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Another week, another selection of the best European reads, brought to you by two of E&M's editors. Frances and Bettina share a few gems they've come across online, ranging from an article about British POWs in Germany during the First World War to attempts to set the most recent outbreak of the Gaza-Israel conflict in its cultural and historical context, highlighting the role of regional and international stakeholders and Europe's hypocrisy in the affair.
Frances, Sixth Sense editor
At home in enemy territory
Ever since visiting the exquisite Italian Chapel in Orkney, which was built by captured Italian soldiers during the Second World War, I have been intrigued by the fates of prisoners of war – both military and civilian. So it was with some interest that I stumbled upon Stephen Evans' recent article on the BBC website about the 5000 British citizens interned at Ruhleben on the edge of Berlin between 1914 and 1918.
These men were not soldiers, but civilians who happened to be in Germany when war broke out across Europe: everyday folk simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite many privations, they were determined to make the best of their lot and set about establishing not just order, including class and racial hierarchies, but also a degree of comfort. As Evans engagingly explains, they grew flowers in biscuit tins, organised rugby and cricket matches, put on plays and, in fact, ended up far better off than the people living in the German capital at the time. Even the name of the detention camp is somehow appropriate: roughly translated, it means "the quiet life".
Is there such a thing as "speaking European"? How does our identity as Europeans affect our everyday lives? And is there actually a difference between German Frikadellen and Turkish Köfte?
These are some of the questions we asked ourselves at our workshop in December - and now, we're launching a special section of the website to present you with our ideas. Among other things, you'll find a European cookbook, a comic strip about transnational love, and a guide to Berlin. Plus you'll discover how our participants see their personal futures in Europe - from Laura, who comes from Romania and is studying in the UK to become a journalist, to Sezin from Turkey, who says she knows the recipe for happiness... And if you're really serious about speaking European, you can get stuck into our European Dictionary or listen to our multilingual poem.
A very special part of the project is our film, What do you believe in?, a mini-documentary in which the participants tell us whether they believe in God, love, stories or laughter - and why.
So: happy reading! Does this understanding of Europe match your own experiences? Tell us with a comment and we can add it to our collection of speaking Europeans!
And look out for news of our next event in the not too distant future!
You’ve probably already circled the 1st of April 2012 on your calendar: after all, it’s the publication date of E&M’s 16th issue. But it’s also the deadline for applications to the Studienkolleg zu Berlin, the international programme where E&M was born.
If you happen to be planning to found a new transnational project, you’ll need a lot of different ingredients. A group of motivated people, plenty of unrealistic ideas, a lot of patience... plus, somebody who believes in you, who supports you with resources and with encouragement. For E&M, the Studienkolleg zu Berlin was that "somebody."
In September 2007, five students met at the Studienkolleg induction week. They came from Germany, Bulgaria, Poland and Latvia, and they had at least two things in common: they all wanted to create a medium which would make Europe personal, and they all felt that now was the moment that they could really do it. The Studienkolleg invites 30 young Europeans each year to take part in its programme of talks about Europe and work together in groups on Europe-related projects, while studying at a Berlin university. For a year, they receive a monthly stipend which supports them through their studies. It gives them a bit of space and time to think about what Europe is, and what Europe needs.
In June 2008, E&M was ready to go online. It had five unusually named sections, an awesome design, a great team of writers, and five exhausted and excited editors. The other members of the Studienkolleg all danced manically at the launch party to celebrate the very first issue, which - among many other things - explored the complex voting dynamics of the Eurovision Song Contest, told the Erasmus Love story of Susu and Fede, and - my personal favourite - featured a Baby article called Sexy Bum.
The sun was shining on Gendarmenmarkt as we approached the French Dom (cathedral). We were supposed to be at the commemoration ceremony at 1pm, but when we got there we were told that the ceremony would not start until 2pm. The extra time gave me the opportunity to look at who, apart from the organised group, had decided to spend the afternoon commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy instead of being in a park with friends and a barbeque.
We were definitely the youngest ones there. 40 students out of around 170 people in the Dom; I would have guessed the average age to be around 60. Many of the older people had to support themselves with canes or were in wheelchairs. They were "time witnesses" - people who themselves had had their lives changed by the catastrophe 25 years ago. Some of them looked like they were suffering from medical conditions, perhaps a legacy of their brief experience of Chernobyl, but I cannot tell for sure. Nevertheless, they were all dressed up, and it was clear that this moment was important for them.
At the end of the academy "The Language of Arts and Music", held at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin from 14th till 20th of February 2011, E&M managed to get an few precious minutes with ICD founder and organiser Mark C. Donfried for an interview. Donfried's speaking pace is breathtaking, and throughout the conversation with E&M it becomes understandable why: the smart-looking, passionate cultural diplomat is under constant pressure from conference attendees, speakers, and VIPs for whom he has to politely interrupt the interview more than once.
E&M: Mr. Donfried, you originally come from America. Why did the ICD choose to be based in Berlin?
MD: I think there are three reasons to answer your question. The first reason is history: Berlin has been a divided city and is now transformed into a bridge city, between east and west, and then you have the Turkish Diaspora… The dramatic and in many ways negative history Berlin has lived through has proved to be positive nowadays.
"The Role of Music in Building the EU" is a title that promises a lot.
Erna Hennicot-Schoepges’ lecture "The language of art and music" doesn’t keep it. In fact the 69 year old pianist, educated in Brussels, Paris, Salzburg and Luxembourg, knows both sides: from 1999–2004 she was minister of culture, higher education, research and public works in Luxembourg, and then worked as a member of the European Parliament (2004-9). But in her speech the good and noble ideals suffer from insufficient and biased argumentation.
Yes! – music is a wonderful thing. Yes! - there is scientific proof that music, more directly than other forms of arts or communication, affects the brain’s emotional centre. Yes! - there have been studies in Berlin elementary schools suggesting a positive correlation between instrumental music education, intelligence and social competence. And of course one cannot appreciate enough a highly decorated (retired) politician vouching not only for better music education in general, but also for the delicate imparting of contemporary classical music. But does that really suffice to emphatically declare music is a language that all mankind understands, all mankind is unified by and that it is the language that a multilingual and fragmented EU can be built on?