WEEK 3: Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART II)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART II) 

Now, states have grown bigger and bigger from the time we were tribes, the various stages of duchies and regions and great cities like Venice, and independent principalities. Until the 19th century they were coalescing into great states. This growth continues towards the global, because today we are faced with global difficulties, menaces, powers and visions. Again, the effort must be collective; we cannot envisage a single global empire ruled by one single power. Space exploitation is a wonderfully positive global hope. It is an expression of initiative, of imagination, of capacity. It is not a small thing to walk on the moon or to send a satellite to Mars; these are very great achievements which can only be done by a great common effort of humanity as a whole.

But there are also global menaces; we know that pollution is one; we know of growing violence is a contagious disease. The very same illnesses and diseases which affect the body effect the mind. We have seen what happens in former Yugoslavia. This could happen almost anywhere – perhaps not as quickly, we hope – in countries which have a long history of democracy, but nonetheless there is violence in everyone of us, and unless that violence is, in the child, guided to the positive, it would turn in the negative. Any unfulfilled talent or potential must turn sour and destructive.

The European Parliament and the whole concept of the European Community now is faced with a distinct disapproving voice; we know it, I know it very well from England; we know it in Sweden recently, in Denmark and even in France; in far too many countries there is fear of a further loss of sovereignty. Today the concept of absolute sovereignty is, of course, a fairy tale, an image that can no longer be entertained. We are all at the mercy of the rest of humanity, and we are continuing, however, our separatisms, our violence against or suspicion of other in many ways. I do not have to tell you about the ways that is happening vis-à-vis the third world, vis-à-vis our own people often, and this is a restrictive element. We see it also in the ultra-nationalist expression of people that have been long suppressed, like the people of Chechnya, the different races of Yugoslavia, where it did not have to happen because they lived in understanding. In a town like Sarajevo you had the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews; I was there at that time; they were living perfectly well together.

Some of the troubles are because we still live possessed by the territorial imperative, by people who feel that the only security lies in larger control, larger domination and, of course, their own ambition lies there. And others exploit the fears which they rouse, they awaken old memories of revenge and they organise these into people’s hate and their desire to destroy their neighbour. This is a very immoral attitude. We receive these leaders with honour because they have power, but they have power only because they cut their people and say, ‘look, you are not going to fall back into old phobias, into old habits; we are building a new world where your energies will work a different way”. But unfortunately, the leaders are often the very opposite, intent on power and territory, and they are chosen by the populace who is made to fear and is encouraged to trust them as their saviours.

What I am coming to is this reaction to the European Community this negative reaction, which comes, I believe, partly from the fact that the Community was established in the first place as an economic community without reference to the moral code and the concept of the wonderful world of Europe, a world full of variety, which is rich and great and has given us music and harmony and parliaments and many of the most important advances in the world by virtue of their variations and their differences. They based Europe on an economic model first, which was hoped could provide a greater market – which it has – and economic security – which it has not – and enable people to unite nations so that each may share a greater part of a larger pie. But that still represents greed. It did not apply to the founders – Adenauer, Schumann, Werner. These were people who saw beyond their own statesmanship. They were great statesman but they had in mind a European Community in which each state would surrender part of its sovereignty. Therefore, they transcended, they went beyond they own official actional brief.

I am looking to you for people to support three projects that go beyond balancing budgets, and I am looking for musicians who go beyond music and people who transcend their own immediate professions and calling, who see beyond. My suggestion to you – and it is something we have started – is what I call the “Assemblée des Cultures”. You have extended a bureaucracy of nations competing with each other, regulating a great many small details, which may be necessary, and establishing a web of regulations over the whole of Europe. Some of those are very good. I am all in favour of regulations governing working conditions, for instance; in fact, even those have been opposed on the grounds that it would allow too many concessions for you to sell your product at a competitive price. Now that must be discussed, for there might be a case for all people to have a basic net below which they cannot fall, and at the same time perhaps reducing wages in return for no risk. The objections come, as I said, from the rebirth of this idea of sovereignty. The resistance to Europe is partly for negative reasons, but there are also positive reasons. People have their way of being, have their language, their traditions; Europe consists not only of many states but it consists of even more cultures.

The cultures have never yet really been protected by the state, the state cannot protect minority cultures adequately, they cannot give them a voice because the state is concerned with creating a reliable population and with defence of frontiers; it is concerned with balancing the budgets, with interests which are definitely defence, commercial, diplomatic, and also with lobbies. So, states are at the mercy of many forces which are antagonistic to the respect due each culture, each of which has much to contribute. These cultures are not represented, they do not have a voice. Some regional cultures are very anxious, in Eastern Europe, to join the European Community because they have no security of their own, as, for instance, nomadic cultures, like the Gypsies. I am giving a concert on the 24th November, illustrating the epic voyage of Gypsies from Rajasthan, India, to Spain. This is beside the point, but the Gypsies have no voice, and we all know they are persecuted in Romania, even in the Czech Republic. But they have brought us their music, they have acted as fertilising agents, like insects, bees, going between flowers. They travel and we owe them a debt for this cross-fertilisation of cultures.

There are also different passing cultures – I hope they are passing cultures – for instance the momentary situation of seven million Mohammedans in France, or Turks in Germany, the conditions of the inner cities; these are groups of people who live in a certain way distinguishable lives that are different from us, people who are victims of certain situations – commercial, intellectual, impoverished, educational – refugees and all that happens on the city streets. They have a different life from ours. Did you know, for instance, that Prince Charles, who is a very good man, took months to persuade the ministries in London who are responsible for the inner cities, to receive members of the inner cities? This is the extent to which the bureaucracy is often cut off from the victims of their own responsibilities. These are good people, prepared to speak on behalf of their fellow-men. It is not even necessary to read or write in order to speak intelligently and with conviction of their own condition, but is necessary to find willing and understanding ears in responsibility.

Therefore, my concept of an Assembly of Cultures. This Assembly or Parliament would provide the state with its minorities representations, which will not aim any longer for sovereign status like Slovakia from the Czech Republic, because if we are going to have in Europe a hundred different sovereign states, each with their atom bomb, with their foreign service, it would be chaos. Therefore, we have to offer something different, and what we want to offer them is cultural autonomy. This depends on reciprocity, the reciprocity of the community, to protect them in turn their support of the community. Without this reciprocity it cannot work. Therefore, sovereignty alone cannot work in the new world; the new world cannot admit a hundred different sovereign states in Europe. Therefore, they must belong to each other and they cannot belong until we establish a balance of reciprocity between obligations. I feel that this is an important counterweight to the bureaucracy which is alienating both states and their cultures. We would not accord a voice to them unless it were to an audience which would assess them as the mad fringe of society they are. Ultranationalists and the fundamentalists would no longer need to claim that you have to kill your enemy, because we will be giving them a voice, so please speak; we would not give terrorists a voice but we will be giving people of a given culture an opportunity to address a meeting like this, in perfect understanding, who would be broad-minded enough to know that they live in a world with other people.