Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU ends on 31 December 2020. With debates about the impact of artificial intelligence, with the creation of climate-neutral travel schemes, with spectacular installations in public squares and intergenerational discussions about Europe, the Goethe-Institut has reached well over 100 million people in Europe. Goethe-Institutes across Europe have held over 220 digital and physical events and workshops. The projects have been funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

On the conclusion of the Goethe-Institut’s EU2020 projects, Goethe-Institut President Carola Lentz said:

Multiple lockdowns, financial setbacks, especially in the arts and cultural sector, and unequal access to digital resources have presented the European community with new and incredibly profound challenges this year. It is all the more important for us as a European cultural institute to strengthen cohesion and solidarity in Europe and to actively promote open dialogue about what Europe is and what it will be in future. Our projects accompanying Germany’s EU Council Presidency made an important contribution to this. They’ve not only brought people of all ages together across national borders, but have also advanced important forward-looking topics, such as sustainability and the role of artificial intelligence. This variety of voices and topics make Europe what it is and it’s important to foster it.

Together with local partners from culture, civil society and education, the Goethe-Institut held more than 220 digital and physical events and workshops in all EU countries on the occasion of Germany’s EU Council Presidency. In many countries, the local embassies were involved in implementing them.

Andreas Görgen, Director for Culture and Communication of the Federal Foreign Office said:

A participatory, future-oriented cultural programme for our Presidency of the Council of the EU has been particularly important in times of a pandemic but also particularly challenging. I am delighted that we have nevertheless been able to bring many Europeans together over the past six months - whether in person or virtually. For it is essential that we come together to discuss solidarity and identity in this difficult time for all of Europe. The fact that we have succeeded in fostering this discussion is thanks in particular to the close and creative cooperation between our diplomatic missions and the Goethe-Instituts throughout the EU.

The projects conducted by the Goethe-Institut for Germany’s EU Council Presidency include Europe’s Kitchen, Generation A=Algorithm, #oekoropa, the Disappearing Wall and Tell Me about Europe. They were part of the federal government's official cultural programme and were supported by special funds from the Foreign Office. In addition, the Goethe-Institut conducted two more European projects: the Freiraum Festival and a series of conferences on multilingualism in Europe.

Johannes Ebert, secretary-general and chair of the Goethe-Institut, emphasised the commitment of the 51 European Goethe-Instituts and their partners, saying:

The response to our projects for Germany’s EU Council Presidency shows how important contact and exchange are within Europe today. That this was possible despite the challenging situation in many countries of Europe is chiefly thanks to the unflagging commitment of our strong European partners and our European Goethe-Instituts. I am particularly pleased that so many young people took part in our programmes as theirs are the voices we need to include more when it comes to the future of Europe.

The focus was on the overarching question: What will Europe be like in future and how can we strengthen European cohesion and solidarity? For example, after weeks of lockdowns and social distancing, the Disappearing Wall installation ensured a moment of true coming together and dialogue. The installation, consisting of several thousand wooden blocks with quotes from European high and pop culture, was set up in public places in 17 cities in Europe – from Antwerp, Warsaw and The Hague to Klaipeda. After their unveiling, visitors had the opportunity to take a quote block home with them in compliance with strict sanitary coronavirus rules. In many places the blocks disappeared after just a few hours. Overall, the installation had more than 70,000 visitors in all countries. Four installations, including those scheduled for Milan, Cyprus and Munich, will not be shown until 2021 due to the pandemic.

The various formats of the Generation A=Algorithm project dealt with the influence of artificial intelligence on future European society. More than 250 participants from 24 European countries jointly developed digital solutions for climate change in a three-day climate hackathon. Since April, two robots have been travelling to five different European cities each in order to learn new skills from local programmers. Further travel destinations for the robots are planned for 2021. To date, around 19,500 people have also followed the 20 digital Couch Lessons where more than 50 experts discussed the relationship between AI and fields such as music, health, language and Covid-19. The final European Couch Lessons, where the audience will meet several AI experts to ask questions about the impacts of new technologies in various themed rooms, will take place on 18 December at 7 p.m.

The three-day hybrid FREIRAUM Festival pursued the question of freedom in Europe with more than 53 actors from culture, science and civil society in 42 European cities. Around 7,800 people from more than 45 countries, including outside of Europe, followed the debates, talks and artistic interventions online.

In addition to its own programmes, the Goethe-Institut was also involved in the implementation of Earth Speakr from the start. The participatory artwork by Olafur Eliasson was realised as part of the cultural programme for Germany’s EU Council Presidency and makes the voices of children in Europe more heard. The Goethe-Institut closely accompanied Studio Olafur Eliasson during the implementation of the project and also carried out more than 80 workshops with more than 2,000 children at the European Goethe-Instituts in cooperation with Germany’s diplomatic missions abroad. In the meantime, over half a million people have participated in the digital work of art. Thanks to its digital character, the work of art has reached over 140 million people in Europe alone.

You can find all the information and the closing film about all EU2020 projects by the Goethe-Institut here.

You can find more information on the cultural programme of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union here, or in the following film.

The cultural programme of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union