"Europe scares those who don’t know it"

Article published on May 15, 2017
Article published on May 15, 2017

“Unity is power,” is the message that lies at the core of Yannis Mouhoun’s short film Voices for Europe. Softly touching upon new realities, uncertainties and concerns that the continent faces, the young French director depicts his version of Europe. 

cafébabel: Could you explain the message that you wanted to get across with your short film?

Yannis Mouhoun: Voices for Europe was born from the idea that Europe is often criticised by the general public as well as the member states. The only things justifying the existence of a European Union today are extremely pragmatic arguments, like economic reasoning and an institutionalised political system. To create true social cohesion and construct a legitimate baseline, we need something more. To me, a nation is a socio-cultural construct. Europe, in the federal sense of the word, has forgotten to exist in and of itself, especially with regard to its history. The continent is an exceptional demographic that has strong economic ties, as well as a sophisticated political structure, but hasn’t yet managed to define a set of European values. What’s missing is some storytelling to justify its existence.

cafébabel: How did you arrive at the idea of creating Voices for Europe?

Yannis Mouhoun: It’s important to have some context, here. With the French and German elections happening, I told myself that it would be interesting to add an emotional element. I often pondered the way in which Europe communicated, and found that European institutions were doing a terrible job… they kept emitting a technocratic image of themselves. So I decided to set that image aside, and restore a fundamental definition. Why did we create the EU? For peace, prosperity and progress. Like many others, I grew up in a country with borders. We were told that they were important because, in order to define ourselves, we needed to define the ‘other’. It was by travelling that I realised our generation had developed another culture with common practices that went beyond national differences. I think Europe scares those who don’t know it [as a continent].

cafébabel: How did you feel when Marine Le Pen came into the spotlight during the French elections, about the fact that 11 million French people voted for the National Front?

Yannis Mouhoun: It was predictable. In France, we are so scared of the National Front that we often assume it is impossible to have a debate with them. It is always difficult to argue with someone who doesn’t speak from truthful grounds. It was exactly the same problem in the USA with Trump, who said nonsense. The whole issue makes me wonder whether we have to wait for populists to get to positions of power in order for people to realise that they are not fit to govern. 

cafébabel: What is your opinion on the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president?

Yannis Mouhoun: For once the planets have aligned. There are almost entirely pro-Europeans at the head of the continent’s nations. In Germany, the competition is between Merkel and Schultz, both pro-European. I think our biggest chance today is Brexit. It’s the only issue that can unify the 27 member states. If Brexit ends up benefitting the UK, the EU will have no reason to continue working the way it is now. The only defended argument since the 90’s will evaporate. I’m convinced that, in a globalised world that organises itself in blocks, the history of Europe is that of a federal Europe. It would make sense politically, and would be culturally evident. Macron being elected gives me hope because I am deeply pro-European. But I don’t think that his election can bring the continent to federalism, since national heritage is so deeply rooted in each member state.

cafébabel: How come young people are still so invested in the European project?

Yannis Mouhoun: I think that in Europe, the youth is one of the most educated in the world. What comes with education is self-awareness and awareness of the world we live in. I have faith in our generation. Sure, we have grown up in comfort, but I think that we have come face-to-face with new realities. We travelled much more than our parents, we speak more languages than they do, and we are more open to the rest of the world.

cafébabel: How do you see Europe in ten years?

Yannis Mouhoun: I don’t think that there will be any major changes in the coming 10 years. But I do see two possible scenarios for the future. Either there will be more harmony within European politics, or the continent will unravel itself and allow space for populism. It’s something foreseeable; I am convinced that if Europe falls apart it will be possible to reunite later on. I never forget the fact that the European dream has existed since the 19th century.  It’s possible for European leaders to get together a unique government for the Eurozone without any major disruptions. At this stage, the success of the European project depends on whether or not European leaders are apt to revive their economic activity. When a country re-distributes its riches, it shares its prosperity instead of searching for enemies. This is the stage that we’re in now, here in France.