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2007 Europe – No borders, no inequality

Of the three ideals that Young Euro Connect is addressing - liberty, equality and fraternity - it is equality that interests me most because it appears to me to be so ambivalent. On the one hand, it is so very desirable - it would, of course, be a fine thing if we all had the same opportunities. But on the other hand, I'm horrified by the idea of equality. What I like is diversity." That was how Ariane Grundies, the only German participant in Young Euro Connect 2007, outlined her personal response to the question: "Europe – no borders, no inequality?"

Alongside Ariane Grundies, five other young authors gave their responses to the question: "Europe – no borders, no inequality?" One of them was the young Macedonian Goce Smilevski, whose 2002 novel "A Conversation with Spinoza" has already been translated into five languages. His essay, too, brought a highly personal vision of Europe – from a country beyond the borders of the European Union. "Europe is what is beyond reach, Europe is yearning. And that's why I believe that those of us who find ourselves on the wrong side of the European Union border – we art historians who might never stand in front of Brueghel's paintings, we musicians who might never make our way through the doors of La Scala in Milan, we "other Europeans", for whom the border of the European Union is closed, and who must stay at home in our shut-off little states – that we are, despite all these impediments, privileged in our relationship to the European spirit. What we still have is our yearning. Yearning is the precondition for love. And being in love with Europe, is no small comfort."

It is these small, personal perspectives on the great European ideals that prove so very moving during the young.euro.connect readings.

The Austrian author Michael Stavaric presented a text that bolts around Europe, tracking down equality – in fact, a piercing study in in-equality: "And 150,000 women from eastern Europe work illegally in Italian households: cleaning, cooking, looking after the dog and the kids." Israeli writer Yiftach Ashkenazy and his Dutch colleague Hassan Bahara demonstrated why they are not so very impressed by European equality and provided their own insights into another kind of inequality. The Europe of Yiftach Ashkenazy is a Europe of memory, whilst his contemporary Israeli reality is all caught up in the here and now: "In contrast to Europe, our only open border is the ocean." Meanwhile, Hassan Bahara gave his depiction of the everyday life of Dutch immigrants, concluding: "While they do strive for equality, they do so in a far less romantic manner than the word would lead you to suppose. They strive for equality in the same way that the victims of violence desire revenge for the pain they have been submitted to."

This is how the French author Jérôme Lambert began his Young Euro Connect essay: "People who talk about equality in Europe are liars. People who talk about equality in the world are dreamers." He said he was not surprised by the fury expressed by the other writers in their essays: "It's no shock for me. It's exactly what I would have expected." But he, too, made new discoveries, found new ways of seeing, "because my companions have lent me their eyes, their ears, their political consciousness, their questions." The Süddeutsche Zeitung was full of approval for, "his very personal, thoughtful and critical approach, which tells us much more about Europe than all the history books and political speeches."

The authors presented these thoughts in Berlin and then headed off on the road in Germany, visiting Munich and Stuttgart. The essays remain the same. And the thoughts on Europe? Later, Jérôme Lambert had this to say about the reading tour: "And I do after all get the feeling that the five of us are on a joint mission: showing that there's something there that still has to be thought up."
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