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Sponsors dinner of the European Cultural Days

Dinner speech by Sabine Lautenschläger, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB and Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism, on the occasion of a get-together of friends and supporters of the European Cultural Days organised in cooperation with Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main, 20 June 2016

First of all, many thanks to the hosts, Friedrich von Metzler, honorary citizen of Frankfurt, and Sylvia von Metzler, who, as friends of the EUROPEAN CULTURAL DAYS of the ECB, have again this year opened the doors of their home to us.

Hospitality is becoming increasingly important in a world which is growing ever closer together. That includes offering hospitality to people from other countries and cultures. But it is precisely this type of hospitality that some people find difficult.

Allow me to quote from a French cultural icon – not from Proust or Flaubert – but from an Asterix adventure. In the story, an innkeeper from the town of Orange moves with his family to the small Gallic village where Asterix lives. This prompts Geriatrix, the oldest inhabitant there, to say: “You know me, I’ve got nothing against foreigners, some of my best friends are foreigners, but these particular foreigners aren’t from this village!”.

This story was published in 1974, but the sentiment is alarmingly familiar. Fear of purported foreigners prevents many people from showing hospitality – it’s the same today as it was forty or a hundred years ago.

But are people from different backgrounds and cultures really so foreign? Are they really different from us? I don’t think so. It is precisely art and culture that show us this so clearly. All over the world, people are making music, painting pictures, telling stories and performing plays. And fundamentally it is always the same feelings that are being expressed: joy, sorrow, anger, love, hope. Whatever the medium of expression may be, at heart the message is the same. Art and culture teach us much about others and much about ourselves – but above all they show us how much we all have in common.

The goal and the merit of the ECB’s European Cultural Days is to showcase these similarities and at the same time promote understanding of the differences. The focus on culture is indeed in the spirit of a great European – Jean Monnet. He reportedly said: “If I had a chance to start the construction of Europe again, I would start with culture”.

Jean Monnet was convinced that Europe belongs together. He was convinced that it has to, and that it can, belong together. I share this conviction. And your support, ladies and gentlemen, for the ECB’s Cultural Days shows me that you too share this conviction.

This year’s series of cultural events will also help to make Europe grow a little closer together. You are all making an important contribution to that, and I warmly thank you on behalf of the ECB.

Looking back, we also wish to thank Malta, which delighted us with a great programme last year. Malta is a first-class example of how different cultures can come together and forge something new. A distinct culture has, over time, emerged from Carthaginian, Phoenician, Roman, French and British influences. Thinking very long term, I see it as providing inspiration for a united Europe.

However, we don’t have to look quite so far into the future for the Cultural Days 2016. Our thanks go to the Deutsche Bundesbank, with whom the ECB is jointly organising the EUROPEAN CULTURAL DAYS this year. Andreas Dombret will give us a brief overview of the highlights of the programme shortly.

As for myself, I would like to conclude by referring to another European, who was born in Dublin, lived in London and died in Paris: Oscar Wilde. His view of culture was as down to earth as it was comprehensible. He said: “Culture depends on cookery”. In that respect, this evening is an additional cultural reward for us all.

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