Thursday, January 05, 2006

The sound of Europe

The Austrian presidency is organising a conference, which it is calling "The Sound of Europe". This, it says, "takes up the debate on a European identity that began under the Dutch EU Presidency." The blurb reads:

"Europe is a spiritual conception. But if men cease to hold that conception in their minds, cease to feel its worth in their hearts, it will die. [...]. This is the supreme opportunity, and if it be cast away, no one can predict that it will ever return and what the resulting catastrophe will be". With these memorable words Winston Churchill described the possibility of a united Europe in 1947, but at the same time warned of the consequences of failure.

Fifty years on, Eastern and Western Europe are at last united, what was inconceivable at the time has become a reality. However, alongside this unprecedented opportunity, problems that many considered had been solved have resurfaced. Nationalism, populism, indefinable fears about the future and social discontent mean that for many people across the continent, Europe no longer stands for peace, prosperity and security. These eurosceptic sentiments were reflected in the French and Dutch 'No' to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. Such developments raise questions as to the nature of Europe, the existence of a European identity and the prospects for a common European future.

The event being organised by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU entitled “The Sound of Europe” is intended to initiate a broad public debate on the meaning and role of Europe, as well as about the tensions within the European Union and to propose practical solutions. At the invitation of Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, personalities from the world of politics, diplomacy, the arts, culture, science, the media and business will meet in Salzburg on 27 January 2006 to debate these issues.
So… personalities from the world of politics, diplomacy, etc., etc. And where are ordinary people in this "debate"? Over the hills and far away, I would venture to suggest.

The indefatigable Anoneumouse has it in pictures.

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