Paris/Berlin (dpa) – The planned closure of three Goethe Institutes in France, responsible for international cultural policy, is encountering widespread resistance there and in Germany. The VDFG announced that more than 45 associations and institutions, as well as more than 400 personalities from science, culture, politics, media and society had joined an open letter from the Association of Franco-German Societies to Europe (VDFG).
The call not to close the Goethe Institutes in Bordeaux, Lille and Strasbourg should be sent to the federal government, the Bundestag and the Goethe Institute on the occasion of the Franco-German cabinet meeting in Hamburg on Monday. The VDFG called not to weaken the basis on which peaceful and cooperative coexistence in Europe is based – the close cooperation and understanding between Germans and French – in difficult times for world and European politics. Cuts in cultural exchange, meetings and language acquisition are not an effective means.
130 employees affected
Actors in German-French cooperation have long complained about a growing lack of understanding between the two countries: the disagreement at the political level and the decline in language teaching that has been going on for years are examples of this. The Goethe Institutes in France are an important means of counteracting this development with cultural offers, language classes and events.
As part of a restructuring, nine of 158 institutes worldwide will close, including three in France. 130 employees are affected by job cuts in the international network. Secretary General Johannes Ebert wants to save 24 million euros per year from the current budget of 239 million euros in structural funds for property or personnel in the medium term.
According to its own data, the Goethe-Institut has taken into account how to continue some of its activities, for example through digital formats, despite the planned closures. Furthermore, if possible, existing offers should be taken up by nearby institutes.
Critical voices also in Germany
Franco-German cooperation remains important for the institute. Places that are or are going to become joint German-French cultural institutes must not be closed. So far, both countries operate institutes in Atlanta, Palermo and Ramallah. The Goethe-Institut and the Institut français are also planning collaborations in Erbil (Autonomous Region of Kurdistan), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Córdoba (Argentina) and Glasgow (Great Britain).
“France is Germany’s most important partner country in Europe,” President Carola Lentz said in a statement. The work therefore remains of great importance for the Goethe-Institut. In the future, the institute will operate in five locations: Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Nancy. The institute also supports twelve Franco-German cultural societies and 22 examination centers in France.
Closure plans in Germany are also criticized. The Berlin Academy sees these plans as a “serious burden on Franco-German relations, a departure from the spirit of the Franco-German friendship treaty and a political-cultural shame.” PEN Berlin called the project “politically shortsighted.”
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