Happy Birthday Miss Europe 1957 – 2017
|Date:||25 March 2017|
Today, Saturday 25th March, we celebrate the 60th birthday of Europe. Let’s blow the candles and make a wish—or two.
Today, at the conclusion of a week of celebrations, a big party will take place in Rome. Heads of state or government, the Presidents of the European Parliament and representatives of the Institutions will get together to discuss the challenges for the future of Europe and recall the main steps in the history so far.
Meetings will start in the morning in the Orazi and Curiazi Hall on the Capitoline Hill, where the treatises for Europe were signed 60 years ago. Afterwards, the guests will move for lunch to the Quirinale Palace, the beautiful residency of the President of the Republic.
As is tradition, 27 desserts will be served—one for each member state minus one*. Brussels’ waffles, Black Forest Cake, Poppy-Seed Strudel, Tiramisu, and many more. Several recipes for the guests of the party, many of whom are still looking for a recipe for Europe.
Over the last 60 years, Europe grew up, had children and became wiser. But with age came also aches and pains: the financial crisis, a growing list of terrorist attacks and a migratory flow of unprecedented proportion. Currently, Europe is going through a tough divorce that, according to many, is just a prelude for many other breakups to come.
It is a story of love and subjugation, as it was since its origin. Europe celebrates 60 years today, but it does so in a land of millennial birthdays. In Greek mythology, Europa was the daughter of a Phoenician king, Agenore. She was seduced by Zeus in the shape of a beautiful white Taurus. The Greek god brought her to Crete, where she gave birth to our intellectual ancestry.
What is the relation between the origin and us? According to many, what we have in common is that Europe is still a myth. The way we dreamed of it needs to be continually adjusted to the real constraints that this process imposes on us.
What does this anniversary make us reflect upon? What can we, as members of universities, as philosophers, political and social scientists, do with it? We are part of a natural experiment, something that has never been realised before. This time presents us with the unique possibility to see our theories tested and to find solutions to the puzzles we are facing.
On the one hand, legislators and policy-makers are working hard in order to provide a legal framework that intertwines with the specific ones of each member state. On the other hand, however, beyond the “big” laws that need to be implemented, there are infinitely many small norms that characterise our values and cultures and that equally call for negotiation.
An example from my own research can help illustrate the case. Think of the European English that we speak every day in cafes, classrooms, or in the European parliament. Often times, we can easily recognise the origin of the speakers from the very moment they start talking. In a similar way, the small norms we live by tell others who we are and where we come from.
At a higher level, not only do different European countries have different norms, they also have different meta-norms, i.e. different attitudes towards norms per se. They concern, for instance, the way in which we comply with norms, the way in which we judge violations, or how we react to ‘‘external’ shocks’’, as for instance different norms that foreigners bring with them. This and similar problems ask us how to integrate systems of norms of individuals and groups from different cultures. Europe is giving us the chance to look into this process. Let’s take it!
And now that the ceremonies are over and we had coffee and cakes, let’s have some fun. After all the difficulties of the last years, we deserve it.
Happy Birthday Europe—and many more to come!
*This year there won’t be scones nor hot cross buns served in Rome. Alas! Let’s hope however that, for the next party, there won’t be a shortage of Champagne.