May 26, 2018 – If the weather was an indication of anything, the Sharing Europe – Congress of The Hague 2018 ended Friday night May 25 on a very sunny note. For over 2 days, around 550 delegates from 20 European countries and beyond: thinkers, doers, officials and activists, old and young Europeans met in The Hague for a collective exploration of our common ground in addressing the current major transformations more constructively together and imagining the future of our continent, and the world.
The immediate occasion was of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the famous Congress of The Hague of 1948, where European of that era met in the same city, The Hague, to discuss how to rebuild Europe after two devastating world wars. Times have changed tremendously, but then again, they also have not. For human core needs and anxieties change only very slowly. Few people like hunger, warfare, being isolated, being destitute, being marginalized. Few people like to be dehumanized. Most people do wish some place in the sun.
So while economic conditions have shifted considerably and climate pressures, sustainability issues and challenges in social relations are rapidly mounting, basic human needs do not shift so drastically. Sharing Europe tried to foreground the vitality of many current citizens’ initiatives, dealing with our times. We were very happy to welcome ambassadors and representatives of 15 European embassies, representatives of cities and urban networks and associations fostering a range of urban innovation programs (such as Frank Vieveen, Smart City Lead City of Rotterdam, Marc Sanderson, Technical Director of Malaga City Council, Bas van den Barg, VNG (Association of Dutch Municipalities), Dr. Adham M Darawsha, First President of the Consulta delle Culture, City of Palermo. We were happy to collaborate with the Global Parliament of Mayors, whose secretariat is hosted at the City of The Hague. We heard from top notch creative leaders and critical thinkers, such as James Bradburne (director Pinacoteca Brera in Milan) and Wim Pijbes (former director Rijksmuseum, now Dream and Do) as seasoned cultural leaders, Margareta Drzeniek of the Davos Economic Forum, Joanna Maycock, Montserrat Mir, Anne Widegren, Winand Quaedvlieg, Paul Peters, Alexander Verbeeck, Jan Zielonka, Jeremy Waters, Maria Heider and Marina Monaco, reflecting the daily experiences of change in many European social networks, and reflecting on what people can contribute anew in these transformations. We saw and heard many representatives of collectives of young journalists and new European initiatives that try to capture the new spirit in Europe (such as Ties Gijzel of Are We Europe and Coen van de Ven and Johannes de Bruycker of the Caravan’s Journal, or Volt), young academics and public intellectuals who are moving to the forefront of tackling our major challenges together by new means (such as earth scientist Sebastian Bathiany, sustainable transitions prof Flor Avelino, European commons movement leader Sophie Bloemen, digital legal expert Jonathan McCully, Charlot Schans of Pakhuis De Zwijger, Josien Pieterse of Network Democracy with her Madrid counterpart Miguel Arana Catania, Sabina Biesheuvel of BlueCity, or our Ridderzaal keynote speaker Felix Klos who rearticulated what European commitment could look like, anew). We welcomed singer Azeline Calister and guitarist Ed Verhoeff, story teller Ogutu Muraya. And many many others, participants, Europeans and world citizens who wish to contribute to better interactions for better futures. Looking at all these contributors reflected that Europe as soft force, as transformational and as a beacon of hope is still possible.
So it was for good reasons that during our meetings, the ‘Agora’ concept was revived. Agoras are places where people meet, dialogue, debate, negotiate, trade, take time for each, do politics, and take a coffee or a wine together. Piazza, plaza, square, plein, agora… Europe has long been full of those places where people can really meet and take time to reflect, meet and laugh. We do need to cherish those public spaces, for they are the places where democracy can take shape.
Both in the congress part of the event on Thursday May 24, and in the special Ridderzaal ceremony on Friday and the open Plein (Parliament Square) lunch, the spotlight was firmly on dialoguing, debating, taking time for the great transitions of our days and for each other. And in the many encounters that followed of a wide variety of people who wish to contribute to better futures for all in Europe, the seeds of change became very clear. Concrete, tangible, in civic networks, in new connections, in new inspirations. This Europe is already in the making. It is ongoing, despite all the challenges and set backs.
Many speakers called for capturing this new foundational moment for Europe Not in a bubble, but very rooted, in concrete alternatives for current policies that may be too extractive of exclusionary. We were therefore very happy to have political representatives with us as well. Europarliamentarians Eva Maydell (also President of the European Movement), Paul Tang, Brando Benifei and Jo Leinen. We were honoured with the presence of Joris Backer, vice-chair of the Dutch Senate, which hosted our Ridderzaal ceremony, prof. Piet Hein Donner, vice-president of the Dutch Council of State and deputy Mayor of The Hague, Tom de Bruijn. And of course we felt extremely honoured and pleased by the presence of the Dutch deputy prime Minister, mrs. Kajsa Ollongren, who delivered the keynote VIP speech in the Ridderzaal on behalf of the Dutch government.
So the 70th anniversary of the first Congress of The Hague, this 2018 edition Sharing Europe will be a very memorable one. We are at crossroads in Europe. Old values: of equity, inclusion, freedom, solidarity, have not lost their pertinence. But institutional forms, relations and modus operandi will have to change. Many participants called for ‘daring to be ambitous’. Listening carefully to much of what was being exchanged, ‘daring to be ambitious’ in our time and age also means daring to be more open, more generous, more genuinely curious to differences, embracing diversity, being kind, civil, and being more humble, creating new spaces in the sun, and being rooted and related, to the real lives of real people.
The Congress of The Hague 2018 highlighted that such a more constructive Europe is possible and willed by many citizens. In fact, it is everywhere in the making. A new foundational moment for Europe: it is possible: let’s Action This Day!
Godelieve van Heteren, Mark Zellenrath, Laura Fruhmann, Kim de Jong
WORD OF THANKS
EBN and the EMI would like to thank our partners and all other contributors: The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Wicher Slagter); The City of The Hague (Kevin Verbaas, Martin Born, Frans van Bork, Caroline Schep, Paul Verhoeff), the Dutch Senate (Ankie Broekers-Knol, Geert Jan Hamilton, Annelies Pilon, Fred Bergman, Ronald Berghouwer, Rene Prins), the Liaison Bureau of the European Parliament (Danny de Paepe, Kristina Dimitrova, cc Eduard Slootweg), Meriam Evers-Oortwijn and Mathijs Eskes of the Bureau ‘Grafelijke Zalen’ en Johan de Witt Huis, The Representation of the European Commission (Caroline Richelle), Eveline van Boxel and the Board of the University of Leyden – Campus the Hague, the staff of the International Press Center Nieuwspoort, Europa Nostra, the European College of Brueges and many others: all speakers, Ben Lachhab van Resto Van Harte, colleagues of the security services RBO and Crowd Support, Bart Ter Mate and the Plein entrepreneurs, Marc Noble and colleagues of More Stage Services and podium crew, designer Reier Pos, Joshua Bolwerk of Bolwerk Media and filmer A. Fruhmann, Pieter Brooymans and technicians of GIT, Azeline Calister and Ed Verhoeff, Ogutu Muraya, moderators Rocky Tuhuteru and Mendeltje van Keulen, and all volunteers for their dedication and support to this event.
Without their efforts and input there would not have been a program!
For a retrospect of the Sharing Europe festival:
- An overview on the European Movement International website is here.
- The livestream of the conference is here
- The Sharing Europe trailer is here
- And this a link to the keynote speech by Minister Ollongren, deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the Sharing Europe festival