Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

Focus

'Europe projects coldness'

  • 'The EU is like a fish tank - we can see what is happening, but only from the outside', says Fruzsina Szep, head of Sziget music festival (Photo: Xose Castro)

Over recent days Berlin has been filled with artists and writers discussing how culture can counter the rise of populism and euroscepticism in Europe.

On Monday (3 March), EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and three of the lead candidates trying to succeed him - Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt - debated with movie directors, art festival organisers and writers on how to find "a soul for Europe."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Two days earlier, Barroso and German Chancellor Merkel were presented with a "new narrative" for Europe, accompanied by unusual art shows.

There was scepticism about both endeavours.

The EU narrative is a pet project of Barroso, complete with a "steering committee" of artists who were tasked with drafting the four-page long text calling for 'cosmopolitanism' and a 'new renaissance' in EU politics to counter populism.

Merkel wondered "if citizens really wish for a new bigger story about Europe or rather the opportunity to talk about their experiences and be listened to by politicians."

As for the "A soul for Europe" conference, Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad said a sense of self-irony was needed when participating to that event. Europe has many souls, many stories. "Giving or finding just one soul is a chimera," he said.

Europe's image problem is that it no longer inspires people to dream big, said German movie director Wim Wenders. "Europe projects coldness, projects administration, not my childhood dream of a united Europe," he said.

"The EU started as a financial union, which had its justified reasons. But it stayed that way and culture was always just the icing on the cake, never part of the cake or the cake itself. You need to change that recipe," Wenders said.

Sziget music festival director Fruzsina Szep said that for her, the EU is "like a fish tank where people can watch only from the outside what is happening."

Jean-Claude Juncker, the centre-right's likely top candidate in the EU elections, who chaired the meetings of finance ministers at the hight of the euro-crisis, said the main problem was that Europeans don't know enough about each other. "What does Berlin know about Lapland?" he quipped.

But he claimed that culture played a role and that even in the wee hours of Eurogroup meetings, the ministers always "thought about the people" in Greece or other bailed-out countries.

Wenders was unimpressed. "That's just a drop in the ocean."

As for Schulz, who has just been elected as lead candidate for the Social-Democrats, he said all criticism was justified.

"We cannot save the banks, declare that they are 'systemically relevant' and leave half the population in unemployment. Of course then even the most pro-European turns sceptical."

"What is a soul for Europe? I cannot give a single coherent answer. And I am also sceptical about a new EU narrative. What people want is the idea of taking down borders, be they political, cultural or related to language," Schulz said.

Like Barroso and Merkel before him, Schulz noted that people in Ukraine have died with the EU flag in their hand.

Europe remains an inspiration, but more to people outside the club than its own citizens.

German eurosceptics on the rise ahead of EU elections

Anti-euro and anti-immigrant sentiment is shaping the EU election campaign in Germany, with a newcomer party that promises an "alternative" to the single currency set to enter the European Parliament.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  3. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  4. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  6. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  7. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  8. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  9. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  11. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'