European in Berlin: We moved to Berlin and We Are Here to Stay
A review of our meeting on 27.06.2023
Are we already living and working in the centre of democracy? On the 27th of June we met with activists in the civil society in Berlin at the beautiful Liane Event space in Neukölln to find out. Almost 20 activists of the European idea, who themselves came to Berlin from all corners of Germany and Europe, joined us in personal and political exchanges about their experience of this ever-changing city.
"People in Berlin are more engaged and more active to fight for their values than in other countries"
Lisa Crippa, European Commission, Representation in Germany
Berlin certainly has the geographical advantage of being the urban centre of Europe and many open, progressive and international organisations are located here. That it is home to a dynamic civil society is not a coincidence. The funding landscape is impressive, the political foundation is more secure than in other countries and people are engaged to fight for an open society.
These were some of the reasons the Open Society Foundations chose Berlin as their new location after being harassed in Budapest by the Hungarian government and media. Our speaker, Yervand Shirinyan, Europe and Eurasia Division Director at Open Society Foundations, told us about the move and its background. He appreciates working in a city where the values of the organisation are truly lived and supported, the political level is accessible and cooperative. However, the bureaucratic difficulties of registering a foundation in Germany presented some challenges.
This big number of civil society organisations – not only in the European context – could be much more connected and supporting rather than competing over funding for projects and people to attend their events. Wouldn’t putting our resources together for events and campaigns be better? True, especially when collaborating and for non-German speakers, the bureaucratic process can be particularly difficult in Germany. However, this event reminded us that it is worth the effort. From the first sip of coffee till the last sip of wine, this impressive group of people communicate thirstily and eagerly, had so much to share and learn from each other, and enjoyed each other’s company. In order to get the best out of our potential, we have to move closer together and ask ourselves, how can we support each other? In coming together this evening, we were proved again that your vibe attracts your tribe, and this tribe is starting to come together at the Europe Hub.
The question of the evening was: Is Berlin still one of the best places for civil society activists and organisations? We would say it is, and it would be an even better place if we could have our “own” space like a European house/Café in the center of the city where all the engaged Europe-activists could come together to work on their ideas and projects.