Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain and Europe in a New Century

On February 2, 2006, the Institute for Human Sciences hosted a lecture by Christopher Patten, Chancellor of Oxford and Newcastle Universities. Patten’s book, Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain and Europe in a New Century, formed the basis of his remarks. In a speech peppered with anecdotes drawn from his distinguished political career, Chris Patten put the transatlantic relationship in a historical perspective and stressed the need for the US and Europe to work together to fend off the dark side of globalization and threats such as environmental degradation, deadly diseases and nuclear terrorism. He argued that Europe should be seen as a partner and not a rival to the US, and that Europe’s enlargement, far from threatening American foreign policy objectives, was its most important contribution to global stability.

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The Future of Europe

On December 1, 2005, Anatol Lieven, Senior Research Fellow at The New America Foundation, and Aleksander Smolar, Senior Research Fellow at CNRS in Paris and President of the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw, debated The Future of Europe. Both agreed that the European Union was in crisis and that the dream of political union is at an end.  As Smolar put it, “There is no European “We the People” and there will not be one a long time from now.”  Both, however, remained committed to the European idea, with Smolar citing the importance of the European Union in promoting democracy and human rights in states aspiring to membership, and Lieven worrying that its failure would imperil Europe’s democratic model and example.

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Turkey and the EU

On November 10, 2005, Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, gave a talk entitled Turkey and the EU: Ancient Battles, Current Anxieties and Future Prospects. Responding to Benhabib was Jenny White, Boston University Associate Professor of Anthropology.  Benhabib argued that Turkey’s accession to the European Union brings to light “the unresolved dialectic of institutions and identities at the heart of the EU.” The result is, “both within member states and at their borders, a deep conflict between institutional identities and cultural principles.“ According to Benhabib, Turkey today is undergoing a transition to a mature democracy, the outcome of which is not inevitable. It is vital, therefore, “that the Copenhagen criteria and not a newly discovered fear of the Muslim Other guide Europe’s negotiations with Turkey—and Europe’s negotiations with its own Islamic minorities.”  Only then can the EU continue to exercise its “salutary influence upon the political cultures as well as the economic and civil society structures of the countries aspiring to membership, such as Turkey.”

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Legal Migration and the Fight Against Illegal Immigration

On November 7, 2005, Franco Frattini, Vice President of the European Commission and European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, gave a lecture on Legal Migration and the Fight Against Illegal Immigration. Elizabeth Prodromou, Assistant Professor of International Relations, and Associate Director of the Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University, moderated the discussion. Frattini emphasized the need for a comprehensive European political strategy to manage problems facing legal immigrants and to prevent illegal migration.  He suggested, among other things, closer cooperation with local governments, and improving social and economic conditions of origin countries.

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Two Ambassadors on Transaltantic Relations

On October 26, 2005, the Institute hosted aq panel discussion on the transatlantic relationship (Two Ambassadors on Transatlantic Relations), with John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland and current Ambassador of the European Union to the United States; and Rockwell Schnabel, former Ambassador of the United States to the European Union. The panelists were introduced by the discussion’s moderator—journalist and former New York Times columnist, Anthony Lewis.  Bruton emphasized the importance of the European Union to the United States: “It’s an important market, an important investor, an important guarantee of democracy, and it is a useful partner.” He said that despite its problems, “it has been an engine for change and remains as vital an engine for change as ever.”  Schnable agreed that the European Union is “enormously important,” even if 70% of Americans don’t know what it does.  He said there is a need for greater understanding across the Atlantic: the US and Europe may have differences, but they have a “responsibility vis a vis the rest of the world to work together.”

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Being Muslim in Germany Today

In October 2005 the Institute for Human Sciences in cooperation with the Goethe Institut Boston and the American Council on Germany, organized two events exploring the religious and cultural diversity in today’s Germany.

The first event, a panel discussion entitled “Being Muslim in Germany Today,” took place on October 6, 2005, and featured Turkish-German author Necla Kelek and Berlin-based journalist Peter Schneider.  Moderating the discussion was New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, author of Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds and All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror.

Necla Kelek was born in Istanbul but is living and working in Germany, writing about ethnic and religious minorities, parallel societies and integration into so-called “multi-cultural societies.”  At the Institute, she spoke about her new book, Die fremde Braut, 2005 (The Foreign Bride), which tells of the tradition of forced marriages on the increase among Turkish immigrants in Germany.  Kelek herself fled her parents’ home at the age of sixteen to escape a forced marriage.  She estimates that every second woman in Turkish German society lives in an arranged marriage.  Her book is a plea on behalf of women whose human rights are being denied by the German government due to its tolerant stance toward a foreign culture it is reluctant to criticize.  She does not distinguish between “arranged” and “enforced” marriages (now outlawed) calling both far removed from a free decision.  According to Kelek, a parallel society has emerged among Turks living in Germany not because integration policies are failing, or because Turks are disproportionately unemployed or under-educated (though these exacerbate the problem), but because Islam as practiced by Turkish immigrants in Germany fosters a pre-enlightenment, collective mentality and leads to passivity among women who uncomplainingly enter such marriages and later force their daughters along the same path.  In Kelek’s mind it is “acceptance” of the “other” society that is part of the problem, and therefore her book is a call not for a dialogue with Islam but confrontation and discussion.  She asserted, “The protection of foreign cultures ends where human rights are not guaranteed to everyone.”

Peter Schneider’s reflected on the growth of a parallel society in Germany among Muslim immigrants from his own perspective as an “enlightened” liberal.  He noted that it is a recent phenomenon, beginning not with the arrival of guest workers after the second word war, but with the end of the German economic miracle some years later, which hit Turks the hardest.  Active recruitment ended, but Turks continued to arrive according to law of reuniting families, bringing with them traditions of rural Anatolia. “With every new bride,” Schneider commented, “the parallel society grows.”  He cited the upsurge in so-called “honor” killings of young Muslim women in Berlin and other cities.  Drawing on the works of three female Muslim authors in Germany—Seyran Ates (Grosse Reise ins FeuerThe Great Journey into the Fire), Necla Kelek, (Die fremde BrautThe Foreign Bride, München 2005) and Serap Cileli (Wir sind eure Töchter, nicht eure Ehre—We’re your daughters, not your honor– 2002)—he took up Kelek’s criticism of German “tolerance” to a situation that he said was tantamount to slavery.  The books tell what “enlightened” Germans didn’t—and didn’t want to—know

Each of them represents an attack against the Islamic tradition of oppressing women, but at the same time, each is an attack on “the lethargy and moral relativism of the majority society in Germany.”  Part of the problem, according to Schneider, is that until the victory of the Red Green coalition government in 1998, Germany did not have an immigration policy, or any notion of itself as an immigrant country.  But an immigration policy, Schneider argued, is not a guarantee of social integration, and it is time to recognize that “not all immigrant groups can be integrated equally well.”  He continued saying that “[t]he disregard for women’s rights, especially right to sexual self-determination, is an integral component of almost all Islamic societies, including those in the West.  Unless this issue is resolved with corresponding reform of Islam as practiced in the West, there will never be a successful acculturation.  Only by offering separation of religion and state can Western democracies convince Muslim residents that human rights are universally valid and not bound to one tradition.”

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Two Ambassadors on European Union Enlargement

On October 3, 2005, the Institute hosted a panel discussion on the enlargement of the European Union with Eva Nowotny, Austrian Ambassador to the United States, and Martin Palouš, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States.  Chairing the discussion was Krzysztof Michalski, Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Directors and Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.  The underlying question was what Europe is, how large it should become, and where its borders (should) lie.

Ambassador Nowotny, drawing on her experience as Director General of European Integration and Economic Affairs at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, noted that the question has been largely avoided by politicians, who have answered in a roundabout way with the Copenhagen criteria, or rules defining “eligibility” to join the European Union.   She took up the issue of “deepening” and “widening” of the European Union, noting they have not always gone hand in hand.  She did emphasize, however, that every enlargement of has brought new strengths—both political and material—and increased stability.  The recent addition of the countries of central Europe, she argued, was particularly beneficial, overcoming an artificial division within Europe and revitalizing border regions.   The question of Turkey, she admitted, is more difficult, given its different history and cultural background.  She did not argue against Turkish membership in the EU, but said it would be a long and difficult process.  In her follow-up remarks, she said the last decades have brought such dramatic changes within Europe, that citizens are facing “enlargement fatigue.”  She argued this is the main reason for the failure of the referenda on the Constitution in France and the Netherlands, not fear as widely speculated.  She said people need some time to adjust to the new conditions before the process can continue.

Former opposition leader Martin Palouš offered his remarks in the context of Czech-Austrian relations since 1918, when Czechoslovakia was formed, and the great desire on the part of Czech people, after 1989, for a “return to Europe.”  Palouš said the return process was complicated because on the one hand, Europe itself was changing so much, and on the other, people’s perceptions were shifting daily.  He stressed the importance of dialogue, education, and cultural exchange to the integration process, which, he argued, has been the most important aspect in the transition of non-democratic countries to democracy.  A strong proponent of integration, he expressed some worry that the “viscous” and “virtuous” circles set in effect by the admission criteria, where good performers are rewarded, leaves some counties behind.  He did not think we can afford to leave countries behind without destabilizing results.  He proposed the criteria of “like-mindedness,” where countries such as Turkey are concerned, adding that sincerity and like-mindedness can be tested in concrete situations.  He agreed with Ambassador Nowotny that there is in Europe now widespread desire for stability.

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Solidarity and Isolation

Following up our most recent podcast of the first Jacek Kuron debate on  Values and Social Policy, which took place as part of a 2005 conference on solidarity, hosted by the Institute for Human Sciences at Boston University, we are continuing the solidarity theme. This week’s podcast is an edited recording (to watch the entire debate, please visit BUniverse) of the fourth Jacek Kuron debate, which took place as part of the 4th Conference on Solidarity: Solidarity and Isolation at Boston University on September 26, 2008. The discussion, entitled “The Craft of Solidarity: Skills and Practice”, featured Alfred Gusenbauer, Prime Minister of the Republic of Austria, and Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology at New York University and at the London School of Economics. It was moderated by Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University.

The conference was focused on the following questions: If social isolation is the converse of solidarity, what can we learn about the latter by exploring the former? How does the magnitude, and how do various patterns of social isolation affect a civic order that is premised on threshold levels of generalized solidarity based on trust, pluralism and toleration.

The debate was originally recorded for WBUR’s “World of Ideas” program and aired on October 26, 2008. We are grateful to WBUR for making the recording available to EU for You.

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Values and Social Policy

This weeks podcast is an edited recording of the first Jacek Kuron debate, Values and Social Policy, which took place at Boston University on September 24, 2005 as part of a larger conference on solidarity, the first in a series of meetings organized by the Institutes for Human Sciences in Boston and Vienna over the past several years.

The debate, named for the Polish intellectual and activist, leader of the “Solidarity” movement and later Minister of Labor, gathered policy makers from North America and Europe including former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, European Commissioner Danuta Hübner, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, and former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu. The discussion was chaired by the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, who is also the chair of the IWM’s Academic Advisory board.

The debate was set up to provide a contrast between American and European social models, but the participants quickly rejected this dualism. “There are several Europes,” said Amato, citing vast differences between the western and northern states that have progressive taxation and generous social programs, and the eastern states that have flat taxes and fewer public welfare institutions.

Sununu rejected the notion that a single social model can optimize public good. Instead he called for  a “feedback-controlled system” that can be recalibrated as needed. Sununu went on to criticize the inefficiency of many European social models, arguing that they stifle competition and encourage unemployment. Hübner defended European models with an appeal to fairness. “As Europeans, we tend to choose equity over efficiency, if we have a choice,” she said.

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The Future of Humanitarian Aid

We’re continuing to dig through our archives for our EU for You podcasts; for more recent events, including our ongoing “Eurospective” series with European artists and writers, be sure to visit the IHS section of our website as most of our events are recorded.

This week’s podcast is an edited recording of an  April 12, 2005 panel discussion on the “Future of Humanitarian Aid” with Janina Ochojska, founder and President of the Polish Humanitarian Organization, the first such organization created in Eastern Europe to help victims of war, natural disasters and severe poverty in, among other places, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Larry Cox, at the time Senior Program Officer of the Human Rights and International Cooperation Unit at the Ford Foundation. The event is introduced by Irena Grudzinska Gross, former director of the Institute for Human Sciences. Please note that this discussion was originally recorded for the June 5, 2005 “World of Ideas” program on WBUR; we are grateful to WBUR for making the recording available to us.

Ochojska discussed the issues and challenges facing humanitarian aid and development assistance in today’s world, and outlined the “ten commandments” which direct the way her organization provides aid in an effort to ensure that “the aid does not become humiliation instead of relief, addiction instead of problem solution, or humanitarian industry instead of real aid to human beings.” She gave several examples from her work in war-torn and disaster-ridden countries and stressed above the need for knowledge, which forms the basis of solidarity, shaping our awareness and the will to help.

Larry Cox addressed some of the political dilemmas faced by humanitarian organizations today, and the criticisms leveled at them. He noted, for example, the growing convergence between human rights work and humanitarianism, but whereas some, notably David Rieff, find this trend worrisome, Cox argued they share the same values and are fighting the same enemies and “need each other if the fight is going to be won.” He did, however, express worry over the militarization and commercialization of human rights and humanitarian aid.

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