Photo Ivan Krastev ©Marcin Kalinski/PAP
Ivan Krastev ©Marcin Kalinski/PAP

15 Years in the Neighbourhood: Ivan Krastev in conversation with Philipp Dietachmair

Tandem Programme Manager at ECF, Philipp Dietachmair, has taken the publication of the book Another Europe as a starting point for a fascinating conversation with one of Europe’s most respected political scientists, Ivan Krastev, in which they also talk about the importance of programmes like Tandem.

Another Europe book - pages about Tandem.

At one point, the conversation focused specifically on the impact of Tandem, here’s a fragment:  

Philipp Dietachmair

When we look at feedback from participants who have joined our Tandem Ukraine Cultural Exchange Programme in 2014, we see an interesting phenomenon: on the one hand we have of course some Ukraine-EU collaborations who engage with the burning political questions of the past years. But at least half of the group tells us how much they appreciate our programme because it supports them in doing what is important for their work and in their city and doesn’t force them to constantly discuss all the things that are so challenging for their country. There are so many international programmes which focus on conflict and politics now, they say Tandem offers a framework, a safe space where life continues ‘normally’ and participants can focus on their work within their local communities.

Ivan Krastev

Good cultural programmes are like cooking and gardening: they are very local. There is no universal model. What works in one place is not necessarily going to work in another. There are places where people simply will not discuss what divides them. And people should be respected for this. They are buying time, just like Europe had been buying time in the 1940s and 50s. In the same Germany that we praise so much today there was a lot of silence back then. This silence basically turned out to be very productive because it was the silence that produced the 1960s and the opening of German society. We cannot demand this productive silence from people everywhere of course, and in certain contexts, they need to shout at each other occasionally. But, as long as they shout at each other from face to face, that’s fine. What I'm afraid of is when people are shouting at each other from their own ghettos, and when they are starting to dehumanise the other side. New media is making this much easier. Because on Facebook, you are staying with people who share your views. We are much more ghetto prone than we realise, and yet, there are cultural problems to discuss. Yes, some people want to discuss –and in the end it could be even through opera, it could be anything. People should know that living together is not easy.

This is kind of an important thing to understand and this is why cultural programmes should have a totally different space and position. They should not be perceived simply as support for better cultural policies or as cultural management education. We need to go back to the heart of what culture is: allowing people to live together, while keeping their differences well articulated. Tensions in our post-conflict societies are very high and this is how we are going to make it work.

This long and much needed conversation has been divided into five parts:
Part 1: Looking Back
Part 2: Identity Politics
Part 3: A Common Ground Across Geographies
Part 4: Finding a New Language
Part 5: Culture and Politics

You can read the full interview on ECF’s website or download a print-friendly version (PDF).