One of the brightest beacons in Switzerland of European post-war integration has been extinguished. The European Centre for Culture in Geneva is to close its doors in the coming months.
The centre was created in 1950 by the Swiss philosopher, writer and avowed believer in European cultural unity, Denis de Rougemont.
At a highly charged general assembly last week, it was decided the centre would close its doors for the last time at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Canton Geneva was no longer willing to pour funds into the loss-making centre and which had seemingly lost its raison-d'être.
The heavily indebted institution has been fiercely criticised for failing to move with the times and establish a new identity. De Rougement's idea of creating a stimulating environment to debate the construction of a unified Europe has gradually evaporated over the years.
"I'd like to know in what way the centre is European," said Martine Brunschwig-Graf, Geneva's cantonal education minister, whose department helped to subsidise the centre's activities.
The decision seems particularly harsh on the new president of the centre, Anne Bruschweiler, who only took up her post in April, and who has had little opportunity to prove she can turn its fortunes around.
"I came here to launch new projects, not to preside of the closure of activities," she complained. She pledged to pursue her goal of tackling the growing divide between Europe's institutions and its citizens in another forum.
The last word should perhaps go to de Rougemont, who, on inaugurating the centre, said: "The ideal of an institution like ours should be to disappear as soon as its job is done, to fade away with its own success."
by Roy Probert