“A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood … A day will come when we shall see … the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas,” proclaimed Victor Hugo at the International Peace Congress in Paris in 1859. He was laughed at for his dream, but history proved that he wasn’t too far from what reality could achieve.
Almost a century later, in 1957, the Treaty of Rome was implemented as an antidote to the megalomaniac nationalism that tore Europe into two World Wars, and another half a century later, Hugo’s idea of Europe was almost in reach with a growing European integration.
But the Brexit referendum and a surge of nationalism throughout Europe has recently put a halt on the dream of one Europe. Europe, it turned out, has become a matter of class. Her unity has neglected the lesser privileged who turned against her. The borders of European thought are not geographical borders, but they are social and cultural borders, running through each and every corner of the continent like invisible walls.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the literal brink of Europe, in the Turkish countryside. Ideologically torn between East and West, at the periphery of a deteriorating democracy, the people who literally walk on the ruins of some of the first democracies of the world during Hellenistic and Lycian eras couldn’t be further removed from the idea of a European unity.
At the crossroads between Europa and Asia, Turkey has long appealed to belong, but was always denied entrance to the European Union. And now, with the UK leaving, there’s an imminent threat of European unity falling apart.
The missing star in the EUnity, it may not just be the UK, it may be a lost sense for unity, a lost sense for social justice that led it astray.
When Victor Hugo proclaimed his idea at the International Peace Congress he was laughed at. But he held on to his idea. He planted a tree at his Guernsey exile, saying that once this tree would mature, United States of Europe would come into being. History has taken winded roads, but the tree is still happily growing.
The twelfth star in Europe’s unity circle may not have disappeared. It might just be elsewhere – for now.
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