Reflection Group: The Spiritual and Cultural Dimension of Europe

Research Programs

The project on the spiritual and cultural dimension of Europe was initiated by the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi. It was centered around a Reflection Group chaired by Krzysztof Michalski and discussed the values of Europe and the ways in which these might be considered important building blocks for the future unity of Europe.

The project aimed at highlighting the most significant developments of today’s Europe – the enlargement process, political reform and the setting up of a common European constitutional order – in respect of their cultural preconditions, as well as their predictable impact on future European identity patterns. As a result of these developments Europe is to become a coherent whole, based on shared values, ambitions, projects, rules and institutions. It has therefore become a matter of great concern to reconsider the intellectual foundations of Europe, the common set of ideas and beliefs that constitute its identity, and the ways in which European values could be reflected in the social, economic, legal and institutional frameworks of the enlarged Union.

With the European Commission’s support, the Group repeatedly met with experts to discuss a wide range of issues. Additionally, in order to involve a broader public in it's discussions the Group held a series of public debates in several European capitals: the first of these organised in cooperation with the Warsaw-based Stefan Batory Foundation was held in Warsaw, upon invitation of the Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the second organised in cooperation with the Austrian Industrialists’ Association took place in Prince Schwarzenberg’s palace in Vienna, while the third and fourth were held in Paris in cooperation with La République des idées and hosted by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dominique de Villepin and Berlin hosted by his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer. Hosted by Romano Prodi, a presentation of central results of the reflection group took place in Rome, on 28 October 2004 in the Sala degli Specchi of the Istituto Italo Latino Americano.

Moreover, members of the reflection group and invited experts wrote commentaries on selected aspects of the general topic which were distributed through Project Syndicate, an international association of quality newspapers. 12 columns have been published in 49 newspapers in more than 30 countries

Analyses compiled by group members and experts were published in the issues 26 and 27 of Transit – Europäische Revue. Issue 28 contains a paper by Kurt Biedenkopf, Bronislaw Geremek, Krzysztof Michalski und Michel Rocard, summarizing the main results of the reflection group, and commentaries by experts and politicians from Europe and the US.

Transit - Europäische Revue
Issue 26: Europäische Verbindlichkeiten
Issue 27: Europäische Verbindlichkeiten II
Issue 28: Was hält Europa zusammen? (with commentaries)


Concluding Remarks

The work of the group was finally presented in Rome on October 28, 2004. The concluding remarks by Kurt Biedenkopf, Bronislaw Geremek, Krzysztof Michalski and Michel Rocard summarize the main results. The article was published and commented in various European media, amongst them Caffe Europa (Italy), Diarios de Noticias (Portugal), Dilema Veche (Romania), Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland), Irish Times (Ireland), Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark), Kultura (Bulgaria), Die Presse (Austria), La Repubblica (Italy), Der Standard (Austria) and La Vanguardia (Spain).

The Concluding Remarks in English, German and Italian:

Concluding Remarks: What holds Europe together? [English]
Was hält Europa zusammen?[German, published in Transit 26]
Osservazioni conclusive: La dimensione spirituale e culturale dell'Europa? [Italian]


If you would like to receive any information about this or any other past research program, please contact

Members of the Reflection Group:

Kurt Biedenkopf, Former Prime Minister of Saxony; Professor of Law, Germany

Silvio Ferrari, Professor of Constitutional Law, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

Bronislaw Geremek, Professor of European History, College of Europe; former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland

Arpad Göncz, Writer and translator; former President of Hungary

John Gray, Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics, United Kingdom

Will Hutton, Chief Executive, The Work Foundation, United Kingdom

Jutta Limbach, President of the Goethe Institute, former President of the German Constitutional Court, Professor of Law, Germany

Krzysztof Michalski (Chair) Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw and at Boston University; Rector, Institute for Human Sciences, Austria

Ioannis Petrou, Professor of Theology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Alberto Quadrio Curzio, Professor of Economics, Università Cattolica di Milano, Italy

Michel Rocard, Chairman of the Committee on Culture in the European Parliament;  former Prime Minister of France

Simone Veil, Member of the French Constitutional Court; former President of the European Parliament, France