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.

Eli Tauber
Goodbye, Bosnia, I'm going to Sarajevo

There is a well-known saying that jocularly describes the vast difference between the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its capital; it was still often used before the war: »Goodbye, Bosnia, I'm going to Sarajevo.« The capital was and is the big Other for the surrounding country. People perceive it as a world of its own.
It is, indeed, a multireligious and multiethnic place - it has always been a place of various cultures, the centre of multicultural life in all Bosnia and Herzegovina, indeed in the whole region. Fruitful relations between Islam, Christianity and Judaism had been established long ago and have been officially formulated by the Interreligious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The percentage of Jews in the general population is now comparatively tiny, but historically they have had an important and significant share in the relations between the different religions. The relationship between Muslims and Jews in particular has been of the greatest importance during the five hundred years of their living together in Bosnia. It always reached a high level of mutual understanding and respect, except during the years of World War II. Numerous examples throughout history prove this. The most impressive one occurred in 1819 when the Muslims of the Bazaar of Sarajevo saved the ten most prominent Jews of the city and Rabbi Moshe Danon whom the Bosnia governor Rushdie Pasha wanted to put to death.
During the Second World War neighbours saved the life and the property of Jews at the risk of their own lives. Some were killed in concentration camps because they had tried to save their neighbours and friends.
During the last war in 1992–1995 there were numerous examples of mutual neighbourly help; this time the Jews especially helped their fellow citizens to survive by providing food, clothing, footwear, medical equipment and medicine, a telephone connection and postal links with relatives. About 1,500 residents of Sarajevo managed to get out of the besieged town along with their Jewish neighbours.
Today these relations are safeguarded by national associations that have signed an agreement to work together. So far they already have digitized their various periodicals and have, among other things, organized dance events and exhibitions of their artists.