In the last hot days of summer, young people from all over Europe assembled at the summer conference of a German political party to discuss, in whatever language they could, the future of Europe. The Convention had just produced its first draft of a constitution for Europe so optimism was running high. The young people, overwhelmingly students, spoke of a European “homeland” in which they would be able to move about freely.
There were at least one or two problems: when asked what Europe fundamentally meant, what Europe’s actual value was, they drew a blank. And when they began to debate the concrete contents of the constitutional treaty they sounded exactly like their parents. While the French thought the EU was not socially conscious enough, the Brits complained about excessive intervention from Brussels in social policy. The Irish criticized the militarisation of the EU, while the Germans argued for an effective foreign and security policy.
Thus these “passionate Europeans” themselves illustrated the basic problem with a common policy which, within a few months, 25 different countries must agree to: EU decisions will always be viewed first and foremost through national blinkers. Although we are excited about it, and there is little alternative to an economic and political union, it is difficult to say what the key goals for Europe are in the first place.
Europe: itself a café babel
Thank goodness, then, for café babel. Not just because your online magazine concentrates expressly on European issues. Rather, above all, because these issues are handled by writers from a variety of European countries who have a forum in which to bounce off each other. This means we get to know what’s bothering Scandinavians about the EU draft constitution, and what the Poles think about it. It sets up a multifaceted spectrum of national perspectives, the precondition for a real discussion about Europe.
An obstacle not to be underestimated for such a discussion is the fact that Europe remains, itself, a type of café babel. Unlike the United States of America, we have no common language. Although the teaching of language in schools is expanding, most people find it difficult to have a discussion in a foreign language. All the more reason to have a German edition of café babel, in addition to the English, French, Italian and Spanish ones. Perhaps we’ll see a Polish one soon. We wish you the best of luck!