The Amsterdam Conversation 2012: the cultural dimension of citizenship

On Friday the 30th of November 2012, from 13:30 to 23:00, Felix Meritis presented The Amsterdam Conversation 2012: the cultural dimension of citizenship, a day of debates, lectures and workshops.

This event was carried out in English.

The Amsterdam Conversation 2012 was the last of three A Soul for Europe events held in November 2012 to launch the Cultural Coalition for a Citizen’s Europe. Picking up where the Berlin and  Brussels Conversations 2012 left off, it brought new elements into play and helped prepare additional material for the further development of the Cultural Coalition for a Citizen’s Europe strategy as the European Year of Citizens 2013 begins.

The day opened with Ferenc Miszlivetz’s Illusions and Realities: the Metamorphosis of Civil Society in a New European Space. He discussed his perspectives on Europe based on growing up in the East as well as the rise of the region’s political activism and its current anti-democratic tendencies. He revealed that during the increasing activism of the post-war period, people began to define themselves in terms of their involvement with a civic group. Activism became so important for individuals that it actually became an intrinsic part of how they expressed themselves. This is in marked contrast to the Europe of today where many ignore their civic duties and turn towards individualism and nationalism, ignoring the needs of the ‘other.’ Mr. Miszlivetz said that at the time, his colleagues in Western Europe claimed their own democracies needed to be opened up and were stimulated by the fresh ideas from the new Eastern movements after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, when the Iron Curtain fell, many of these former Eastern European activists became politicians and bureaucrats, losing the sense of urgency which they had previously possessed.

The economic and political elite of the newly independent nations gradually became Europeanised, but other members of the population remained immune. Why was this?  Ferenc Miszlivetz hypothesised, that the end of the Cold War happened too quickly and simply surprised everyone. People were not ready and were therefore unable to take advantage of the new opportunities which independence provided.  Ferenc Miszlivetz feels that we can see the outcomes of these early actions in the struggles taking place in Europe today. That the political power that must be invented for Europe is an unknown; not a natural extract from existing power structures, but rather something new, which still needs to be created. He claims that up until now, most policies had been decided behind closed doors, without the public, with no interaction or democratic processes. The institutional systems which had been created were therefore unable to answer the problems of globalisation, of a new Europe. A European discourse, a European demographic, is what’s he feels is missing: that Europeans do not know enough about their joint history, their joint concerns. His perception is that, while young Europeans are living in a multi-layered, networked society, there still seems to be a gap between the generations that needs to be bridged.

Jacques Monasch, Member of the Dutch Parliament/Tweede Kamer, also joined in the debate. He tried to answer the question “how do you get people to return to a state of activism?”. He feels that the first step is to actually convince and show citizens that they have the power to change society, whereafter you need to be able to foster this new energy with the promise of a new era for Europe. He told the group that civil society has the chance to stand at the centre of this change, and that it is time to move forward with these efforts. He stated that the social networks, which are growing up throughout Europe, have the opportunity to become even better networked and achieve even greater change. To help spark off the debate, Monasch claimed that we are currently living trapped within the “iron cage” of the nation state.

“How can we begin to move toward a new type of European democracy that is different from that of our existing nation states?” asked Monasch. He then asked the participants to consider the idea of a double mandate for politicians at both the national and European level. In a double mandate system, national politicians and European politicians are one and the same. Monasch stated that the idea that our national Parliaments exist purely for dealing with national interests and the European Parliament for dealing with European interests is clearly out of date and that nowadays they are heavily interlinked. He subsequently questioned why they then nonetheless remained formerly separate. The session closed with a claim which had also been made in Berlin and Brussels, namely that politicians should be able to see past our present problems, to innovate and to invent a new European polity. Those present said that many people in attendance and across Europe are dedicated to an open Europe, an open space and asked how we could tap this energy to spark change? Instead of pushing forward a neo-liberal policy of democracy with punishments for underachievers, it was aksed, how we could instead begin to push new social and cultural constructs that are based on our communities and on shared development? It was felt, that actors from both the cultural and political spheres must develop a new public space and a discourse on the future of Europe.

Quote from the audience: “You cannot criticise Europe for not having succeeded fully. It would be like criticising an adolescent for not being an adult!”.

Workshop 1: The citizenship charter

(Workshop leader: Teun Gautier)

The workshop on a citizenship charter discussed the potential content of a citizens’ charter, addressing the rights and responsibilities of citizens above and beyond geographical limitations. In other words, how such a charter could address the universal dimension of citizenship. The discussion first focused on the roles of governments (those present felt that they should play an enabling role: facilitating and supporting citizens’ actions, taking responsibility for common facilitating factors – such as infrastructure – and protecting their citizens from dictatorships and undignified dependencies). The discussion went on to highlight the idea of co-ownership between citizens, with citizens both as contributors and co-owners of a collective community, neither geographically nor culturally defined. This raised the question of how exactly to define the demographic – if not geographically – and this conundrum remained open. Finally, the discussion highlighted the point that any citizenship charter should mention that citizens have the right to challenge and disagree with the majority. A working document has been set up by Teun Gautier for further elaborating upon the findings of the workshop.

Workshop 2: Sustainability of citizens’ initiatives and actions in times of short-term aims in the staccato society

(Workshop leader: Steve Austen)

The workshop presented the question of sustainability in the wider context of any non-governmental organisation that has started off as a private initiative: be it commercial or non-commercial. As most of today’s citizenship initiatives come into being through private or governmental project-grants, it is generally only after the project is over that those who initiated it realise that their strivings were lacking a long term strategy. Within the constraints of a very limited amount of time and a heavily overbooked workshop, Steve Austen aimed to extrapolate upon the existence of a wide rang of fundamental mechanisms that rest mainly outside of the realm of influence of those initiating NGOs and need to be carefully considered in any serious attempt to foster the sustainability of a citizens initiative. Although, only the very first basic notions of the larger framework could be shown and discussed, the more advanced participants in the group felt inspired and encouraged to look at their work in a deeper, more abstract fashion. Those participants, however, that were looking for a quick fix did not get what they were looking for. This lack of solid conclusions had to be explained to the group by referring to the title of the workshop. One thing was, however, clear: namely, that the increasing curiosity about the nature and management of civic initiatives is likely to call for more versions of this type of workshop in the near future.

Workshop 3: The Europe of citizens: how to play the game?

(Workshop leader: Jaap Hoeksma)

The workshop ‘How to Play the Game’ first encouraged its participants to play the board game invented by Jaap Hoeksma. Mr Hoeksma himself started the workshop by explaining why he had developed the game, he said: ”Friedrich Nietzsche famously advised philosophers, confronted with an insoluble problem, to turn that problem into a game. As a philosopher of law I found myself unable to explain what the European Union is. It couldn’t be a union of states, because it also consists of citizens, but [similarly] it cannot be qualified as a state as it is composed of a considerable number of states. Following the advice of the German philosopher, I [therefore] turned the EU into a board game named Eurocracy. In this game, players represent political parties competing for power. They have to win elections, face challenges, swap cities and establish control over entire countries before they are home and dry. The game is meant to inspire participants to draw conclusions [and] share [them] with the rest of the world [in a way] which they couldn’t have seriously considered before playing.” After an hour of playing the participants then discussed the idea that if Europe wants to cooperate to prevent war, it could either become a United States of Europe or a United Nations of Europe. Most participants agreed that these two options are now obsolete. They concluded instead that, as the European Union is the first international organisation in the world to have citizens, we Europeans therefore live in a new and unique “polity”, which gives every appearance of being one of the most advanced in the world. This, however, also raises its own questions: what does it mean to be a citizen of an international organisation? How can citizens come to own the project? Why should the UN not also have a citizenship system which confers basic human rights on all human beings? The workshop concluded that while Europe is an old continent, it is a young and experimental democracy with not just much to learn and develop, but also much to share with the rest of the world.

Workshop 4: Practicing citizenship: bottom up cultural movements

(Workshop leader: Kathrin Deventer)

The ‘Practicing Citizenship’ workshop started with the question: what is the object that defines us as citizens? This lead to a subsequent debate on application, namely: how do you then implement it in your day-to-day life? Creating a diagram of citizenship with their own efforts, participants wove a web of ‘networked citizenship’ to begin the exercise. A ball of yarn, representing the connections that bind us, was passed back and forth across the circle of participants as they learned more about one another and how they could work together to create change. Through this exercise, the workshop participants stated that freedom, travelling, experiencing new things, thinking outside of the box, turning thoughts into action, even simple things such as a smile, are all examples of what citizenship can mean. This revealed the connections in the network between people, the elements tying us together. The workshop then entered into a larger discussion on the role of citizens and their responsibilities, on how to build Europe not only in a bottom-up, but in a networked manner, connecting the efforts of all groups. The 10 key goals that were highlighted were the following:

1. Decrease the distance between citizens and EU politics

2. Create cross-sector alliances

3. Focus on small important matters to heal the system faster

4. Exchange grassroots best practices

5. Less macro, more micro (finances, politics etc)

6. Create open spaces for meeting and dialogue

7. Develop a single European educational system

8. Develop more pride in Europe, a political nationalism that is not based on geographic or ethnic borders, but upon pride in a democratic system

9. Increase the levels of citizen journalism

10. More and continued funding of active citizenship

Closing Session: Workshops Results & Outlook

One issue that arose from the results was that many of the platforms discussed in the workshops already exist. Why then are we not making more effort to develop these existing tools? Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General of the European Festivals Association and ‘A Soul for Europe’ Strategy Group Member, stated that the problem is, that while these platforms in some cases already exist, they are nonetheless often failing to reach the citizens concerned. It is time then to think of a networked dialogue between citizens, not actions that are only top-down or bottom-up. Another issue which was raised, was the links between scale and success, many wondered why it was that so many actions achieved great success on local levels, but were never able to really make an impact on a European scale? It was concluded that don’t need to create all these platforms if they already exist, but rather to develop the network connections around them, in order to strengthen their possibilities and outcomes. Simon Mundy, Chairman of the Association of Creative Professionals, UK and a Permanent Fellow of Felix Meritis, also discussed the need for a more refined understanding of the concept of ‘citizenship’. He said that to move towards a new definition, we needed to define citizenship beyond what it says on one’s passport and the symbolic gesture of voting in elections every few years. Those present also asked, what is the new  European polity? Is it national, local, global? Also, who are we as citizens? We have multiple connections. Do these imply the necessity to participate? Which connections allow collaboration, which allow governance and the power to question governance? It was concluded that citizenship within each individual is transversal and mobile within its multiple identities; that this is our contemporary reality in a globalised world. Moreover, those present stated that union of states is fine, but that unless you have a union of citizens backing this union of states, then it will ultimately fail.

Nele Hertling also brought up the fact that the gap between politicians and citizens is highly based on language and the meaning of language. While citizens are developing new ideas and new structures throughout civil society, they are using a new language that is not the official political language. People at the institutional level in Brussels, Berlin and Rome are generally trying to do the right thing and think they are speaking the same language, but there is a big gap that creates a lack of understanding on both sides. Kathrin Deventer argued that the language issue has and will always be there, that we need to define the pioneers who are willing to bridge the language gap from both sides. She believes that we must scrap the idea of top-down/bottom-up vertical systems and move to a networked matrix system of nodes and connections to help develop our societies.

Evening programme – lecture by George Möller and subsequent debate

The evening programme featured a lecture by George Möller, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets. Möller spoke about ethics, banking and citizenship, building on his recent book Waardenloos / Banking on Ethics (2012).

According to Möller, we need to build trust in our ability to behave ethically. Having observed crises every five or six years Möller argued that the root cause of each financial crisis is to be found in the collective behaviour of humans. The crisis of 2008 also revealed moral problems in a time in which, in his words, economics changed from a moral science to “mathematical plumbing”.

Möller identified four structural problems in the global financial sector:

1. The structure of the market has decoupled bankers and consumers. Due to globalisation and the ever larger financial conglomerates, actions are often totally disconnected from their results. The creator of a financial product in the US cannot see the suffering of the customer in Germany or Japan anymore. Empathy, the mechanism that, according to Adam Smith, enables the free market to correct itself, does not work anymore.

2. Financial products have become too abstract and are no longer identifiable with the real economy.

3. High-leverage products: a human being (in this case a banker) is not able to imagine the exact impact of shifting millions.

4. Just like the baker loves bread, the banker loves money. This does not, however, have to be a problem per sé.

Möller argued that we need to reclaim personal responsibility and responsibility towards each other. We should adhere more to the ideas of civil society and build trust in our ability to behave ethically rather than return to our addiction to rules. Too many rules can dazzle the moral thinking and force people to switch to the autopilot. We should restore the moral dimension in banking, since the current financial world has transformed its employees into machines, incapable of thinking ethically. In other words, the moral compass of the players must be switched back to “manual”. This has to start with an improved moral education (firstly at secondary school and at university and then later in work; for instance by obliging bankers to spend some time at the complaints desk). When questioned later by a member of the audience, Möller admitted that this cannot be done overnight and that this would not solve any of the four problems identified above.

Möller then continued speaking about tax morality. People have never wanted to pay tax to a large power (i.e. the Spanish Empire, Europe), because some see sharing as unfair (Catalonia, Flanders etc). He therefore argued that if one centralises European tax in Brussels, morality will deteriorate. When questioned later, Möller had to admit he still heads a hedge-fund on the Virgin Islands, which is known for tax evasion. His argument “I’m against tax evasion, but if the rules allow it I do not see the problem” did not gain the sympathy of the audience. Kees Vendrik, Vice President of the Netherlands Court of Audit, ultimately had to intervene and Simon Mundy responded critically, stating that Möller’s answer showed that ethics in banking is “on sandy ground at best”.

Paul Scheffer, sociologist and Professor of European Studies at the Tilburg School of Humanities, added that it is relatively easy to speak out about morality when one no longer has the responsibility. Scheffer thus raised three points:

1. The crisis reveals a deep divide between the established middle class and younger unemployed Europeans. We have seen a  the 60s generation speaking about solidarity, but all the time promoting their own interests. He therefore quoted Edmund Burke, saying “The essence of a society is the contract between generations”.

2. Democracy and growth: the crisis reveals that growth was already hiding problems before 2008. How do we see the future of economic growth in shrinking populations and diminishing expectations of social mobility for new generations?

3. Changing elites. There is a problem with elites in many societal fields (banking, academia, government) who display misunderstood cosmopolitanism. To what degree do elites feel responsible for their local societies? Scheffer believes that the elites of yesterday appear to have felt more responsiblity for their local societies, than those of the present day.

Möller, however, believed that “there are some good examples”. He did not respond to the issue of social mobility. Simon Mundy then searched for positive signals: “We have had an awful lot of bleating from the financial sector, from politicians and regulators, what is next?” to which Möller responded that “out of the crisis we have now developed very strong companies”.

Answering a question from the audience as to whether banks are too big to fail, Möller clarified that it is not only about banks, but also about companies like AIG, Microsoft, Apple and electricity companies. Everything that is too big is at risk of facing this dilemma. According to Möller the only solution is to collate the rotten sections of one’s business in bad banks, so that the rest of the company can continue. Finally, the question was raised as to what the financial sector is doing on a day-to-day basis to resolve the crisis. Möller admitted that one should not be too optimistic. Banks have become more customer focused. A lot of bankers have also been made redundant. And indeed, the naming and shaming helps, yet the next step lies with consumers, who need to create a clear commercial business proposition. He called on consumers therefore to choose and reward banks that are sustainable and to encourage them to respect their corporate social responsibility.

The evening session concluded by finding that we need to restore the human dimension in trying to find solutions to the financial crisis and indeed the whole economy. We should reclaim personal responsibility and responsibility towards each other. In other words: ethics should be brought back into the curriculum of economic studies as well as into industry codes of conduct. We are facing severe structural problems which cannot simply be solved through an individual’s (be they a banker, an artist or a politician) good conscience. How then should the responsibility ideally be shared out amongst the nation states, the financial sector, the European Union and global organisations? And what is our role as citizens in this multilayered process? We need to find innovative ways to involve citizens in the decision making process and to start to work together to find responsible solutions. Europe has the skills, the tools and the cultural competence to do so. We therefore urgently have to find the best ways to put our noble aims into practice.

With the end of the evening programme, a fruitful series of ‘A Soul for Europe’ conversations came to a close, however, new discussion will be carried out in cities across the continent during the European Year of Citizens in 2013.

Speakers biographical information:

Ferenc MiszlivetzPresident of the Hungarian Social Sciences UNESCO Committee; Professor at the Corvinus University of Budapest.

He has several academic positions. The following is just a selection of some of his many roles: President of the Hungarian Social Sciences UNESCO Committee; Professor at the Corvinus University of Budapest; István Deák, Visiting Professor, Columbia University, Harriman Institute, New York; Research Professor, Péter Pázmány Catholic University; Academic Director, Advanced Study Centre on Global and European Studies (IGES- Corvinus), Kőszeg; Permanent guest-professor, University of Bologna (MIREES MA program in East Central European Interdisciplinary Studies); Director, ISES, Institute for Social and European Studies Foundation (which, under his leadership, became a Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence in 2010), He has also previously been a research expert at the Notre Europe Research Institute (Paris); a member of the Reflection Group at the European University Institute; a member of the Screening Committee of the Global Security and Cooperation Research Program. He has an international reputation for research, teaching and publication on the construction of European and civil society and transition in Central Europe.

Jacques Monasch, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives.

He is a member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the Labour Party. Born in Rotterdam he spent his youth in Drachten, Ethiopia and Tanzania. He studied Public Administration at the Faculty of Law, specialising in international relations at the University of Groningen. Upon completing his first degree he then undertook a Masters degree in Political Economy in the Economics and Government faculties of the University of Essex in England. He then worked for the Scientific Office of the Labour Party as well as an advisor for the ANC in South Africa and for the American Democratic Party. He has worked in Russia, the Ukraine, Kyrgizstan, Poland, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo advising different political parties, groups, parliamentarians and NGOs. Since 1993 he has held various functions at the national office of the Labour Party. He also led the Labour campaign for the Dutch national elections in 2002.

Jan RungeCEO, UNIC – International Union of Cinemas.

He joined UNIC in 2011 as their CEO and was responsible for the organisation’s relocation from Paris to Brussels. He had previously worked for two leading media industry consultancies in London and Brussels and had advised the European Parliament as well as the European Commission on their future strategies to promote the European film sector. Jan also gained experience as a researcher and EU development manager with a German innovation agency and with a large telecommunications operator. He represents UNIC on the advisory board of the European Audiovisual Observatory and sits on the board of the European Digital Cinema Forum. He is also actively involved in several European Commission expert groups. Jan holds a BA from Liverpool John Moores University and an MSc from the London School of Economics.

Teun Gautier, Director and Publisher De Groene Amsterdammer.

After undertaking HBO Management training in the field of communication skills, he went to the U.S.A. for an internship with the publishing house, Reed. When he moved back to the Netherlands he soon became the director of Reed Exhibitions, later Reed Belgium. At the age of 29, he moved into a management position at Reed Elsevier. A rapid and promising career which he nonetheless left at the age of 31. “For public companies, money is what measures everything. In a media company this corrupts the intrinsic entrepreneurial motivation in a way that I really did not want to be part in,” he said later. He left the salary, the car and the other perks of his prior position and started a number of companies including PM Hague, a political journal. He has been commissioned for a large number of assignments by, amongst others, the Telegraaf Media Group and Weekbladpers. Alongside a management position at the Concertgebouw, he was chairman of D66 in Amsterdam. In 2009, he he joined De Groene Amsterdammer (a very important but somewhat bemoaned Dutch opinion magazine, with a publication history dating back to 1877). Together with editor Xandra Schutte he transformed De Groene into a fast growing and leading publisher. In 2012, he then started up Dagvan100, an initiative to revitalise political discourse. He is married and has three young sons.

Jaap HoeksmaPhilosopher of Law and Director of EuroKnow.

He is the creator of the board game Eurocracy. Born in the aftermath of World War II, he started his career as a manager of the Dutch rock band Focus. He went on to study political theory and philosophy of law and worked for 14 years with the Refugee Office of the United Nations (UNHCR). At the time of the conclusion of the Maastricht Treaty he realised that he was unable to explain what the European Union was. He followed the advice of Friedrich Nietzsche to the effect that, when a problem is too difficult to solve, you should turn it into a game. After the rejection of the Constitution for Europe by the French and the Dutch electorates in 2005, he used his game, Eurocracy, to help develop a new theoretical framework for understanding the EU. He argues that the EU is neither a federal state nor a confederal union of states, but rather forms a new phenomenon of international law, best described as a union of states and citizens. The unique selling point of the EU as an international organisation is that the Union has citizens!

Steve Austen, Permanent Fellow Felix Meritis and “A Soul for Europe” Strategy Group Member

Cultural entrepreneur, consultant, publicist, and member of the group of initiators of “A Soul for Europe”. Austen, who has been active in cultural life of the Netherlands and Europe since 1966, was co-responsible for “Amsterdam Cultural Capital of Europe 1987”. Together with Günter Grass he co-founded the informal working body “Gulliver”. Since 1987, he has been president and lecturer of the Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University.

Kathrin Deventer, Secretary General, the European Festival Association, “A Soul for Europe” Strategy Group

Co-founding member of the European House for Culture, an initiative set up by the European Festivals Association. Member of the Strategy Group ASfE where she actively engages for a “cultural Europe” shaped by input from civil society. Involved in the EU Culture Platform “Access to Culture”.

Simon Mundy, Chairman, Association of Creative Professionals UK and Permanent Fellow Felix Meritis.

He is Chairman, Association of Creative Professionals, UK and Permanent Fellow Felix Meritis. He is a writer and advocate for the arts. He has written over 20 books – poetry, novels and books on music and cultural politics – and collaborates as a poet with dancers, musicians and visual artists. He was a co-founder of Culture Action Europe and Director of the UK’s National Campaign for the Arts. He has worked as a cultural policy adviser for UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Conflict, Security and Development Group at King’s College London.

Linda Bouws, Director Felix Meritis.

She graduated in Theatre Science and Dutch Language and Literature. Since the 80’s she has been actively involved in international cultural life, focusing mainly on the arts, media, cultural policy and international cooperation. She has initiated the Dutch Arts Channel en has been its director for over ten years. She was one of the organizers of “Amsterdam Cultural Capital of Europe 1987”. In the past she has been director of a variety of European festivals, such as the East-European Theatre Festival Paridise Lost, The Video Dance Festival in Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich and Paris, the Theatre Tape Festival and Georgian days. She also have been a jury member for several other festivals.

George Möller, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets.

He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, previously Director of Options Exchange in Amsterdam, President-Director of the Amsterdam Exchanges (AEX) then Euronext Amsterdam. From 2004 to 2009 he was Chairman of the Robeco management Board.

In 2012, Möller debuted as an author with the book Waardenloos (Banyard Publishers) also published in English entitled Banking on Ethics (Euromoney Publishers). The book deals with the theme of lack of ethics in the economy and especially financial markets, a lack that has become evidenttly painfull in the current financial crisis. A truly European publication of Dutch origins.

Marijn Duvenstein, Project Manager, Mostra Communication.

He is a Strategy Group member of ASfE. Master degree in Business. Was Assistant in diverse film productions (2000-2004), Researcher at development agency PUM (2004), Mexico Correspondent at SIW (2001-2004), Consultant at KEA European Affairs/European Film Companies Alliance (2007-2011) and currently Project Manager at Mostra Communication.

Guido Ferilli, Lecturer and Researcher, IULM University Milan.

He is researcher and publisher on the issues of culture-led local development. He has performed consultancy roles for several public administrations in Italy and abroad. He is often participating in scientific and creative residencies at prestigious cultural institutions in Italy and abroad, presenting at scientific conferences worldwide and is the managing director of several international projects.

Yasen Iliev, Project Manager, New Europe Corporate Advisory.

He is an enthusiastic, passionate and always a little naive about new ideas and ventures, born in the Balkans and lived in Europe and Asia Pacific. Currently, works in the financial industry at New Europe Corporate Advisory, Ltd (NECA). NECA is member of the European Privatization and Investment Corporation network represented in Central and South-East Europe, Russia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and China. Prior to this he held junior management positions in software and IT companies and acted as financial consultant for European Union (EuropeAID and DG Education & Culture) funded projects. His goal is to find and tailor the right approach to developing and often non-transparent markets, assisting communities to grow by facilitating impact investments.

Nicolas Bertrand, Executive Manager, Image Aiguë

He has been responsible for several cultural projects in rural areas, such as a theatre festival for young audiences and residencies for young visual artists in Alsace and Lorraine. Since 2001 he has been working for theater company Image Aiguë. Under the direction of Christiane Véricel, the group creates original theater pieces gathering performers from various generations and cultures, speaking on stage in their own language. Its original poetic qualities and social involvement gave Image Aiguë the opportunity to work in about 40 countries worldwide and to develop multiple cultural cooperations in Europe. 

Bertan Selim, PhD Researcher, Erasmus University in Rotterdam

He is currently a PhD candidate of Prof. Arjo Klamer at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He also works as research manager at the Fontys Academy for the Creative Industries and Social Innovation He is in charge of strategy and policy at the Dutch sector-institute for new media and e-culture Virtueel Platform in Amsterdam His research activities are in the field of creative industries, cultural economics, social diversity and innovation. He is particular interested in the role of digital media technologies within the creative industries in Europe. His previous work has focused on political identities in Europe, European integration, public space, cultural mobility, European cultural policy development and has worked extensively in the Balkans, South Caucasus and the Netherlands. He has received his MA in European culture and history at the University of Amsterdam in 2005. Bertan has published numerous articles in books, magazines and journals on cultural mobility in Europe, cultural diversity, creativity in education, creative industries and European integration.

Paul Scheffer, Professor of European Studies, Tilburg University and author.

A professor of European studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Paul Scheffer (1954) is a Dutch author, who lectured urban sociology at the University of Amsterdam between 2003 and 2011. Currently he is a professor of European studies at Tilburg University. In 2000, he wrote an essay Het multiculturele drama [The multicultural drama] which was very influential in shaping the debate on multiculturalism and immigration in the Netherlands. His 2007 book, Het land van aankomst, was published in English in 2011 as Immigrant Nations and is a comparative study of immigration in Europe and America. Scheffer is also a columnist for NRC Handelsblad and publishes regularly in other European journals and magazines.

Kees Vendrik, Vice President of the Netherlands Court of Audit.

He is Vice President of the Netherlands Court of Audit. Previously a member of the House of Representatives for GreenLeft. Vendrik studied political science at the Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Amsterdam. After his studies he worked for the debating centre De Balie in Amsterdam and for the Green Left party in the Dutch House of Representatives. Vendrik is specialist on the economy, finance, the health care system and international trade. He is an advocate of the use of open source software by government agencies. 


‘The Amsterdam Conversation 2012: the cultural dimension of citizenship’, 30 november 2012, Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, Nederland.

The Amsterdam Conversation 2012 was de laatste van de drie evenementen die in november 2012 de ”Cultural Coalition for a Citizens’ Europe” lanceerde.

Hierbinnen zijn de belangrijkste vooruitgangspunten die zijn geboekt bij de ”A Soul for Europe” Berlijn conferentie en Brussels Conversation 2012 uitgelicht. Daarnaast zijn er nieuwe elementen op basis van de nieuwe inhoud onderzocht en is de voorbereiding van de verdere ontwikkeling van de Cultural Coalition voor een Europese strategie voor de burger als het Europees Jaar van de burger 2013 ingewijd.

Dag programma:

Opening Sessie: “Illusies en realiteit, de Metamorfose van de Civil Society in een nieuw European Space”.

Prof. Mislivetz onthulde dat in de naoorlogse periode van toenemende activisme, mensen zichzelf begonnen te definiëren in termen van hun betrokkenheid bij een maatschappelijke groepen. Dit staat in contrast met het Europa van vandaag waarin burgerplichten worden genegeerd en het individualisme centraal staat.

Prof. Mislivetz stelde dat in West-Europa de democratieën zich na de val van de muur hadden moeten open stellen voor nieuwe frisse ideeën vanuit Oost Europa. Echter toen de gordijn viel, werden veel van deze activisten van beide kanten politici en bureaucraten en verloren hierbij hun gevoel van urgentie. Mensen waren er simpel weg toe der tijd niet klaar om de nieuwe kansen te herkennen en te grijpen. Deze gebeurtenissen heeft tot op de dag van vandaag sporen nagelaten in de huidige strijd in Europa.

De Europese discours ontbreekt. De politieke macht van Europa is dus geen natuurlijk extract van de bestaande machtstructuren en dient te worden uitgevonden. Tot nu toe werd het beleid achter gesloten deuren bepaald, zonder publiek of interactie of democratisch proces.

Jacques Monasch, lid van de tweede kamer, pleitte voor het terug keer van activisme. Hij stelde dat de burgers bewust dien te worden van het feit dat zij de samenleving zouden kunnen veranderen. Hierbij zou de civiel society voorop moeten lopen om de ontwikkeling te stimuleren.

Monasch stelde in het verlengde hiervan dat wij nu nog in een ‘iron cage’ van de natie staat leven. Om uit deze ‘cage’ te ontsnappen moeten politici over dubbel mandaat beschikken, nationaal en Europees niveau. Verder zouden er nieuwe sociale en culturele constructies moeten worden ontwikkeld die zich baseren op gemeenschap en gezamenlijke ontwikkeling. Actoren van culturele en politieke sferen dienen een nieuw publieke sfeer en discours te creëren om de toekomst van Europa te waarborgen.

Na deze plenaire sessie werden er verscheidene workshops aangeboden.

Workshop 1: The Citizenship Charter

Deze workshop behandeld de potentiël inhoud van een ‘Citizen Charter’ dat zich richt op de rechten en plichten van de burgers buiten geografische grenzen. Het benadrukt met andere woorden de universele dimensie van burgerschap. Burgers zijn ‘co-owners’ en ‘moeten co-reators’ van de gemeenschap zijn.

Workshop 2: Sustainability of citizens initiatives and actions in times of short term aims in the staccato society

De vraag van duurzaamheid in de bredere context van een non-organisatie die ooit begon als een particulier initiatief: commercieel of niet commercieel. De duurzaamheid van burger initiatieven dient te worden verbeterd.

Workshop 3: A Citizen’s Europe: how to play the game

In deze workshop werd door middel van bordspel de wijze waarop de EU werkt uitgelegd. De uitkomst van het spel is dat als Europa oorlog wil voorkomen, Europa of Verenigde staten van Europa moet te worden of Verenigde naties van Europa. Verder is naar voren gekomen dat deze aanname niet absoluut is. De conclusie is dat Europese Unie een totaal nieuwe politieke vorm kent, een nieuwe politi van burgers en lidstaten.

Workshop 4: practicing citizenship: grassroots cultural movements

De definitie van burgerschap staat bij deze workshop centraal. Participanten maken in deze workshop een ‘networked citizenship’. Dit zorgt ervoor dat de betrokken meer zich krijgen hoe samen te werken om verandering te bewerkstelligen.

Resultaten van de Workshops:

De platforms bestaan al, deze dienen aangesterkt te worden. Het is tijd om te denken in een netwerkdialoog tussen de burgers en niet acties die topdown of bottom-up zijn. De verschillende platforms moeten aan elkaar worden gekoppeld om de resultaten te versterken. Felix Meritis heeft hierin benadrukt dat de betekenis van het begrip ‘burgerschap’ veel verder uitgewerkt dient te worden om zo tot een nieuwe definitie te komen. De kloof tussen instituties en burger moet worden gedicht. Zij moeten dezelfde taal gaan spreken.

Avond lezing en debat:

Lezing: George Möller voorzitter van de raad van Toezicht van de Autoriteit Nederland voor financiële markten

Moderator: Kees Vendrik lid College Algemene Rekenkamer

Commentaar: Paul Scheffer hoogleraar Europese studies Universiteit van Tilburg

De thema’s ethiek, bankwezen en burgerschap stonden centraal in dit debat. Möller baseerde zijn verhaal op zijn boek Waardeloos. Zijn boek behandel het gebrek aan ethiek in de economie vooral in de financiële markt.

Hij stelde dat wij ons ethisch moeten gaan gedragen. De oorzaak van elk financiële crisis is volgens Möller het resultaat van ons collectief gedrag.

Hij Identificeerde 4 structurele problemen in de globale financiële sector:

– De structuur van de makt ligt bij de ontkoppelde bankiers en consumenten. De actie is losgekoppeld van het resultaat.

– Financiële producten zijn te abstract geworden en zijn niet meer te identificeren met de echt economie.

– Hoge leverage producten: de mens kan zich de impact niet voorstellen van miljoenen transacties.

– Het feit dat een bankier van geld houdt hoeft geen probleem te zijn.

Möller beargumenteerde dat wij persoonlijke verantwoording moeten nemen voor onszelf en anderen. Meer stil te staan bij de ideeën van civiel society en het vertrouwen creëren om ethisch te handelen. Met andere woorden: moraal dementie herstellen van bankieren.

Paul Scheffer, socioloog en professor aan de Universiteit van Tilburg, droeg 3 punten aan:

– Crisis onthult een kloof tussen de zittende middenklassen en de jonge werklozen Europeaan.

– Democratie en groei. Hierbij werd gesteld dat de economische groei de crisis voor een langere periode verhulde van voor 2008.

– Veranderlijke Elite. Er werd gesteld dat de elite van gisteren zich veel meer maatschappelijk betrokken voelde.

Möller stelde dat uit de crisis wij sterke bedrijven op nahouden. Op de vraag wat de banken moeten doen om uit de crisis te komen antwoordde Möller dat de consumenten voor een bank dient te kiezen die maatschappelijk betrokken is.

Debat Conclusies:
Wij moet de menselijk dimensie herstellen door te proberen oplossingen te vinden voor de financiële crisis en de hele economie. Persoonlijke verantwoording moet hoog in het vandaal komen te staan. Ethiek moet een kernbegrip worden van economische studies en industrieën. Verder dient op de vraag: ‘Welke verantwoording moeten de natiestaten op zich nemen?’ en op ‘Wat is de rol van de burgers?’een antwoord te worden gevonden.. Europa heeft de kennis, de handvatten en culturele competentie om een oplossing te vinden. Wij moeten manieren vinden om onze capaciteiten om te zetten in daden, waarbij de burger wordt betrokken.