Brussels 2019

Europe and the European Union

The 10th conference «The Soul of Europe» took place from August 21 to 23, 2019 in Brussels in the centre of the EU Institutions. For years the conferences moved through East-Central European countries. A swing from the East to the West started in 2018 with Tbilisi in Georgia, moving in 2019 to Brussels in Belgium, then in 2020 it will be Yekaterinburg in the Urals and in 2021 probably London.

Brussels left many interesting impressions: a perfect conference organisation, approx. 150 participants, high quality speeches, challenging eurythmy performance by the Ihoch3 Eurythmy Ensemble and many working and conversation groups on different themes. In connection with the conference one could experience the institutions, the functioning and the problems of the European Union. Mario Damen explained during an excursion the organs of the EU and the process of decision making guided through the European parliament, this great club consisting of over 700 participants and a huge army of interpreters and translators, trying to overcome the consequences of the Tower of Babel. Gerald Häfner and Paul Mackay showed the essential shortages and the faulty design of the EU. The decision making depends very much on the governments, the influence of the citizens is insignificant, the civil society is not included in an appropriate way, the big stakeholders have too much influence. The money system is not at all socially healthy. Alexander Gerber and Michaela Glöckler nevertheless could report about some achievements of lobbying of the Demeter movement and the Anthroposophic Medicine.

A definite problem however can be clearly seen in Western Europe and particularly in the «Europe» of Brussels. One can observe the frequently fully unconscious tendency to identify the European Union with Europe. But the EU is not Europe. Even if we leave out Norway and Switzerland, Russia and the Ukraine should be also considered essential parts belonging to Europe. Just a symptomatic bagatelle: The statistics about some agricultural facts with the title «…. in Europe» give data only of the EU countries whereas it is particularly the comparison with the other European countries which would be of utmost interest.

But more than half of the lectures went far beyond the problems of the EU and asked such questions as: What is the «Soul of Europe». I pick just a few motives. How can the idea of Europe incarnate? How do I become a European? What’s the meaning of being a witness to European history? Europe is neither the Europe of the institutions nor Europe as an idea. It lives in the encounter of the two, where form and potentiality meet. Christine Gruwez spoke exhaustively about this duality. Andrej Zhiltsov described structures within Europe as result of a long history of the East-West schism of the church. Christiane Haid spoke about homelessness and the consciousness soul. Stephan Kirste and Jaap Sijmons referred to some philosophic aspects leading to the development of the concept of Europe.

As a summary: a rich, many-sided conference with a lot of answers to questions living in every real European. Only one critical remark: I thought that the times of long lectures belonged to the past. Several times three talks of 40 minutes each one after another without break – that’s just too much. I hoped the conference would be one day longer without additional content, in order to meet people and digest the rich contributions.

Lahti, September 3, 2019
Hans Hasler