‘New Narrative for Europe’ book presented in Brussels

The book ‘The Mind and Body of Europe: A New Narrative’ was presented in the afternoon of 28 October at BOZAR in Brussels with the participation of the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and in the presence of the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou. This publication constitutes a milestone in the implementation of the ‘New Narrative for Europe’ project to which artists, scientists and intellectuals have contributed since April 2013. As member of the Cultural Committee for the ‘New Narrative for Europe’, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović was the master of ceremonies.

The ‘New Narrative for Europe’ project was launched by President Barroso, together with Vice-president Reding and Commissioner Vassiliou, at BOZAR in Brussels on 23 April 2013. Three major public gatherings, hosted by President Barroso, were held in Warsaw with Prime Minister Tusk (11 July 2013), in Milan with the then Prime Minister Letta (8-9 December 2013) and in Berlin with Chancellor Merkel (1 March 2014). Two other important debates took place in Brussels (21 May 2014) and Venice (7 September 2014).

The book ‘The Mind and Body of Europe: A New Narrative’ presents the fascinating journey of challenging exchanges of ideas and experiences which brought the members of the Cultural Committee to different parts of Europe and allowed them to interact with a large audience of cultural actors and to engage key political leaders. The preface, entitled ‘Interweaving Narratives’, is signed by President Barroso. One of its highlights is the speech made by Chancellor Merkel at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin during the presentation of the Declaration on the ‘New Narrative for Europe’. This inspiring address is followed by the article ‘Towards Europe’s New Renaissance’ written by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović. Europa Nostra’s President Plácido Domingo and its Vice-President Costa Carras were especially invited to contribute to this initiative. Their texts – respectively entitled ‘Europe as Gesamtkunstwerk’ and ‘A Revelation of Europe’ – are included in the closing chapter of the publication.

“We are gathered again at the main stage of this impressive concert hall, only few days before the transfer of the sceptre from President Barroso and his team to President Juncker and his team. This is the perfect moment to present the book which tells the story of the journey started almost two years ago. In this way, we also wish to inspire and encourage the new leadership of the European Commission to embrace this process and to carry it forward by reaching out to an ever-growing number of European citizens,” stated Europa Nostra’s Secretary General at the beginning of the event.

The presentation of the book was followed by a debate with some of the key participants in the ‘New Narrative for Europe’ project. The Polish-Belgian philosopher Alicja Geschinska, the Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad, the Italian writer and columnist Beppe Severgnini and Paul Dujardin, Artistic Director of BOZAR, shared their impressions on the publication and on the future of the project. Nicola Setari, co-editor of the book on the ‘New Narrative for Europe’, moderated the discussion.

“President Barroso has demonstrated the necessary leadership by promoting the need for a New Narrative for Europe. I applaud all those who have contributed to this process so far. But this is only the beginning… I encourage many more men and women of culture to join the debate on the future of Europe. Today, more than ever, Europe needs our strong voice and commitment,” stated Maestro Domingo in a video message shown at the end of the debate.

“Europe is so much more than a geographical entity, an economic partnership or a military alliance. Europe is a beautiful symphony of cultures! I am convinced that Europe can and shall prevail if it unlocks the full potential of the ‘soft and sound power’ of its cultures. But to prevail, we have to give Europe a new drive! We must find a new way of expressing Europe’s core values: a new language, a new melody, indeed, a new narrative. We must find the words that inspire and instil positive emotions to help European citizens reconnect with the European ideal”, advocated Europa Nostra’s President.

At the end of the event, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, on behalf of the Cultural Committee for the ‘New Narrative for Europe’, thanked Barroso “for having been the very first President of the European Commission who has passionately advocated that culture is at the heart of the European project” and “for his personal commitment to promoting ‘A New Narrative for Europe’ based on its culture”.

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