There are no ‘Outstanding Europeans’

Article published on Sept. 29, 2004
community published
Article published on Sept. 29, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Given that there seem to be no outstanding Europeans, we are not in a position to give ourselves a pat on the back and congratulate ourselves on how well everything is going.

Without a shadow of a doubt, during this year there will be some exceptional characters in many fields, figures who will give rise to great achievements, either in absolute anonymity or with a certain degree of recognition. Throughout the last few months, Science has continued to move forward in its advances and, sure enough, the Art world has continued growing and innovating in what has come to be 2004. In general, the media tends to be lacking in generosity when it comes to acknowledging the people behind this type of progress or creation, but these figures deserve to be recognised for their work.

The need for an ambitious figure in the EU

If the average European is questioned as to who is the celebrity of the year, there is no doubt that a high percentage will respond with the name of some footballer or the winner of the most recent reality TV show; few would give the name of a Nobel Prize Winner or someone who had made the most recent bio-genetical discovery. There really is a need for role models who are true Europeans, who go beyond national borders and who in turn are transformed into symbols of the incipient European identity.

Personally, I find it contradictory giving the title of ‘Outstanding European’ to a person merely for their national worth. Thus, in my opinion, this title should not be awarded to anyone for the moment in the hope that somebody worth mentioning will come along. I am referring to a true icon, to a statesman (in the most classic meaning of the term). Somebody who really does give rise to an advance in European history, somebody who helps shape Europe for once and for all, somebody who will be decisive when it comes to easing the fears that continually plague euro sceptics, and who will shine, day after day due to his total absence from the European panorama. It tends to be in the most critical, decisive and often extremely dramatic moments in history that these figures stand out, and from this viewpoint, we can feel fortunate that even though the current situation is not a bed of roses (nor will it ever be), it is far from being considered critical.

Prize for non-participation

There is perhaps a way to avoid leaving the title ‘empty’: What was the most important event of this year? Once again, the most common answer would waver between the excellent European Cup, which was held in Portugal, and the magnificent Olympic Games organized by Greece. But if we put the sporting world to one side, the responses could not be anything other than the growth of the EU or the European Parliamentary elections, the latter having been remarkable in the sense that they were unremarkable. As a result, the title ‘European of the Year’ can go to ‘Ms Non-Participation’, a blanket term to cover the whole of the European Community, led by its political class.

I hope that in the future there will be no question with regards to who should be labelled an outstanding European. In the case that doubts still persist, I hope that this will be due to the large number of candidates who really deserve the title, and not to the lack of them.