From the Victory Day to Corona Disarray – From Culture for Peace to Culture of Peace

At the Vienna School of International Studies (Diplomatische Akademie Wien), an international conference From the Victory Day to Corona Disarray, which marked 75 years of Europe’s collective Security – Legacy of antifascism for the common pan-European future and Human Rights System, was held on 1 July 2020.

The conference venue has a symbolic significance. German Queen Maria Theresa founded the Vienna Academy, under the name the Imperial-Royal Academy for Oriental Languages (Kaiserlich-königliche Akademie für Orientalische Sprachen) in 1754. Even though its name has changed over the centuries, this Academy officially holds the title of the oldest, European, higher education institution for diplomacy. The time chosen for this conference, as is evident in the title, is to commemorate the jubilee anniversary of the victory over fascism, but it is also in the mist of one of the biggest pandemics this world has seen in the last two centuries. Both cases, as logic dictates, should demonstrate the need for not only European but also global unity, empathy and cooperation based on the lessons learned in the antifascism struggle and the fight against epidemics that claimed more lives than the wars did. Topics on economics and globalization presented themselves as unavoidable, as they are both suffering blows due to the political dividedness, fights over energy resources, market and global influence and now consequences of the pandemic, as well.

More than 20 speakers, experts in the fields of politics, social and human sciences, arts and culture, from around the world, gave their opinions on the topic presented.  The diversity of the work and origin of the participants can be seen by the presence of these experts, to name just a few:

Steven Craig Clemons,American journalist and blogger. American printed and online magazine, The Hill, appointed Clemons as their editor-at-large on 19 April 2019. The Hill is owned by Capitol Hill Publishing, a daughter company of News Communications, Inc. Clemons, up until then, was the editor-at-large of The Atlantic, AtlanticLIVE, a digital business magazine Quartz andMicrosoft National Broadcasting Company. He gained particular popularity with Washington Note blog and spent considerable time in leading management positions of the American Strategy Program – a think tank of the American organization the New America Foundation. The New America is described as radical centrist in orientation. The term radical centrism gained in popularity after the Cold War ended, when the ideological fight between the left and the right wing disappeared leaving many to accept the political center options as the only adequate alternatives for the modern world.  Having opted for such politics, Clemons proclaimed himself to be a ‘progressive realist.’;

Anton Pelinke, an Austrian lawyer and political scientist, professor at the Central European University of Budapest ( Közép-európai Egyetem, CEU) and University of Innsbruck (Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck). Pelinka deals with a very broad spectrum of topics in contemporary political science, primarily the Austrian political system. Online Computer Library Center, OCLC is a nonprofit organization envisioned as a computer library system and research organization whose aim is to ease the access and lower the costs of information acquisition. It mostly indicates Pelinka’s papers Handbook of Prejudice, Global Austria: Austria’s Place in Europe and the World, Austria: Out of the Shadow of the Past, Social Democracy (Social Democrats in Europe), papers based on peace research (Friedensforschung, Konfliktforschung, Demokratieforschung. Ein Handbuch), Austrian historical memory and national identity, topics such as challenges of ethnic conflicts, democracy and self-determination in Central Europe as well as democracy in India (Democracy Indian style: Subhas Chandra Bose and the creation of India’s political culture). Pelinka puts emphasis on democratic theory, the political system and political culture in Austria and the comparative parties and associations research.  He is a leading international expert on topics like right-wing extremism and xenophobia in society, clearly illustrated in his paper Five questions to three generations. Anti-Semitism and us today.  (Fünf Fragen an drei Generationen. Der Antisemitismus und wir heute);

Laberto Zannier, Italian diplomat. Zannier has held, since 19 July 2017, the position of OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Previously, he served two consecutive, three-year mandates as the Secretary General of the OSCE from July 1 2011 until June 30 2017. From 2006 until 2008, he was the coordinator for Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP, and European Security and Defense Policy, ESDP, now Common Security and Defense Policy, CSDP. 

At the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he dealt with many issues, namely issues of EU foreign policy, as well as the involvement of Italy in EU operations. Between 2002 and 2006, he was Director of the Conflict Prevention Centre of the OSCE, where he focused on military and political topics as well as crisis management and was also responsible for the leadership of OSCE field operations.

He was appointed by the UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon, in June 2008 as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK, after Joachim Riker).

Zannier assumed his post at the most complicated of situations, at the time of unilateral declaration on Independence of Kosovo and the pressure for the UNMIK mission to be aborted. Lamberto Seeing it as realistically possible, Zannier accepted the offer for a group of more than 700 Serbs to be returned to Kosovo police and to have its own autonomy in the chain of command. He explained to the Albanian and other foreign media that such an act would make possible the forming of ethnically Serbian police within Kosovo police. However, after EULEX mission (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) was established on February 16 of the same year, Zannier’s authority was restricted. In June 2011, he left Kosovo but still maintains the theses that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade as well as communities within Kosovo is the only way to solve the problem of tensions and improve the situation of minorities living there. 

Also presenting their opinions: Werner Fasslabend (former Defence Minister, AIES President), Manfred Nowak (University of Vienna, Sec-Gen, Global Campus of HR, Venice), Zeno Leoni (King’s College London & Defense Academy of the UK), Thomas Stelzer (CEO – Dean of the Intl. IACA Academy), Ian Banerjee (Urban Futurist, Vienna University of Technology), Lizzie O’Shea (Human Rights lawyer, Future Histories originator, Ireland/Australia), Miriam Schreinzer (Culture Manager, Regional Music Advisory Board, Vienna), Hande Saglam (Director Deputy, Department of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology, Music University Vienna), Lawrence Gimeno (founder & CEO, ACSL), Anastasia Lemberg-Lvova (Artist, Estonia), Donald James Johnston (former Canada’s Minister and OECD Secretary General), Hayat Sindi, (Chief Advisor to the IsDB Bank President), Franz Fischler (President, Europen Alpbach Forum, former EU Commissioner), Nasser Kamel (Secretary General, Union for the Mediterranean) and (Mario Holzner, Director-General WIIW Austria).

It can be inferred, from the statements of the participants, that the majority supports realpolitik (progressive, according to Clemons) or center- right politics.  These opinions are criticized by the globally-oriented parties but the statements did raise several questions to which Europe still did not manage to give a unified answer; a rise to the right wing power, (self) isolation, the attempt to impose a unipolar order, the question of common defense not with Russia’s participation as one of the leaders of the antifascist struggle of 1941 – 1945 but specifically from, depending on who’s saying it, soft or hard influence of that same Russia. The question whether Europe’s collective security, with peaceful resolution of existing problems, would be made stronger or weaker by Moscow’s participation, begs to be answered.  The antifascist struggle, as absurd as it sounds, led to the polarization of the world into two blocks and the Cold War. After the disappearance of the Eastern block and the USSR and after the establishing of the unipolar world, it looked as if the global, cold or real wars were a thing of the past. Unfortunately, a new enemy started threatening the world – terrorism. The fact is, it is not only the world powers but every country that has its own interests. Russia, after its crisis, found itself again and is searching for its place in the world. But it is a new world now, with new powers of which Moscow is only one and not even the biggest one.  Entering the world stage are China, India, Iran … Is it possible to stifle their growth with accusations, fines and sanctions? Or will that cause the boomerang effect? Is it possible that the only road to one’s own homogenization and expansion is the constant creating of enemies? Is it possible that not even the Victory Day could be celebrated together, leaving aside vanity and envy? A worldwide, unified fight against terrorism or COVID would probably be much more successful. Maybe the economic and democratic development of India should be taken as one such positive example. Not a single person, aside from possibly a select few, believes that the forceful imposing of democracy brought prosperity to anyone. Terrorism, even with the use of the cutting-edge, fighting technology and ‘the all-seeing eye’ is still not completely defeated. Furthermore, there is a rise in not only religious but also racial conflicts, especially after COVID, as well as in economic conflicts. The Vienna conference posed a whole slew of questions and offered certain solutions.  

The first panel was entitled The WWII legacy, Nurnberg and Tokyo trials as a direct inspiration for the Universal and European Human Rights Charter, Antifascism as the European confidence building block, mutual trust and good neighborly relations.  The second panel had an even more interesting message – From Culture for Peace to Culture of Peace.

Can, at least, European trust and cooperation be built? Is there a peace culture? Is there an alternative to global and pan-European multilateralism? According to media, the echo of voices from the Festsaal was not heard far and wide. If it was even heard at all. 

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