Whenever we speak of the cultural heritage of a society or even a city, we cannot fail to directly involve its past and its history. Cultural heritage is a term expressing our origins. Today, the European Union is home to 500 million people in 28 states and thus forms the largest cohesive economic area in our increasingly converging world. Various international studies in the past have shown that it is precisely the cultural and creative economy that acts as the driving force behind economic growth. It has proven to be extremely resilient towards the economic crises of recent years and has even grown, thus bucking the trend – across Europe.
And yet: Euroscepticism, Brexit and the strengthening of anti-European movements in some EU countries – including Germany – shape the debates in many places and make me repeatedly pause for thought. What has happened to the radiant power of common European values and ideas, such as peace, well-being and the rule of law in recent years? After all, the EU is just as much an economic community as it is a community of values.
Europe lives and profits from the common market on the one hand, but also from its large cultural diversity on the other hand. Its success stories are based on the wealth of creative output in Europe and thus simultaneously preserve the cultural diversity. The European Europeade Festival proves the possibility of both a cultural interchange and a parallel existence of various cultures. The Europeade is the largest European traditional costume and folklore festival, attracting around 6,000 participants annually from all regions of Europe. The Europeade has been held in a different European city every year since 1964, with around 200 groups bringing their regional costumes, native folk dances and music to a different place in Europe every summer and thus transporting a special flair into the “secret cultural capital of Europe”.
The festival offers a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends and get to know new groups beyond national borders. The dances are performed on several stages at the most important places of the respective city. Also on the agenda are a ball, a festive parade and an ecumenical service. The various groups in their national costumes can be admired singing and making music day and night throughout the entire city! The Europeade thus not only acquaints the city’s residents with their own regional culture, the regional groups also make a significant contribution towards international understanding. The “unity in diversity” of all European regions is thus manifested on an annual basis. Diversity and variety thus promote the friendship between the participants and audience as well as unity within Europe.
The first statement of intent for the Europeade was already specifically entitled "For the youth of Europe". Forging peace among the youth of Europe was Mon De Clopper's driving force from the very beginning: a Europe of peace and freedom. “As long as the youth can uphold and respect the values of their culture, and can allow them to take precedence over the artificial ways and alienation imposed upon them, then the Western world shall be preserved.“, according to Mon De Clopper and German “comrade-in-arms” Robert Müller-Kox. Even then, the compelling thought was that folk culture would be the best vehicle for this – and it is just as important today!
"On April 5, 1964, thousands of people had understood that the only way to the Europe of tomorrow could be to follow their hearts", wrote Mon De Clopper – Chairman of the recently established Europeade Committee at the time – in the programme booklet of the second Europeade held in Dortmund/Germany from 28 to 29 August 1965. “And what makes the heart beat the fastest?” he asked himself, “the experience of seeing and hearing something of beauty, the feeling of living in a time of eternal spring, new blossoming : blossoming of all that is beautiful, the kingdom that our ancient evening song bequeaths to the peoples of this continent.”
The Europeade organisers had set themselves the goal of accompanying a converging Europe, into which every individual brings along, lives and further cultivates his/her own culture – and does so without attempting to restrict other people. Today, the Europeade Festival specifically means that between 4,000 and 6,000 participants from the whole of Europe meet up every year to live the folk art and traditions of their regions of origin – that’s the foundation of this event. The Europeade is an expression of the belief in friendship between the peoples of Europe and is based on the concept of “unity in diversity”.
The current international Europeade Committee, of which I was elected president in March, aims towards a Europe of national communities where every person and every regional identity finds a place and where everyone must be welcome. A Europe of the hearts can only result in friends and peace, which is something to be desired for all European men and women. That’s the future we are jointly building for all European youths.
That aim succeeds for five days in every year, when thousands of people in their traditional costumes from all over Europe meet at annually changing locations, to sing, make music and celebrate, without the need for major speeches. All those people taking part from the regions in Europe are ambassadors for the people in Europe. And the best vehicle to this end is the respective folk culture of the regions. We represent the Europe of the hearts, which I would like to further promote as president.
A Europe of the hearts can only result in friends and peace. And peace is just as important today, if not even more so, as it was 50 years ago. Peace is well-being and economic upswing, peace brings happiness and cultural wealth. That is why today – perhaps more than ever – we need a Europe of the people. The Europeade is a step in the right direction.
28 November 2018