Athanase Papandropoulos: Why we need a Europe of Culture

Indeed, it was from Europe that the idea went forth some 25 centuries ago to institute a social order in which citizens would be masters of their own decisions and which would depend on no authority other than their freely expressed common well. This was the greatest revolution in the history of mankind.


Since the moment the European Union (EU) was sketched out, in 1957, people have contently stressed the economic and political need for it. Goes without saying that these needs are important and it is very easy to understand why efforts in those two difficult directions are strained.

However, according to Professor Tihomir J. Markovitch, from Beograd, the striking thing is that very little is said about a third aspect of this essential union, which seems just as important, if not the most important, element of all. This is the matter of culture. Without the “Europe of Culture”, economic and political union could easily run aground.

We should understand the Europe of Culture to mean the deep-rooted sense of belonging to a common intellectual and spiritual tradition, the possession of a common well of respect for the same values, feeling united in a common desire to defend and spread the ideals of freedom and democracy. In the first place, the Europe of Culture is the Europe of freedom and democracy.

Perhaps so little is said about this Europe of Culture because it is viewed as something which has already been attained? To take such a view would be to commit a grave error. Europe is a long way off from spiritual unity. Europe is still, alas, in a state of pronounced spiritual disarray, irrespective of the fact that it is possible to speak of a genuine European civilization, which essentially means our way of life, the manner in which we behave, our eating habits, and the entire organization of our daily lives. North, South, East and West, this particular European civilization is to be found from one corner of Europe to next.

Under Europe’s present situation, this is very urgent. Because what this European civilization lacks is a people truly breathing as one and characterized by a deep-seated urge to erase the bad memories of the past and an unshakable desire to free themselves of prejudice and the evil propensities which often simmer beneath the surface of human nature. In the final analysis, the Europe of Culture is the cement that holds together the bricks and mortar of European unity, strong enough to withstand the most violent storm in an uncertain future.

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