I will never forget the strangely paralyzing palpitation which overcame me after I heard the outcome of the last US Presidential election. First, I tried to make light of it but unfortunately I cannot avoid seeing every day that my worst nightmare has become a reality. Although the unforeseeable Brexit vote was not followed by an unimaginable Frexit, the vision of a strong, free and unified Europe, in which I was hoping my two sons would grow up, is still deeply threatened by the undemocratic and populist tendencies not only confined to some Eastern European countries. Certainly, there are many things we could improve in the EU right now: less bureaucracy, more transparency, better communications and solidarity between the European nations … but to fall back into single national states, potentially in conflict with one another, cannot be the solution.
A good friend of mine suggested that maybe it would not be too bad to break up the EU and start a new union, maybe smaller, without the mistakes which have undoubtedly been made. However, as tempting as it might sound “to start from scratch”, we just don’t have the time for that (it would take decades!). Dramatic climate change needs to be tackled right away, and the refugee crisis was obviously not created by Mrs Merkel but by the horrible situations in the Middle East and in major parts of the African continent. These two catastrophes are, in very real terms, threatening not only our own well-being but the whole of life as we know it on our planet. Instead of wasting energy in guiding Great Britain into its desired “freedom” and later renegotiating all these trade deals and arrangements between every single country, we should — no, we MUST — jump into finding global solutions immediately.
What really scares me to the bones is that none of the three superpowers are taking the lead in these threatening dilemmas. It is up to Europe to take a lead in saving the world (as pompous as this might sound), but instead it is too concerned about itself.
I am fully aware that, as an individual, I am only able to play a small part, but if many musicians came together and made a strong stand for a free and responsible Europe (and subsequently world), maybe we could sway some of the undecided people away from the populists’ views and change the faith of our beloved continent.
As a consequence of this, we have created Musicians4UnitedEurope (M4UE) which currently exists as a Facebook group. Within 3 weeks of our existence we pulled off an event in which 40 musicians from 25 different nations (among others Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Alice Sara Ott, Guy Braunstein, Sarah Willis, Francesco Piemontesi and myself) performed in front of a sold-out audience including former German President Joachim Gauck, in a colourful concert at Berlin’s Radialsystem, as a benefit towards the pro-European movement “Pulse of Europe”. We are hoping to inspire as many musicians as possible to announce that their existing concerts which are taking place on “Europe day”, 5 May 2018, (or to create their own house concert or public appearance) will be part of M4UE. We are hoping, by then, to have brought many more musicians, cultural institutions and organizations (orchestras, concert halls, universities etc.) on board. Besides giving concerts, we want to tell our very own European story and make the point that the so-called “cultural identity” which so many people are afraid of losing is something to be acquired and enriched by learning about other countries and cultures. Nobody should force us to deny our roots, but if we limit ourselves to this we will simply dry out spiritually as well as culturally — and who would want that?