photos: Jule Halsinger, seasaw-foto.com
The topic of this year's "Cities for Europe" conference was "Committed to Europe" and dealt with the responsibility of cities and their citizens for Europe with a special focus on the upcoming European elections in May 2019. 120 committed Europeans, projects, initiatives and interested citizens from all over Europe met on Saturday 10 November 2018 in Berlin City Hall and discussed the following questions: How can the citizens commit themselves to Europe? What can cities and municipalities contribute to a united Europe? What is the special role of culture?
The conference was opened by Sawsan Chebli (Federal Representative for Berlin and Secretary of State for Civil Engagement and International Affairs), spokesperson Brigitte Russ-Scherer (former Mayor) and Volker Hassemer (Chairman of Stiftung Zukunft Berlin, former Senator). Referring to the Brexit and the emerging nationalist forces in Europe, Ms Chebli stressed how important cities and their citizens are for Europe, especially when the national governments threaten them. Ms Russ-Scherer also took up current challenges of the European Union, but at the same time expressed her confidence, as pro-European initiatives and projects that advocate a united Europe are forming. Less optimistic and with a very direct call to action, cultural scientist and sociologist Caroline Robertson-von Trotha (Karlsruhe Institute for Technology) spoke of urgently needed networking and productive use of resources: "The main responsibility for a diverse Europe lies with the cities. They need the support and consistent cross-border exchange as well as close cooperation between politics and civil society, industry and science". Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of the French city Coulaines and Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions, stressed the importance of friendships between cities and citizens. The strategy of his city above all is to work very closely with young people and schools. The city of Coulaines invests 30 percent of its budget in the education sector. Afterwards, six different initiatives and projects were presented to the plenary. Among them was the Advocate Europe winner 2018, "Democracy Fitness". Subsequently, the central questions of the conference and strategies for future action were discussed in three workshops.
This year, 31 initiatives from civil society, education and culture presented themselves at the EUROPEAN MARKETPLACE. The projects had the opportunity to network with each other and to join forces for future collective campaigns. The colorfully designed partitions were visually supported by monitors that illustrated the work of the initiatives in various videos.
The event ended with the artistic proclamation of the "European Republic". The "European Balcony Project", initiated by political scientist Ulrike Guèrot and writer Robert Menasse, took place simultaneously in 150 cities all over Europe. At Berlin City Hall, around 200 people joined the proclamation by Berlin actor Christian Dieterle, who, accompanied by two trombones, proclaimed the Republic in German, French, English and Italian. Afterwards, the Ernst Senff Choir sang European songs. Symbolically, the visitors could create a fictitious passport of the proclaimed European Republic.