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Where is Europe going? Piero Boitani’s letter to David Cameron (debate at the Man of Roma’s cafe). 2

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David Cameron &  Jean-Claude Junker controversy over Europe

Jean-Claude Juncker (left), now president of the European Commission (voted by the European Council and recently by the European Parliament) was fiercely opposed by David Cameron. Britain and Hungary were isolated. “Instead of building alliances in Europe – said Ed Milliband, leader of the British opposition – ” he’s burned them”

I warmly thank Professor Piero Boitani for letting me publish here the letter to the British PM David Cameron he has just sent to the London’s daily The Independent.

Piero Boitani – a medievalist, Dante scholar, steeped in ancient myth as well as modern literatures – is Professor of Comparative Literature at Sapienza, University of Rome, and is also teaching at the Universities of Notre Dame, Indiana, and of Italian Switzerland.

He is also – among the rest, the list IS mind-boggling – Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America (together with Umberto Eco.)

Here is Piero Boitani’s voice, loud and clear.

[a ‘Roman from Rome with ancient traits’ voice, I’d say. Wonder if he’d agree, he is not a reader of this blog, he doesn’t need to; links below are MoR’s, not Professor Piero Boitani’s]

Professor Piero Boitani is an extrovert despite his immense knowledge. Goethe wrote somewhere that  “the one who doesn’t understand 3000 years of history, lives in the dark, unaware, from day to day."

Blue-eyed, pensive, P. Boitani is an extrovert despite his deep knowledge. Goethe wrote that “the one who doesn’t understand 3000 years of history, lives in the dark, unaware, from day to day.” It is not the case of Piero Boitani, as one learns by reading his magnum opus, Il Grande Racconto delle Stelle [quote from here]

Dear PM,

I have followed the recent developments in your attitude to the EU with a growing sense of concern and irritation. Since the age of 10, I have been a strong anglophile. I have studied in England, have taught and published there. I visit it at least once a year. Quite frankly, I do not understand your opposition to Juncker, which has left Britain isolated in Europe with Orban’s Hungary (sic!).  Juncker is by no means the ideal President of the European Commission, but he is no worse than, say, Barroso. Was your opposition dictated by the fact that Junker is supposed to be a ´federalist´ and that he was indicated by the European Parliament rather than the governments? That is actually a more democratic method of indicating a new President than the old one of negotiations between national governments. Is Juncker against novelty or reforms of the EU? Well, governments can actually make Juncker do what they like, so if they want reforms he will pursue reforms.

In short, your opposition seems to me purely instrumental – dictated more by Mr Farage’s victory in the recent EU elections, i.e., by UK politics, than by the well-being of Britain. Unless at the back of it all be an unconfessed attempt at going with the presumed British feeling of annoyance with the EU. Threatening the other EU members with ‘The UK will leave the EU if Juncker is nominated’, or ‘Anti-European feelings in Britain will grow to the point that the 2017 referendum will turn out to be against Britain staying in the UK’, is quite inappropriate, and useless, blackmail.

Britain ought to examine herself very deeply on the matter of Europe. There is first and foremost a question of roots and culture. The cultural roots of Britain are European, from the 1st century AD to the present. Yes, there is also a different strain, wider and tied to the British expansion on the sea, and narrower because of its feeling of insularism and isolation from the Continent. But at the critical moments in history, Britain has always made a decidedly European choice, witness the Napoleonic wars and First and Second WW.

Secondly, there are political and economic reasons. Would the UK be better off outside the EU? Or, has Britain been worse off since it joined the then EEC? To say so would be a gross error. Has Britain been less ‘free’ since joining the EEC? You drive on the left and use miles, pounds, and pints. You have kept the pound sterling. You are out of Schengen. Is someone forcing you to eat taramasalata or sauerkraut? Or to learn ‘foreign’ languages? Or to surrender your navy to the Germans?

The European Economic Community. Courtesy of Britannica Kids

The European Economic Community. Courtesy of Britannica Kids. Source

What is there in ‘Europe’ that annoys the UK? Its bureaucratic structure? I admit it could be simplified and made more efficient, but you must yourself admit that a democratic administration for nearly thirty countries is not easy to achieve without a bureaucracy, and that the mandate of this bureaucracy is to uniform and unify, not keep the thousand tiny differences that exist within Europe. If you want free circulation of people and goods among those 30 countries, you will need laws – uniform laws all over – to protect that circulation. Didn´t the British Empire do exactly this, impose the same laws all over?

Or is it that Britain does not want a supranational European state, something many (not all) Europeans want so that Europe may count more in a globalized world? But Britain already is out of that state. It has ‘opted out’ of so many things. But to think that it can stop the others from having a tighter union if they so wish, wouldn´t that be considered presumptuous in any human relationship?

Yet the British public is annoyed by Europe (you will of course understand that the rest of Europe might be slightly annoyed with Britain). I suggest that the British public serenely and rationally examine themselves about Europe and decide once and for all whether they want to stay in or quit. Should they decide to leave, they should realize that they will give up, together with what they consider the disadvantages of being in the EU, also the advantages.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron holds a news conference during European Union leaders summit in Brussels today after Jean-Claude Juncker was nominated for European Commission president by an overwhelming majority. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters. Source file

“Britain’s prime minister David Cameron holds a news conference during European Union leaders summit in Brussels today after Jean-Claude Juncker was nominated for European Commission president by an overwhelming majority.” Source and caption: Irish Times

One no longer is a member of a family, or a club, if one decides to leave it. They shall have to pay duty on their wines from Europe and grow resigned to selling less whisky in Europe because we will have to pay more duty on it.  But at least they will stop having headaches about being or not being European, being or not being in the EU.

I confess that I feel upset when I have to show my passport upon entering Britain. I am particularly annoyed at having to change euros into sterling (something from which only banks profit) and having to buy plug adaptors for every electrical appliance I acquire either on the Continent or in Britain (something from which only the makers of such adaptors profit).

If Britain, at the end of such self-examination process, decides it wants to leave the EU, I shall be sad, but will face the situation serenely – and will give up my strong anglophilia without any further headache.

Piero Boitani

“Why we still like the Germans (and will always like them).” 1

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge. Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern bridge, Germany (Source . Courtesy of

[draft, in progress]

Note. This post regards the Germans and other folks from the point of view of South Europe and of Germany

The Mediterranean & the Germans

There may be problems with the Germans (the Euro crisis, the upcoming European elections, etc.)

Transient problems, in truth.

Since so many things unite us: 2000 years ago – when they began to merge with us – and today, when the merger goes further.

Where to?

To an increasingly united Europe.

Four friends
at the Caffè Capitolino


On the caffè Capitolino‘s spectacular terrace above the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus’s foundations (on the Capitoline Hill) four friends gather and chat, sipping their lemon granita.


Fulvia: “You make it simple. 2000 years ago and today: we’ve always been colliding.”
Old Man: “You’re wrong, Fulvia. Back then: fusion not collision. And today …”
Extropian: “… today fusion too. Despite your bursting breasts  – *winking at her*; Fulvia, 64, is still a beauty – OM is right. Just this: the collapse of the Italian economy would result in a (symmetrical) collapse of half of the German industry, since we provide many of the components for Germany’s manufacturing.”
The Tobacconist: *Nodding*


[The Tobacconist pops in here for the first time. His perfectly organized store gently flooded by classical (preferably German) music, TT is steeped in Hegel, Kant & the Nichiren Buddhism. Both the highbrow and the lowbrow from his rione ask for his consilium (or wisdom advice.)

Ulrich Beck:
“Europe’s crisis is mental”

Ulrich Beck (born 1944). German sociologist

Ulrich Beck (born 1944). German sociologist, professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich until 2009, he holds a professorship at Munich University and at the London School of Economics [Wikimedia. Click for credits and to enlarge]

Ulrich Beck:

[full text; paraphrased, translated – draft – and abridged by MoR]

Europe’s crisis is not economical, it is mental. It is a lack of imagination as for the good life beyond consumerism.

Most critics of Europe are caught in nostalgic nationalism. French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, for example, argues that Europe was created against the Nations.

Such criticism – Beck answers back – is based on the national illusion and presupposes a national horizon as for Europe’s present and future.

To these critics Beck retorts: open up your eyes! Europe and the whole world is going through a transition.

Two paradoxical examples:

  • All British media are full of accusations against the EU, but Eurosceptic Britain is also shaken by a wave of European public opinion never known before.
  • China, as a result of its investment policy and so on has long been an informal member of the euro-zone: should the Euro fail, China would get a hard blow.

[to be continued]

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Next installment:

“Why we still like the Germans (and will always like them).” 2

L’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas

La danse de L’Euro (cliquez sur l’image pour les crédits )

Voici l’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas:
(by MoR)


Sous le feu des spéculateurs,
sous l’attaque des agences de notation
au moment même de son grand effort
pour sortir de la crise,
la zone Euro ne s’effondrera pas.

Ils disent que le dollar américain
(et la livre sterling)
n’aiment pas l’Euro.

S’il est vrai, c’est une grave erreur.

Ils devraient aller main dans la main.

Malgré leurs détracteurs
(où qu’ils se trouvent)
l’Euro et l’UE
seront renforcée à la fin.

Cette danse composée par ‘he who writes’
pour nos pièces de monnaie tintement
(que les lecteurs nous pardonnent)
exprime ce sentiment.

C’est la danse de l’Europe
qui défie et avance,
et qui finira
par se retrouver plus unie.


English and Italian versions

L’inno all’Euro che non cede

La danza dell’Euro (per i credits clicca sull’immagine)

La danza dell’Euro

Un inno all’Euro che non molla:
(by MoR)


Sotto il fuoco della speculazione
e l’attacco delle agenzie di rating
proprio quando lottava per rialzarsi,
la zona Euro non crollerà.

Si dice che al dollaro
(e alla sterlina)
l’Euro non piaccia.

Se è vero, è un grave errore.

Dovrebbero camminare mano nella mano.

Malgrado i detrattori
(ovunque essi siano)
l’Euro e l’Unione Europea
usciranno dalla crisi più forti di prima.

Questa danza da me composta
per la nostra moneta tintinnante
(mi perdonino i lettori)
esprime tale sentimento.

E’ un inno all’Europa
che sfida e avanza
e che alla fine
si ritroverà più unita.


English and French versions

A Hymn to the Euro that does not Yield

Are the Euro coins dancing? Click for attribution

Euro Dance

A hymn to the Euro that does not yield:
(by MoR)


Under the fire of speculators,
under the attack of the rating agencies
at the very moment of its great effort
to rise from the crisis,
the Euro zone will not collapse.

They say the US Dollar
(and the Pound Sterling)
do not like the Euro.

If true, it is a big mistake.

They should go hand in hand.

Despite their detractors
(wherever they are)
both the Euro and the EU
will be strengthened in the end.

So this dance I composed
for our tinkling coins
(may readers pardon me)
that expresses this sentiment.

It is the dance of Europe
challenging forward,
and getting more united,
in the end.


French and Italian versions


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