1950 – 2000
The initiative to create CERN
One of the Centre’s earliest initiatives took place in Geneva on December 12, 1950. During this event, representatives from six countries’ nuclear research institutes and UNESCO came together, responding to a proposal made by Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Louis de Broglie, during the Lausanne Conference. One of the resolutions adopted at the Lausanne Conference instructed the future Center to explore the establishment of an Institute of Nuclear Science with a focus on applications in everyday life.
Immediately after its establishment, the Commission for Scientific Cooperation of the European Cultural Centre, led by Raoul Dautry, the General Administrator of the French Atomic Energy Commission, began its work. The physicist Pierre Auger played a significant role in this endeavour. The task exemplified the concepts of subsidiarity and functional integration by “spillover,” a method also employed by Jean Monnet to create the European Coal and Steel Community. The idea was to recognise that individual countries lacked the resources to independently develop this new energy source, similar to what the United States and the USSR were doing. Therefore, it became essential to organise and institutionalise cooperation to catch up and prevent a brain drain. These challenges continue to be relevant today in the context of new information and knowledge technologies.
The meeting held on December 12, 1950, by the European Cultural Centre helped define the mission of the future CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) and the criteria for selecting its location. Additionally, the meeting proposed that UNESCO should take the lead in the initial stages of implementation, particularly by bringing together the concerned governments. The following year, in 1951, UNESCO presented a project for establishing a nuclear research laboratory in Geneva. Following an intergovernmental conference, the final decision was made on February 15, 1952, to create the “European Council for Nuclear Research” (CERN), initially consisting of eleven states.
European cultural associations
Together with composer and conductor Igor Markevitch, the Centre organised a meeting in December 1951. Representatives from prominent music festivals in Bayreuth, Aix-en-Provence, Perugia, Vienna, Berlin, Lucerne, Florence, Besançon, and Strasbourg attended the gathering. During this meeting, they founded an Association based in Geneva at the Centre’s premises. The primary goal of this Association was to share common information among all these festivals and foster collaboration and synergy in programming to avoid redundancy and duplication. It marked the first time that these festivals, essential for promoting European culture (with economic benefits as well), united their voices to create a genuine ‘European concert,’ as stated by the Centre in 1952.
In addition to holding regular meetings and engaging in an information and promotion campaign through a joint brochure, the Centre facilitated reflective colloquiums. One such colloquium took place in 1956, focusing on “The role of festivals in the cultural life of Europe.” The Association, later renamed the “European Festivals Association” (also encompassing theatre and dance), benefited from the Centre’s support. In the early 2000s, it relocated to Belgium, initially in Brussels and later in Ghent. Today, the association includes 90 festivals in 31 European countries and indirectly disseminates information about approximately 300 festivals across Europe.
The Graduate Institute of European Studies in Geneva
In the early 1960s, the European Cultural Centre embarked on the establishment of an Institute of European Studies within its premises at Villa Moynier (Parc Mon-Repos) in Geneva. Negotiations involving the University, the cantonal authorities responsible for public education, and the Graduate Institute of International Studies, led by historian Jacques Freymond at the time, culminated in 1963 with the launch of the new Institute. It was the first of its kind in Switzerland and began its academic year that year.
The Institute took an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing three branches, each offering distinct perspectives on Europe and European development: history and culture, led by Prof. Denis de Rougemont; political science and European institutions, under the guidance of Prof. Dusan Sidjanski; and economics, headed by Prof. Henri Schwamm. Denis de Rougemont served as the Director of both the Institute and the European Cultural Centre during that period, illustrating the close ties between the two institutions.
In 1992, the Institute underwent a transfer to the University and was renamed the ‘European Institute of the University of Geneva.’ This name remained until 2013, when it was restructured within the University of Geneva to become the ‘Institute of Global Studies,’ within which a dedicated ‘Denis de Rougemont Pole of European Studies’ was established.
Contribution to the development of a federal constitution
In 1953, the construction of Europe reached a critical juncture as it aimed to establish a defense community (draft EDC treaty) and a political union. The Centre played an active role by assembling a group of approximately twenty influential personalities known as the “Group of Twenty.” Among its members were notable figures such as Salvador de Madariaga, Raymond Aron, Bertrand de Jouvenel (a French essayist and futurist), Henri Brugmans (the Rector of the College of Bruges), Georges Vedel (a French jurist), Fernand Dehousse (a Belgian jurist and politician), Henri Janne (a Belgian sociologist and politician), Eugen Kogon (a German publicist and historian of Nazism), Jozef Retinger (the organiser of the Hague Congress), and others. The group met regularly for over a year, publishing the outcomes of their discussions in a brochure called “Le Courrier fédéral,” edited by the Centre. Six issues of this publication were released between April 1953 and May 1954. Unfortunately, the group’s efforts came to an end when the French Parliament rejected the EDC Treaty in August 1954.
Shortly after this, the Centre initiated a similar endeavour, this time gathering around twenty economists from seven countries. Their mission was to contemplate ways of integrating European economies, particularly by establishing a borderless large market. The fruits of their work were published in a book titled “Demain l’Europe sans frontières?” (Tomorrow, Europe without borders?) in Paris by Plon. The Centre’s Bulletins also documented these activities, including issues like “L’Europe s’inscrit dans les faits” (Europe in the making) from 1956 and “Promesses du Marché commun” (Promises of the Common Market) from 1957. Additionally, a presentation of the two Treaties of Rome, EEC, and Euratom, was featured in 1958.
In 1976, the Centre established a think-tank named the “Cadmos Group,” comprising fourteen individuals from various academic backgrounds and disciplines. This group undertook a comprehensive review of European integration and proposed several guidelines for the future. The culmination of their reflections, with Denis de Rougemont responsible for the final draft, was published in 1979 under the title “Report on the state of the European Union” by Stock in Paris. In the same spirit, at the beginning of the Maastricht Treaty and in anticipation of future enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe, the Centre organised the first “Denis de Rougemont Meetings” in April 1994 on the theme “Where is Europe today.” The proceedings of this event were subsequently published by the Centre the following year.
Europe of the regions
Starting from the latter half of the 1960s, regions began to play an increasingly significant role in Denis de Rougemont’s thinking and the activities of the Centre. The objective was to redefine the approach of the European Federation to incorporate the regional aspect, which held great importance as it brought Europe closer to its citizens and fostered new forms of civic engagement. Additionally, the emergence of cross-border regions, especially in areas like Basel and Geneva, offered valuable opportunities for practical experiences that could teach valuable lessons about the evolving relationship between Europe and these regions.
Between 1967 and 1975, five of the Centre’s Bulletins were dedicated entirely to the theme of the Europe of the Regions, specifically focusing on the Regions conceived within the framework of the European Federation. Two of these Bulletins concentrated on cross-border regions, with one featuring a meeting organised in Strasbourg with the Council of Europe in 1972, and the other being a colloquium held in 1975 with the AIEE (Association of European Border Regions).
In 1982, the Centre hosted an international colloquium on “Regional Policies in Europe,” which took place under the direction of Dusan Sidjanski and Charles Ricq. Charles Ricq was responsible for regional studies at the Centre. The outcomes of this colloquium were subsequently published in 1985 by L.E.P. in Lausanne.
Publishing and Europe
In 1958, the Centre took the initiative to establish a consortium of publishers known as EDITEUROPA. This consortium operated under a charter, with each publisher committing to release works on Europe, identified by the Centre, in their respective languages. Four years prior, in 1954, the Centre had published a European Bibliography, which received updates and expansions in 1959 and was then titled “Publishing and Europe.” Denis de Rougemont prefaced this bibliography with the following words: “It is clear that Europe will not be made with books, but will it be made without them? For it was largely through them that it was defeated.”
In the realm of studies concerning the construction of Europe, the Centre initiated another consortium specifically for law and economics publishers, down as EUROLIBRI. In 1964, a new European bibliography was published, listing 2,000 titles of works centered on Europe. Among these titles, 150 were considered fundamental works and were extensively reviewed to assist booksellers in curating their displays during the European Book Weeks, an initiative introduced by the Centre during major book fairs (originating at the Frankfurt Fair).
Furthermore, in 1966, the Centre published a comprehensive report titled “Bilan des activités culturelles au service de l’Europe,” listing all cultural initiatives aimed at Europe between 1949 and 1964.
Public Information and Media Awareness
In 1952, the Centre initiated the establishment of a consortium comprising six national news agencies (French, German, Italian, Belgian, Swiss, and Luxembourgish) to disseminate news and background papers related to Europe. In 1956, the Centre introduced “European News,” a press service focusing on European matters delivered in three languages. Dispatches from this service were distributed to over a thousand subscribing newspapers and periodicals.
In 1957, a Conference Service was established to provide lists of speakers and organise several hundred conferences on Europe over the following two decades.
During the 1990s, the Centre collaborated with the publisher Actes Sud to launch a series of “Que Sais-je?” books on European topics. These books were compact, about 80 pages each, and compiled into thematic boxes known as “L’Europe en bref.” Between 1994 and 2002, seven boxes containing a total of 27 small books were published.
Association of European Studies Institutes
As early as 1949, the Study Group responsible for establishing the European Cultural Centre took the initiative to convene representatives of the earliest university institutes tasked with studying Europe and training the future European elite in Geneva. Subsequent meetings highlighted the significance of such gatherings, leading to the formation of the Association of European Studies Institutes (AIEE) in 1951, with its secretariat provided by the European Cultural Centre. The AIEE regularly released a Yearbook documenting the activities of various European Studies Institutes and Research Centres, including courses, colloquia, conferences, research, publications, etc. This Yearbook served as a valuable source of information at that time and also featured the first European bibliography (listing works on Europe) in 1954. In 1957, the Geneva-based secretariat’s role was strengthened, and Dusan Sidjanski was appointed as the new Secretary General, holding this position until the late 1980s when the AIEE’s activities concluded.
During the same period, a colloquium was organised in collaboration with the Association of European Scholars, leading to proposals for the establishment of post-graduate institutes exclusively dedicated to the study of Europe and European integration. The contributions to this colloquium, published in the Bulletin of the European Cultural Centre in 1958 under the title “Towards a European University,” paved the way for the creation of the European University Institute of Florence in 1976.
The AIEE and the Centre maintained close cooperation, frequently organising joint colloquia, and publishing the contributions in the Centre’s Bulletin. A significant part of the reflection on the theme of the Europe of the Regions and the European Federation, conducted from 1967 and 1968, was carried out in collaboration with the AIEE and its network of academics from various countries. Similarly, studies on cross-border regions and their impact on European integration were conducted, resulting in a colloquium on “Cross-border regions and Europe” in January 1975, published in the Bulletin the following year. Noteworthy is the 1982 colloquium on regional policies in Europe, leading to a publication edited by Dusan Sidjanski and Charles Ricq.
Collaboration with the AIEE extended to the Department of Political Science at the University of Geneva, headed by Professor Dusan Sidjanski, encompassing political science applied to European integration, such as “Political Science and European Integration” in 1965 and “Quantitative Methods and European Integration” in 1970. Additionally, the examination of federalist proposals within the European Community during the Tindemans Report led to the publication “Around the Tindemans Report” in 1976, resulting from an IEAE colloquium organised in Athens. Until the late 1980s, the AIEE published a yearbook listing its publications and those of its member institutes.
The European Cultural Foundation
In 1954, the Centre initiated a series of meetings to develop plans for a Foundation dedicated to financing cultural activities in service of Europe. Consequently, the European Cultural Foundation was established in December 1954, with its headquarters in Geneva. Denis de Rougemont was appointed as the Director, and Raymond Silva as the Secretary General. Notable founding members included Robert Schuman, a key figure in European integration, and Henri Brugmans, Rector of the College of Europe in Bruges.
In 1957, the Foundation relocated to Amsterdam, where it found greater stability in its financial situation compared to Geneva, thanks to the proceeds from the national lottery. Presently, the European Cultural Foundation provides grants to artists, supports development and cultural cooperation projects, and coordinates a network of study and research institutes in the fields of education, media, environment, and cultural relations. It also implements programs on behalf of the European Commission, such as the Erasmus program since 1987.
The European civic education
Denis de Rougemont firmly believed that building Europe required the education and training of genuine European citizens. However, after the Second World War, he observed that school and college curricula in history and civics primarily focused on national perspectives, often tinged with nationalism. Their aim was to shape national citizens, not European ones. Consequently, from the 1950s onwards, the Centre devised several initiatives to counter this tendency, which hindered European integration.
In 1956, pilot experiments in European education commenced to train teachers in European matters and the shared history of Europeans. These experiments took place in numerous cities across Western Europe, particularly in France, Italy, and Switzerland. The Bulletin of the European Cultural Centre supported their content through two special issues: “Europe in the facts” (1956), which recounted the beginnings of European construction (80,000 copies, translated into seven languages), and “For a European Education” (1957), which explained the process.
In 1958, the Centre collaborated with the European Teachers’ Association to produce a European Teachers’ Guide (90,000 copies, available in four languages), followed by a European Civics Guide in 1960-61.
In 1961, a significant European Civic Education Campaign was launched, lasting until 1974. It originated from a colloquium held at the Centre in May 1961, where it was recognized that “civic education in almost all our countries is backward and outmoded, and that there are virtually no European perspectives on civic education.” A survey on the state of civic education in nineteen countries was conducted the following year. In subsequent years, European teacher training courses were gradually organised in most of these countries (a total of 32 courses were organised). Additionally, the Centre established a European Pedagogical Documentation Centre in its Geneva premises.
From 1992 to 1997, the Centre continued this endeavour, now in the form of Euro-workshops on European issues, organised in various regions of Switzerland, with participants aged 16-18. In the early 2000s, the European Institute of the University of Geneva drew inspiration from the Euro-Workshops and launched a platform called “Eurocitée” in 2004, providing information on Europe and extensively using Internet resources.
Central and Eastern Europe
The Centre has consistently considered Europe in its broadest geographical sense. As early as November 1955, it published in its Bulletin a series of reflections and proposals on “Europe-USSR: the question of cultural exchanges.” Later, in 1983, it organised a colloquium at Duino Castle, near Trieste, focusing on the theme of Central Europe, which was published in the same year. In 1984, the Centre’s journal, Cadmos, released a comprehensive issue titled “The Common Culture of Europeans and the East/West Debate.” Subsequently, in 1988, Cadmos published a prescient issue on “Yugoslavia, Europe’s weak link.”
Following the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the Centre, with the support of the Canton of Geneva, established a Council of Europe antenna in Warsaw – the very first of its kind in a former Eastern country – with the aim of disseminating information on local democracy to encourage the revival of local authorities in Poland. This initiative lasted from February to July 1990 and was later extended to Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia until 1994, with the help of the Swiss Confederation. In 1991, the Centre co-published the book “Regionalism in Europe: Traditions and New Trends” with the European Centre for Regional and Ethnic Studies in Bydgoszcz, Poland, under the editorship of Janusz Slugocki.
In November 1991, the Centre organised a colloquium in Vienna, with the presence of Austrian Vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek, focusing on the place of Central Europe in a reunifying Europe, following the initiatives led by François Mitterrand and Vaclav Havel. The proceedings of this colloquium were published by the Centre in 1993 under the title “Central Europe in a ‘European Confederation’,” featuring texts in both French and German.
Survey on Intellectuals and Europe
Between 1979 and 1984, which corresponds to the dates of the first legislature of the European Parliament elected by universal suffrage, the Centre, with the support of the Veillon Foundation (Lausanne), conducted a survey on the perspectives of a number of intellectuals regarding Europe, its culture, the ongoing changes, the role they envisage for intellectuals in this process, and the insights gained from their own commitments. The interviews were conducted in their homes across various European countries.
Among the intellectuals who participated in the survey were playwright Eugène Ionesco, writers Michel Tournier and Jean d’Ormesson, poet Stephen Spender, art critic Gillo Dorfles, essayists Jacques Ellul and Denis de Rougemont, philosophers Leszek Kolakowski and Georg Picht, sociologist Edgar Morin, and historians Philippe Ariès, Jacques Freymond, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and Hugh Trevor-Roper. The interviews were compiled and published in 1984 by Gallimard in Paris (in the collection “Ideas”) under the title “Intellectuals and Europe” (“Les intellectuels et l’Europe”).
Reflections on the links between culture and technology
From 1956 onwards, the Centre embarked on a process of examining the implications of the cybernetic ‘revolution’ and automation on the economy, employment, leisure, and the overall human and social equilibrium. The CEC Bulletin published “Automation and Cybernetics” in 1958 and “Education and Leisure” in 1959. Subsequently, the focus of reflection shifted towards the issues of free time and employment, particularly with an edition of the Centre’s journal, Cadmos, dedicated to the theme of employment, unemployment, and leisure in 1985, coordinated by Raymond Racine.
The work on this subject continued with the establishment of a multinational group comprising economists and sociologists who, in 1992, published “Europe Beyond Unemployment” (“L’Europe au-delà du chômage”) with the Presses interuniversitaires de Bruxelles.
The Dialogue of Cultures
The term “Intercultural Dialogue” was coined by Denis de Rougemont and later inspired various international organisations, including UNESCO and the European Union. In 1951, during a trip to India, he was struck by the contrasts between East and West, which led to the publication of a book in Paris in 1957 titled “L’aventure occidentale de l’Homme” (Albin Michel). Based on these initial reflections, he conceived the innovative idea that one of Europe’s missions, especially during the decolonisation period when it had colonised other continents, should be to foster understanding among the major cultural groups worldwide and contribute to a new global organisation.
In 1961, the Centre organised a symposium in Geneva on the theme of “Intercultural Dialogue”. Subsequently, in 1964, it held a significant international conference in Basel called “Europe-World,” bringing together nearly 150 participants across several commissions and working groups. The Centre, along with Denis de Rougemont, aimed to seek common ground between representatives of different cultures, discussing the emergence of new cultural groupings after decolonisation, the notions of Man and Freedom, the role of religion, the integration of scientific and technical discoveries in various cultures, as well as education and the training of elites in different regions of the world.
In October 1990, the Centre partnered with UNESCO to organise a second Europe-World Conference in Lisbon. This conference focused on inter-religious dialogue and delved into themes such as the “governance of globality,” environmental concerns, the role of media, and the impact of “cultural networks” on living culture.