Editor's note

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Sunday, 20.01.2019, 17:51

2018 - The European Year of Cultural Heritage

Eugene Eteris, BC, Riga/Copenhagen, 11.12.2017.Print version

There are some important things to remember about the year 2018, which is designed by the EU as the European Year of Cultural Heritage. It’s about common European values, respect and understanding of cultural identity in all EU states. So, united we stand!

That’s not an easy thing to call oneself “a European”; one has to be polycentric and multi-faceted. These personality’s aspects are becoming ever important presently, with a strong wave of nationalism, which dangerously threatens European unity.


A European is identified as a person for whom various cultural and national identities are both understandable and shared, whether they belong to a Portuguese, a Lithuanian, a Swede or/and Croat, to name a few. The shared aspects are those “common in the spatial order and architecture, music, painting and in metaphysical experience”. That was the message sent by the EU President, Donald Tusk in Hungary, at one of the oldest country’s University in Pécs. In his speech there were some interesting thoughts, which – while borrowing - I would like to shear with our magazine’s readers on the eve of the New Year. Besides, it is not often that the EU leaders spear-up publicly on such controversial and interesting issues, as europeanism.   

To be a European…

Regardless of differences, complications and ambiguities among European states, there are numerous identities: all European understand such “cultural identities” as the Bible, Homer, Cicero, Cervantes, Dante and Shakespeare. Europeans generally share “musical visions” of Bach, Chopin and Liszt, looking at paintings, sculptures and architecture of different states and cultures. As to architecture, Europeans can see and feel something common too: e.g. in towns a market square can be easily found, towers of churches, cathedrals and town halls.

Thus, to be a European stretches over national borders and over symbols of national cultures. It does not mean rejection of other cultures’ believes or values; on the contrary, it means having all other cultures, as much as possible, in one’s sole, sharing all what is acquired in the European cultural traditions.   


Milan Kundera once said about central European states, that they “wanted to be a condensed picture of Europe in all the richness of its diversity, a small arch-European Europe, a miniature Europe of nations’ model based on the rule of maximum diversity on a minimum of space”.



These notions combining diversity, nationalism and unity have been the cornerstones of European commonwealth for the last six decades since European Economic Community established in1957. For several decades, the two approaches were trying to bridge historically almost contradictory things, i.e. independence and nationalism from one side, and multi-nationalism and unity from another.


No wonder, there have been two mottos in the EU since 1992 (the start of the European Union to succeed the Community): “united in diversity” and “ever closer union”. What precisely distinguish a European: maximum diversity on a minimum of space or quite the opposite logic - minimum diversity on a maximum of space?


Even for the EU’s President it is easy to say “I am a European”, and much more difficult to explain what this means in essence. Nations outside the EU know, that “only as a whole, only as a political identity”, can Europe be a substance for others”, though “outsiders” generally define their identities on lower and more abstract levels of identification than Europeans he adds.


However, the EU President, D. Tusk thinks that there are three identities - national, ethnic and urban, which make up a harmonious Europe. Though, he adds, there is room between them for a European identity. Without a common language, with a turbulent history that more often divided nations (rather than bringing them together), still European citizens are moved to tears when listening to the "Ode to Joy" (another sign of europeanism) and showing that a European identity does exist and it is something much more than just “continental identity”. 

Uniting factors

It is not just geography that brings people together; most people agree that europeanism has also cultural, political and even axiological dimension, the EU President acknowledges. Europe is a common territory and a common border: there will not be a present Europe without borders and the rule of law enforcement; there will not be a desired Europe if “political barbarians”, as the EU President formulated, would win. The President reaffirmed the idea that “common border and territory must bring us together again, instead of dividing us”, adding that europeanism should reconcile the need for security with freedom, and the need for control with openness. Only a wise synthesis will be europeanism’s victory, as aversion to diversity cannot drive the sense of unionism, he concluded.  

References: Speech by President Donald Tusk upon receiving Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pécs. In:http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/12/08/acceptance-speech-by-president-donald-tusk-upon-receiving-honorary-doctorate-from-the-university-of-pecs  

But Europe is also a community of political values, among which freedom is always first. Several nations stick to different hierarchy of values, which they think is correct. Numerous recent events (starting from Brexit to separatist trends elsewhere) have shown that political debates – alive and often brutal – (e.g. in Hungary and Poland) about the catalogue of political values. For the EU’s President, most crucial European values continue to be human and civil rights, freedom of speech and conscience, the rule of law, and respect for minorities’ rights; “the only guarantee of the survival of these values is liberal democracy, questioned in so many corners of the world”, he added.  He ended up with a very optimistic prognosis: Europe in the future shall be the best place on Earth: a special and unique territory of freedom and culture; and a precondition for its survival is European solidarity, which goes beyond divisions and numerous conflicts of interests.


However, I would like to conclude with some “refreshing” questions to readers. What does it mean when people say: “I am Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, etc.”? Isn’t it only that they mean belonging to a community specifically defined and embedded in certain emotions, values, history and traditions? Or/and, it might be something else, more than just ethnic relations…?   


If it is only what we eat, speak, sing and drink make us nationally and ethnically harmonious with the rest of Europe, so what then makes us Europeans? Shall we praise in 2018 the European cultural heritage or push up our own national “diversities”? 

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