Monday, January 01, 2007

a europe of contrasts

The Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna.

One of the showpieces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed in 1918.

A Bulgarian village.

Today Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, bringing it up to 27 members.
Twenty years ago Europe was divided into two blocs - though both were basically socialist. Today both halves are fundamentally anti-socialist, and the better for it. The bleak days of glum leftists like Caecescu and Thatcher are now ancient history, and Europe is as united as it was prior to August 1914.
Today the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra performed a superb concert at the Musikverien in Vienna. This return to the Belle Epoch is always a stirring event, bringing forward a confusing series of images of Europe resplendent, the Nazis and pre-Climate Change ease.
The EU is, in principle, a reasonable idea, scrapping internal borders of a continent whose nations have far more in common than they sometimes imagine. But the EU was an idea of its time, and that time was the 1950s and 60s. In reality today power should become more diverse, less centralised, less bureaucratic and devolved down to city, town and village level. Perhaps then a truly European Europe will emerge, allowing us to cope with the challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Crisis rather than miring ourselves in bureaucracy and wishful thinking.

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