“An independent university is an important pillar in a free society,” said Ronald Pofalla, federal minister for special tasks and head of Germany's Federal Chancellery, at the European Humanities University's (EHU) 20th anniversary celebration in Berlin.
"If one day–and this day will come–the door opens again for more pluralism and the rule of law in Belarus, it is particularly important to have well-trained and motivated people who would want to change the fate of their country for the better," he noted.
EHU's 20th anniversary celebration in Berlin–the final event in a year-long series of 20th anniversary events and commemorations in such cities as Brussels, London, New York, Prague, Stockholm, Vilnius, and Washington, DC–included a day-long colloquium at Germany's Council on Foreign Relations on the future development of EHU, particularly its role in promoting the study of transformation processes.
The colloquium was followed by an evening reception and panel discussion at the Representation of the European Commission. Speakers, including the Head of the Representation of the European Commission Matthias Petschke, Minister Pofalla, and others paid tribute to two decades of EHU's courage and commitment in the face of great challenges, including the Belarusian government's assault on the University in 2004 that led to its closing in Minsk and its reestablishment in Vilnius, Lithuania. Only the support of dedicated institutions and individuals, including the European Commission, more than a dozen European governments, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the government of the United States, several private foundations, and others made it possible for EHU to survive, noted EHU's Founding Rector Anatoli Mikhailov.
"Germany has always played a special role in EHU's development," said Mikhailov, recalling German support for EHU while it was operating in Minsk and the various programs and projects that exist thanks to German support, including research, exhibitions, special seminars, and other educational opportunities for EHU students.
“Professor Mikhailov and his colleagues at EHU are people with perseverance, they give us courage. They are inspired by true European spirit. Europe is a model for them. And by their actions, they become role models for Europe,” said Minister Pofalla.
Noting the important role that EHU's newly-reestablished Center for German Studies plays in introducing students to the German intellectual tradition, EHU's Rector thanked the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for funding a lecturer's position at EHU, which has significantly strengthened the Center. Mikhailov expressed the hope that German engagement with EHU would continue and grow stronger, particularly with the establishment of the new EHU Förderinitiative e.V. (EHU's Germany-based support group) and the creation of a working group that will study the feasibility of establishing a Center for Transformation Studies at EHU.
Also participating in the Berlin events were such distinguished individuals as Dr. Hans-Georg Wieck, who is president of the Verein Menschenrechte in Belarus e.V. (Association Human Rights in Belarus) and a German diplomat who served as OSCE chief in Minsk; Markus Meckel, former member of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament); Prof. Rainer Lindner, chair of the Deutsch-Belarussische Gesellschaft e.V. (German-Belarusian Association), and board members Dr. Heike Dörrenbächer and Peter Liesegang; Cornelius Ochmann and Dr. Iris Kempe of the Bertelsmann Foundation; Dr. Jörg Forbrig, senior program officer at the German Marshall Fund; and Dr. Maria Davydchyk of Germany's Council on Foreign Relations. The EHU Förderinitiative was represented by its Vice-President Michael Bechter and Treasurer Maxim Asjoma.
In total, nearly 200 guests attended the events in Berlin that were organized jointly by Verein Menschenrechte in Belarus, the Deutsch-Belarussische Gesellschaft, and the European Humanities University. EHU thanks, in particular, Peter Liesegang, Markus Meckel, and Dr. Hans-Georg Wieck, who served as the event's organizing group, and all who attended and support the University.
Photos author: Peter Groth