Is this the right time to celebrate Europe, with riots in Greece and on the cusp of a new era in British politics?
As I write the Brits are going to the polls, deciding on who will lead the country over the next five years. Is it time for a bold and historical change, or time to hold on to the past, or time to descend into a state of confusion and muddle which will undermine the currency for a decade? The situation in Athens is little different, although the rioters’ tactics have been both irresponsible and tragic. But at least the Greeks have begun to face up to the enormity of their debt, unlike British party leaders who skirted questions about the crisis and the scale of future cuts in the three television debates. The truth is that hard times are ahead for both countries, and Messrs. Brown, Cameron and Clegg didn’t need Athenians to show them that discussing it would be a vote loser.
The other elephant-in-the-room is Europe. In the UK none of the party leaders have clearly stated that Europe – as the country’s biggest trading partner – is essential to Britain’s future, that the free movement of labour enriches all member states, that any withdrawal from the EU would diminish further Britain’s influence in the world. Meanwhile in Greece no one seems willing to acknowledge where the money came from that financed all those new roads in Crete, the high-speed Aegean ferries and Venizelos Athens airport? The dosh came from the same people who are now willing to rescue the country – if its politicians and citizens can get a grip on their profligate habits. Yet at both ends of the continent an island mentality still perceives Europe to be dominated by Belgium bureaucrats whose sole aim is to stamp out fairy cakes and ban kalamatianós dancing.
So what better time than a crisis to celebrate Europe – and to ask Europeans to post online their thoughts about the EU and its future?
Bloggingportal.eu is a new way to follow European thinking. Its volunteer editors syndicate content from more than 500 blogs, rating posts and giving readers the best summary of the analysis of the EU in the blogosphere. They don’t think that the EU is an evil conspiracy, nor do they love everything it does. So readers -- within these wide parameters – can access a stimulating range of authors, opinions and subjects.
Through bloggingportal.eu I’ve discovered Julien Frisch’s wonderful Watching Europe, Prune Antonie’s beautiful personal blog and her l’Europe en Blogs and Paul Krugman’s New York Times blog which asks – among other things -- how reversible is the euro? Bloggingportal.eu can also be found on facebook.
So what is Europe to you? What is my Europe? An open society. A mélange of languages. Cathedral-like train stations connected by a ICE-TGV-AVE high speed rail network. Euro change in my pocket minted in Ireland, Portugal and Italy. Oven-fresh croissants. Espresso in Kraków’s Market Square. BBC World Service. ARTE. Bicycle lanes. Easyjet, founded by a Greek, managed by Brits, flying between Barcelona and Basle. Dolphins leaping alongside a Cyclades ferry. Lazy mornings snoozing in the sixième. Fnac. Shakespeare and Company. Tacheles. Berghain. Ice skating along the former line of the Berlin Wall. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Heidelberg. The Hebrides. Rapallo. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The insistence on memory – on facing the past – fired by the conviction that the psychic health of a society depends on past atrocities being unearthed and confessed, as a condition of healing.
As they’re saying these days in London, Athens and Berlin, Europe’s future is at stake. Let us play our part by sharing our vision of it today and in twenty, fifty or even a hundred years time – and celebrate Europe’s diversity, continuity and courage for change in this ever-changing world.