Is Europe…boring?

On Saturday 20th October, from 10.30am till 12.00pm, the Institute of Ideas presented ‘Is Europe… boring?‘ at the Pit Theatre

A Battle for Europe/Time to Talk debate

The anthem of the European Union, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, captures an historic European ideal that is hard to associate with the grey-suited bureaucrats of the contemporary EU. ‘Ode to Joy’ speaks of the excitement and sense of change – sometimes experienced with optimism, sometimes foreboding – that swept Europe after the French Revolution. Through the long nineteenth century until 1914, new nations like Germany, Italy and Greece came into existence, empires spread, Freud, Marx, Darwin and Nietzsche thought, Romantic poets dreamed. The masses entered history, fought for a better world, died in the trenches of the Great War. New waves of revolution swept crumbling empires aside, Bauhaus blossomed, Sartre and Arendt grappled with Heidegger, Einstein lectured in working men’s clubs, Joyce was in Paris, Orwell and Hemingway in Spain. Ideas mattered and history was upon us as the hammer and sickle flew over the Reichstag’s ruins.

Nearly 70 years later, one can travel without a passport from Paris to Warsaw, Copenhagen to Naples. The same currency allows one to buy Gucci and McDonalds in a reunited Berlin or a Madrid where Franco is just a memory. The European Union is the largest single economic unit in the world: its population exceeds that of the United States. It lacks the economic dynamism of America, but it is safe and, until recently, prosperous. Tourists flock to breathe in the atmosphere of the old world, to marvel at how people once lived, loved and thought, fought and died. Security and comfort are nothing to sneer at, but is something missing? Do we share a sense of being European, of holding ideals in common? Is today’s EU bound together by fear of the future rather than a love of freedom? With closer integration on the horizon – seemingly the only safe alternative – is it worth asking where today’s intellectuals and thinkers are? Weimar may have lived a brief, intense, and doomed existence but there was no doubt that it burned brightly. Where is the culture, the music, the art, the philosophy, to make the European pulse quicken today? Or is it dangerous to romanticise Europe’s revolutionary past at a time when Europe potentially faces massive instability once again? Might these be vain questions as red and black flags flap on the streets of Athens once more, and Europe sits at the centre of the world’s depression?

‘Is Europe…boring?’ Debate


Dr Albena Azmanova
Social Philosopher, Political Commentator and Activist; Author, ‘The Scandal of Reason: a critical theory of political judgement’

Timothy Garton Ash
Professor of European studies, University of Oxford; Commentator; Director, Free Speech Debate

Dr Ivan Krastev
Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, Bulgaria; Founding Member, European Council on Foreign Relations

Bruno Waterfield
Brussels Correspondent, Daily Telegraph; Co-author, No Means No


Angus Kennedy
Head of External Relations, Institute of Ideas; Chair, IoI Economy Forum; Convenor, The Academy

Produced by:

Angus Kennedy
Head of External Relations, Institute of Ideas; Chair, IoI Economy Forum; Convenor, The Academy

Video by: