President Roman Herzog thanked the Chairman of COEUR. Helmut Maucher, and its Director, Frederic Delouche, for their initiative in bringing together a truly European group to discuss whether there is such a thing as a shared European culture. He particularly welcomed President Havel, who, as playwright, philosopher and defender of civil rights personifies Europe’s cultural dimension.
President Herzog asked why it is that the issue of a common European culture should arise at this time. The answer lies in the new situation brought about by the introduction of the Euro. Europe should now move ahead with political integration, in spite of the repeated objection that a politically unified democratic Europe cannot be achieved without the support of a consciously European public. Such a European public cannot exist without a shared perception of European culture. Europe’s future then depends on the answer to the question “Is there a European culture?” President Herzog’s answer is strongly affirmative. Evidence of a shared European culture is not only clearly visible, but actively shaping today’s Europe.
The European ideals of democratic government, human rights, protection of minorities and free trade have now become goals and issues for East Europe. West and East Europe have a duty to enrich each other in all respects. Culturally the West has greatly profited from the opening up of Eastern Europe. Is not the West rediscovering in the East the inspiration it has lost during decades of affluence? European political life now has two pillars: the long constitutional experience of Western democracy and the fresh democratic inspiration of the peoples of Eastern Europe.
Culture in its broadest sense embraces political union. Indeed there is a profound connection between culture and politics, a link, which COEUR has recognized. It is this link, which gives the lie to the notion that as there is no such thing as a “European culture”, there can be no political union.
Helmut Maucher thanked President Herzog for his important opening remarks and for hosting COEUR’s first event at Schloss Bellevue.
COEUR’s specific objective is to contribute to the debate on the future of Europe in all its aspects. This means all of Europe, not just the EU, but also Europe from all points of view: cultural, historical, philosophical and social as well as economic and political. “Zukunft braucht Herkunft”: to shape the future one must be aware of the past. This will be the guiding principle of COEUR.
Many in the West have not yet fully understood the implications of Europe’s geographical centre moving 500 kilometres eastwards. However Europe as a whole will benefit, as Western and Eastern experiences and ideas blend into a new common European culture, thereby strengthening our free market system as one of the proven cornerstones of freedom, democracy and prosperity
COEUR will aim to strike a balance between commonality and diversity in Europe. It will consider the impact of two new phenomena globalisation and the revolution in information technology, and how these will affect European ideas, values, lifestyles, constitutions and social welfare structures. It will also consider how Europe can be strengthened in order to speak with one voice in such matters as foreign policy and defence, in particular in relation to the transatlantic dialogue. In short the overall aim of COEUR is to work towards establishing a European consciousness.