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Unity in Diversity? Culture, Heritage and Identity in Europe

Monday April 15th to Tuesday April 16th, 2024

From April 15th to 16th, a meeting of high-ranking professionals from renowned European cultural and heritage institutions, policymakers from the EU member states and EU institutions, and the European cultural sector will take place in Antwerp. 

The aim of the conference is to delve deeper into the complex connections between the concepts of culture, heritage, and identity within Europe. By fostering an open and stimulating debate, together with the Flanders Heritage Agency, we aim to discuss the versatility of these concepts and map out the connections between them. Central to these discussions is the question of how culture and heritage contribute to the formation and expression of identity, and which challenges and opportunities this poses. 

De zoo


Inviting cultural policy makers, European institutions and cultural and heritage institutions and networks from all over Europe, the conference aims at:

  • Initiating and inspiring thought-provoking conversations upon these concepts at a European level between all parties invited
  • Listening to and learning from each other
  • Networking across Europe between all parties invited

Afterwards, on April 17th, members of the Reflection Group EU and Cultural Heritage are invited for a meeting of the Reflection Group EU and Cultural Heritage. Kindly note that this meeting is for members of the Reflection Group only.

Annelies Van Herck, news anchor and presenter at the Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Organisation (VRT), hosts the conference and guides the plenary conversations between the keynote speakers and participants, fostering dialogue and reflection.

This conference is hosted by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

Practical information


Monday, April 15th, 15:00 – Tuesday April 16th, 17:30


The conference will take place at the Flanders Meeting and Convention Center Antwerp ‘A Room with a Zoo:

  • Entrance for Monday, April 15th: Koningin Astridplein 20, 2018 Antwerp, Belgium
  • Entrance for Tuesday, April 16th: Carnotstraat 4, 2018 Antwerp, Belgium

The first conference day, on April 15th, will close with a cultural performance and dinner at the Royal Museum of fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA): Leopold de Waelplaats 1, 2000 Antwerpen


Hotel rooms with breakfast in partner hotels are available for booking through the booking link provided on the registration platform. Be sure to register quickly since the number of rooms in each hotel is limited and available until the 8th of April.

Event programme

IMPORTANT: it is mandatory to register for the breakout sessions, the dinner on 15/04, the lunch on 16/04 and the cultural activities. This can be done through the accreditation platform (see below).

All guests are automatically registered for the plenary sessions of the event programme.

The preliminary programme is as follows:

Monday April 15th

Conference center ‘A room with a ZOO’ | Entrance Koningin Astridplein 20 | 2018 Antwerp 


Plenary welcome

  • Flemish Minister for Finance and Budget, Housing and Immovable Heritage


Plenary keynotes and conversations - The European cultural space: What, when, where and if?

Europe is a continent steeped in culture and history, interspersed with diverse traditions and languages, and enriched by varied cultural landscapes. While the European Union, founded on shared principles and values, fosters a shared economic market and a common political vision, the notion of a European cultural space raises intriguing questions. In the midst of globalisation, digitalisation and migration, what defines a European cultural space in today's and tomorrow's Europe? Who does it encompass, and what significance does it hold?

Moderated by Annelies Van Herck


Transport to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp

After assembling in front of the Zoo, participants will be transported by buses to the museum.



Welcome at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp

The Mayor of Antwerp will welcome the participants at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and connects the conference themes with the museum.

  • Mayor of Antwerp


Dance performance throughout the museum

Step into the dynamic world of ROSAS, a pioneering contemporary dance company founded by visionary choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Since its founding in 1983, ROSAS has pushed the boundaries of dance, crafting mesmerizing performances that explore rhythm, geometry and emotion with unparalleled artistry. With an international impact spanning prestigious venues and festivals worldwide, ROSAS invites audiences to immerse themselves in its transformative power and join a journey of discovery and artistic exploration.



Walking dinner and museum visit

The Presidency offers a walking dinner and free access to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.

Discover this cultural gem nestled in the heart of the city. Renowned for its impressive collection of artworks spanning centuries, this museum offers a captivating journey through the history of art. From Flemish masters with the impressive Rubens-Room to contemporary talents, immerse yourself in the beauty and diversity of artistic expression.

Experts in the museum rooms will be your guides to the vast collection of the museum.


Tuesday April 16th

Conference center ‘A room with a ZOO’ | Entrance Carnotstraat 4 | 2018 Antwerp 


Opening statement

  • Minister-President of the Government of Flanders and  Flemish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Culture, Digitalisation and Facility Management


Plenary keynote and debate - Cultural spaces and identities in Europe: unity in diversity? 

Building on yesterday’s inspiration, insights and debate, we continue exploring the dynamic interplay between cultures and identities in Europe, celebrating diversity while seeking common threads or unity. From the bustling streets of cosmopolitan cities to the serene landscapes of rural communities, from ancient customs passed down through generations to contemporary expressions of art and literature, we will explore the myriad ways in which culture manifests and thrives across Europe, shaping cultural spaces and identities. Subsequently introducing views from outside of Europe, we ask ourselves: are these discussions and ways of thinking and living distinctive for Europe? How is Europe looked upon by other parts of the world?


  • Peter Sloterdijk - Prof. Dr., philosopher, cultural theorist and author (Germany)


  • Caroline de Gruyter - Europe correspondent/columnist for NRC, Foreign Policy, De Standaard and EU observer (The Netherlands)
  • Tinneke Beeckman - Philosopher, lecturer and columnist (Belgium)
  • André P. DeBattista - Assistant Lecturer at the Institute for European Studies, at the University of Malta (Malta) 

Moderated by Annelies Van Herck






  • The role of culture and regions in the multi-layered process of identification in Europe

Delving into the intricate relationship between culture and regional and European identity, this session explores the dynamics of identification within Europe's diverse cultural landscapes. Join us as we navigate through key questions and practices that shape our understanding of regional and European identities.


  • Culture and heritage as cornerstones for European identity building

Uniting a diverse range of cultures is necessary for the creation of the European Union. The Creative Europe Programme and the European Heritage Label are examples of European policy instruments that promote artistic creativity and cross-border contacts and highlight the European dimension of witnesses of the history or the construction of Europe. However, the Union also uses a wide range of symbols and programmes, such as the European Flag and the European Hymn, to highlight the idea of shared Europeanness, which unites the over 450 million people who live in the Union.



  • Public spaces and cultural memory

Public spaces stand as pivotal arenas where cultural memories are safeguarded and collective identities being shaped. From memorials and museums to landscapes and heritage sites, these spaces play a crucial role in embodying collective narratives of the past in relationship to current day and age and contributing to a sense of belonging in communities. Explore the significances of memorial sites and landscapes in safeguarding our shared culture and heritage and collective memories.



  • Cultural resilience in conflict: impact, destruction and recovery

 In times of conflict, culture and heritage become (symbolic) battlegrounds, targeted by conflicting actors seeking to reshape identities through intentional destruction, and safeguarded by communities seeking to hold on to their culture and identity. This session explores the dual role of culture and cultural heritage as a target in conflict and a catalyst for (cultural) identity, healing and resilience. It discusses deliberate attacks that destabilize (cultural) identities and communities, the significance of international conventions like the 1954 UNESCO Convention and the 2021 EU Foreign Affairs Council's conclusions, case studies such as recent conflicts in Europe, and measures to prevent destruction and aid in post-conflict recovery and resilience.



  • Media, cultural narratives and a common identity

In today's world, media wield immense power in shaping public perceptions and cultural narratives. With diverse platforms like streaming services, television, social media, podcasts and vlogs, people are constantly exposed to influences that reflect personal and common values, beliefs, narratives and interests, also contributing to the construction of collective identities. This session explores the role of media in shaping collective cultural narratives, exploring its impact on regional, national and European levels.



  • Cultural Diversity in Action: European Practices

Europe is a tapestry of cultures, each contributing to a collective identity woven with diverse traditions and cultural narratives. From renowned opera houses to projects involving young people in the European story, this breakout session delves into cultural institutions working with or exploring cultural identity, sharing insights and methodologies in their programming.

  • Karl-Heinz Lambertz - Former Minister-President of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, former President of the European Committee of the Regions and Council of Europe member (Belgium)
  • Clara Montero Tellechea - Cultural Director Tabakalera, International Centre for Contemporary Culture (Spain)
  • Jacob O'Sullivan - Museum Development Manager, Museums Galleries Scotland (UK)


  • Gabrielle Bernoville - Policy assistant in the Creative Europe Department, European Commission (Belgium)
  • Tuuli Lähdesmäki - Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland)
  • Constanze Itzel - Museum Director, The House of European History (Belgium) 


    • Piet ChielensFormer Director of the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ in Ypres (Belgium)
    • Lenia Marques - Assistant Professor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Lead of the CultSense project (Erasmus project) (The Netherlands)
    • Christelle Dethy - Projects and educational department manager at Le Bois du Cazier (Belgium)

    Moderated by Peter De Wilde, CEO of the Flanders Heritage Agency and acting CEO of VISITFLANDERS (Belgium)


    • Vasyl Cherepanyn - Director, Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv Biennial (Ukraine)
    • Dr. Ana Milosevic, KU Leuven (Belgium) and Radicalisation Awareness Network (EU)
    • Oriol Freixa Matalonga - Liaison Officer Culture, 
      UNESCO Liaison Office Brussels


    • Jesse Fabré - Producer for House ‘De Mensen’, (Belgium)
    • Tatjana Samopjan - Creative Consultant, Midpoint Institute (Sweden) 
    • Matthias Röder - Dr., CEO Karajan Institute and Director Beethoven X - The AI Project (Germany)






    Cultural Intervention: Waelrant Choir

    Immerse yourself in a captivating artistic intervention, featuring the esteemed Waelrant Choir of Antwerp, led by conductor Marleen De Boo. Renowned for their harmonious melodies and emotive performances, the choir brings cultural richness to the forefront through their evocative renditions. Join us as we experience the synergy of music and culture, adding a harmonious touch to our conference proceedings.  


    15:00-15:30  Break  

    BREAKOUT SESSIONS: repeating of the morning break-out sessions 

    • The role of culture and regions in the multi-layered process of identification in Europe   

    • Culture and heritage as cornerstones for European identity building 

    • Public spaces and cultural memory 

    • Cultural resilience in conflict: impact, destruction and recovery 

    • Media, cultural narratives and a common identity 

    • Cultural Diversity in Action: European Practices 










    16:30-17:00 Break  


    Closing remarks: Culture and identity in Europe: a forward look

    During the plenary and breakout sessions of the conference, both speakers and attendees will share and discuss thought-provoking insights, important messages, and ideas. The organisers will gather the most remarkable throughout the two days. They will be presented to all attendees at the conference closing.

    • Georg Häusler - Director for Culture, Creativity and Sport in the European Commission (DG EAC)
    • Bart Temmerman - Secretary-General Department of Culture, Youth and Media, Flemish Government (Belgium)


    Visit Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp 

    Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex was recognized by UNESCO as a site of World Heritage. Step into the world of printing and publishing as you wander through the meticulously preserved workshops and living quarters of the influential Plantin-Moretus family. Marvel at the ancient printing presses and rare manuscripts that have shaped the course of European culture.

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