On Friday, 14 February 2014, the AKADEMIA Network of transform! europe organised a workshop about the history of Europe. This workshop was a follow-up to the founding meeting organised in April 2013, which brought together historians working with various member organisations of our network and was supported by MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat from the GUE/NGL Group (Front de Gauche, France).
She introduced the works of the twenty researchers who had met in Paris in 2013. It is in this committee where the basis of the EU-funded programmes concerning European historical memory for the next five years is being discussed. She made clear the offensive that conservative MEPs from Germany and Eastern Europe are continuously carrying out in order to hegemonise the contents of official programmes as demonstrated by the Migalski Report on historical memory in education and culture in the EU which was rejected in December 2013 by a thin margin.
She was followed by Honorary MEP, Francis Wurtz, who dealt with the evolution of the project of the House of European History (HEH) in the last months. As member of its board, he confirmed the offensive of conservatives in this project which has been again postponed until mid-2015 and the limited influence of progressive representatives in the board, like himself, to correct an extremely unbalanced, non-scientific and partisan representation of European history.
Jean-Numa Ducange, lecturer at the University of Rouen and specialist in the history of the Left in Europe, followed with an introduction to the possible ways of studying the contribution of the European Left(s) to the project of European construction and integration. Gilles Pecout, head of the History Department of the École normale supérieure de Paris, discussed both presentations and underlined the similarity of the HEH to a House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany as attempts of European conservatives under German leadership to hegemonise the official reading of the European past.
In the afternoon, the workshop presented, as decided in June, a first attempt to elaborate an alternative account to that issued by the scientific committee of the HEH of the history of European construction and integration, prepared by Sia Anagnostopoulou from Panteion University of Athens. It was preceded by reflections of Serge Wolikow from the University of Bourgogne, on the ideas about Europe conveyed by the national memory initiatives to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
The debate was rich in conclusions and initiatives. As an organised force behind this unbalanced reading of the history of Europe we identify the existing Platform of European Memory and Conscience created by extremely conservative governments of Eastern Europe and supported by publicly-funded research institutions and the MEPs associated in the Reconciliation of European Histories Group.
It was agreed that in order to counter their influence we need to launch an appeal of progressive historians, archival centres, museums, memorial movements and governments to survey the public uses of history as promoted by the HEH. We will attempt to bring them together in a large conference to be organised by the end of 2014 in which we will also continue elaborating the outline of an alternative historical interpretation which at the same time constitutes the basis of a virtual exhibition about the construction and integration of Europe from the 19th century to the present. It was also agreed that in 2015 a conference will be organised on the contribution (the Red Thread) of the Left(s) to this long-term process.