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Photo: Number 10 (Flickr); Licence:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 

In the wake of last week's "Karlspreis" being awarded to Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, guest author Frank Burgdörfer reflects upon this predictable choice and suggests David Cameron as a better candidate given his European achievements.

The city of Aachen has awarded Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, with the "Karlspreis" – an annual prize named after the medieval emperor Charlemagne. It comes as no surprise at all, as the prize is usually given to people who hold key functions in European institutions. Thus the group of potential recipients is rather limited. Council president Donald Tusk and commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were already awarded the prize. As former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet got one previously, it will most likely be the turn of his successor Mario Draghi next year. Truly exciting...

Do not get me wrong: Schulz definitely has merits with regard to Europe. However, this is not exceptional because we as European tax payers remunerate him well for his work. He has indeed increased and consolidated the EP’s influence over the last years. Still, giving him an award for that is a bit like awarding the Pope for special achievements in the field of leading the Catholic Church. 

Are there no committed citizens, innovate business men, progressive researchers or clerics building bridges in Europe? Cartoonists, journalists, historians, teachers or doctors, who have used their positions to give "exceptional contributions in political, economic or spiritual regard for the unity of Europe", as a declaration from 1990 puts it? It seems that the Charlemagne Prize actually puts the city of Aachen more into the spotlight than the awardee – which is in fact often the case with other prizes too. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012 19:46

Captain Europe to the rescue

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"Mild mannered European civil servant by day, superhero, erm, at weekends and at other times on request..." He is Captain Europe, an anonymous employee of the European institutions whose mission is to lift European citizens' spirits during these hard times, while fighting the mortal enemies that are eurosceptics.

It all began back in 2008, when this civil servant assembled all the pieces of a suit that would become his part-time uniform for the next four years… and those to come. Carrying a European flag as his cape and the 12 golden stars of the European flag glued on the torso of a tight blue suit, he went to a costume party. It was the first day of many as a superhero.

"A colleague was particularly pleased with some work I did, so I sent him a picture of myself in costume and told him to think of me as his superhero. The upshot was that I was invited to take part in Europe Day," he explains. A successful experiment, Captain Europe became a fixed attraction in these celebrations, and his phenomenon went viral after, of course, coming up on Facebook and Twitter. "I got so many appearances that I have just had to order a new suit," he says.

Superpowers and Twitter

On the day that the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize, Captain Europe appeared on the Place du Luxembourg, the favourite square for celebrations in the bubble, passing on his enthusiasm to fellow eurofans as well as passers-by.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 08:28

Creating the European prototype citizens?

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When you think about institutional Brussels, you picture suited up adults carrying a suitcase on their way to work. Cheerful kids are harder to imagine in the grey bureaucratic bubble that many have built in their minds, but evidently, the so-called eurocrats have children too, and nurseries and schools also have a place in the city's institutional life.

The European School, or Schola Europaea, stands out among all the educational options provided to EU officials and workers because of its initiative to promote European citizenship and common values among the students. Created in Luxembourg in 1953, the project tried to bring together kids from different mother tongues and nationalities, an educational experiment supported by the Coal and Steel Community of the time. Today, there are 12 schools spread across Europe, all financed by member states, and all with the following words sealed in the foundation stones of each building:

"Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe."

Matilda Sevón, a 31-year-old Finn living in Brussels, arrived at the school when she was 15, after her father got a job in the Parliament. Today, looking back at the  statement, she doesn't feel it quite fits her situation. "I think of other Europeans as much closer to me than I did before going to the European School, but in some ways I have also become more fond of my own country," she says.

Monday, 20 August 2012 09:30

European identity is in its childhood

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Imagine Europe in ten, thirty, fifty years. Will we ever be able to build a European identity or will Europe turn into one large museum? Leire Ariz investigates what young Europeans in Brussels have to say about Slavenka Drakulić’s predictions for the old continent.

Carmen Păun is a volunteer for the European Youth Press in Brussels. Like many of the young people in the bubble, she came from Romania to study in a masters programme, and after several internships, settled for a job. She has a German friend of Chinese origin who once told her jokingly: "China can turn Europe into a parking lot." 

Museums are for the past

It is a similar statement to that made by journalist Slavenka Drakulić, who was interviewed in E&M's latest issue. Her vision of Europe's future suited that of a theme park. "The continent will be flooded with tourists, mostly from the east, who look at the Old Continent as we now look at Babylon."

Păun is sceptical about the EU's future the way we know it, but doesn't believe Europe will be reduced to a tourist attraction. "Did Russia become an iconic park for communism? Not really," she says.

In general, people in Brussels tend to disagree with pessimistic views about Europe's coming years. It may be because people who come here usually do so because they are convinced Europeanists, or because many have academic backgrounds related to the EU, or simply because their work future is often closely related to that of the continent.

Carmen, Jeremy, Francesco, Mourad and Kaltrina - all five of the bubble-inhabitants I spoke to had amendments to make to Drakulić's prediction. Jeremy, a Belgian journalist, put it in a way that summed it up: "museums are for the past! European identity is in its childhood."

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