“Europe: Lost in Translation?”

Berlin Declaration on the joint conference of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” and the German-Russian Forum e.V.

BERLIN, 15 May 2014. At the first joint conference of the World Public Forum and the German-Russian Forum in May 2011, the focus was on national identity and integration in Europe. Today the task is much more fundamental – how to overcome the deepening divide and build new foundations for a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

The participants of the conference “Europe: Lost in Translation?” – over 70 experts from more than 20 countries around the globe – agree that the current crisis over Ukraine requires a profound rethink of the wider European space. Isolation, confrontation and conflict will only lead to losers on all sides. What is needed is a renewed commitment to the shared Europe and novel forms of cooperation that can break down barriers old and new.

The past two decades have seen the rise of a hegemonic ideology and unipolar power that have the effect of undermining both the unity and diversity of the wider Europe. Conventional categories such as ‘globalisation’, ‘post-industrial society’ or ‘values-based foreign policy’ can address the twin crisis of increasing inequality and atomised identity. Since 1989, we have moved from a world of tangible threats to a world of nebulous risks, creating anxiety and fuelling fears of the future.

To avoid further escalation and a slide into chaos, we need a decisive shift away from the Cold War logic of zero-sum games, the language of friend vs. foe, and the diametric opposition between either European or Eurasian integration. Amid the threat of war, the conference participants call for a new pan-European and pan-Eurasian approach that grows out of existing cultural and social ties as well as the continual dialogue among civil society actors.

In concrete terms, the Berlin conference has discussed possible forms of fresh cooperation in the areas of geo-politics, geo-economics and the knowledge society. Among the policy ideas are, first, new visions for a common European security architecture in the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Paris Charter; second, renewed investment in education, knowledge and R&D, coupled with shared infrastructure projects and areas of joint development such as the Razvitie initiative; third, realising the potential for a pan-European digital knowledge society, linked with open borders by abolishing existing visa restrictions. Crises such as events in Ukraine can only be solved or prevented if the whole of Europe is committed to a common future.

Moreover, the conference participants express their profound concern over the rise of the radical right across European countries. They agree that all forms of rightwing extremism must be condemned unreservedly, and they call on the media to join efforts in tackling this dangerous phenomenon. Thus the Berlin conference seeks to mobilise the public in defence and pursuit of Europe’s unity-in-diversity.

The cooperation between the World Public Forum and the German-Russian Forum is based on the principle of mutual respect and reciprocity, recognising the ‘other’ – or the counterpart – as an equal interlocutor with his unique cultural specificities. Grounded in the continual conversation of civil society actors, only such a dialogical approach can open up the “value highways of civilisations” (Vladimir Yakunin). Both sides are committed to a dialogue of civilisations that “can guarantee a reliable framework for the development of an area of communication, understanding and cooperation in Europe”.