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"For an European Academy of culture" by Olivier Guez, Laure Kaltenbach and Julia Kristeva

How pleasant and easy it is to bash Europe during this spring of 2014! In France, in Great-Britain, in Italy, on the whole continent, eurosceptics have the wind in their sails, Europe would be responsible for all evils. Indeed, they are not that wrong on a point: Europe is economically, politically, socially suffering: the continent is going through an existential crisis, the very first since the end of WWII.

Article previously published in french on

Then the eurosceptics, those sorcerer’s apprentices, pull the wool over the eyes by making us think that, at that time of multipolar globalization, next to those American, Chinese, Indian, Russian or Brazilian giants, our old little nations would answer more easily to the 21th century’s colossal challenges (environmental, economic, military, financial, migratory) if they were more autonomous if not independent. But either we want it or not – and we ardently wish it – a united Europe is the only solution. Nowadays, we are in an uncomfortable position because we are just in the middle of the ford: we are too integrated to step backward, or only at the cost of a major crisis which might have some incalculable consequences, but not enough – and in a too clumsy way – to answer to the expectations and the growing anxiety felt by a majority of Europeans.

However, new major abandonments of sovereignty might be granted only if we, Europeans, start to feel European and united, emotionally attached to the whole Europe’s landscapes, flavours and common places, like le café, the train station, the museum, the municipal gardens, the champions league…; only if we, Europeans, stop hiding behind our shadow: let’s take on our heritage and our histories, let’s claim our identity, this “maximum of diversity in a minimum of space” as the writer Milan Kundera wrote. We remain Parisians, Berliners, Athenians; Auvergnats, Sicilians, Flemish; German, Swedish or Polish; but we must become Europeans and develop our European consciences if we want our nations and our continent to keep playing on top of the table for the next decades. If not, relegation, which is already haunting us, will be unavoidable.

Among others – reforms are multiple, the work is huge yet essential – our Europe must become festive and embodied, colourful, with fragrances and folklore, a whole poetic strength which already exists but that we did not want, nor know how to see or exploit. The member States must have the courage to institute a class dedicated to European civics in every schools; to favour more mobility, the learning of European languages, and scholar, student, civil, political or even retired people exchanges; to harmonize health-care and retirement systems. Modestly but determinedly, we wish to create a European Academy of Culture as soon as possible. 

Disregarded by the European treaties, yet culture is our best asset. There is in the world a desire for Europe that is a desire for our culture, maybe the most likely to grasp the globalization conflicts. 

A European Academy of Culture: a powerful symbol, a new space of creation and reflexion on a continental scale, a place of complicities, a new crossroads. The Academy would aim at the gathering and the flourishing of new spokesmen, interpreters and intermediaries between populations and European cultures. In other words, ideas and languages’ brewers and cosmopolite creators that contemporary Europe is missing. Since millenniums, Europe built itself thanks to a transgression culture and the perpetual movement of its moving frontiers. We wish to perpetuate this tradition, encouraging culture of perplexity, of irony and of memory (our glorious facts as our dark sides), the salt of European spirit, its essence: what makes us different.

Ideally located in a frontier – Nice, Trieste, Vienna, Torino, Munich, Wroclam… - the Academy would welcome in residence for a semester, twice a year, a dozen of European creators – artists, writers, historian, cultural entrepreneurs, musicians… - who are less than 40 years old, selected according to their projects, questioning the European identity and culture. For its part, the Academy would commit to spread their works thanks to partnerships with galleries, media, publishers and museums, in order to create a feeling of belonging to Europe, to participate to the emergence of the cultural and media space in common that is tragically lacking in Europe nowadays. It is not doomed to decadence nor gloom, or to identity tensions. It must not be the hostage of the eurosceptics, the ones who only think to block, prevent and destroy a delicate and perfectible scaffold. Let’s mobilize energies, talents, and desires with the creation of an Academy European of culture.

Olivier Guez (writer), Laure Kaltenbach (Managing director of the Forum d’Avignon), Julia Kristeva (writer and psychoanalyst).