In an age of growing political, national and religious divisions, discourses of history have become inseparable from their political meaning. The Körber History Forum addresses issues of history and politics on a European and global level, annually bringing together 200 international experts from the realms of academia, politics and diplomacy, civil society and the media in Berlin. The conference is complemented by confidential round-table meetings of the Körber History Reflection Group, allowing for exchange and in-depth debate at venues that offer authentic insight into Europe’s contested pasts.
The conflicting relationship between politics and history was the focus of this year's Körber History Forum 2018. The list of speakers included Erkki Tuomioja, former Finnish Foreign Minister and Chairman of "Historians Without Borders", sociologist Eva Kovács from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, political anthropologist Esra Özyürek from the London School of Economics, historian Philipp Ther from the University of Vienna as well as Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı.
"All over the world, we see that a free and democratic community is something very fragile," said Thomas Paulsen, member of the Executive Board of the Körber Foundation at the opening of the two-day conference in Berlin, which brought together international scholars, journalists, politicians, intellectuals and mediators of history for the third time. "Democracy is not a given, it has to be nurtured and fostered, it has to be defended against its enemies, but it also has to evolve, it has to be re-established and renegotiated time and again."
What are the reservations expressed about immigration in the EU based on, and how have fears about integration been approached throughout history? On the sidelines of the Körber History Forum, historian Philipp Ther, from the University of Vienna, and Gergely Prőhle, Hungary’s former ambassador in Berlin, explain their positions in the debate.
Philipp Ther is convinced that migration permeates European history. However, he emphasises the need to differentiate between refugees, labour migrants and other forms of migration. Ther also stresses fear and rejection as central motifs that have always been associated with migration in Europe. Moreover, he emphasises that history shows that host countries have almost always benefitted from migration in the long term.
Gergely Prőhle explains the reservations expressed by Central and Eastern European countries when it comes to accepting refugees. Prőhle maintains that these countries have yet to make the same positive experiences that the West has made with migration. As such, he argues that the parliamentary majority, as an expression of the will of the Hungarian population, should be able to decide who can live in the country. Prőhle and Ther vividly discussed these issues at the 2018 Körber History Forum in Berlin and they set out their views in more detail in the following.
Is Europe about to lose its unity? And what is the value of Europe? The Bulgarian intellectual Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Studies in Sofia, gave answers to these questions in his opening keynote at the Körber History Forum 2018 on May 28th in Berlin.
How should Europe address the challenges of flight and integration against the background of its history of migration and integration? The historian Philipp Ther of the University of Vienna, the political anthropologist Esra Özyürek of the London School of Economics, the EU advocacy director of Human Rights Watch Lotte Leicht and the former Hungarian ambassador to Berlin Gergely Prőhle joined in this debate. Ansgar Graw, chief reporter of the German daily Die Welt, moderated the discussion.
How can the experience of the Cold War help to overcome today’s confrontation between Russia and the West? Discussion participants were the Russian journalist and author Maxim Trudolyubov and the former Finnish ambassador to Berlin and Moscow, René Nyberg. Judy Dempsey, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe, moderated the discussion.