home > activities > conferences > central europe > summary  

International Conference Summary

Europe of Cultures: Cultural Identity of Central Europe


The Conference assembled about 100 participants from 14 European countries and from more than 30 different institutions, academic, cultural and professional governmental and non-governmental bodies. 25 papers were presented and about 40 participants took the floor to discuss or raise relevant issues.

The programme of the conference included the opening session, three working sessions, two special sessions and the presentation of the Culturelink Network. The concert dedicated to the Croatian composer and violin virtuoso Franjo Krezma (1862-1881) and the exposition of the contemporary Croatian painter Boris Demur took place on the occasion of the conference.

Opening Session

Ms. Marija Pejčinović, director of the Europe House Zagreb opened the session. Mr. Ljubomir Čučić, President of the Europe House Zagreb, welcomed the participants and presented the theme of the conference. Ms. Seadeta Midžić, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, highlighted the significance of the conference for Croatian culture.

Mr. Maté Kovacs greeted the conference on behalf of UNESCO. H.E. Mr. Volker Haak, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, greeted the participants by reminding them that only a few years ago the notion of CE was not self-understood as it is now and that Europe was deprived of its centre, which is now being reinstated through the rule of law. Ms. Tijana Defar welcomed the participants on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

In his message read to the audience Mr. Raymond Weber, Director of Education, Culture and Sport, Council of Europe, particularly stressed that the Central Europe is a prime example of the place where the diversity is combined with a feeling of common belonging and that the contributions made by Central Europeans to art, music, literature and science have enriched the whole continent.

First Working Session: Central European Cultures and Cultural Identities

The First working session: Central European Cultures and Cultural Identities started by a short presentation of reasons, objectives and methodology of work of the conference. The geographical and historical notions of Central Europe (CE) were discussed.

Central Europe has a symbolical meaning of an open and contradictory project. It represents a mixture of cultures that contradict one another and reflect Eastern and Western extremities. Particularism supports the peripheral position of CE, although cosmopolitism has been constantly present in the provincial areas of CE.

The will to be together in Europe defines the effort to identify the area itself, and it is reflected in the constant reevaluation of the particular identities of peoples and their cultures, which was illustrated by the example of Austria. Nationalisms may support the identification of cultures, but the quality and identity of nationalism also change.

Amalgamation of old dreams and totalitarianism have produced tragedies. On the other hand, universality should not be confronted to patriotism. The multiple identification: national, regional, continental and global is not contradictory, and might be typical of CE.

Second Working Session: Cultural Identity in the Perspective of Development and Transformation

The Second Working Session: Cultural Identity in the Perspective of Development and Transformation was inspired by the fact that cultural identity lies at the hearth of debates on change in cultural studies and social theory.

Culture reflects an interplay of social forces who are shaping the new social order, which is particularly felt today in CE. It is no wonder that Central European, and particularly smaller and more vulnerable nations, want to integrate into Western Europe by accepting democratization and observance of human rights. Acceptance of universal European identity limits collective obsessions with state-nation ideology.

The interplay of universalism and particularism may be balanced by a strong intercultural communication that helps the full emancipation of cultures and provides for democratization of their relationships. This process, provoked by the fast social change, produces different patterns of adaptation and modernization of CE cultures. It openly challenges the values of traditional cultures (folklore) through the process of selective acceptance of new values.

However, in cultural terms the ongoing transformation is the process that supports the revival and development of strong basic cultural structures, including distinctive cultural identities of all ethnic and national groups living in the states of CE. Such self-reliant and self-sustainable cultural structures multiply cultural differences through cultural communication.

Cultures in contact produce varieties rather than mixtures. They resist superficial political manipulations, and although they stand for national and ethnic cultures, they do not promote intolerance. Cultures able to strongly express their identities cannot play any role, let alone the central one, in political ethnic and national conflicts.

Third Working Session: Central Europe in the European Context

The Third working session: Central Europe in the European Context was devoted to a number of specialized comparative analyses of cultural values, experiences, types of intercultural relations, media influences and policies, functioning of cultural networks, the formation of the multicultural CE context through an interplay between nationalism and multiculturalism, the relevance of multiculturalism for arts, languages, etc.

The question of cultural identity was highlighted in the context of cross-border regionalism, the character of state borders in contemporary Europe and emergence of the newly independent states on the European scene.

Special Session: Cultural Policies

The Special session: Cultural Policies started with an overview of the cultural policy of the European Union and the most important European cultural programmes. The position of CE countries and cultures in such programmes was discussed.

It was observed that non-member states of the EU can hardly be involved in such programmes, which limits their active integration and participation in cultural life and activities in Europe. More flexible approach of the EU and democratization of its cultural cooperation might be favourable for more active participation of the CE cultures in European cultural life.

Observing that the process of transition goes well beyond economic and market concerns, UNESCO has launched a specialized Programme for Central and Easter European Development and established networks, centres and projects supporting the culture of democracy in CE countries.

Special Session: Presentation of the "Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development"

The Special session: Presentation of the "Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development" was organized by the Croatian Commission for UNESCO.

Concluding Remarks

The Concluding remarks by Ms. Nada Švob-Đokić offered a brief overview of the discussion. The efforts to build up a new identity of Central Europe were particularly emphasized. CE is indeed a contradictory and an open project, confronting universality and particularity, the outstanding cultural diversity and the necessity to standardize and harmonize some values, the will of particular cultures to self-identify themselves and the need to develop stronger cultural communication and cooperation.

Central Europe is today far from being a central concern for Europe. It is no longer in "the middle of Europe", neither in between Western and Eastern Europe. It has lost its context and stands on the edge between the integrated West and the chaotic East, insecure, unstable and pressed by the necessity to quickly reevaluate and reaffirm its values and development options.

Being a project, CE has to remain open for a period of time so that the self-identification of national and ethic cultures, as well as the management of their coexistence may get a democratic shape and that the cultural identity may serve to define the type of development that the local societies would like to chose for themselves.


Closing the conference, Mr. Ljubomir Čučić thanked the participants, the organizers and the technical staff for their contribution to the conference. He expressed the hope that the conference may intensify the interest in this issue and support multiple efforts to study and analyze the Central European cultural identities.