Debates on Europe VI-X

Sarajevo Debate on Europe

26.4. - 27.4.2017

Twentyfive years ago, in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed: Twelve member states joined to form the European Union, an important step towards European integration. Also in 1992 the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began, an event which marked the final disintegration of Yugoslavia. A short time ago the dissolving of the so-called Eastern Bloc had removed the cold war border that had cut through Germany and the whole subcontinent for so long. A new reality seemed to dawn. Excepting the inhabitants of the Balkan countries most people in East and West thought a Europe of peace, prosperity and democratic freedom immanent.

Today, in 2017, these earlier certainties and hopes seem highly questionable. Hardly a country is without its fierce debate about the desirability of membership within the European Union. The utopian hope for an open European community seems to have evaporated leaving behind a space apparently threatened from within and without; the very project of a common Europe is questioned. In many of these controversial discussions “identity” has become a key word. “Identity”, in ist populist version reduced to something held to be singular (historically, culturally, confessionly), feigns a safe special position to withdraw to. The democracies of Europe face these challenges under widely differing circumstances, but the challenge in every case wants to suvbvert the hopes once connected with the European project: hopes for a manifold unity.

The “Sarajevo Debate on Europe” offers a space to discuss questions about the difficulties and chances of the European project, in an open exchange of views. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, seems an especially apt place for this discussion about the coexistence of religious, cultural and national identities, about the handling of conflicts and the role of influences from abroad. Participating will be authors and scientists from several European countries.

The meeting is part of the continuing series “Debates on Europe” organized since 2012 by the S. Fischer Stiftung, the Allianz Kulturstiftung and the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung in different cities across the continent: so far in Budapest, Bukarest, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Narva, Minsk, Charkiv and St. Petersburg.

Dino Abazović
The Return and Power of Religion in Public Sphere – the Case of Balkans

The debates about the return (and power) of religion in public sphere (Butler 2011; Habermas 2011; Taylor 2011; West 2011) inevitably resonate at the so-called European periphery (e.g. Balkans) as well. Bit more than ten years ago the concluding remarks of the Reflection Group Report on the Spiritual and Cultural Dimension of Europe (2005) states that even in Europe, where modernisation and secularisation appear to go hand in hand, public life without religion is inconceivable. Accordingly, in the search for the forces capable of establishing cohesion and identity in the European Union, the question of the public role of European religions is particularly important. But at the same time the Report highlights the questions concerning the public role of religion in Europe that is resurfaced recently because of the Balkan wars, the Muslim immigration into Europe, and (so far less dramatically) the prospect of Turkey’s becoming an EU member. Today however, the debates about return (and power) of religion in public sphere are focusing almost solely on the security dilemmas and the problems of refugees and immigrants in the EU. Not much attention has been given to the situation in candidate countries on the road to EU membership, namely those that use to be a part of Yugoslavia once. By default, democracy and the political culture of pluralism, human rights, and liberal tolerance are accepted as basic products of European cultural modernity. Still, the ideas emanating from Europe about what modernity in addition should look like are coming under increasing fire not only by the »new religiopolitical groups« (Keddie 1998) out of Europe, but in so-called European periphery as well. The principal question is whether and what went wrong? Is it a time to re-think how to foster the debate that will result in »verbalizing the unspoken cultural requirements of being European« (Casanova 2004) in societies of European Union and Balkans, and examine the role of new religious politics in that debate?