We moved to New York in the eighties. Almost immediately I was seduced by the energy, the sincerity and directness, the simplicity and sense of organization, and the fidelity of our American friendships. New York shone with the light of 1000 fires. We mingled simultaneously between artistic circles, high society, and other foreigners. Creativity was everywhere and money alone no longer ruled the day.
It was from this transatlantic vantage point that I watched Europe consolidate and unify. Faced with the growing influence of the American Empire, particularly in the economic realm with its unparalleled power, Europe decided to join forces. In reality, the idea had been floated ever since the end of World War II. It began with the rapprochement between France and Germany, and was desired by both de Gaulle and Adenauer. It was advanced by the Treaty of Rome, which united the great European powers. First came economic unity, which was followed by a customs and border union that privileged the European economy above that of the member states. The next step was currency unification. The last step would be political accord.
There were many different conceptions of Europe. De Gaulle, with his clarity of vision and extraordinary lucidity, did not want England to be a member of any European union. England was, in his opinion, unwaveringly linked with the United States, which, of course, it still is today. When Prime Minster Macmillan came to Rambouillet and begged him to accept his country in Europe, de Gaulle outrightly refused, and consoled him by singing the Edith Piaf song, “Don’t cry my lord.” On the other hand, the inclusion of Russia was essential to the spirit of de Gaulle’s idea, “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.” This unrealized configuration has remained the most just and most logical option to this day. There were debates over which countries would be accepted; some favored a slimmer Europe, others a significantly enlarged version. Certain parties even argued in favor of the inclusion of Turkey, with a population 90% Asiatic and home to 70 million Muslims.
More recently, Europe wanted the Ukraine to join its ranks. Russia protested the potential loss of this “ally”. There were riots in Kiev, the president was overthrown. The Crimea was annexed and a bloody civil war began. Smaller states seem willing at all costs to join the Euro Zone. Others, such as England, dream of leaving. Despite the complications of its birth, the European Union is a considerable and undeniable economic power, and isn’t sky about exercises its weight with regard to the United States, which does not exactly satisfy the latter.
Personally, I find this evolution perfectly satisfying. Having a Greek father, and French mother, a Danish grandfather, a Russia grandmother, and the other half being Spanish, I have often wondered to exactly which country I belong. Simply put, I feel European. European in the sense that despite their differences in History and culture, the tradition of these countries is one. I saw further progress being made. The Schengen accord permits free and open movement between many countries. The common currency aids the free flow of goods which I wholeheartedly support and from which I constantly gain more satisfaction.
Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith