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27 September 2003

Globalisation: A World Without Boundaries?

Three keynote lectures at the SWR UniForum in Heidelberg (10-12 October) cast light on the matter — "Streams of refugees from the South are an illusion engendered by apprehension"

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The transfer of German jobs to countries with lower wages is a source of fear for many citizens. On the other hand, major international businesses selling their goods all over the world are suddenly out of reach when it comes to paying taxes. But globalisation is a phenomenon that not only affects the world economy and the international finance markets. This is indicated very clearly by the discussion about new immigration laws or the urgent issue of how best to combat poverty. The Indian fast-food establishment on the corner and the Turkish pop song on the radio are signs of global change. And international terrorism demonstrates that the conflict of world-views and moral standards has shaken many societies to their very foundations.

At the SWR UniForum from 10 to 12 October, organised jointly by SWR (South West German Radio and Television) and the University of Heidelberg, three keynote lectures will be approaching the phenomenon of globalisation from very different angles.

Prof. Merkel: The Clash of Civilisations

At 2 p.m. on Friday, Professor Wolfgang Merkel will be talking in the Great Hall of the Old University on the subject "The Clash of Civilisations — The 'West' and the 'Islamic World'". In 1993, an article entitled "The Clash of Civilisations" appeared in the journal "Foreign Affairs". In this article, political scientist Samuel Huntington proposed the provocative thesis that the old conflict between East and West would soon be supplanted by the collision between "the Western and Islamic civilisations".

The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 appear to confirm this theory. But, Merkel asks, is it really convincing? "At the global level the clash of civilisations between the Western and the Arab-Islamic world is a real danger. But it is certainly not unavoidable." The fundamentalist leanings of the Arab-Islamic world, on the one hand, and the claims to superiority by the West, notably the United States, on the other "do everything they can to ensure that the present cultural, political and military conflict will deepen," says Merkel.

"The thesis about the clash of civilisations is by no means wrong, as a 'politically correct' but analytically nonsensical way of thinking suggests, inspired by an attitude of 'it can't be true because I don't want it to be true'." Certainly, says Merkel, the fundamentalism of Islam has set up high barriers against the rule of law, secular neutrality, cultural tolerance and democracy. But, he argues, "the" West, and above all the United States, is pursuing the wrong policy. "Instead of scaling down the conflict, it perpetuates it."

Prof. Nuscheler: Globalisation and the New Migration of Peoples

On Saturday (11.10.) at 2 p.m. (same location), Professor Franz Nuscheler is the speaker. Nuscheler is a member of various UNO committees and is one of Germany's most sought-after experts on development policy. The title of his lecture is "Globalisation and the New Migration of Peoples". At present there are some 175 million people on the move all over the world as migrant workers. In addition, there are hordes of refugees and displaced persons. Globalisation encourages global migration processes. "In my lecture, I shall place crucial emphasis on providing an accurate portrayal of global migration in today's world. There are huge misunderstandings on this point and the notions prevailing in large areas of the public are completely erroneous," says Nuscheler.

"How often do we hear the horrific scenario being conjured up of the great trek from the poor countries to the rich countries. But precisely this is not taking place. The genuine migration processes are to be found within the southern hemisphere. In other words, we are dealing here very largely with internal events. What we find at the global level is the migration of elites — managers, artists, sports people, prostitutes. Finding a way of fighting international trade in human beings is a major challenge for the future." (Prof. Nuscheler)

Prof. Kirchhof: Control by Taxation

On Sunday, 12 October, Professor Paul Kirchhof will be giving the last of the three keynote lectures. In 2000, Kirchhof was awarded the Ludwig Erhard Prize. He is in favour of a major simplification of the taxation system. At 3 p.m. in the Great Hall of the University, he will be considering the universally pressing problem of tax revenues. "Control by Taxation" is the title of his lecture. "Internationally active enterprises largely evade national tax laws, but they are within the range of the tax-law provisions effective in their home country. This gives the state a control instrument that deprives these companies of freedom. At the same time we have 'competition' between the national tax systems and that competition poses new questions to the cultural state," says Kirchhof.

Johannes Schnurr

For further information go to During the event itself, there will be up-to-the-minute reports at

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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