The planned closure of three Goethe Institutes in France responsible for international cultural policy is met with widespread resistance there and in Germany. The VDFG announced that more than 45 associations and institutions as well as over 400 personalities from science, culture, politics, media and society had joined an open letter from the Association of Franco-German Societies for 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 for people not to weaken the foundation on which peaceful and cooperative coexistence in Europe rests - the close cooperation and understanding between Germans and French - in difficult times in terms of world and European politics. Cuts in cultural exchange, encounters and language acquisition are not an effective means.
130 employees affected
For a long time, actors in German-French cooperation have complained about a growing lack of understanding between the two countries: the disagreement at the political level and the years-long decline in language teaching are examples of this. The Goethe Institutes in France are an important means of counteracting this development with cultural offerings, language lessons and events.
As part of a realignment, nine of the 158 institutes worldwide are to be closed, including three in France. 130 employees are affected by the job cuts in the international network. Secretary General Johannes Ebert wants to save 24 million euros annually in the medium term from the current 239 million euro budget in structural funds for properties or personnel.
According to its own information, the Goethe-Institut has taken into account how parts of its activities can be continued, for example through digital formats, despite planned closures. In addition, existing offers should, if possible, be taken over by nearby institutes.
Critical voices also in Germany
Franco-German cooperation remains important for the institute. No locations should be closed that are or are yet to become joint German-French cultural institutes. So far, institutes in Atlanta, Palermo and Ramallah are operated by both countries. 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 outstanding importance for the Goethe-Institut. In the future, the institute will work at five locations in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Nancy. The institute also supports twelve Franco-German cultural societies and 22 examination centers in France.
There is also criticism of the closure plans in Germany. The Académie de Berlin sees the plans as a "severe burden on German-French relations, a departure from the spirit of the German-French friendship treaty and a cultural-political embarrassment." PEN Berlin called the project “politically short-sighted”.