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Art as Cultural Diplomacy events

The Soul of Europe: The Importance of Culture

By Ozan Tekin (Germany Meets Turkey – Programme Coordinator)

It has been two weeks since I came to Berlin to do my internship at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. From last Friday to Thursday, the ICD hosted the ICD Academy for Cultural Diplomacy which focused on the following theme of  “A Three Piece Puzzle: The Relationship between Culture, International Relations and Globalization”. The conferences, lectures and panel discussions were not only interesting for their own sake but they also contained concepts and themes such as European identity, a common European culture, and so forth. Furthermore, the sessions provided us with deeper insight into the history and development of cultural diplomacy as well as concepts of soft, hard and smart power. The President of the European Cultural Parliament, Karl-Erik Norrman, referred to the well-known concept of European identity and highlighted the need for a common cultural policy alongside a common foreign and security policy. Throughout his speech, he made constant referrals to European identity and cultural heritage, and the deeping of the European dimension of culture. Nevertheless, while he was referring to European cultural heritage and identity, I believe he missed fundamental points. First and foremost, he did not attempt to portray or define European identity. How exclusive and/or inclusive can the European identity and culture be now that the EU is still during the course of enlargement? How is Europe to tackle enlargement, the issue of identity formation, a common European history book (so as to allow for a more concrete basis for a common identity and culture)? How does it juxtapose itself in relation to other cultures, and thus tackle the definition of a European people above all? Who is to define European culture and identity?

It was intriguing not to be able to discern a referral to other cultures and contexts in Ambassador Norrman’s speech. It gets rather complicated for the EU identity claims, since the inclusive perception (in relation to universal values and membership) of incorporation of the ‘other’ into its identity lacks clarity to provide a clear-cut definition while it is not difficult to notice that the flip-side of the medal excluding Turkey appears more robust in terms of constructing and backing up a European identity when it comes to its probable membership. Above all, is a European identity and culture possible at all when Europe is tackling with the rise of far-right parties and anti-immigration policies of the nation-states? What part does Turkish culture – dominantly Islamic with various influences – and diverse others play in defining Europe’s identity (which remains to be shaped and reinvented) ? These questions have been asked, repeatedly or not, but remain to be answered.

On the other hand, Europe is indeed in an identity crisis which is supported by the recent rise of the far-right movements and infelicitious remarks of leading European leaders, namely Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, in relation to the ‘death of multi-culturalism.’ But is this going to mark the end of  ‘identity’ debates and lead to the finalization of the European ‘adventure’ with a complete exclusion of other cultures such as the Turkish culture? Europe is on the verge of making a significant decision, and a thorny path lies ahead.

All the same, what does the current situation indicate about the popularity of a European identity? Eurobarometer surveys demonstrate that there is a limited number of people who have a feeling of being Europeans themselves. Namely, the European identity on the discursive level is not supported by strong empirical evidence. The data show that only 3.9 per cent of the European population think of themselves as European while another 8.8 think of themselves as having European and some national identity, which means that only 12.7 of all Europeans think of themselves mostly as Europeans ( Fligstein, 2008:143).

Therefore, it seems problematic to refer to a collective European ‘we’ at this point since there is a lack of empirical evidence in the European public realm. In a nutshell, there exist multiplities with regard to the European identity perceptions and ideas of Europe. Whereas the inclusive perceptions lack strength, the exclusive ones are laden with more strength in relation to the ‘other’. However, a common European history remains to be written (Checkel and Katzenstein, 2009:207) and whether Turkey and other cultures present within the ‘European’ continent will be inclusively a part of Europe depends on defining Europe as a culturally open space (Kösebalaban 2007:101) and the future interests of the continent (particularly in terms of European integration). The end is not near yet, beautiful friend, for Europe is (still) running after identity (Bauman, 2004).


  • Bauman, Z. 2004. Europe: An Unfinished Adventure
  • Checkel, J.T. and Katzenstein P.J. (eds.) 2009. European Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press
  • Fligstein, N. 2008. Euroclash: The EU, European Identity, and the Future of Europe. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Kösebalaban, H. (2007) ‘The Permanent ‘’Other’’? Turkey and the Question of European Identity’. In ‘Mediterranean Quarterly’ Volume 18, Number 4, pp. 87-111

About icdblogsphereteam

We are the Blogsphere Team of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. We are the interactive part of the web resources of ICD. We spread culture and mutual understanding among cultures through blogs.


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The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013


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