Dusan Sidjanski is President of the European Cultural Centre, Professor Emeritus at the University of Geneva, Special Advisor to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso
presentation: Introduction to the Dialogue between Cultures
categories: Dialogue between Cultures, Conclusions
The dialogue between cultures is vital to Europe and to the main cultures in the world. Europe in itself embodies the idea of “intercultural dialogue”. The first Dialogue between Cultures was organised in Geneva in 1961 by Denis de Rougemont, at that time Director of the European Cultural Centre (ECC), which was followed by the conference “Europe World” in Basel in 1964. Recently, the Dialogue between Cultures was revived by the ECC in January 2004, followed by a conference in Lisbon during the same year which was convened under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso.
The basic condition for the dialogue between cultures is the recognition of the notion of human beings, and consequently mutual respect between different cultures. On this basis, it is possible to envisage dialogue amongst “coherent areas of study” as defined by Toynbee. Around the pole formed by Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, European culture developed through contact and exchange with other cultures in the Mediterranean world with its Arabic-Muslim and Jewish aspects. The main contribution by Europe lies in its experience of democracy and legal system, based on the principles of human rights, and through the expansion of science and technology. Today, in the world of globalization, the mutual understanding among different cultures and traditions is a prerequisite for sustainable peace. In fact, today’s conflicts and wars are in some way reproducing the "clash of civilizations”, a theory referred to in a book by Samuel Huntington. The main merit of this study is the fact that he pointed out the dangers of the cleavages and cultural frontiers which are re-emerging today. As a response to this new challenge, Europe is promoting the era of dialogue, more specifically between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures. The dialogue amongst great cultural regions has to be complemented by myriads of micro-dialogues inside Europe.
With Denis de Rougemont we always stressed and insisted on the fact that culture does not only mean religion, philosophy and the arts; it also encompasses political principles and systems, ideologies and behaviour, traditions and innovations, as well as science and technology, which are becoming universal. Culture is a global concept.
In conclusion, I will highlight the importance of basic values and principles and the role of education and communication as vehicles for better mutual understanding and peaceful cohabitation.
Dusan Sidjanski is President of the European Cultural Centre and special adviser to the President of the European commission. Founder of the Department of Political Science at the University of Geneva, Dusan Sidjanski is professor emeritus at the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences and at the European Institute in Geneva.
Since 1956, he was Denis de Rougemont’s very close collaborator at the European Cultural Centre (ECC). He is the author of works on federalism and European integration, such as
Fédéralisme amphictyonique, Eléments de système et tendance internationale, Paris and Lausanne, Pedone and Rouge & Cie, 1956,
Dimensions européennes de la science politique, Paris, LGDJ, 1963;
Europe Elections, de la démocratie européenne, Paris, Stanké, 1979,
Union ou désunion de l’Europe? La Communauté européenne à l’épreuve de la crise yougoslave et des mutations en Europe de l’Est, The University Institute of European Studies (IUEE) Geneva, 1991,
L’Avenir fédéraliste de l’Europe, La Communauté européenne des origines au traité de Maastricht, Paris, PUF, 1992, 1993 which has been translated into Italian, Serbo-croate, Portugese (Preface by José Manuel Barroso), Greek, Russian (Preface by Rector IO.H. Afanasiev), Spanish (Preface by J.M. Gil-Robles) and English. The revised English translation, The Federal Future of Europe was published by the University of Michigan Press, Introductory note by Jacques Delors, Forword by Harold K. Jacobson, Ann Arbor, 2000;
L’approche fédérative de l’Union européenne ou la quête d’un fédéralisme européen inédit, Notre Europe, 2001 translated into Portuguese, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and German;
Une vision futurible de la Constitution fédérative européenne, dans : L’Europe en suspens (Europa in bilico), Dir. P.A. Baldocci et A. Gasparini, Quaderni di Futuribili, ISIG, Gorizia, 2007;
Le dialogue des cultures à l’aube du XXIe siècl. Hommage à Denis de Rougemont par José Manuel Barroso (Editor in collaboration with F. Saint-Ouen), Bruxelles, Bruylant, à paraître en septembre 2007.