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Session 3: Culture and visions for the future of Europe

Steve Green, Emmanuel Wallon, Bruno Tackels, Juan Barja, Walter Siti (from left to right)


Moderator: Bruno Tackels, Journalist and literary critic, Paris

On the panel:

Juan Barja, Poet, editor and director of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain – “Culture / culture(s): an untimely reflection”
Steve Green, Expert in cultural policies and international relations, London, United-Kingdom – “Europe: cultural solutions for a wicked problem?”
Walter Siti, Writer, Milan, Italy – “The idea of Europe in times of social networks and the end of geography”
Emmanuel Wallon, Professor of political sociology – University of Paris Ouest Nanterre/La Défense, France – “A timorous Union looking for a Creative Europe: the contradictions of the European cultural strategy”


Moderator: Bruno Tackels, Journalist and literary critic, Paris

Steve Green, Expert in cultural policies and international relations, London, United-Kingdom – writer, researcher but also international relations and worked for British Council.

This is the best time for a British person to talk about Europe.

Session started by citing Jean Monnet although he never said that, still Doris Pack, who chairs the CC of the European Parliament keeps repeating that quote.

About 80 years ago Times wrote 'what is wrong with the world?' To this Chesteron replied with a single line: 'I am'.

I am similar to that, but different from Cameron.

I believe in Europe and I agree with Merkel who supports a political union, and not an inter governmental arrangement.

Miliband of Labour said the EU budget is set in the 1950s yet there is nothing wrong with the EU 2020 vision!

Cameron's position would be acceptable if perceived as claiming a lost opportunity to rethink EU budget. There is this contradiction: while focus is on jobs still 30% of the money is given to farmers in the form of subsidies.

As to the larger theme of cities, culture and Europe three points:


Why then this feeling that there is a problem?

No, not problems, but there are challenges and priorities – we have a way around it – it is the lack of enthusiasm for change that worries him.

Conferences are held across Europe to share experiences and yet many of the debates appear to be like looking constantly in the rear mirror.

There is to be noticed a lack of movement in European debates.

Compendium does a lot of research to advance knowledge about cultural policies, but why are we still stuck in the seventies?

One question to Cultural Action Europe and the position it takes on the cultural budget is why do you want every artist to become a European civil servant?

The problem is not in the art sector – rather in culture in its broadest sense – there is an extreme sense of cultural failure with the rise of a Fascist Party in Athens, Greece showing how virulent are xenophobic forces. This movement called 'Chrysi Avgi' (Golden Dawn) represents how Greek society has developed over the past thirty years.

You know only when things are tough how good you are.

So lets focus on wicked Europe – wicked problems – time is running out for Europe.

Since there is no central authority, there is no single solution. Consequently there is never one way which is right, and all others are wrong. Those who seek to find a solution and those who are causing the problems create a trajectory but post-war Germany had to get its act together after 1945. Later Europe faced the task of bringing in the countries ruled by former dictatorship.

European Union and Europe – not identical – it is a shame on how Slovenia has been treated.

Nobel Prize for Europe marks the end of that period.

What we see is the difficulty of a transition to a new Europe insofar as it has to become more than just an accidental agglomerations.

The three institutions – Council, Commission, Parliament – worked well in the past but are not fit for today.

Delors – leader like him is needed

What is needed beyond 2020?

He is an optimist? No, he does not see anyone working on these structural changes with a vision.

Cities shall be the power houses regardless of what happens above.

Biggest challenge: climate change

Few cities realize this. For example, take the European Capitals of Culture: not many of them have taken on board how societies shall change.

Everything shall revolutionize with smart phones and this change has not as of yet been absorbed by art world.

Take, for instance, film and cinema - the new technology will make that redundant as everyone wants to view video clips at their own time, own convenience, in their own space.

At city level – engagement with citizens important – people no longer trust the politicians.

He is partially optimistic that Europe will continue exist with the UK still in it but with a lot of pain.

There is a discrepancy between what is said in public and what is affirmed privately. The problem of Euro speak is that there is no critical thinking.


Bruno Tackels: tricky – you tried to fight with contradictions – wish a new political role – nation states are the problems but have to go beyond that if they wish to make the European Union more efficient – what should we reach out for e.g. another type of decision making process and a new way of socialization? An interesting thesis is that you say creative people should not be civil servants. The world of culture needs to find an identity through the structuring of the state.

Steve Green: it struck me when listening to many debates that there prevails a Napoleon like structure as if you do need to identified yourself. But in the UK you do not need to be someone, for you are as simply and plain as that. The problem is not of the cultural world, but more of the public domain. In the debates is reflected that people miss the ease of moving about rather than finding a place in the labour market. However, it is easier making business in London and the UK. In the rest of the European continent it is the public administration which slows down things. There is no single solution. At various levels cities will come together. American companies have understood the single market, but not European ones. Free movement of capital, yes; freedom of movement of labour is thwarted since those cannot vote where they pay taxes. Do an audit of how in a city the citizens are connected to Europe – how European is your city?

Walter Siti, writer from Milan, Italy and therefore at home in the literature world is well known in France to explain Pier Paolo Pasolini who had a lot of visions in his revolts. He started by stating that he did not understand the core of the presentation by Steve Green who spoke about a lot of things e.g. administration, so he finds it difficult as to what he should answer to. However, some initial thoughts can be expressed:


In Italy the situation differs a bit. Classical culture (theatre, literature) is perceived by the people like a refuge good, that means we use culture for an elite which uses culture to escape the problems and not to be confronted by it. Milan Kundera states in one of his novels how a lady in Paris carries with her all the time a small bunch of flowers, in order not to smell the odour of street. If culture is used like that, that is not good!

We should use culture to solve problems.

Culture will not develop by itself but must be given public incentives.

The public institutions should not manage classical subjects – theatres, operas, exhibitions – but promote more culture to stay in contact with changes in life.

In Italy, culture is perceived as not being necessary but more like a flower on the table.

The negative evaluation of culture concludes that there are being funded a lot of ritual meetings which use up money without outcome. A counter proposal is rather to do something in suburb and show how expectations in culture can be fulfilled.

Juan Barja, Poet, editor and director of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain, expert on Walter Benjamin, also agrees that there is a confusion in how the problem of culture is being addressed. This is because we put different things together. Rather we need an analytic view: here is Europe and there is the European Union. And there are different cultures.

Why not have a unity of cultures – human being is a cultural fact, not only a natural fact – the human nature leads to culture – human being is a cultural creation.

When thinking about a material culture, then in archaeology we look at and examine the small tools to tell us the story about those times.

So from the point of view of the European Union, 'they' (policy makers?) do not ignore culture nor do they think culture is just economy. Moreover the word 'politics' comes from Greek – polis. It is linked to Syntagma: the law/constitution. Thus from this point of view he does not expect much from the European Union but he expects a lot from the citizens.

During the last 200 years many changes have occured. It started with the Industrial Revolution.

Culture has not the highest priority - ye we speak less about Europe but about culture.

We are in a very difficult period not only in Spain but as well here in France.

We are all dominated by leaders to whom we have to explained a lot to. They are economists who do not understand many other things. They talk about the infrastructure and think everything else is superstructure. That is very silly, but that means they have forgotten about the importance of the symbolic and social structure. Bbut the same people who are waving their little red books, the same people are the ones who wave the budget. They do so without understanding economy for they only understand accounting.

A project is cultural and depends that people are willing to do things.

You need to keep a balance out things.

There is a cultural phenomenon which we have created.

What we need is to tell to the politicians come back to school and study the economy.

After a long life in culture his experience tells him the worst enemy of culture is the people who defend culture with economic arguments and who talk about things like cultural industries. He does not understand this term. Yes, there is an industry and there are those who make books, but books is not culture. From this point of view is derived the justification that 4% of the budget is devoted to culture. That is not an argument but we need culture to live better through culture.

Culture can help us to live.

If we reduce culture to the 4%, then it might be better to build with that money a submarine.

He does discuss this with ministers and local politicians when invited as writer to express his opinions. But they use only words like cultural markets, cultural production, economy, cultural economy, cultural commerce, cultural business marketing, cultural percentage, etc. So he says to them that he thought you were concerned with culture, but you are all accountants!

Do radiologists talk about how expense their machines or how to detect illnesses?

Do we talk about how to do a good catalogue?

Most economists – Adam Smith: Wealth of Nation – refer to the political economy. Thus people who manage culture should not be marketing people, managers, ...the same goes for hospitals ….the first thing is to know what you want to do, why do it, how to do it, and after that you have to find an economic way to do it and for whom.

Walter Seti

Indeed, the value of a book is reduced to the numbers we sell. That is important and not what the book says.

During the 20 years of Berlusconi we saw the importance of television in culture. The value of a book will be decided democratically but if the sovereign people apply themselves to culture, it does bring about terrible results. For they prefer the worst things. Therefore, to manage an industry is one thing but then we seem to follow the taste of the people rather than leading the taste.

Juan Barja

For me, Greek tragedy is one thing, mass culture something else

From the point of books – book industry – many want to use the term cultural industry since that would mean not talking about the content.

No censorship about the publication of books should prevail,  but there are many wicked books, for instance, 'Mein Kampf' is such a wicked book.

Walter Seti

In Italy has been introduced a law for books. Before many publishing houses could make a lot of money with some successful book and with that extra money they could promote other books really good but not really selling well like poetry books in general. Now the new law stipulates that all books must be economically active. Hence it reduced the publishing of those special and rare books.

Juan Barja

One does not have to be terrible pessimistic to see what is claimed in public. For instance, once the Spanish football team won the world cup, the newspaper Els Pais had on its front page the exclamation of how wonderful that 18 million saw it on television! He said to the editor of the newspaper that the real title should have been: '18 million did not see it'. The tyranny of majority / minority is reflected in the fact that at the last election only 20% voted for the present government. With culture it is the same thing. There is a difference between 'public' and 'publics', culture and cultures. This difference matters. What is absurd is to have a majority idea of culture for other people have another way of seeing things. Indeed, it is wonderful that there are 50 million people who do not think the same way. But public opinion is under the sway of  development of new communication tools.

Bruno Tackels

As moderator he would like to ask if is it a question of optimism and pessimism?

Juan Barja

It is a matter of budget cuts with policy choices being made in the name of the people although they do not participate in the making of these choices.

Walter Seti

The concept of democracy was always linked to responsible individuals. Now we have in a world wide communication web still a notion of individual responsibility. But how can the individual be really responsible if he has not all the knowledge?

To give an example of choice, in Google things are called up without having a real choice since that is dictated by numbers of horizontal links.

Emmanuel Wallon, Professor of political sociology – University of Paris Ouest Nanterre/La Défense, France

Walter Seti

He has read this book referred to by Emmanual Wallon and which is called '50 grades of shade'.  He read it. What amazed him is that the content is different from what people talk about. The book is based on an archetype of a virgin who enters a contract with a monster. It is a kind of medieval story about the virgin with the monster.

Odile Wolfs

Protest from her on behalf of the audience that this debate is aloof and does not offer anything but empty words of Elitism! She has not come to listen to such a non sensical debate.

Juan Barja

The future depends upon the people who work in culture. The first danger is not the economy but the attitude of people who work in culture.

He feels that we are going back and losing culture.

We cannot form a European community for this is an epiphenomenon while we are dealing with a mass phenomenon.

Conservation – idea is linked to what is quantifiable. Yet we have to defend traditions in the historical sense and that means what we bring it to be something and in this way we bring about transformations.

Pasolini defended the idea of cultural genocide and this is what we are experiencing nowadays.

Eliminate television – Pasolini like to provoke – for we see the disappearance of traditions and that is a bad thing.

We are often considered of Elitism. He detests this. It is a false accusation from a democratic point of view but in reality it downgrades culture.

Elitism can be replaced by 'excellence' linked to independence and autonomy.

Culture has its own name and from this starting point we shall work and defend the idea of autonomy which came out in blood and sorrow.

Divulge in slogans. Instead communication is needed for culture is related to the mass of people but there is as well a need for transformation by culture.

A good concept for such a transformation is OSMOSIS: we pass through something to be transformed. However, lets leave the mass aside and work for the public and the publics.

We have to do things for different publics.

Eduard Millares

Most EU member states have ratified the UNESCO declaration on cultural diversity. It clarifies what it means in terms of production and what needs to be done to preserve culture. He likes to affirm what Juan Barja said to the Ministers and others who do not understand this link between economy and culture. Too often only the importance of culture to the economy has been proven!

Question: if the Ministers of the state do not recognize this importance, we shall have problems with UNESCO – so we need to think about this process to rectify this situation.

Question from audience

If to talk about Europe needing culture, then it should be clear that culture should have a bigger budget.

No one speaks about the profit on which we have been living on e.g. ERASMUS is now jeopardized even most agree how important it is to support the mobility of students.

Europe is political, not cultural, and culture does exist, so it is just a question of listening to Beethoven – so we have to bring the values to bear upon Europe.

Need a cultural circuit.

Roger Tropeano, Director of Les Rencontres


11:30 – 13:00 Session 3: « Culture and visions for the future of Europe », second part

Walter Sita

I am a writer, not an administrative person and thus will deal with this idea in an abstract way.

Big changes occur in a long term perspective and thus we do not see things immediately.

Causes of European unification - among them is the power of literature of the main countries but often this is forgotten. There are different ways of writing and not always open to others. Literature reflects what are the differences in landscapes and psychology. Likewise it gave the illusion to be powerful, bigger than we were really in Italy and in the Renaissance.  Consequently our literature and our imperialism made us into egocentrics. Unfortunately we discovered only the others, but we were never discovered by the others. It was Columbus who left to discover America not vice versa someone Europe.

Literature is based on defending against barbarism. That notion prevailed already in Ancient Greece.

We often reflected our ways of looking at things. Fore mostly we talk about the forces and the individual's fight against competition. Survival seems to depend upon his capacity to judge. We are so used to this individual figure. In turn, collectivity is only how to punish the individual.

How to conquer the world – that was the zeal and the madness we had when we tried to reinvent Africa and yet we live in small houses with each member having its own room and with brothers not speaking to each other. So the wars between Europeans crystallized something in a way which underlined the fact that we did not understand each other. But that has changed. Europe has woken up to collective work and away from the individual.

A lot what he has seen was an illusion.

Today literature is in crisis. It is being crushed by Journalism, by images, by the need to respond immediately and has become a source of quotes on the internet and a text for films shown in the cinema.

Europe and the individual who is going through a crisis. It is compounded by the individual who cannot even express his crisis and paralysis.

The massification of our products and the market is offering always a kit for forming our life.

Now that we have main stream entertainment and the various producers whether in Mexico or India, the grand myths of man on earth has changed.

Culturally we have less potentials than we used to have. We understand to live beyond our means. We have gone too far in terms of our weakness. Europe has been killed by the media. Young people believe reality is the media. For them everything arrives easily in the same place at the touch of the bottom. Differences have changed. We see small conflicts as being huge and reduce our world in the mirror of globalization.

For another generation, Europe was a noble idea, but for the youth this idea is not desirable.

Instead of being citizens we are consumers.

We can live in resignation!

Europe invented the problematic individual. It starts with the confession by St. Augustine and leads to the problem of decadence. Out of this various topics can be deduced. They have to do with wisdom of limits and the tragedy of failure once these limits are not heeded.

Emmanuel Wallon

He will situate himself in this debate by underlining some contradictions:

He was moved and is concerned by the difficulties the European politicians have in making a decision as to the adoption of the budget.

In Greece, Spain, Italy and even in France the persons responsible for budget cut the money for culture.

There is a lack of coherence in the strategic thinking and philosophy applied.

He was recently faced by his students in Louvain for he noticed that some where not present but had gone to a demonstration due to the announcement by the Ministry to cut money for cultural performances by 45% in French Belgium. The students who were present said they would have gone as well to the demonstration if possible for them.

There is the Lisbon Strategy and now renovated which tells us that the Europe of 2020 is based on centrality. Instead Europe should be a cross road where intellectuals can exchange experiences. There are many studies and surveys which say that Europe can be called as the large laboratory of ideas.

We need a certain courage to face these challenges for otherwise there will be a lack of opportunities.

We are a place of heritage and for innovation at the same time.

Why cannot politicians translate these ideas into programmes and actions.

We should apply this social criticism to enable us to understand why those who represent us do not show to us how to face this world of change.

One of these changes are demographic with former lively places now suburbs of only elderly people.

How to face the different needs which can become a contradiction between wishing to protect what has been gained and those who wish to move on?

A second contradiction is that modernity is conceived as being distinct and separate from the heritage.

If the cities are to respect environment and heritage (libraries) while wishing to have the modern industries – with their screens / gigs – that then requires such political decisions which relate to both imagination and heritage.

In terms of the financial economy which is dominating us and that is not Capital, but Risk money, the problem is that is not regulated and which invests in virtual assets.

This high finance level ignores the real market but we can see what damage this makes in the real economy.

Thus it is not the economy of production with which we have to deal with. So we must be very careful on how we create interconnections.

Invest in long term perspectives – cities and continuity of life.

If in Athens the contradiction between austerity and investment could become even stronger, then renewal of economy is just as important as reduction of the deficit.

We experience instead a sterilization of our capacities.

Greece today is under a bigger risk than under the Persian invasion.

They have to cure themselves with medicine which can mean a lost generation.

We should address this if we want to achieve something.

The development of Populism and Golden Dawn in Greece – elsewhere in Europe it is the same development – reflects an identity isolation. In his country, for instance, there are members of a party who explained that the social question shall be answered by nationalization, and this contradicts emphasis upon openness, mutual understanding, inter-community dialogues etc.

There are some hesitations and there are regions striving towards own cultural production and which becomes cultural protectionism as an attempt to divert social frustration and all of this jeopardizes cohesion. These contradictions express themselves in an archaic way.

I want my money back, is the main argument, and nothing is left of European solidarity.

Easy to criticize but wish to give some vision - what we believe and what we want – is a creative Europe


Question from the audience:

About the future of Europe based on creativity, but what happens when there are places with no freedom of expression and where diversity is lost in an over-adaptation to institution?  Can Europe survive with all these defects? What allows us to give some Rights to artists to express themselves? Are we in danger of sliding back due to nostalgic attitudes?

Walter Seti


Emmanuel Wallon

Culture allows man to deal with death. Through culture we go beyond these contradictions but we need real links between large and small institutions, as much takes place within physical spaces.

Steve Green

He does not wish to provoke but it has to be postulated that others can convince the politicians while your arguments have failed! Why – what are your new arguments?

To be fair to the European Commission the type of debate we had allowed is shared by all the DGs and they do come together. Where else is that possible?

He disagrees with the distinction between the low – high type of culture since there is no hierarchy

As for the difference between mass popular market and the selection of culture, it is a fact that over time excellence still prevails e.g. while at mass meetings popular literature is distributed, Jane Austin made her notes at the edge of the meeting and today we have her writings, not what was written then en masse.

Cities failed when thinking the ECoC can put the city on the map. They thinking only as to what benefits them, they lose out. Still, winning the title is not the only desirable goal. Already producing the bid proved to beneficial insofar as it brings people together.

Business with one source of income is always bad management – we need multiple sources of income to fund culture.

We cannot run culture by ignoring the market and for this is needed curiosity, imagination, creativity, innovation!


Emmanuel Wallon


Notes for further reflections:

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