“Europe: Lost in Translation?” – Berlin Declaration on the joint conference of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” and the German-Russian Forum e.V.
BERLIN, 15 May 2014. At the conference of the World Public Forum and the German-Russian Forum “Europe: Lost in Translation?” the focus was how to overcome the deepening divide and build new foundations for a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. In the conference took part over 70 experts from more than 20 countries around the globe.
In the working groups there had been discussed different topics, including a possibility a free-trade zone that reaches from the Atlantic to the Pacific and cooperation between the EU and the Eurasian Union. The participants of the conference agreed that the current crisis over Ukraine requires a profound rethink of the wider European space. Isolation, confrontation and conflict will only lead to losers on all sides. What is needed is a renewed commitment to the shared Europe and novel forms of cooperation that can break down barriers old and new.
Matthias Platzeck, Chairman of the Board of the German-Russian Forum, has noticed in his speech: “The dramatic situation faced by the Ukrainian people can only be solved with the joint assistance of both Russia and Europe. However, we must recognise that a lack of trust and mutual accusations have divided Europe and paralysed us. This must serve as a dramatic warning to us all. In talks with the Ukraine the necessity of a choice between the Association Agreement and the Customs Union should also have been avoided. However, this would have required much effort and a willingness to make concessions on both sides. In a sustainable Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, power struggles and conflicts such as those in Ukraine would have no place and make no sense. However, above all, they could be resolved quicker, i.e. deescalated. In my opinion, a greater Europe should not be reduced to the economic aspect alone. At every event of our forum we experience the enriching, close cultural and historical links between our countries. We are connected by economic activity and a Christian and humanist heritage that extends back over a thousand years”.
Working groups of the conference also focused on the key geo-economic issues that the wider Europe confronts, including the need for strong, sustainable economic growth, diversification and re-balancing, reducing inequality and poverty as well as combine mobility with integration. Based on short interventions and lively debates, the experts highlighted the key obstacles to greater cooperation across the wider European space and explore possible policies and strategies to help secure prosperity and freedom for all.
The participants of the conference also concluded that the past two decades have seen the rise of a hegemonic ideology and unipolar power that have the effect of undermining both the unity and diversity of the wider Europe. Conventional categories such as ‘globalisation’, ‘post-industrial society’ or ‘values-based foreign policy’ can address the twin crisis of increasing inequality and atomised identity. Since 1989, we have moved from a world of tangible threats to a world of nebulous risks, creating anxiety and fuelling fears of the future.
As co-chairman of WPF «DoC» and Packey J.Dee Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame Fred Dalmayer underlined: “There is a danger to the return to cold war because of the crisis in the Ukraine. We have to reject this development. This is precisely the losses of Europe, we have to reject this renewal of the cold war. And we have to reject identification of Europe with some particular element of Europe, especially with capitalism, finance capitalism. There is some goodness in free enterprise, but if it’s absolute, it becomes total ideology then it leads to disaster, and we have such a disaster of 2008-2009, which plundered the property of millions of people. We have to reject a liberal totalitarism it seems contradictory that liberalism can’t be totalitarian, but it is, it has become totalitarian, it is a dominating ideology and it will not tolerate any kind of competition. On the other hand we cannot identify Europe with nationalism, especially the extreme kind of nationalism”.
So the experts of the conference are sure, that to avoid further escalation and a slide into chaos, we need a decisive shift away from the Cold War logic of zero-sum games, the language of friend vs. foe, and the diametric opposition between either European or Eurasian integration. Amid the threat of war, the conference participants call for a new pan-European and pan-Eurasian approach that grows out of existing cultural and social ties as well as the continual dialogue among civil society actors.
“Whenever we have conflicts arising we are to remember 1st and 2nd world wars. Why the nations, why the states don’t want to communicate to each other? They don’t listen to each other any more. There was a tension of escalations and emotions finally resulted in a European tragedy. I don’t want to share any pessimistic statements. I believe that after second world war people learned it’s lessons, and people tried to prevent such events to happen again. European union was founded in order to prevent wars in the future. When the Council of Europe was founded, it was based on common values, first of all on human rights. Civil wars are treats to the European peace” – said Walter Shwimmer, co-Chairman of WPF «DoC», Secretary General of the Council of Europe (2004-2007). In the context of discussions about Ukrainian crisis he also noticed: “A round table which excludes an important player is not a real round table and it does not lead to successful results”.
The Berlin conference has discussed possible forms of fresh cooperation in the areas of geo-politics, geo-economics and the knowledge society. Among the policy ideas are, first, new visions for a common European security architecture in the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Paris Charter; second, renewed investment in education, knowledge and R&D, coupled with shared infrastructure projects and areas of joint development such as the Razvitie initiative; third, realizing the potential for a pan-European digital knowledge society, linked with open borders by abolishing existing visa restrictions. Crises such as events in Ukraine can only be solved or prevented if the whole of Europe is committed to a common future.
As has underlined Vladimir Yakunin, Co-founder of WPF «DoC»: “We are living on one continent, which is called Eurasia, it is both Europe and Asia, and Russia is a part of Europe as well as a part of Asia. And I always stand for a position of need of greater integration”.
Moreover, the conference participants express their profound concern over the rise of the radical right across European countries. They agree that all forms of rightwing extremism must be condemned unreservedly, and they call on the media to join efforts in tackling this dangerous phenomenon. Thus the Berlin conference seeks to mobilize the public in defense and pursuit of Europe’s unity-in-diversity.
The cooperation between the World Public Forum and the German-Russian Forum is based on the principle of mutual respect and reciprocity, recognizing the ‘other’ – or the counterpart – as an equal interlocutor with his unique cultural specificities. Grounded in the continual conversation of civil society actors, only such a dialogical approach can open up the “value highways of civilizations” (Vladimir Yakunin). Both sides are committed to a dialogue of civilizations that “can guarantee a reliable framework for the development of an area of communication, understanding and cooperation in Europe”.
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