Towards a Common History of Europe?
Crossed Perspectives in the Context of the War in Ukraine
An international conference organized by the French Embassy in the Czech Republic and the French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences (CEFRES), within the framework of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
When: Thursday, April 14, 2022, 2:30-6 pm
Where: French Embassy in the Czech Republic, Velkopřevorské nám. 2, 118 01 Malá Strana, Prague
To assist in person: admission on registration, subject to availability of places: email@example.com
To assist online: us02web.zoom.us/j/85072557320
In his press conference on December 9, 2021, on the occasion of the presentation of the priorities of the French Presidency of the European Union in 2022, the French President Emmanuel Macron proposed to “resume (…) major work on Europe’s history. (…),” further specifying that ” European history is not simply the sum of 27 national histories. There is a coherence, links that everyone feels, but which cannot be fully apprehended yet.” It is therefore a question of “an independent historiographical framework”, which could allow to ” build an academic framework where historians from across Europe can continue to carry out independent historical work, based on traces, evidence and controversies (…) and to forge a history and historiography of our Europe and a global history of Europe”.
By bringing the war back to the European continent, the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has given tragic relevance to this issue. If a history of Europe can indeed be conceived, how can we make room for the plurality of national histories, combine the episodes of the past and reconcile the stories of the victors and the vanquished of the same conflict in a common narrative? The emergence of a space for debate on the experiences of the past presupposes a reciprocal acceptance of the past, including its dark pages: only on this condition can a common meaning be given, in the framework of an open and multilateral discussion. What is to be done with the unresolved conflicts and unhealed suffering ensuing from imperialism and tragedies of the Second World War, Nazism, Stalinism, and the numerous population displacements resulting from the ending conflicts and the shifting of the borders? Certain episodes of the past, especially when they still affect those who lived through them and their descendants pertain to the questions of society, politics, and remembrance. The concern to influence memory is all the more important as recollections of the experience, public narratives, and political motivations diverge and generate controversies and polemics. How can such discrepancies be reduced and under what conditions can the construction of a common narrative be effective? What can we achieve from it?
Since the history of Europe is not the same as that of the European Union, It is also crucial to ask to what extent can the latter become a lens from which to tell the story of the history of Europe as a whole. What could be, in the first instance, a common history of the European Union itself? This history could unfold from the lowest common denominator: the will for peace, the construction of a corpus of rights and values, the creation of a common market, etc. It could also embrace all the features of the “European project” at the risk of a retrospective smoothing out, which would no longer be history. How can we avoid teleology and integrate failures, trials and errors, crises, and Brexit into the historical narrative? For whom, finally, is a common narrative to be written?
To debate these questions, CEFRES and the French Embassy in the Czech Republic, within the framework of the French Presidency of the European Union, bring together personalities from the intellectual, cultural, academic and international expertise worlds, from France and Central Europe.
Welcoming remarks: 14:30
Mr Alexis Dutertre, French Ambassador to the Czech Republic
Dr. Jérôme Heurtaux, Director of CEFRES
Round-table 1: 14:40-16:10
Is a common history of Europe possible?
Lived experiences, living memories
Moderated by: Dr. Michèle Baussant, Director of research at CNRS, CEFRES
- PhDr. Oldřich Tůma, Institut for contemporary history, Czech Academy of Sciences
- Mr Basil Kerski, Director of the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, editor-in-chief of the Polish-German magazine DIALOG
- Dr. Thornike Gordadzé, Senior Fellow at International Institute for Strategic Studies (London, Berlin), former minister for European integration of Republic of Georgia
Round-table 2: 16:20-17:50
How to do the history of the European Union?
Converging and diverging points of view
- Dr. Constanze Itzel, Director of the House of European History, Brussels
- Dr. Laure Neumayer, Junior professor in political science, University of Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens
- Dr. Christian Ingrao, Director of research at CNRS
Cocktail offered by the French Embassy
Image: Urbán Tamás “The fall of the Iron Curtain at the Austrian border with Hungary”, 1989, fortepan.hu ID40703