In the same week, two symbolic victories for “the other Europe”.
Millions of Portuguese will be with their mind in Dublin this week, and thousands would probably be there in person, for the Europa league final, which will be contested between FC Porto and Sporting Club De Braga. Indeed a final between Internazionale Milan and Liverpool would have attracted more interest for the rest of Europe, than a competition between two teams representing the same flag, and being so close to one another (less than 50 km).
And so Portugal for one evening will be at the centerstage of Europe, and not because other countries are trying to rescue its economy, affected by the most serious crisis in the nation’s history.
Also Azerbaijan, a small Eastern country, which is not formally part of the European Union, was suddenly put at the heart of the continent, when it won the Eurovision song contest last night. Beating Sweden, tipped to win, and a resurgent Italy, Ell and Nikki secured their native country the opportunity to organise next year final, bringing under the spotlight the many social and cultural contraddictions that still characterise the small former soviet country, and all the related concerns for the organisation of the event next year.
A Eurovision victory for the Irish duo Jedward would have been more interesting (from a commercial point of view, and also for the entertainement), as well as the above mentioned final between Internationale FC and Liverpool. Also a Tony Blair European Presidency would probably have been more interesting (if not for the commercial point of view, at least for the entertainement!).
Thanks to Portugal and Azerbaijan, for a short while we stopped talking the jargon about the “eurozone”, the “rescue plan”, the BCE, and the Ecofin, and had a real interest in Europe.
It’s only during the Europa League final and the Eurovision contest that we can openly speak about “being European” and “feeling European”, without people reminding us of the lack of democracy and the bureaucratic distance of Brussels.
This week events are a reminder that Europe is not simply 27 heads of governments sitting in a room and taking decisions about our future ; Europe is also fifty singers competing for a crown and 22 Portuguese footballers kicking a ball in Dublin.
This is not just “the other Europe”, this is the real social and cultural integration that sustains and nourishes the institutional framework.