Waking up Europe.

March 9, 2024

My offspring have a new name for me: Europapa – after this year’s Dutch entry in the Eurovision Songcontest. 

Frisian singer Joost Klein topped the charts in the Netherlands after one week, scoring over eight million hits on YouTube and Spotify. The song is also very popular in Belgium and Poland, and is already number one in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Appropriately Klein will appear on Europe Day, May 9, in the semi-final of the Songfestival in Malmo, and is expected two days later to reappear in the final.  

Check it out, activate the translation subtitles, and you will hear and read an unabashed celebration of a Europe without borders. With phrases like ‘let’s come together’ and ‘it’s a world without borders’, Klein reflects what his late father taught him about Europe. One of my sons Whatsapped: “even though it’s so crazy, this song is so hopeful, because I think it represents a huge group of young Europeans wanting to unite, an antidote to all these old white guys starting wars all over the world.”

The song’s popularity suggests he’s right. But the video clip ends ominously. A structure depicting various elements of Europe including a windmill goes up in flames. Was Klein hinting with ‘its now or never’ that the Europe we now know could disappear? 

‘Never again’

For we Europeans are slowly waking up to new realities. The long post-war peace we have enjoyed in Europe can no longer be taken for granted. Swedes were recently warned by their defence minister that ‘each and every Swede’ should prepare themselves for war. Fast. The commander-in-chief of NATO’s newest member cautioned that “Russia’s war against Ukraine is just a step, not an end game – we need to realise how serious the situation really is.”

The ‘never again’ generation, determined to banish war to the history books, has been replaced by a generation for whom war has been merely a computer game. That could change quicker than we realise. The talk in Europe’s capitals is now about rearmament–a word not actively used by Europeans for ninety years! This week a coalition of 18 willing nations, led by the Czech government, has succeeded in raising money to send 800,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine fighting Russia’s invading forces. Slowly we are waking up to the reality that only together can we resist those threatening the peace and the rule of law. 

New realities confront us at the national and local levels too. Farmers feel squeezed out of the living their foreparents followed for generations. People rooted to localities feel threatened by change. Radical right parties are growing in popularity offering solutions ranging from ‘sending foreigners back home’ to ‘looking after ourselves first’. Scapegoats are found in ‘Brussels’ and ruling elites, migrants and refugees ‘stealing our jobs, houses and pensions’. Old political parties disappear with each new election. Inexperienced representatives from new mushrooming parties replace those rejected by voters for failing on housing, migration, inflation and environment issues.

Half-hearted cooperation at European level, what some label ‘soft-nationalism’, ironically is paving the way for a radical nationalism. The open Europe Klein sings about could take a new turn towards illiberalism at the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, 6-9 June.  


As Europe re-armed leading up to World War Two, a Lutheran evangelist named Frank Buchman called the nations to moral re-armament. His Christian-initiated movement, Moral Re-Armament, failed to prevent war but helped win the peace, influencing believers like Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer. Laying the foundation for European integration on Christian foundations, these men helped initiate an unparalleled season of peace in Europe. 

What role can we as followers of Jesus play in these times of change and upheaval? Where can we even discuss these issues from a Christian perspective? What can we learn from the vision and faith of Buchman, Schuman, Adenauer… and Jacques Delors, the former European Commission president who passed away recently? For Delors was also motivated by his faith and called for a recovery of the ‘soul’ – ‘spirituality and meaning’ – in Europe. 

Since 2011, the Schuman Centre has initiated the State of Europe Forum to create a forum for Christians to learn from each other about how to respond to challenges facing us in Europe today. Held around Europe Day in the capital of the country holding the EU presidency, this year’s event will be in Brussels. Robert Innes, the Anglican Bishop in Europe, and Eduard Heger, former prime minister of Slovakia, will be among those addressing these questions, on the theme: ‘Waking up Europe’.

I’ll share more details over coming weeks as we shape the programme in partnership with the Together for Europe committee in Belgium. Registration will begin on April 1, on the stateofeuropeforum.eu website where more information will soon be posted.  Plan to join us on Friday May 10 (evening) & Saturday 11 (all day), in the Carmelite Church near the Louiza Metro stop in Brussels.

Tonight, on our monthly Schuman Talks, I talk about Europe’s trend towards the radical right with Jim Memory and Evert Van de Poll, as editorial staff of Vista Journal.

May it help us to wake up to the new realities!

Till next week,

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