Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Proposals for improved relationships and a progressive EU foreign and development policy

If EU foreign and development policy is to have a cultural dimension in near future, then:

  1. There will be almost no cultural component in EU foreign policy as long as the Commission derides itself of culture by being orientated only towards the ‘economy’. Of interest was that culture had only secondary competence compared with the environment which enjoyed first competence in the proposed later rejected EU Constitutional Treaty. Changes in the European agenda to endorse more strongly culture is, however, to be expected due to the rise of the cultural industries and the growing significance of culture to the economy.

    Proposal 1: The European Commission together with the European Parliament should use experiences made in European projects to reflect further how different cultures / cultural heritages can help to shape a different kind of foreign policy, done best by taking more cultural differences into consideration while practicing openly more cultural cooperation in recognition of networks being ‘without borders’ and ‘knowledge’ gained as a result being based on references which go beyond national defined interests. A key linkage can be to world cultural heritage as source of common identity to which the European Union process can contribute greatly.

  2. Culture is not put on the agenda since other issues are more pressing. Equally the world agenda is set by forces which pursue other interests than what the European Union believes to be conducive to sustainable development. Media coverage and interests distract greatly from what should be discussed e.g. the G 8 in 2005 was dominated by debt relief but not the low percentage of development aid given by Western countries despite all promises to increase that percentage. The outlook for positive change is modified still further by trade agreements reached mainly after negotiations between the United States and Europe have been concluded. More and more the argument can be heard that not aid is needed by the developing worlds, but fair trade agreements so that they can find access for their own agricultural products to the markets of Europe and the United States. However trade with the Third World is restricted. Moreover special factors such as bird flu will impair trade relations. All along developing countries are struggling with keeping up health and food standards. It will become increasingly more difficult in a situation of heavy industrialization and globalization of the agricultural sector i.e. China contracting already farms in industrialized Europe to produce food for its population.

    Proposal 2: In view of the problems and contradictions mentioned above, there should be sought a specific coordination between training and education methods being advanced when it comes to sending European experts into developing countries as know-how transfer must go hand in hand with learning to deal with complexity. For this purpose cultural development should be enhanced as equal priority to economic development linked to technological know-how transfer.

  3. The link between environment and culture has yet to be established. Here some efforts are made by such online publishing NGOs as ORIEN which deal with issues of how the West treats natural sites in a contradictory way i.e. by imposing zoning laws to protect special areas, they incite public and private interests in them and so they are exposed to new development speculations linked to secondary homes and tourism. It overturns the basic meaning of natural or ‘untouched’ land. As pointed out repeatedly by ORIEN ‘natural parks’ is a Western idea and is no intricate cultural concept for African indigenous people.

    Proposal 3: Cultural and philosophical studies should prepare European experts in overcoming such structural contradictions between environmental protection concerns and speculative development processes. For the sake of the environment the local population has to be included right from the start of any project. It must be supported by ongoing practices linked to the community e.g. how water management goes hand in hand with protecting trees. Also health systems can be improved by combining formal training courses in schools about hygienic conditions to informal learning processes to promote good practices e.g. how to deal with rubbish.

    Success is guaranteed when this learning process is substantiated by discovering sources of inspiration in art classes as forms of freedom of expressions. The aim should be to let them give their own answers to question ‘how to live with the land’. This should be the primate of good practice.

  4. There will be no progress made in development if there continues war and alongside it the weapons trade while Western states demonstrate double standards.

    Proposal 4: Cultural openness based on trust and reciprocal relationships based on active citizenship provides much better safety and security especially to single women than any deployment of military forces, consequently resources have to be redeployed from unproductive to productive engagements (by moving away from a basically war economy) based on equal partnership and furthered by demilitarization efforts, in particular amongst children to prevent them from becoming foot soldiers or subjects of abuse by sex tourism practices and human trafficking.

  5. The current debate in Europe about Europe as a whole is so low that no one can expect that the gap between citizens and EU institutions shall be bridged very soon. The failure to ratify the EU Constitutional Treaty means in future citizens will have even less chances to participate while the chances of reviving the drafting of the Constitution has almost no perspective due to the opposition by key member states. The crisis of legitimacy will be institutionalized and dealt with accordingly by top-down measures which allow the by-passing of referendums.

    Proposal 5: The European debate for drafting a future constitution should depart from marking the foreign policy dimension to ensure that it shall entail a cultural dimension. At the same time, it has to become clear this is only possible if the cultural sector is given a voice and through this kind of articulation allows other than business and administrative interests determine the European agenda. EU foreign policy must support more such cultural projects which further cultural cooperation and learning based on mutual respect. The aim should be to revive the debate about sustainable development while ensuring cultural sustainability is perceived as an additional criterion of importance next to that of the environment, economy, institution and justice. Europe and the developing world must agree upon how to attain world governance.

  6. To move on in debates cultural anticipation for tasks ahead needs to be practiced actively. It will require that new measures are examined and taken. There are various scenarios to be anticipated e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis, wars and conflicts, famine etc. Between different crisis and critical levels distinctions have to be made so as to gauge differences between aid, relief work and salvage operations. The entire conglomeration has produced a mix of contradictory forces all interacting at one and the same location while various political sagas spin out or else behind their traces in the form of stranded relief workers who never make it home.

    Proposal 6: The tool of intercultural dialogue as developed by Europe especially under Prodi in response to the Middle East crisis needs to be re-examined since the concept covers a wide range of understandings and risks therefore to produce more misunderstandings if this methods lets explanations confirming what is happening on the ground sabotage the empathy need to comprehend the other side. The EU should undertake the task of developing a communication strategy which includes scenarios where no chances of intercultural dialogues exist and trust as well as openness to the arguments of the others has to be started from scratch.

Some other aspects are in need of further considerations:

As to a final word of caution, there can be cited Cornelius Castoriadis who said ‘values cannot be discussed for they are set and hence if someone comes and tries to change them or else wishes to impose upon them his own set of values, this leads then to violence, if not to war’. Value issues are at the core of cultural reflections about human life on earth. To safeguard it with the proper measures means foreign and development policy of the European Union has to undertake a critical examination of what training methods it propagates, and this especially in view of other forces propagating quite other value systems, may that be the Christian Fundamentalists or the Islamic Clergy. A world has no other or higher authority than what people can learn to do by themselves as part of an open ended learning process eager to see cultures able to anticipate the tasks that lie ahead and which are in need to be undertaken so that everyone can live together in peace.

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