Europe is at a crossroads. The last few years have all been declared the year of destiny for Europe but never has it been so palpable than in this still young year 2016. The migration crisis is now starting to show its nasty consequences for the relationship of EU Member States and their neighbours; the debate about the status of the UK in the EU is at its peak and the outcome is highly uncertain; and while it might seem technical, the discussions about our trade relationships with the US, China and Canada fuel unhealthy thoughts in Europe. As a consequence of all this, we are now witnessing a strong renationalisation of our policies and ideas.
Europe now finds itself in a process of disintegration and we must be careful that it does not result in a full-blown break-up. This is highly saddening, especially since only a few years ago, we were discussing the idea of a political union and of a European Constitution. The odds are now against the European idea. This falling apart does not come with one big blow, it is a slow process that starts with a backlash of solidarity, which is most visible with regard to the migration crisis, but has started already before the Greek crisis.
We can observe the same pattern elsewhere: until the fall of the Iron Curtain, Europe was a dream, today it is attacked as a scapegoat for problems of any kind. The return to the nation-state is seen as a miracle cure for all actual and perceived problems. We see attempts of building up ethnic and cultural borders to distinguish against the “others”, both between, and within countries. It is breathtaking to see how many people believe in the brave new world of a Europe of nation states and are prepared to vote for parties and support movements who propagate this utopia. Such a Europe would very quickly fall back to the old conflicts and the old prejudices about each other. The demons of the past are lurking around the corner, waiting for their chance.
So what can we do to counteract this re-nationalisation? We need a new beginning, a new dynamic, a vision for tomorrow’s Europe. The EU has been in a crisis management mode since the financial crisis. The reason of the great European project is being completely lost today. But there would be plenty of good reasons why we need Europe today more than ever. The most important thing is to bring back the people to support the European idea. What is Europe’s big asset? It is precisely our diversity, the melting pot of ideas, of languages, of cultures. And it is this diversity that is being used by nationalist movements to scare the citizens.
We also need to look beyond Europe to find solutions and new ideas., In March, India will be hosting one of the largest gatherings ever to be held on the planet, the World Culture Festival. Diversity of cultures across the world will be celebrated by over 3.5 million people and more than 100 countries will be represented at the festival. People of different nationalities will participate in celebrating their traditions and cultures and show that while we are different, we belong to one family of humans. Religious and political leaders as well as artists will come together and discuss peaceful solutions of the different conflicts around the world.
If we were to hold such a cultural festival in Europe, at which every citizen would be able to witness the beauty of our continent and accept that while we may be different in some aspects of our lives, we will be stronger together. I hope that the border controls, the building of fences against European neighbours, that the increasing hatred, especially against foreigners, leads to a counter-mobilization. We all notice that societies in Europe are in a state of uneasiness and that the preachers of hate are yelling the loudest. And I hope that in this year 2016 we will see a democratic movement to revive the idea of partnership and cooperation. The World Culture Festival will give a good average, not only to Europeans but to citizens in all parts of the planet.