Paul Dujardin (Chief Executive, Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels)

15.09.2011 - Interview conducted by Dan Gao & Sai Yang

Q: In your speech you proposed that different cultural centers of the EU member states should work together. Do you think there are common European values and identities that can be promoted worldwide?

Pragmatically speaking, it is a reality and not a new idea. Throughout history, there was a dialogue about the political reality. Borders existed to get money and taxes, but above these borders there was a cultural reality. Even though we are speaking different languages, you can find a lot of movements from the same cultural roots. During history we had a matrix of different views of society, for example Protestantism and Catholicism. Even the recent wars in the Balkans were fought because of religious reasons. The hegemony of power (economic power) was also a very important element of growing power of certain regions, like the German Empire, the Habsburg period in Austria and in Spain. This different economic development with the political power was linked to cultural development and was mostly spread throughout Europe. Where I come from, the Netherlands, Flanders and Belgium there was a balanced way of an open society in the sixteenth century. Erasmus is the major philosopher and we know very well Confucius who was thinking in a pragmatic way about how to organize a society economically. And that was the same for Erasmus. We had a development of a liberal society where economic development was possible. Erasmus was defending the values of development and of respect for the others. Even though he was not a friend of the Turks, he accepted the idea that other people can live with other ideas. He accepted and was fascinated by those ideas. He integrated those cultural and scientific values. Even though he did not like the Turks on the political level and even though there were wars and destructions, the soft power of the intellectuals was much more important than the military power. The military power caused catastrophic destruction in Europe also in the twentieth century. The First and the Second World War became really global wars. I am totally convinced that we have common values, we have common roots and we certainly can exchange that with the rest of the world, if we see it in a balanced way. It must be an exchange; it must be a dialogue. We cannot forget that we did not always have this power; the Chinese reality in Europe was very powerful in the beginning of the nineteenth century. There was a decline of the Chinese emperor power at the end of the nineteenth century, but we had a development of China in Africa; the Chinese roads are there from the nineteenth century, so the economic development and the interest in science was very famous. Even the power of the emperor in China was fascinated by the Indian culture. I was visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing where 650.000 art works are. I saw Indian art and other art outside of China collected by Chinese emperors.