6 countries, 6 places of remembrance and 12 Dome Talks – that was the motto of this year's European Public Sphere „Remember tour“. Supported by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union, the Remember Tour was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which former French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman held on 9 May 1951. In this declaration he suggested a common European Coal and Steel Community for France, Germany and other countries willing to join.
To honour the starting point of what later developed into today’s European Union, all 12 Dome Talks of the tour each took take place at important places of remembrance. Inspired by the past we talked about what has already been achieved and the upcoming tasks of the European Union. And there was a lot to be inspired by!
“Democratic processes and structures should not be taught, but experienced. We need to foster political participation in young people, not prevent it.”
Participant at Border Museum Schifflersgrund
We kicked-off the tour in July with 2 discussions at the Border Museum Schifflersgrund. Situated close to the centre of Germany, the Border Museum today presents the longest still existing part of the fence marking the former inner-German border until 1989. It keeps the memory alive of a lot of lives marked by separation and struggles for freedom but also by unification in Germany and - as was rightly pointed out again during the discussions - in Europe. A place to really feel what all of us gain from unity, open borders, and shared values on a daily basis! We were happy to welcome many civil society representatives from both bordering German federal states, politicians from the local to the federal and even European level, and of course citizens!
”Our generation has the power to build a consolidated society. We are the change that we want to see in the world.”
Participant in Bucharest
Our next stop, also in July, took us to Bucharest. At University Square, the city’s historical Kilometre 0 of Democracy, we hosted a political brunch at a local pub. It was at University Square that the Romanian people fought for their liberty in December 1989 against the Ceaușescu-regime. It was also at University Square that the conflict between the new rulers and the crystallizing civil society peaked in June 1990, when the new government called on miners in Jiu Valley to violently suppress anti-communist protests. Still today, University Square is the central spot for demonstrations for democracy, liberties and European values in Bucharest.
More than 40 people spent their Saturday with us thinking about democracy, corruption, East and West, the role of youth and many more topics.
"The most important thing, in my opinion, is education, and that is through personal example. Because if we do not show love for nature in our daily lives, which is the most natural thing, we cannot pass it on to others."
Participant in Burgas
Burgas was the third stop on our tour at the beginning of August and right next to the beach at Seaside Park, at the most South-Eastern part of the European Union, the discussion could not have been more fruitful and relaxed. While the demonstrations for a change in regime in November 1989 took place in the city centre at Cyril and Methodius Square, the Park was one of the few places where these anti-communist and pro-democratic ideas could emerge and be spread among the citizens without putting one’s life at risk. Together with again more than 40 participants and several activists who were crucial for the country’s democratic development at the time and probably still today, we spent the sunny afternoon and evening discussing democracy and climate action, connecting over a homemade drink in the sunset and of course enjoying local singer Roza Bozhinova’s music during the discussion break.
“What we see (in Poland) is transgender parents sending their children abroad because they are scared for their lives.”
Participant in Copenhagen
WorldPride 2021 in Copenhagen was the fourth highlight of the Remember Tour at the end of August. The Dome was placed at 1:1 Democracy Festival which was associated with WorldPride. The discussions brought many shortcomings and persisting threats to equality, minority rights and Europe to light. Most memorable was the discussion on the worsening situation in Poland but also and mostly unnoticed in Slovenia for LGBTQIA+. With the Polish government proclaiming LGBTQIA+ people as the number 1 enemy of the state and transsexual parents sending their children away because they are fearing for their lives, a strong call was made by all activists to cut governmental EU-funding more quickly and support civil society fostering EU-values instead.
"Standing together has been critical for us in order to face all the recent crisis we have passed through. This is one of the reasons why the European Union is so important in our lives."
Participant in Warsaw
Very fitting, the 5th stop of the Remember Tour took place at Łazienki Park in Warsaw in mid-September. These Royal Gardens, located at the centre of the capital, are known mostly because of Poland’s last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski. In his summer residence he organised the famous “Thursday meetings” where the most influential people of the time discussed the functioning of the state. These meetings, among many other things, resulted in great reforms of the state, including Europe’s first constitution – the Constitution of the 3rd May.
Under the Dome a really international group came together and discussed, easily switching between English and Polish. A paradox was pointed out with national governments in certain countries being the entities hampering the EU’s further development and twisting communication about the EU to their citizens while at the same time receiving most of the funds and distributing them without highlighting the European support. So could a Europe of the regions help to circumvent these intermediaries if necessary?
"As long as there is no blood circulation between the political parties and civil society, the former will die."
Participant in Prague
Prague was the final stop of the Remember Tour during the yearly Festival of Democracy in mid-October.
Rain could not keep our 40 participants from joining the discussions. Together with citizens, activists from the student movements of 1989, national and European politicians, we explored the state of democracy in Czech Republic right after the elections and the state of democracy in Europe. Once more, differences between Western Europe and the rest of the European Union based on the experience with historical regimes, the role of youth, climate and many more issues were brought up.
While the tour and idea collection may be over, we’re looking forward to an exciting second phase of the project! In May next year we’ll finish with a handover of the ideas and concerns voiced by all participants to European decision-makers in a special Remember-Catalogue of Ideas. As we welcomed several MEPs, representatives of the European Commission and ministers under the Europe Dome during the discussions, some already agreed to receive the Catalogue of Ideas once it’s finished.
And all of us still have something to look forward to in this period of analysis. Starting in November, we’ll share one summary video of each stop every month – so all of us get to relive some of the best moments of the tour and experience Europe and it’s wealth of ideas first hand!