Preparing the DCW Final Event… debating!

DSC_7187 copieThe approaching of the DCW Final Event was also the chance for us to organise our last preparatory activity. Once selected for the final event, students were asked to vote through online polls their favourite statements among the ones proposed by the EucA staff.

Those who got more votes were the following ones:

1) This House believes that the Russian Federation should publicly ask for forgiveness for USSR’s crimes against humanity.

2) This House believes that anyone who denies the historical reality of totalitarian crimes against humanity should be sanctioned under national law.

3) This House believes that European Union should implement common educational programs about the three totalitarianisms of the 20th Century (Fascism, Nazism and Communism) in each of the Member States.

4) This House believes that memory is only an individual matter, and political institutions should not interfere in it

All the teams (two for each statement to be debated, government and opposition) worked hard before coming to Brussels, thus having the chance to also emeet in advance their fellows

What remains of the troubled Twentieth Century? What are the legacies of the Communist totalitarianism in East and Central Europe? Can we speak of a need of the same recognition, condemnation or remembrance and commemoration initiatives than of the victims and crimes of Nazism? Is it possible to build a European identity among EU citizens without teaching them history from a European point of view? These were just some
of the questions students had to address or provocatively asked to their opponents

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Preparing the debate was also the chance for them to deeply analyse EU policies on the subject. The European Union has indeed started in the past years a series of initiatives about the public remembrance of 1989 and of the totalitarian regimes in the Twentieth Century. Namely, the European Parliament drafted a resolution on European Conscience and Totalitarianism in 2009.

The document has been followed by the project of the House of European History, a museum about the ancient, modern and contemporary history of Europe as a continent. The museum, which is scheduled to open in September 2016, will also try to reconcile the different narratives of the Cold War in Europe.
Finally, the European Union is increasingly intervening in national educational programs of the member States, trying to harmonize history teaching practices and textbooks.  However, this European “politics of memory” has been criticized as it could lead to a single narrative of the past, with the consequences of impoverishing academic and public debates and to reduce critical thinking about Europe history and identity. Therefore, the debates discussed also the political actions taken “in the name” of the recent European past, and tried to assess whether public remembrance of the Twentieth Century is appropriate and beneficial for nowadays Europe.

To put it in other terms: was Pierre Nora, a famous French historian, right when he said that “Memory divides, history unifies”?

No better preparation for the DCW Final Event!

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British-style Parliamentary Debate for the Brussels Symposium

For the 2nd Symposium that was held in Brussels, the EucA staff proposed a round of British-style parliamentary debate to the students selected to come to the event.

From the 5 motions proposed by EucA, students chose 3 through a poll on Facebook to be debated in Brussels on February 26th. Each student signed up for a team (government or opposition) and started collaborating online with the other members of their group. They could also use EucA’s preparatory documents that were provided (bibliography and context of each motion).

This preparation allowed students to know each other before the symposium, so when they met in person in Brussels, there was no need for introductions! Beside a socialising factor, the debate’s aim was to exercise a set soft skills related to public speaking and critical thinking and start a meaningful reflection on the topics related to the project.

The motion that opened the debate was “Dissidents who rebelled had superior moral qualities”. The government team – composed by Cristina Simarro Segura, Almudena Salort Orpi, Rocío Vega Gonzalez, Alexandru Heltianu, Marija Jurisic – stressed in their arguments that we should consider dissidents as heroes because they risked everything to follow a moral imperative. The opposition team – composed by Alina Strelkovskaia, Michal Blass, Amandeus Van Rossum, Nino Marzullo and Patrick Neu – argued for the necessity of being realistic, that is cruel to demand such a sacrifice, and that the moral aspect is not dominant, since the sum of all the key factors (economy, politics, etc.) does not produce moral progress. The government concluded stating that since their beliefs were stronger that fears, it can be said that dissidents had superior moral qualities, and the oppositions replied that we are not entitled to judge other people’s choices. The public voted for the opposition.

The following motion was “Stasi collaborators should be sanctioned”. The government team (Piotr Popeda, Givi Gigitashvili, Attila Beregszaszi, Jazmin Xenia Topuzidu, Tomasz Monastyrski) stressed the fact that evil must be punished according to the moral laws, while the opposition team (André Levi Ferreira, Lucas Williams-Serdan, Gregorio Ramella Pollone, Alessio Pellegrino, Elena Bernini) underlined the fact that there should be a commitment towards reconciliation, that having those trials means jeopardising the unity of the German Federation and to declare war to a part of the population. Although members of the government made desperate appeals to justice and respect of human rights violated by Stasi collaborators, the opposition, aimed to show the necessity of forgiveness, essential for the growth of Germany as a united nation again. The opposition won, but just by a few votes.

The last motion to be debated was “A dissident leaving his or her country does not contribute to the reform process”. The government (David Endre, Brigita Kupstaitite, Jonathan Seib, Laszlo Robert Szilagyi, Clemens Richenhagen) pointed out that leaving the country slowed the reform process and weakened the dissenters’ side. The opposition (Indrek Niibo, Noemi Magugliani, Marta Jagunic, Emma Oreskovic, Mateus Ribeiro da Cunha) stressed that mass emigration meant more visibility and thus, more power to the internal opposition. The opposition won just by one vote.

Preparations in Somosierra University College to attend Brussels Symposium

DCW is not only about the four symposia that gather University students from around Europe to discuss the project. There is much happening besides London and Brussels! Somosierra University College is organising in its premises in Madrid a series of preparatory activities to share the themes of the project to a wider audience of students and to help the delegation that will go to the Brussels symposium on February 27th to prepare better for the debate. Historians and journalists are guiding the students through a historical journey of Europe in the 20th Century, with a special focus to the Eastern side and points of view.

Preparatory activities in Colegio Mayor Somosierra, Madrid

Preparatory activities in Colegio Mayor Somosierra, Madrid

DCW in CM Somosierra_2

We’re glad to see that our project has inspired reflections on present days walls. On her blog Paola Olaso considers the difference between fences, walls, and partitions… in Spanish.

DCW continues its debate at Collegio Nuovo, Pavia

On November 29th 72 students have gathered in London in the first symposium of the project. Many more would have liked to take part, so national activities were organised throughout EucA’s network of University Colleges to share the experience in London with many more students. Elena Bernini, which was selected as representative of both Collegio Nuovo and the other Italian Colleges, organised such a meeting on December 10th. The questions asked were the same as throughout the project: how was life beyond the Iron Curtain? What acts of courage sustained the hope of entrapped nations? How was escape from totalitarian regime possibile? What methods did the state use to repress any quest for freedom?

In Collegio Nuovo, Pavia - Italy

Elena Bernini (left) during the presentation of the DCW activity Collegio Nuovo, Pavia – Italy. Joining her, Sara Franzone, EucA Ambassador.


East and Western Perceptions of the Iron Curtain – report from Zagreb, Croatia

The discussions and sharing of ideas and news continues well after our symposia end. Delegates take the experience back to their Halls of Residence so as to allow other students join the discussion. Maja Fabijanic and Ines Milas, the Croatian delegation to the first London symposium, are living in the Harmica Hall of Residence in Zagreb, Croatia. Maja was one of the student presenters last November in London, where she spoke about science development on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Discussions revolved around how the Iron Curtain and all its implication were viewed on its both sides, East and West.


Towards the 1st Symposium

IMG_20160503_174216326_HDROn 8 November 2014, a small group of UK students gathered in the Thomas More Institute in London to prepare the DCW Symposium. Dr. Martin Meenagh delivered a paper under the title ‘Freiheit Abgesperrt: The Berlin Wall and the Disputed Cause of Liberty during the Latter Cold War‘. The talk was followed by a lively period of questions and discussion on the functions of the Wall and the consequences of its Fall. There was also a moment of conversation among participants about the forthcoming first London Symposium.

Let’s start talking about Conscience

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.46.57“The consolidation and dissolution of the conscience” is the title of a two-day conference hosted by the Almo Collegio Borromeo in Pavia, on November 3rd-4th 2014.

Speakers included: his Eminence Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi; the Most Reverend Giovanni Giudici, bishop of Pavia; Luca Vanzago, University of Pavia; Stefano Cappa, Scuola Superiore Universitaria IUSS, Pavia; Lorenzo Magrassi, University of Pavia.

No better way for our students to start preparing themselves for the DCW Project.

Almo Collegio Borromeo in Pavia is EucA member.