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Christian Diemer

Christian Diemer

Christian Diemer, 28, is from Rottweil in South Germany. Having studied musicology, arts management, and composition in Weimar, he is now writing from Berlin and obscure spots in East Europe, where he is currently working on his PhD thesis about traditional music in Ukraine. 

“Latvian culture and language are in the happy position of having a state which protects 'Latvianness' and helps it to survive” - said Ints Dālderis, Latvia’s former Minister of Culture in an interview with E&M. On 18th of February, 2012, 74.8% of Latvian voters rejected Russian as a second official language. Christian brought together four young Latvians to discuss the result.

Kristina, Beāte and Laura agree that there should only be one official language in a country. Kristina says to her personally speaking Russian or Latvian does not mean a difference, Beāte deems it important to preserve the independence Latvia has finally achieved, and Laura, who has lived in Germany for almost nine years, states that she is proud of the majority in the referendum.

Marija, Russian by nationality and a Latvian citizen, also says "no": she appreciates Russian language and culture as well as Latvian, but she thinks that the lack of integration of the Russian population cannot be simply reversed by making Russian the second official language. Instead, she proposes establishing Russian as an administrative language on the municipal level, and to embark on a long-overdue integration policy.

Topic switching at MEU Strasbourg on the third day: after the Council of the European Union has passed a favourable resolution on the accession of Croatia, it now rests on the Parliament to deal with the issue. At the same time, to keep everyone busy, the heavily amended music copyright proposal now passes from the European Parliament to the Council. Their cooperation is what is referred to as the ordinary legislative procedure, or "co-decision procedure" within the EU.

In any case there, as the conference reaches its final stages, it is reason enough for Ivana Dimitrova, Commissioner for Enlargement, to be content with the preliminary result of the voting. And the MEPs are quite happy with the desserts served in the cafeteria of the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg. In German, "to dine like God in France" is a phrase for living in luxury - maybe that should be updated to "dining like an MEP in France"...

Day two has just started – "There is no consensus yet," says Morten Munch, UK delegate at the Council of the European Union. However, Maros Demovic, Bulgaria, feels he expresses the opinion of the majority of the Council members in saying that Croatia is a great challenge, but also a great opportunity for the European Union, also with regard to further possible enlargement. Finally, Claire Nevin for Greece is confident that "we'll pass it." But even so, an eventually favourable vote will still depend on the agreement of the European Parliament. Not forgetting the lobbyists who are constantly at work…

The Parliament in the meantime has been busy with the music copyright proposal. The devil is in the detail (at least as the Germans used to say), and the devil materialises in 40 amendments… learn more by watching the second newscast of the Strasbourg Insider!

Simulating the EU is not exactly an easy task. Thus one week ago, MEU Strasbourg started with a preparatory day, during which the future MEPs and delegates were briefed once more on the topics to be discussed in the following days, had the chance to consolidate the rules of procedure, and could exercise their debating skills.

From Monday on, things got serious and suits became mandatory. The day also brought another exciting feature: daily video newscasts put together by MEU’s video journalists Anke Harthoorn, Mitch Weaver, and Jan Zelina. It is thanks to the so-called Strasbourg Insider that MEU outsiders can nevertheless glimpse the inner workings of the simulation experience. This is why we decided that the videos should not be withheld from all the E&M Insiders out there.

Let Croatian Ambassador Marina Carre-Moliva explain the challenges and fears the Croatian people associate with becoming the 28th member state of the European Union. Listen to Commissioner Martin Dederke, when he envisions how the Music Copyright Proposal of the European Commission will bring the single market to the digital age. And let Magda Nemkyova from the European Greens explain how the Parliament in Strasbourg can help MEPs reduce their carbon footprint.

There are a lot more MUNs than MEUs out there, but there is only one MEUS, and since MEUS is a MUST, E&M is there to cover it.

E&M would not be E&M if it did not dismantle those cryptic abbreviations. Those who have been E&M maniacs for long enough as to read this age-old article can skip the following paragraph or delve into the Baby section instead. For everyone else, here you go:

MUN, MEU, MEUS, E&M. Basically, M stands for Model – not in E&M though, where it stands for Me, which is I, which is you, the readers, we, us… Yet except for E&M, M means Model, so far so good. A MUN nevertheless is not the conference of the prettiest of the international community, nor is a MEU an EU-wide beauty contest – at least not in the literal sense of the word. Rather than that, a MUN is a gathering of people willing to put themselves in the shoes of diplomats of the United Nation. And just the same kind of modelling or simulation when applied to the European Union and its political bodies is referred to as a Model European Union.

What may sound like a get-together of megalomaniac nerds playing war or big politics, is indeed a thrilling and very intense learning experience – and, if well organised, it can be tremendously realistic. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012 06:14

A matter of language, a matter of conflict

In February 2011 former Latvian minister of culture, Ints Dālderis, talked with E&M about the importance of protecting the Latvian language. One year later, on the 18th of February 2012, a referendum was initiated to make Russian the second official language in Latvia. Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This article, the first in a two-part series, investigates the Latvian language question and asks whether language is a matter of identity – and a matter of conflict.

The facts and figures seem to speak a clear language: the referendum to make Russian the second official language in Latvia, initiated by the Russian movement "Native Tongue" on the 18th of February 2012, raised a high participation level of 69% and was "resoundingly" rejected by a majority of 74.8%. 

Yet after the referendum it has become even more obvious that the unambiguous result is not in fact a sign of a nationwide consensus but of a strand going through Latvia's population. Many of the 62.1% ethnic Latvians in the population consider the referendum an encroachment on their country's freshly won independence, endangering "one of the most sacred foundations of the Constitution – the state language" (Latvian president Andris Bērziņš). And within the ethnically Russian part of the population, complaints about discrimination can be heard. "Over the past 20 years Russian residents of Latvia have been humiliated by the authorities, by endless attempts either to assimilate or make them second-class citizens," claims Vladimir Linderman, co-chairman of "Native Tongue." "So this is our answer."

"After Fukushima nobody can simply carry on as usual" and claim that our nuclear plants are safe, said German chancellor Angela Merkel on 14th of March 2011, to explain the adventurous shift of her nuclear policy as a consequence of the Japan earthquake. 

This sentence also matches in a way the assessment of a catastrophe 256 years older. "After Lisbon nobody can simply carry on as before and claim that we live in the 'best of all possible worlds' " – that was, in other words, what many European intellectuals felt after the Portuguese capital had been devastated by a fatal earthquake and tsunami on 1st of November 1755.

The "best of all possible worlds" theory had been formulated by Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz in his Essai de Théodicée (1710). It was paradigmatic for the unbroken optimism the early enlightenment had embraced. Yet 39 years after Leibniz's death it was the 1755 earthquake of Lisbon that undermined a central idea of his philosophy. 

But Merkel's adversaries would now object: whoever said nuclear technology was safe (before Fukushima) must have been either ignorant or a lobbyist! Just as Leibniz' posthumous opponents sneered in 1755: whoever said that we lived in the best of all possible words (before Lisbon) must have been either an idiot or a cynic! 

Saturday, 02 April 2011 05:00

The best of all possible worlds?

An earthquake of magnitude 9, a tsunami of 15 metres, conflagration for days. 85 percent of a blossoming metropolis is devastated, 235,000 people killed. A mental shake-up makes the foundations of age-old world views crumble, and when the initial distress dies away the world finds itself undergoing a process of deep rethinking hitherto unseen. 

This is not Fukushima, this is not the "end of the nuclear era" (Der Spiegel). This is Lisbon on the 1st of November 1755, some will later call it the "end of the optimistic enlightenment era" (Ulrich Löffler). But what the historic disaster causes is both a setback and boost of enlightenment thinking. Some of its shock-waves have shaped modern intellectual Europe – and this is mostly for its good. How could that happen?

Monday, 14 March 2011 15:55

Interview with Mark C. Donfried

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.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011 11:37

Global music - An interview with Per Ekedahl

Jeunesses Musicales International (JMI) is the world's largest music NGO. Founded in Brussels in 1946, it has member organisations in 45 countries of the world and aims to use "the power of music to bridge social, geographical, racial and economic divides and create a platform for intercultural dialogue". Apart from its flagships World Youth Orchestra and World Youth Choir, it runs projects such as Ethno, a global summer camp for folk music taking place in various European countries and even Uganda. JMI President Per Ekedahl has just presented his organisation at the ICD.

ICD: Mr. Ekedahl, how does music foster understanding and peace?

PE: I'm sorry that one of the problems of our organisation is that we are bad at proving what we achieve. After 15 years of funding the Swedish Ethno camps, the Swedish Institute all of a sudden asked us, so, what did you achieve? And I bit my lip and thought: oops...

I personally am totally convinced. Just to give you an example: there was a photo session with Ethno Sweden participants from all over the world, and the photographers wanted to take a picture with all of them waving their national flags. And many refused. They did not want to represent their countries, they felt they had come for the music. In the end there were about 85 musicians and 15 flags on the photo. It is crucial not to impose a diplomatic mission on the musicians.

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