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Friday, 19 April 2013 13:51

ETC Spring Tour, day 1: under the spotlight

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The European Theatre Convention’s (ETC) first ever Spring Tour is in full bloom across the continent. For seven days, a caravan of five young artists, several journalists and ETC members are travelling east to west and north to south in a tour bus, aiming to examine the role of theatre in a time of uncertainty and crisis in Europe. Day one in lovely Stuttgart is already over and opened up discussions on the role of politics in supporting the arts and on theatre as a tool for promoting debate and change in society. E&M will keep you up to date with all the talks, productions and interesting people met along the way.

First stop: Staatstheater Stuttgart, the largest triple branch theatre in Europe. Housed in two buildings dating back in the early 1900s, it hosts opera, ballet and theatre. Our tour guide was dramaturge Christian Holtzhauer, who showed everyone around the impressive performance halls, the busy backstage and the painting rooms where the sets are put together. The theatre is not only a centrepiece of German architecture – it holds six Opera of the Year awards from the magazine Opernwelt and won Theatre of the Year 2006. Its role is heightened by its directors’ involvement in social and political debates, which are an important focus of the city of Stuttgart and its citizens.

Saturday, 29 September 2012 10:11

Differentiated integration – why not?

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"Differentiation is already a fact, the question is what kind of differentiation." That's how you could briefly sum up the fascinating final panel discussion of the Allianz Alumni Academy that took place on Saturday close to the Brandenburg Gate in shyly sunny Berlin. Allianz Alumni Academy is an annual meeting attended by young European leaders who participated in summer schools organised by the Allianz Cultural Foundation. Coming back to the witty phrase in the beginning of the paragraph (belonging to Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre) we must admit that this is sad, but true. The EU is not as consolidated as it supposedly was in the pre-crisis past, nor can we still stick to the simplifying narratives of a two-speed Europe, because there are actually far more "integration speeds." The crisis has only catalysed this phenomenon. While we can still warm ourselves with Jean Monnet's ideas about crises that foster integration, we can't avoid acknowledging that Europe's future is not clear at all.

The necessity of flexibility

The crisis provides us with a unique chance to reform Europe. It has revealed some of the diseases that remained (or were kept) secret before. Hence we should use it and try to find appropriate conclusions. It seems almost obvious that reaching a compromise and finding a solution to our mess will be easier and quicker, the fewer states are involved. However, as far as I remember, the statistics of voting in the Council (before and after the Lisbon reform) do not confirm this assumption: the member states are in unanimous agreement just as often now as they were before, even though a larger number of members are now involved in decision making.

Nevertheless most of the discussion participants I've talked to thought it would make more sense to give the eurozone what belongs to eurozone - it would allow them to deal with the problems more effectively without the whimsical assistance of 10 other states.

It is also important to keep in mind, as the European Parliament President's diplomatic adviser Arnoldas Pranckevicius points out, that it is not only the currency that's at stake. We're facing "the greatest existential crisis ever in the history of the EU." This demands something more than dealing with finances, debts and ratings.

Open Core

Incidentally, the EU luminaries made the same observation and put it down in a report by the four EU presidents [Council, Commission, Euro Group and ECB], "Towards a genuine economic and monetary Union" in June, 2012. As one participant noticed - somewhat symptomatically, the president of the European Parliament did not participate in the report.

On the basis of this document Janis Emmanouilidis proposed his 4-phase vision of the EU's future at the Allianz Alumni Academy. According to his plan, after the banking union and the securing of EU financial stability we'll discuss the ratification process of a new EU treaty in 2016/17. This will decide whether we are going to live in a functionally differentiated Europe or a defragmented continent administered by individual institutions and ad-hoc coalitions.

It's one thing to submit yourself to living in a tent in a dirty field for four days because it gives you access to your favourite music. But what's the deal with people voluntarily going to a festival up to five whole days before the music even starts? What's the appeal of the warm-up days at Roskilde Festival? Juliane Dybkjær investigates.

It's like everyday life... Turned upside down

atmosphere_camping_site

The tents are crammed together in small squares, surrounding pavillions under which young people from all over Europe gather to listen to music on their stereos. Some are munching on a sandwich they just bought, some are eating tinned food to keep their spending down, and almost all of them seem to have a beer permanently attached to their right hand. At first glance, the living arrangements seem special to say the least. But after a few days in the slum, as the camping area is affectionately called by the festival-goers, I begin to see a pattern emerging. People are living their everyday life here on the campsite - with a few key differences.

"What do I know about the euro crisis?", "What does the media tell me?", "Do I get the same view of the crisis if I read a German newspaper, listen to Rai Uno in Italy or just live in Greece?". At the Polis International Journalism Conference, a panel of four journalists tried to tackle these issues.

Early in 2010, the euro crisis began to make the headlines of all the major media outlets. A German weekly magazine had Aphrodite holding up her middle finger on the front cover. The title said, "Betrüger in der Euro-Familie" (Fraud in the euro family) and this is how reporting about the crisis started to take shape in Germany. The eurosceptical tone was continued "in a campaign of the biggest tabloid and newspaper, Bild Zeitung, which with over 10 milion readers has a huge impact on German politics," said Peter Heilbrunner, a former Brussels reporter and now a Business editor in Stuttgart.

Heilbrunner also spoke of a general state of confusion because Germans didn't really understand why there should be at least a bit of solidarity with the southern countries. "They said: our economy is working well; we pay our taxes so what is the problem in the rest of Europe? It was hard for Angela Merkel, for the whole government to explain it."

An anti-bail-out mood developed in the country and an aversion towards the southern countries was generated primarily by the media "because it transported these clichés: they spend a lot of money they don't have, they are not competitive, and they are more or less lazy,"he added.

Antonio Preziozi, currently the director of Rai Radio News and Rai Radio Uno in Italy, talked about an ideal type of media that they try to promote, "credible and reliable," with "in-depth coverage about the euro crisis." He also mentioned the importance of explaining the technicalities when it comes to reporting about the crisis, as their main goal is to inform the audience but not to influence it.

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