Waarom ‘de ziel van Europa’?

Europa wordt aangevallen. We kunnen deze dreiging alleen afwenden als Europa eensgezind is. Zolang eensgezindheid ontbreekt, is Europa een speelbal van kwade machten.

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unanimously defending human dignity

To the soul of Europe

On Sept. 25, 2012, Tilburg sociologist Gabriël van den Brink, who to my knowledge is not related to me, delivered a speech to the Council of Public Administration titled “For the Soul of Europe” in which he explained what he believes is wrong with the European Union: The “European Project” lacks inspiration. People do not love Europe as they love their homeland. The EU should therefore focus on creating a European imagination, a shared view of who we are as Europeans as we have about our Dutchness.

At that time, I had been working on my own European project for several years. Europe as such interests and intrigues me. It amazed me that an institution that represents such a rich and diverse continent communicates so woodenly and awkwardly. Together with my friends Harrie van Wees and Fred Kaandorp, we dragged on the project that I had given the understated name of ‘Mezzina’ because I deduced from the prevailing political sentiment that anything that refers to the EU – and the word ‘Europe’ does that in itself – is doomed to publicity because ‘Europe’ coincides with ‘Brussels’: The EU that is a political irritant for many people.

The introductory chapter in my 2012 business plan for Mezzina, a printed magazine for in the Fyra that we pitched to the NS management, is called “For the Soul of Europe. Van den Brink’s analysis matched our intention perfectly: The European project lacks inspiration. It lacks warmth. All the while, the beautiful moving stories are there for the taking. I quote lavishly from Van den Brink’s speech in that introductory chapter. My idea was to counter negativism about Europe with the positive story of Europe as the greatest cultural theme park in the world, a treasure trove without parallel, as a peace project an oasis of civilization, a community of values and the best place in the world to live. But above all, “Europe, but fun!

Since almost all the signals were green, Mezzina seemed to be going to work but a single signal jumped to red at the eleventh hour: The Fyra debacle made our plan sneak up on the meet. It seemed dead after that until Harrie introduced me to Gerrit Jan Hofsté in the summer of 2018, who responded so enthusiastically to the idea that the three of us revived it.

Mezzina is a corruption of Messina, the Sicilian city where in 1955 the foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, West Germany, France and Italy laid the foundations for what is now the European Union. It is a fantasy name that sounds somewhat feminine (women read most magazines) and is easy to read and pronounce in all languages. But he lacks that frontal eloquence that makes clear at once what he stands for.

Meanwhile, Fons Bruijs, another friend, had joined the project with Ernst van Splunter. They are respectively an experienced and lauded advertising man and a highly experienced communications consultant. Fons did not think “Mezzina” was strong: too vague. So at one point we were all brainstorming a better name when the cry The Soul of Europe came across the table. And that became, in unison, The Soul of Europe: clear, warm.

The intention behind The Soul of Europe goes a step further than that behind Mezzina: If Europe as a project is not to perish, then we as citizens of the different countries in the continent must enter into the conversation with each other about what we really have in common and what that is worth to us.

It is a multimedia storytelling project to which everyone can contribute. We certainly do not want to deny people the right to be proud of their own country, but we do ask that you consider the extent to which that pride extends to European culture and history. We invite everyone to join us in our search for The Soul of Europe.

Erwin van den Brink, Sept. 19, 2019



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