On the previous Sunday morning as I walked to St Alban’s Church, it felt as if a new age had dawned. There was a vibrant spring in people’s step, the sun shone (briefly and then it rained) and the Copenhagen Marathon was underway. The people smiled. The previous night, Denmark (may I say, we?) won the Eurovision Song Contest. The bottles and cans on the street showed the signs of a lively party that had ended only a few hours ago. Tivoli would no doubt warm up later.
I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed watching Eurovision. It started in the year I was born, and it always seems to take place in the week of my birthday. Where else can you get a taste of the weird and wonderful, including this year a Romanian male soprano singing funk-opera and a Greek knees-up with men in skirts and fine moustaches. And don’t forget the nostalgic language from the days of old telephony: “This is London calling.” It is the cheese-fest of the year. A blend of serious competition and laughing at oneself. Sadly, the best bit for me has now gone. That was the legendary BBC live commentary by Terry Wogan, who added further to the entertainment value with his hilariously pithy (and often rude but honest) remarks.
The week before I was in England for a few days: the land of Euro-scepticism. The UK government is at war with itself over Europe, and whether there should or should not be a referendum to ask people whether the UK should leave or stay. It may even be the start of the melting down of the Coalition. It seems that anything and everything that goes wrong is blamed on Europe. Europe has become the scapegoat and the political football in UK. But what is often not remembered is that the EU started with a philosophy that was about peace and reconciliation after two wars that nearly destroyed our continent. The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 was a governmental proposal by Robert Schuman of France, to create a new form of organisation made up of states in Europe − a supranational community. Schuman concluded that certain values such as justice could not be defined by the state apparatus alone.
The founding fathers of the modern Europe – men like Schuman, Winston Churchill, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer − were driven predominantly by a single ambition: to banish the spectre of war from Europe’s borders. They were incredibly successful in doing so. But the Europe of today faces radically new challenges that require it to develop a new sense of purpose.
And as we work out together what that sense of purpose should be, I hope we can continue singing together and sharing our cultures and sense of fun for many years to come. “Thank you for the music” – next year Copenhagen!