Update on 24 June 2016
This 24 June, the UK woke up to the news that 52% of Referendum voters had chosen to leave the EU. This choice will certainly have both short and long term economic, political and social impact in every corner of the UK and across Europe as a whole. And it is not yet clear what shape and scope that impact will take.
Nevertheless, we do want to highlight that 48% of the UK voters did vote to “remain in the EU”. There are millions of people – among those our partners, artists and cultural actors who are committed to the need for cooperation, co-creation, expanding creativity and making things happen across all borders - and that we are all better together than apart, or alone.
The Referendum results show us we have a lot of work to do, but also that we must remain hopeful, solidary and look to the longer term. ECF will continue to catalyse, connect and communicate the amazing work that people are doing that brings us closer together. And this work is not only urgent between the UK and Europe, it is necessary in wider Europe. This vote will certainly affect other European countries and many politicians will use this as a spring-board to lead more dividing discourse within their societies. Culture has a vital role to play in helping to balance this discourse.
We want to say to all of our partners, stakeholders and friends: we are here. We believe in Europe and in the power of culture to bridge divides and build stronger, more open and inclusive societies.... today more than ever.
The following was published on 16 June 2016:
The current debate surrounding the upcoming UK referendum is also accompanied by questions regarding the value of EU membership by other Member States as well. Whatever the outcome of the referendum – Brexit or Bremain - it will have questioned the raison d’être of the European Union and the relationships to its individual members and partners. At ECF, we consider this debate to have as much a political, financial, economic as a cultural dimension. It relates to our understanding and feeling of the European Union, the way we engage with it and connect to it. Culture plays an essential role in this context as it shapes the way we project ourselves in the future. This is why we have collected some background reading that informs the debate and assesses the role culture plays in this debate.
Our plea for “more Europe in the Union, and more union in the Union" - to quote EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, is echoed in a speech by ECF Head of Advocacy, R&D and Knowledge Management Isabelle Schwarz, delivered at a debate on ‘Brexit: to stay or to go, is that the question?’ organised by European Movement in the Netherlands and Netherlands Society for International Affairs in The Hague on 15 April 2015. Below are a few fragments:
However, the economic argument put forward by proponents of the British exit can be countered very effectively as is shown in the book Brexit. The politics of a bad idea by Social Europe. We therefore direct our view to cultural arguments again. How would a Brexit change the cultural scenery of London is touched upon in an article of VICE magazine. In an article in Political Critique, writer Anna-Cara Keim compares the situation to a crisis in a marriage – is divorce always the solution?
As ECF, we would like to also add, more of a cultural project.
We understand the need to place our cultural arguments in a wider frame, including the historical perspective. Which is what the European Policy Centre did through the publication of a collection of essays on the Britain's historical and future role within Europe, free to download.
Europe’s World invited a whole range of publicists to contribute to their dossier on a possible Brexit – including a piece by Isabelle Schwarz entitled "Culture could be the answer to Europe's woes", available to read in our Library.
In 2013, ECF supported the project Reframe: Perspectives on Europe through Comics from Algeria, Turkey and the UK. We invite you to read the comics created by the three UK based artists: Hannah Berry, Daniel Locke and Ilya. Their contribution is more relevant today than ever, so below we compiled a few quotes from their statements and added the links to their 2-page comics.
As a UK citizen, I am troubled by Britain’s hugely equivocal stance when it comes to the European Union and our place within it. Britain has been a member state since 1973 – nearly my whole life – but to hear most of its people talk, and the way our simplistic ‘news’ feeds continually carp about Brussels ‘madness’, you wouldn’t think it.
Hannah Berry: Europe Welcomes Careful Drives
At the country’s wheel, there are people who... shall we say... look after their own interests. Interests that do not coincide with the best interests, or sometimes even the rights, of citizens. And while the EU represents for many people a barrier in their absolute freedom to manoeuvre, it represents for the rest of us the last line of defence for our human rights.
Daniel Locke: EUROPA
Like many people in the UK (and across Europe generally), I have close emotional and social ties to a number of other countries; for example, my wife is half Danish and much of her family lives in Denmark. I have dear friends in Poland and Greece, as well as good Polish, Italian, Spanish and French friends living here in the UK. I believe that this communication and movement across national boundaries leads to a greater degree of sharing of ideas and ways of living that is beneficial to us all.