Steinmeier at the Goethe-Institut “Nothing works without culture”
Today, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the head office of the Goethe-Institut in Munich for the first time, where he was informed about the latest projects by Germany’s largest mediating organization for foreign cultural and educational policy. In a discussion in front of more than three hundred staff members, he spoke about what politics and culture can accomplish.
Johannes Ebert shows Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife information about the Goethe-Institut’s activities for refugees | Photo: Loredana La Rocca / Goethe-Institut
During a tour of various parts of the building, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was given insights into projects for refugees, international educational programmes and the worldwide social media activities of the institute.
During his visit, the Federal foreign minister explained, “The Goethe-Institut is the flagship and the brand of our foreign cultural and educational policy. Its more than 150 branch offices are important hubs of the cultural infrastructure of Germany abroad, ambassadors for our language and free cultural zones for mutual dialogue. Especially in times of amassing crises and conflicts, we need these free zones more than ever, both literally and figuratively. They help us to rethink the connections between the ‘domestic and foreign’ and to better look after Germany’s responsibility for the work of the 21st century.”
Responsibility for the European cultural region
Presentation in the videoconference room about digital projects | Photo: Loredana La Rocca / Goethe-Institut In his welcoming address, the president of the Goethe-Institut, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, made clear that Europe must again become a continent of respect and discourse, adding, “No European should ever feel like a foreigner in a European country. Only the market economy perspective can steer us towards a shared responsibility for a European cultural region. The Goethe-Institut is emphatically committed to this.”
Johannes Ebert, the secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut, stated, “We are pleased about the visit of the foreign minister, which is also a sign of the high esteem that the Goethe-Institut enjoys in such turbulent times for foreign policy. We believe that cultural dialogue and international educational programmes are more important than ever.”
Tour of the head office of the Goethe-Institut – here, the exhibition “Germany, Land of Inventors” | Photo: Loredana La Rocca / Goethe-Institut What can politics und culture accomplish?
Foreign minister Steinmeier, secretary-general Johannes Ebert, the architect Regine Keller (TU Munich) and the two writers Albert Ostermaier and Tilman Spengler held a discussion about what politics and culture can accomplish in the present situation and about what its responsibilities are. Three hundred staff members observed the discussion at the head office while 65 institutes around the world streamed it live.
On the panel (left to right): Albert Ostermaier, Johannes Ebert, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, Regine Keller and Tilman Spengler | Photo: Loredana La Rocca / Goethe-Institut “Nothing works without culture,” Steinmeier summed up. From different points of view, the participants discussed how the integration of refugees and solidarity within Europe can be achieved and how civil society can be strengthened in view of censorship and interventions in the public space. Apart from Europe, the conversation focussed in particular on the developments in China and Africa and their repercussions in Europe.
Tilman Spengler, speaking about his experiences with cultural dialogue in China, a country characterized by censorship, and the role of German institutions, said, “We must not surrender our cultural autonomy but at the same time must not moralise. What the Goethe-Institut has achieved in China is exemplary.”
Regina Keller described how foreign cultural and educational policy can effectively contribute to discourse over the public space, saying, “Our job is to reach the people in the public space, even those who have no address because they live in slums – they are here in Europe as well, right outside our doors.”
“Culture can be a beachhead and can absorb and express fears unsparingly and uncompromisingly. Artists do not stand at the fringes, but are part of their society,” said Albert Ostermaier of the writer’s forum “front:text” that he curates at the Literaturfest Munich.
Goethe-Institut staff members with the Federal foreign minister | Photo: Loredana La Rocca / Goethe-Institut