Al-Goumhouria Daily Newspaper

Cairo, Egypt, 11 April 1974


Interview with Hans Köchler by Aida Thabet

Translation by Dr. Hussein El Tahtawy and Nathan Mundell



Nearly every hour, people from different walks of life flock to Cairo, among them managers, politicians, and economists. Some of these individuals consider moving their place of work to Cairo in order to be able to live there. However, most of them spend only one or two days and then leave. All of them have many thoughts, projects, and suggestions. Since they only have a limited amount of time, they are content to meet with the people in charge and then leave.

Hardly have we journalists, and with difficulty, found out that a personality has arrived, when he has already left Cairo.

Among the personalities who have a lot to do and convey was also Hans Köchler, head of the International Progress Organization. He was here for two days. His intentions had nothing to do with economic development aid, nor did he offer any credit or promote tourism projects. His ambitions have a much deeper meaning: He particularly would like us to participate in an international conference on cultural understanding, an event that will be held in Innsbruck under the auspices of the Presidents of Austria and Senegal.


Hans Köchler says, “Especially in these times, when Europe needs to understand the culture of the Arabs and depends on their wisdom and thinking, the International Progress Organization aims at the participation of Arab countries in the conference.”

I answered, “It is good to see that Europe finally tries to understand the people of this part of the world. We have always longed for the Western culture in order to adopt it. Don't you think that the time has come for Europeans to try and understand the Arabs?”

“This is now our goal. Obviously it is not enough that you understand us, we also have to understand you. Had we done this in time, what happened during and after the oil crisis would not have happened.”

I said, “Europe does everything in its power to establish economic cooperation. Europe extends its hand to assist us with technology. It invites us to discuss the possibility of such a cooperation.”

“This is not enough, as long as there is no mutual understanding. The economic and technical contacts would be of no use otherwise. Under certain circumstances they could vanish as fast as they were established. We want stable and lasting contacts that can only be realized if cultural cooperation is not left aside.”

I said, “You are absolutely right. You once wrote about the lost cultural contacts to Japan during a time when the economic contacts had reached their peak. We fear that the same could happen between us and Europe.”

“For quite some time we have strived to consolidate cultural contacts between the states. The idea that has led to the birth of the IPO, of which I am the chairman, was born out of an international gathering of the commission for ‘Economy and Politics’ that was held under the auspices of the Austrian President. We discussed ‘Theory and Practice’ and we came to the conclusion that we could not ignore the necessity to discuss these issues with different states from all over the world and on a permanent basis. That international cultural contacts are of utmost importance has been proven in the course of our talks with heads of government and other international personalities. Eventually, all obstacles to the establishment of our organization had been removed. In line with our founding declaration, we stick to the principle that mutual understanding and cooperation in all areas of culture are the most important factors to realize progress for mankind and build peace.”

I said, “Innsbruck is a beautiful city, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Is the only reason why you live there, because the IPO is located there?”

“That is not the only reason. I am also a professor of philosophy at the University of Innsbruck in addition to being the President of the International Progress Organization.”

Köchler got quickly back on a plane, to invite more countries to this cultural conference. He left and there was one question that remained without an answer: Does Europe really try to understand us, does it really want to build a new relationship with us that is based on new principles?