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Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the presentation of the Adam Mickiewicz Award to the cultural institutes of the Weimar Triangle countries

29.08.2011 - Speech

“Culture in the Weimar Triangle: The status quo and ways ahead”

Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper at the presentation of the Adam Mickiewicz Award to the Institut Français, the Goethe-Institut and the Instytut Adama Mickiewicza

Weimar, 29 August 2011

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Madam Minister-President,
Mr Genscher,
Mr Dumas,
Mr Mazowiecki,
Mr Mayor,
Professor Standke,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to speak to you today on this very special occasion. Today we are not just celebrating the receipt of this award, named after Adam Mickiewicz, but also the 20th anniversary of the Weimar Triangle’s launch in the Joint Declaration on the Future of Europe by Foreign Ministers Genscher, Dumas and Skubiszewski. This document laid the foundation for the productive trilateral cooperation based on trust that now exists between Germany, France and Poland.

Back then, it was the declared goal of Germany and France, long viewed as the “motors of European integration”, to incorporate the young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, and in particular Poland, into Euro-Atlantic structures. It is clear today that this integration has been entirely successful. As the current holder – since July – of the EU Presidency, Poland has assumed responsibility for the European Community in these challenging times.

2011 is also a special year for relations between Germany and Poland, marking as it does 20 years since the bilateral Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation entered into force. The joint declaration of 21 June 2011 and the cooperation programme encompassing almost 100 joint projects highlight our countries’ desire to further intensify and extend our cooperation. A similar intent was also evinced last year with the adoption of the Franco-German Agenda 2020.

The Weimar Triangle provides important impetus for trilateral cooperation. Its successes of the past 20 years by no means diminish its present significance. Now, as before, the dialogue between Germany, France and Poland plays a valuable role in advancing key European issues and promoting the emergence of a European identity. Its success in this regard can however only be measured by examining the extent to which people consider themselves European citizens with shared cultural roots.

It is not without reason, ladies and gentlemen, that we are assembled today in this town. As Hans-Dietrich Genscher put it, choosing the city of Weimar “is intended to show that this new Europe is more than an economic community, that what unites us is a shared European culture, to which all the peoples of Europe have made a great contribution”. These words are highly topical today.

It is in my opinion vital to complement the political framework of the Weimar Triangle with a cultural component. I am using the term “culture” in its broadest sense. For “culture” includes everything people do to shape and change the world. “Culture” is not just art, music and literature. Culture is also education and language, science and research.

These fields are crucial pillars of Germany’s cultural relations and education policy, a policy which seeks reciprocity, which seeks exchange and cooperation. It is designed to help peoples and cultures meet and get to know each other, so that understanding and respect for the other may grow on both sides. Cultural relations and education policy are not a one-way street. They aim to build bridges and bring people together.

Our very good relations with our neighbours France and Poland testify to this policy’s success over the past decades, and show that this approach should also be adopted to enhance and intensify our trilateral relations under the auspices of the Weimar Triangle. Our relations can only be as good as our ability to win the trust and commitment of our citizens – that we must never forget.

To this end, cultural and education policy needs committed partners! On the one hand, these must include the major cultural institutions, which can independently implement the projects and programmes adopted under our cultural relations and education policy. On the other hand, the regions, cities and local authorities also play a major role. In addition, there are the various initiatives launched by the people themselves, who are active in organizing events under town twinning schemes, who run school exchanges or do other, mainly volunteer work, in this field.

A lasting partnership between the Weimar Triangle countries cannot be based on close political and economic cooperation alone, but must also build on good relations between the people who embody the spirit of Weimar with their civil society networking and exchange.

This engagement is the “foundation” and “backbone” of relations and of cooperation between Germany, France and Poland, to use the words of Professor Standke, who has for some time now made a key contribution to the civil society side of the Weimar Triangle with the Committee for the Advancement of German-French-Polish Cooperation.

The Federal Government attaches great importance to breathing new life into the cultural and civil society dimension of the Weimar Triangle. This anniversary year, in particular, has seen the launch of various projects designed to nurture this aspect of the Weimar Triangle.

At the invitation of the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, “the Musical Weimar Triangle” last year brought together artists from France, Poland and Germany, who performed in Bonn and Warsaw. This November, the Festival of Eastern European Film in Cottbus will, at the suggestion of the Federal Foreign Office, focus on the Weimar Triangle.

I am delighted that so many other events and initiatives in the cultural and civil society sphere have caught the “Weimar spark”, this year especially. Numerous events at the current Weimar “Pèlerinages” art festival are, for example, dedicated to the Weimar Triangle, and a German-French-Polish theatre workshop has recently be held by the Genshagen Foundation. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to mention individually all the many other initiatives organized for this anniversary year.

My talks today with participants at the international youth congress, the “Weimar Youth Triangle”, have made me optimistic about the future. They have shown me that the Weimar Triangle will remain firmly anchored in the minds of the people. This event organized by the Schwarzkopf Foundation in cooperation with the European Young People’s Centre in Weimar, and sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office, has brought together young people from Germany, France and Poland, as well as the Czech Republic, Denmark and Ukraine, in order to debate current European issues and the role of the Weimar Triangle.

The young people’s awareness of a European identity and the bonds forged by the cultural and social elements of the event cannot be valued highly enough. These are the people who will in future shape cohesion in Europe and lend their vision to its development.

This year’s winners of the Adam Mickiewicz Award are also dedicated to promoting young people and encouraging cross-border exchange in culture and civil society. The Institut Français, the Instytut Adama Mickiewicza and the Goethe-Institut have all, through their special commitment to cross-border cultural cooperation, made an important contribution to consolidating and intensifying trilateral relations under the auspices of the Weimar Triangle.

I am delighted that the multifaceted work of these three institutes has been duly recognized with the presentation today of the Adam Mickiewicz Award from the city of Weimar and the “Committee for the Advancement of German-French-Polish Cooperation – Weimar Triangle”. I am convinced that their work will continue to help “infect” future generations with the European idea and the spirit of Weimar.

And yet the onus is on us all to continue this work and to ensure that the Weimar Triangle is kept alive by creating close bonds between civil society in the participating countries. This is happening at all levels, as exemplified by the lively exchange between last year’s recipients Thuringia, Picardy and Małopolska Voivodship, as well as by numerous youth meetings and town twinning arrangements. I am thus delighted that the Franco-German and German-Polish Youth Offices intend to organize more trilateral meetings. And, as we speak, a trilateral town-twinning project is being prepared which will link the French town of Blois with Zamość in Poland and the German city of Weimar.

The decision taken in June at the Warsaw meeting of the German-Polish Education Committee to launch a trilateral further-training programme for teachers is an important step forward, one that I very much welcome.

In the future, too, I would like to continue this course of deepening and broadening the Weimar Triangle. I will discuss what further forms cooperation could take in meetings with my interlocutors from Poland and France. Together with our French and Polish partners, we want to build on the political and civil society dialogue under the Weimar Triangle framework and use it as a basis for various European policy approaches, for example in relation to the EU’s Eastern Partnership, and breathe new life into the process of European integration.

From what I have seen while here in Weimar, and given the considerable attention that these events have attracted, I am confident that we will be successful in pursuing this course. I hope that as many of the initiatives mentioned here as possible will be followed-up on, extended and become permanent features of trilateral cooperation. The Federal Foreign Office will do all it can to support this.

Thank you very much.

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