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.
Photos: David Ausserhofer