17 February 2012

The Guardian: “It's culture, not war, that cements European identity”

"The university exchange programme Erasmus is barely mentioned in the business sections of newspapers, yet Erasmus has created the first generation of young Europeans. I call it a sexual revolution: a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children. The Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate."

Umberto Eco

An intriguing – and ultimately idealistic – idea from the author of The Name of the Rose; a reminder that a strong European identity cannot be built by ignoring the cultural roots that defined the continent for two millennia. While spending time in other parts of Europe may not be practical on a large scale, the Internet allows us to bump into one another in ways not seen before. In my travels through Europe I have never felt like a stranger, there was an underlying sense of similarity, like discovering some small part of home abroad. So there may be some grain of truth to Eco’s vision, but will there be enough time and public will to make it happen?

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