Foccroulle, Bernard: For a Europe founded on its culture

Managing Director La Monnaie/De Munt (National Opera), Brussels

foccroulleNow that the European Union is welcoming ten new member states, we, artists and cultural leaders, wish to appeal to the leaders of the nations and governments, and to members and officials of the European Institutions .

Our world is facing a large crisis: the gap between rich and poor countries grows ever wider; hundreds of millions of people are living in intolerable conditions; there is profound inequality within the developed countries; the ecological future of our planet appears very gloomy; the proliferation of terrorism and the recourse to violence enhance insecurity. In many countries religious fundamentalism smothers all freedom of thought. Far from resolving those problems, war only adds fuel to the flames.

The world has the right to expect the European Union to constitute a power to be reckoned with, that speaks with one voice and that is listened to as a moral authority. Clearly, Europe does not play a central role in the world order.. It maintains the illusion that the Union serves first and foremost an economic and monetary purpose. It seems cut off from its past and swayed by blind forces, when it should manifest itself as a project solidly rooted in its heritage.

Of course, a European Constitution is soon to be approved, general elections are being held for the European Parliament, citizens are granted appeal against their own country’s arbitrariness, and research that has begun at one European university that can be continued at another. All this is of considerable positive consequence. And yet it meets with almost total indifference of European citizens. It is as if Europe was unable to understand the sense of itself, or to prove itself as something more than a supranational bureaucracy.

As European citizens we are all heirs to Homer and Virgil, Van Eyck and Michelangelo, Shakespeare and Cervantes, Bach et Mozart, Chopin and Liszt, Flaubert and Kafka, Eisenstein and Bergman. Their art has fashioned a culture which passes on to us a common past and common points of reference, and which has contributed to the birth of democratic values. This European identity that we all share came into being long before the political construction of modern Europe.. For centuries, artistic and cultural exchange have ignored national frontiers and language barriers, and have helped to surmount divides and heal the wounds inflicted by the bloodiest conflicts.

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