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Brussels-narrative, EU, solidarity and the good Samaritan
Timothy Garton Ash has called for a debate about Europe at www.europeanstory.net. He encourages people to give their story about Europe. Joining this debate, I chose Ludwig van Beethoven as a starting point, looking at Europe as an elite-driven project and the Brussels-narrative of solidarity (The following text is taken from a draft article written as an assignment at the Norwegian Univserity of Science and Technology, thus many points are missing. I have also removed references to make it more readable) When analyzing the prelude of Beethovenâ€™s 9th symphony, A. N. Serov suggests it reflects the horrors of war and the beginning of pace: "This first sombre introduction with epic character renders the bloody days of terror. The empire of freedom and union must be conquered. All the horrors of war constitute the musical substance of this first part". The Second Part of Beethovenâ€™s 9th Allegro vivace gives room for intense joy, while Adagio molto e cantabile opens a new cycle without the trace of doubt and conflict. Finally, Allegro assai expresses the synthesis of the whole symphony â€œas a memorable page in the book of universal cultureâ€. Isnâ€™t this a suiting description of the second half of 20th century Europe? The prelude to â€œThe Ode to Joyâ€ became Europeâ€™s anthem in 1972. This makes sense in its possible reflection of how Germany and France overcame age-old rivalry, and laid the foundations for an â€œempire of freedomâ€ in 1950 . In Adagio molto e cantabile new countries have joined an evolving European Community (EC). Together they aspire towards creating synthesis in areas such as law, politics, economics, and even culture. And finally, united in symphony (EU) â€“ such a glorifying interpretation of the second half of 20th century Europe as a moral reconstruction and a European construction is part of what I have termed the Brussels-narrative. What more does it consist of and is the given narrative problematic? The question suggests the existence of a distinct discourse about Europe in Brussels, and further that this could be at odds with the perception of â€“ say, the average Joe, academics, or politicians in TromsÃ¸ for example. Who are representative as suppliers of the â€œBrussels-narrativeâ€? Suggestion: The European Convention Members. This includes representatives of the European parliament, representatives from the Commission, the member states and the candidate countries. Other suppliers of a possible Brussels-narrative could be the European Movement, my interpretation of Beethoven, students at the College of Europe or the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, or the director of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet as he states: "Although not all of us are necessarily aware of it, all Europeans exist in a unique cultural atmosphere that is jointly influenced and inspired by the poetry of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Baudelaire among many others. An atmosphere that is also shaped jointly by the thoughts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Erasmus, Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Kant, Kierkegaard" This is one example of the Brussels-narrative about Europe, namely to tell Europeans that Europe really is a unique cultural space. Another narrative, no, a fact most Europeans learn in Primary School is that Europe is not America or Africa; it is neither India nor Japan. On the political map it is the centre of the globe, just as Asia and Japan is at the centre on Japanese maps. What is not told is that Europe is a â€œpolitical and cultural concept, invented and experienced by an intellectual eliteâ€. Example 1: The European Council made Beethovenâ€™s 9th â€œEuropeâ€™sâ€ anthem, it was not embraced by the people of the different member states. Example 2: the university elite decide that Plato should be read in the introductory course at the university. Example 3: the cultural elite decide that Les Miserables should be played at the theatre again and again, and again. The case: somebody wants to tell people what Europe is all about, what you are part of and who you are. On Solidarity and the EU: What is solidarity? The concept has both an empirical and a normative aspect: the empirical aspect relates to the bonds among people and our reliance on each other, while the normative aspect is associated with the assuming responsibility for on another and therein positive action. As I see the Brussels-narrative within this definition, solidarity is about the EU and Europe as a framework for peace and the liberal marked economy in Europe with a welfare-regime. It is also about the goal of supporting the poorer regions in Europe and helping new member states achieving the economic conditions for membership. Solidarity bears its strongest connotations to â€œusâ€ as a group that should care about each other, but it also has the intension of â€œthemâ€, which refers to the people who are not part of our group but nonetheless are human beings we should care about. With that said, the primary element of European solidarity is within its own regions and borders (and the possible extended ones), but there is also a goal of aspiring towards â€œsolidarity through out the worldâ€. Solidarity, â€œisnâ€™t this the most characteristic value of todayâ€™s Europeâ€? This question is asked by Ash in Prospect Magazine (February 2007). He evaluates it as a â€œyesâ€ in terms of our beliefs and aspirations, but as a â€œnoâ€ in reality. I suggest a Partea V of Beethovenâ€™s 9th called Adagissimo freddo . This is the last part in the symphony reflecting Europeâ€™s imperial and colonial past, our history as missionaries wanting to turn â€œsavagesâ€ into believers, our history as the enlightened people contrasted to those who are uncivilised and â€œnaturalâ€. It is our history as invaders, suppressors and extortionists. It is the narrative of Joseph Conradâ€™s Heart of Darkness (1902), of never-ending xenophobia and killings. It is the narrative about a protectionist agricultural policy; the mountains of butter and oceans of milk created by subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in EC, causing the poverty of others. Solidarity through out the world is not Europeâ€™s narrative. The slow speed of realizing the goal of solidarity through out the world is embarrassing. While the EU is the largest contributor to developmental aid, and recently has been willing to eliminate duties from poorer countries, the incredible slow progress is truly a reflection of Europeâ€™s true history and narrative of self-interest. The Janus face of the EU in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on agriculture is on the one hand representing a neo-liberal economic policy, while it also upholds protectionist measures in its own agricultural sector. Pure altruism is not good economic policy for EU, which suggests that solidarity will always be instilled with self-interest, creating an economic success story inside the EU that is hard to combine with the goal of solidarity through out the world. The paradox is of course that protectionist measures and economic growth in the EU is a precondition for the goal of being a Good Samaritan in the world.
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