What went wrong then ?

Despite cold weather and late time, I walked tonight to the eastern part of Berlin. For some reasons, it’s the first time in my life I have the chance to discover this city ! Didn’t want to miss it !

As it was going late, I took a taxi to come back. The taxi driver picked me up at the Brandenburg gate, and for 12.30 euros, brought me back to my hotel, located in the western area.

The trip was not so long but the guy had time to tell me a bit about his personal story: in 1985, at 22, he moved from Bielefelde, a German city between Hanover and Dortmund, to Berlin … because Berlin was « hip » he told, « with an incredible atmosphere », and he added : « a bizarre one ».

Like a flashback, he brought me back to 1989:

I was in my late twenties, but I remember everything: the wave of refugees leaving East Germany for the West, finding their way to Hungary via Czechoslovakia, or via the West German Embassy in Prague ; the politburo led by Krenz, deciding on 9 November to allow refugees to exit directly through crossing points between East Germany and West Germany ; Günter Schabowski, the party boss in East Berlin and the spokesman for the SED Politburo answering in his press conference on the same day (9 November), after a few seconds of hesitation, that the new regulations should probably « take effect immediately, without delay » …

It was a couple of weeks after our second daughter’s birth, and my parents had decided to visit us for a long week-end.

The following days, all TV channels were in a « special edition » mode, and we were watching on a full time basis these incredible Berlin events.

When Rostropovich started to play his cello just under the Berlin wall, I saw my father crying, for the first time ever (and the last one actually as he had his accident a couple of weeks later).

What went wrong then with Europe ?

How did we generate these gravediggers: Jose Manuel Barroso, Nigel Farage or Viktor Orban to name only some ?

Tonight, the taxi driver told me: « our european story became a tragedy ». But coming back to his optimistic « hip » years, he added: « we need a new narrative ».

More than fifty years ago, here in Berlin, J.F Kennedy pronounced his famous « ich bin ein Berliner » speech.

To be very precise, what he said is the following: « Thousand years ago the proudest boast was Civis Romanus sum. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner. »

Citizenship: all is about that. Are we able to rebuild a « european citizenship » ?

As stated in the insipring quotes mentioned on my LinkedIn profile: « We are free to change the world and start something new in it » (Hannah Arendt)

What about starting by Europe ? Any better idea ?


Iconography : Mstislav Rostropovitch November 11th 1989, Berlin Wall. Succo / Action Press / Visual Press. Post originally published on LinkedIn.


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