to ensure a European integration which heeds the specific cultural needs of regions, while attaining equality between all regions? The fact that culture is so much linked to economic issues should, however, not push aside the fact that the regional sciences have always been interested in a change of organisational logics due to technology and new managerial methods (i.e. Fordist to post-Fordist models, 'just-in-time' or other organisational methods). Since Adam Smith's discovery that the 'wealth of the nation' rests upon a skilful organisation of the 'division of labour', hence specialization, it is really clear that changes in work organization, and that includes as much extraction of resources by whatever means as systems of distribution, will have immediate impacts upon usage of concrete space. The old coal- and steel community experienced in the fifties and sixties a departure from the old industrial times, while the high tech centres make their demands upon the city and region felt in quite a different manner. Implications upon implications in need of further understanding and reflections, before agreeing to a kind of political 'regionalization' that thinks only at this level can the linkage be made between culture and economy. The danger that is overseen in such a drive can be spelled out: by negating the European dimension and the local or individual affinity to a multi-cultural context, the return to a single defined cultural identity as standard bearer for hidden political interests leaves 'cultural diversity' at the mercy of regional politics without having to answer to the critical question, whether or not that is a mere continuation of the 'pastoral' theme reoccurring so often in European history, namely the treatment of people like sheeps which have to be kept in flocks different and separate from the other herds belonging to another feudal lord?

For example, in real terms it would be interesting to study the power elites and cultural establishment in regions like Bavaria where virtually all the decision making process is in the hands of one consortium made up of selected representatives from industry, banks, administration and university; this leaves the rest of the population at the periphery, outside any kind of participation in politics. As a result they vote by abstention and by a socio-cultural refusal to become politically responsible - a direct result of understandable fears of the political pitfalls they rightly think not able to cope with, while a large social prejudice cements the ideological fixation upon a particular 'cultural identity' leaving feudal like conditions prevail not only in the rural areas, but also in the most modern companies like Siemens. The result is a ruthless technological-global development counterbalanced only by an unchanged traditional identity, giving people some kind of 'illusionary' security, that not everything changes in their lives, but that there is some continuity.
For instance, if the new airport in Munich is any expression of anything but technological neutrality to specific cultural needs, then regional cultural policy is no answer to that negative impact, especially when at the same time the general population experiences a loss of living qualities due to deterioration in health, educational chances, proper employment, access to social and cultural life etc.. Culture based on social considerations has to confront always the discrepancy between the most advanced and the human being in need of accommodation. It has not been resolved in any convincing manner by the Bavarian model. The 'closed world' which prevails there enhances rather intolerance to strangers and leaves life exposed to a subtle, at times very open form of brutality. This goes hand in hand with industry located there dealing as much as with weapons export as with other doubtful engagements at world level. The problem is not only that this takes place, but that the Bavarian 'cultural identity' can be used as a constant declaration of innocence, upholding therefore the illusion that the world, but not the regional bounded identity is corrupt. This black-and-white schemata lends itself beautifully to fend off any kind of criticism without assuming any kind of moral responsibility; always the others, Europe, is to blame.

In other words, what kind of 'cultural' or rather hierarchical world (with the 'own' culture regarded always as being superior over others) is envisioned when the notion of belonging to a region governs as prime interest before any European consideration? If the region uses 'cultural identity' but as mask for vested interests, then it does not make sense to use them as building stones for Europe. For development reasons, it might indeed be more favourable to have larger regions composed by quite other cultural layers than a single or uniform identity, i.e. Bavaria, Catalonia, Ireland, Wales, Scotland etc.. As a matter of fact, most of these regions function better by being within a federal system of government. Out of this, however, cannot follow automatically the political structuring of Europe; that is still an open debate. Much thought needs to be given to that question now that Schumann and others are no longer around to express their vision of Europe while Delors is leaving after ten years of work as European Commissioner.

In that context, it becomes crucial to clarify the concept of region as used by not only regional / urban planners, but also by the European Commission. As both Anna Arvanitaki and Phil Cooke point out, the main meaning of 'region' has something to do with the political wish to off-set possible inequalities between successful regions and those lagging behind for one or the other reason.

The institutional form of planning in connection with a certain 'value' direction becomes then for this workshop a crucial question to be faced by all development attempts: how to guarantee the participation of those directly involved, while remaining informed as to what is going on in reality? Regional and urban spaces are constantly being reshaped and governments, whether local, regional or national, have only limited tools to guide such developments. That shortage makes this discussion in search of 'theory' even more crucial. For it brings really home the message what politics is about: how to regulate, plan or behave when many processes are independent outcomes of new forces shaping real life, i.e. needs for transportation and loss of industrial basis due to competitiveness at world market level. It is interesting that this workshop places a greater emphasis upon 'local' rather than 'regional' factors in need of cultural considerations, when it comes to work out solutions for and in response to world-wide developments.

One question comes to mind when following this discussion as to planning concepts linked with the encouragement of local initiatives and 'projects'. Usually there is stressed only one side of the political context, that of planners and the kind of participation the project envisions. This is a step towards institutionalizing the planning process, that is when and where may the participants articulate themselves and exercise a direct influence. But there exist in the meantime experts for citizen's participation; they know how to include them without having any real influence at all. The by-passing of resistance from below has become an art in itself. It high-lights only the various kinds of socialization processes which go along with planning concepts, and not all are convincing. In that sense it is important to have Frank Moulaert attempt an overview of more positive development projects, and have this complemented by an account of the BOM experience in Antwerp by Stefan Nieuwinkel. Both these reflections will indicate a shift in thoughts and methods on how to include the 'local factor', making thereby a cultural difference in the long run when originally deprived areas can link up with the rest of Europe.
There is still the other side, namely how to become culturally motivated (self-sustainability but a confusing term), since even economic autonomy does not mean automatically cultural reproducibility and thereby social integration. In the end, however, every project large or small must achieve that, for otherwise it is not only a failure in social and democratic terms, but it will cause also more problems and burdens than initially intended, namely by planning something to really relieve society of mistakes of the past. In that sense it is crucial what Phil Cooke draws attention to: in real life, 'excellence' has to be achieved, if one is to survive individually or as a project or even as a region at all levels. In short, what helps integrate even local projects within the mainstream of society or what remains in the either/or duality of demanding more money, but not co-operating unless further state support is given, that seems to be a crucial question for the workshop right from the outset.

What does all this mean in terms of the existing institutional framework of parliament and respective governmental ministries dealing with regional planning? The latter is not as far sweeping as it seems, for things are limited by the very nature of the complexity involved. That includes not only the 'theories' and hence concepts of 'region' (Anna Arvanitaki) available, but begins already with simple things such as having the necessary data or not. In Greece, for example, the ministry for planning has gone through many different stages of involvement's with concrete reality, but only after 1981 was there started a serious attempt to obtain maps and empirical data, in order to know what is happening in the Greek countryside, so to speak. Compared to the kind of decision making connected with building rights in, let us say for example, one of the German 'laender' which have concrete town and village planning laws, concepts and agencies, then European convergence at this practical level is hardly in sight. In other words, cultural differences are marked especially on how the law is specified when it comes to land usage's. Not always does it seem to fit with either cultural nor social needs of the particular area. As A. Rodriguez points out, external pressure (i.e. competition) brings about more 'homogeneity' or immediate imitation than actually wished for, if one aim is to maintain cultural diversity and hence the cultural uniqueness of a particular area (whether urban or rural) or region.

Thus the interesting question is to find out really the different approach to 'cultural identity' via regional / urban planning: does it make sense to define regions culturally and then approach the political built-up of Europe on the basis of such regional entities? For example, it seems difficult to imagine Flandern to break away from the rest of Belgium for the sake of a political autonomy and a status like a nation state with equal rights in the Council of Ministers, Europe's highest decision making body, when the disentanglement of Brussels would be next to impossible. Truly clear cut ethnical entities do not nor should they exist by law (Yugoslavia a negative case of point with its 'ethnic cleansing'). They are not the answers to our future problems. Crucial here is the avoidance of simple correlation's between a cultural identity as defined by a simple projection upon selected historical traits and what ought to be implemented in the contemporary context. In his main speech, Andrι Loecks outlined the basic two alternatives of development: a culturally guided one or else the brutal interventions by capital.

That is why a sober assessment of what is going on within this field of regional / urban planning is a contribution to some critical, independent reflection on crucial matters pertaining to all. People like Phil Cooke or Michael Parkinson have been for a long time involved in evaluating and recommending policies that the European Union might undertake in the light of regional inequalities and urban degeneration processes. Also the contribution of Stefan Nieuwinckel from Antwerp exemplifies in a crucial manner how the difficult question of unemployment can be dealt with at a local level, while other participants, in particular Thanassis Zacharopoulos talk about experiences with a Development Agency such as the very successful one in Karditsa, Greece. The latter is a unique combination of applying EU programmes while being within the local area equally a training and cultural centre. This multi-functional level facilitates not only an exchange of ideas and information, but creates the kind of climate which can stimulate activities and hence the wished for development. Surely, some policy recommendations can be deduced from all of this wealth of materials and demonstrate effectively the political consensus which prevailed amongst all participants of the Fifth Seminar, that is not only within workshop 2 dealing with 'regional/urban planning and culture' at an initial stage, but also as a follow-up of the Fourth Seminar.

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