Interview with Johannes Ebert
“Freedom is the foundation of our European society”

Civil societies are under ever-increasing pressure from worldwide populist movements. Cultural institutions therefore bear a special responsibility: Their mission is to initiate discussion processes and promote international dialogue. In an interview, CEO Johannes Ebert explains how the Goethe-Institut is presently meeting these global challenges. 

Strengthening Europe

Together with other European cultural institutions, it is vital that we reflect on the problems and the future of Europe. Johannes Ebert notes that, “In our immediate neighbouring countries and even right on our doorstep, we suddenly are having debates that many of us thought we had overcome. I firmly believe that institutions have a special responsibility here: We should question supposed certainties and seek out a dialogue with each other – even where similarities are not obvious.” In the coming years, the Goethe-Institut will provide advice, further training and networking to strengthen civil society initiatives and infrastructures, both inside and outside of Europe. For, in the face of the Brexit referendum, the emergence of Euro-critical, often right-wing populist parties or the economic gap within the member states, European engagement is more important than ever. For example, with its Freiraum project, the Goethe-Institut is using its Europe-wide network to bring European partners together around one table.

Advancing digitalisation

Digital offers are another crucial task. Johannes Ebert says, “We can, first of all, significantly increase our range, our capacity to reach people. This means we can offer information in countries everywhere. Secondly, we can reach young people much better since communication behaviours have changed entirely in the last twenty years.” For cultural exchange, it is important to understand the digital media as an integral part of cultural work, but also to critically consider and address their risks.