The city of Jena, together with the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, is applying for the Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity. On this page, we would like to give you an initial overview of previous and future events. You will also find contact options and background information on the planned federal call for applications.
What is the Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity?
Future Center as a bridge builder between East and West
The idea to create a "Future Center" goes back to a recommendation of the "Commission 30 Years of Peaceful Revolution and German Unity".
According to this, a center is to be created in eastern Germany by 2027 that will provide space for science as well as culture and dialog.
Matthias Platzeck, former prime minister of Brandenburg, says there are still people in the east who do not feel they have arrived or have been accepted sufficiently.
"I would like us to turn this sense of identity, a sense of pride, of pulling together, of courage."
For that reason, he said, the center will also be a place to work on issues of democracy stabilization and how to further shape democracy.
Carsten Schneider, the East German commissioner, also hopes that the center, and especially citizen participation, can change the "critical-pessimistic attitude toward parliamentary democracy and the social market economy" that exists in some parts of the East German population.
Further information on the Future Center can be found on the federal government's website.
Why will the city of Jena apply for the Future Center?
In a video message, Lord Mayor Thomas Nitzsche already explained in October 2021 why the city of Jena will apply for the "Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity".
Previous initiatives and events for the Jena application
Meeting of the Lord Mayor with young people from Erlangen and Jena - Talks on German Unity
Dor 35 years now, the twinning between Erlangen and Jena has provided an opportunity to preserve German unity and the associated experiences of upheaval and transformation for future generations through ongoing exchange.
To this end, 26 young people from Erlangen and 16 young people from Jena discussed on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in the auditorium of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The discussion took place within the framework of the Research Network Dictatorship Experience and Transformation and as a cooperation of the European Youth Education and Youth Meeting Center Weimar (EJBW) with the Ettersberg Foundation.
Jena's mayor Thomas Nitzsche answered questions from the young people. How was Jena able to develop so successfully after the fall of communism? What role can town twinning play for young people? But the young people were also interested in the mayor's opinion on current topics such as overcoming the climate crisis in cities or mobility.
Thomas Nitzsche said:
"German-German town twinning can also have this value of exchanging ideas with each other and learning from each other today and in the future for young people who themselves no longer have active memories of the Wende era. Town twinning can then take on a new focus - less looking backwards and more looking at current issues. Youth encounters like this are the right format to pass the baton to the younger generation."
In the Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity, for which the city of Jena is currently applying, encounter formats such as these will also help to relate experiences of upheaval to each other and to learn from each other together.
The youth encounter took place as a one-time project and includese Visits to the other city as well as Nuremberg and Weimar. The aim was to illustration of historical-political aspects like the dgerman division, the reunification and the Unitysprocessfundamental questions of democratic education such as dictatorship and transformationn and aspects of the present and immediate future such as the challenges posed by structural change and social and political caesura.The students conducted interviews with contemporary witnesses, visited educational institutions and took a critical look at the state of German unity.
Press conference to present Jena's team of applicants for the Future Center.
At a press conference, Lord Mayor Thomas Nitzsche presented the Jena project team for the application for the "Future Center European Transformation and German Unity". In doing so, he made clear:
"The city of Jena has the best prerequisites in the location competition for the Future Center - both in comparison with cities in other federal states and in a Thuringia-wide comparison. The state of Thuringia should get behind the most promising candidate city as quickly as possible in order to be able to convince the jury to bring the Future Center to Thuringia."
Key location advantages speak in favor of Jena as Thuringia's location for the Future Center
Thomas Nitzsche referred to central location advantages of Jena, with which the city can score with the application for the future center.
"As a city, we can offer a consistent story and narrative of successful transformation: We saw the city transform in a big way for the first time when it was founded in the 16th century. We were the intellectual center of Europe around 1800 with the Romantics, with Hegel, Schiller and Goethe. Then in the 19th century, Ernst Abbe, Carl Zeiss and Otto Schott made industrial history in Jena and laid the foundation for the things that are still at work in Jena today: the close links between the city, business and science, and a strong civil society that has enabled a departure from central upheavals into successful post-reunification development."
The togetherness of city and surrounding area, which is now also anchored in municipal working communities, Jena's leading role in civic participation projects, the active processing of transformation consequences - something on the example of the NSU complex and the project "Kein Schlussstrich", which has a nationwide impact, and not least the numerous international networks and cooperations in business and science speak for a Jena location for the future center. The city can offer a varied stay to the up to one million visitors expected annually. Science (German Optical Museum, ZEISS Planetarium), culture (theater, museums, Jena Philharmonic Orchestra) and nature (Saaleradweg, water sports, hiking) are combined at a very high level in Jena. Last but not least, Jena also has an attractive building site in the heart of the city - Eichplatz - which could house the future Future Center. Jena is able to fulfill all of the 13 known criteria for the application for a Future Center. One criterion - a university with a social science orientation - is of central importance.
The city of Jena is therefore applying for the Future Center together with the high-performance and excellent University of Jena. Katja Bär, Head of University Communications at the University of Jena and member of the application team, said:
"Friedrich Schiller University Jena is one of the leading centers of transformation research not only regionally, but also nationally and throughout Europe. Our outstanding expertise in the social sciences and humanities is based not least on an extensive international network, especially in the countries of Eastern Europe. At the same time, the university with its international students, employees and guests significantly shapes Jena's character as a cosmopolitan, diverse and future-oriented city. Its scientific expertise, international networks and close ties with the city distinguish Jena as the most suitable location for the Future Center."
Powerful team of applicants for the Future Center in Jena
Jena is entering the application phase with an interdisciplinary project team. Christine Schickert is pulling the strings. She is the scientific director of the Collaborative Research Center Structural Change of Ownership at the University of Jena, and is heading the project together with Martin Fischer from the Central Project Management of the City of Jena. The application concept in terms of content is being developed in four working groups (WG). A top-class advisory board also provides important impulses and advice for the Jena bid concept. The members of the advisory board include Prof. von Puttkammer, Chair of Eastern European History and Co-Director of the Imre Kertész Kolleg, Wolfgang Tiefensee, Thuringian Minister of Economics, Science and Digital Society, Dr. Ute Lorenz, President of the Klassik-Stiftung Weimar and Prof. Lessenich, Director of the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University Frankfurt.
Together with renowned representatives of the University of Jena, the AG Wissenschaft will shed light on what the term transformation means and how it can be distinguished from other concepts and theories. How societies, experiences and interpretations of transformation intertwine was recently discussed in a symposium with scientists.
Axel Salheiser, director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society and member of the WG Science, said:
"It is not only in East Germany that the transformation processes after 1989 continue to shape political culture, economic and social structure, demographic development, the social situation and people's everyday lives to this day. The profound social change has become inscribed in people's experiences, and it is reflected and interpreted in very different ways. We are only just beginning to understand exactly what the long-term consequences will be, what problems and contradictions will arise, and what the similarities and differences between countries will be. In view of the current challenges, this also raises the question of the future of peace and democracy in Europe. Thus, the ZET will also explore the paths along which our society will continue to develop in the coming decades."
The Gallery of Transformation and Unity WG represents the pillar of culture on which the "Center for European Transformation and German Unity" is to be built. Dr. Christian Faludi, who heads the AG and is also project manager of the Society for the Study of the History of Democracy, outlines the AG's tasks:
"The Future Center will change Jena and its surrounding area. However, the city should not receive another museum in the classical style. This signal was clearly conveyed to us by the citizens. Not least for this reason, it is our incentive to create a place characterized by innovation, which itself remains constantly changeable and can change continuously. The result will be an inclusive space that allows people from all countries to come in and experience their own transformation in the process. Jena offers the best conditions of all candidate cities for such a project."
A key feature of the Future Center is that it is intended to invite as a place of encounter and dialogue between citizens, politicians and other stakeholders. Formats and ideas for this are being developed in the Dialog and Encounter working group. The application phase itself is also taking place with citizen participation.
Tobias Schwessinger from the Research and Transfer Service Center at the University of Jena, who is active in the WG with Tilo Schieck from the Thuringian Archive of Contemporary History, says of the work:
"The Future Center will be an open space for citizens in Jena, Germany and throughout Europe. A place where past transformations and those that lie ahead of us can be discussed together. A place that is brought to life by the people and the participation of the citizens. Jena, with its active civil society, offers the ideal conditions for this. Jena's application is not an application by the city administration, it is an application by the people who live here and who are convinced that the Future Center would benefit Jena the most."
June 20, 2022:
Symposium of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena together with the city of Jena: European Transformation and German Unity.
The city of Jena will apply for the Future Center "European Transformation and German Unity" and it can count on the Friedrich Schiller University as a competent partner. The design of the application and the content profile of a potential Jena Future Center were discussed animatedly in a public symposium on Monday evening (June 20) in the Rose Rooms of the University of Jena.
Researching social transformations and scientifically accompanying ongoing change is what the university's scientists stand for, said Prof. Dr. Jörg Ganzenmüller in his opening lecture. The holder of the professorship for European Comparison of Dictatorships referred to the excellent expertise of Jena's institutes and research networks, which were and are among the pioneers of transformation research. Special research areas (SFB) such as the SFB 580 "Social Developments after System Change", the European College "The 20th Century and its Representations" or the Imre Kertész College with its excellent scientific network in Eastern Europe are worth mentioning. Particularly noteworthy are the many trans- and interdisciplinary links, across disciplinary boundaries as well as to non-university institutions, said Ganzenmüller. The Ettersberg Foundation, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society were mentioned by name.
Science and the public together
Following Jörg Ganzenmüller's lecture, three panels discussed the content of the event. The panel included contemporary historians, political scientists and literary scholars, sociologists and cultural scientists. The tenor of the discussion was unanimous: The city of Jena and the university together have the potential to make such a future center a success story. However, there should be no science in the ivory tower, but the public should be involved from the beginning.
The president of the Friedrich Schiller University, Prof. Dr. Walter Rosenthal, had spoken in his greeting at the beginning of the symposium of the concept of the turning point in time, with regard to the Ukraine war of the apparent return of the horrors of the 20th century. To accompany this (these) turning point(s) with an alert eye would be an important task for a Future Center "European Transformation and German Unity" in Jena.
The invitation to tender for the Future Center is to be issued shortly. The federal government intends to provide a sum of 200 million euros for the construction of such a center, and the annual budget of the institution is to be 43 million euros. In terms of content, the center's work is to revolve around the keywords "science," "dialog" and "art." In addition to the city of Jena, other eastern German cities are applying; a decision is to be made this year.
Further information on the website of the University of Jena
May 05, 2022:
WorldCafé with citizens to kick off the public application process.
The city of Jena and Friedrich Schiller University Jena have drawn a positive balance after the joint kick-off event for the application process for the "Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity" (ZET) on May 5, 2022. About 80 citizens of the city had accepted the invitation to the "WorldCafé". At the end of the event, the initially empty "tablecloths" were filled with thoughts and ideas on how Jena can score points in its bid for the ZET.
Lord Mayor Dr. Thomas Nitzsche was pleased: "The results were impressive. Even though we can't reveal too much at this stage about how Jena will position itself in competition with other cities - one feature of our concept will definitely be the participation of the people living here. I'm all the more pleased that so many citizens joined in on this first evening and exchanged ideas together about what transformation in and for Jena and beyond actually means to them."
Impetus and exchange of ideas on the three pillars
In addition to an impulse speech by the Lord Mayor at the beginning of the event, other responsible persons from the organization team introduced themselves, who also accompanied the discussions at the WorldCafé tables during the course of the evening: Katja Bär, Dr. Christian Faludi, Martin Fischer, Prof. Jörg Ganzenmüller, Dirk Postler, Dr. Axel Salheiser, Dr. Christine Schickert, Tilo Schieck, Dr. Tobias Schwessinger.
The participants then discussed five topics and wrote down their thoughts on the paper tablecloths:
What do we mean by transformation?
How and where should the Future Center in Jena be established?
How can we enable participation and encounter on site?
How could exhibitions be integrated?
What orientation should a scientific institute have?
These guiding questions take up the criteria for the Future Center known so far from concept papers of the federal government, which should be supported by three pillars: a scientific institute, a citizens' forum and an exhibition area. The concrete call for proposals is expected in the summer.
Further information: City of Jena
Future planned events and initiatives
Currently, five working groups with representatives of civil society, the University of Jena, the city administration and the municipal enterprises of the city of Jena are working on the preparation of the application for the Future Center European Transformation and German Unity.
- WG Science
- WG Dialogue & Encounter
- WG Gallery of the Future
- WG Architecture & Construction
- WG Communication
30.6.2022 - Mayor Thomas Nitzsche meets young people from Jena and Erlangen to talk about German Unity
30.6.2022 - The project team for the Jena Future Center for European Transformation and German Unity meets stakeholders from Jena's civil society for a joint exchange of views
Further date announcements will follow.
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