The European Balcony Project
von Ulrike Guérot
Why the European Republic? Res Publica Europa? In a nutshell, the political paradigm we suggest is the following: We started off with a single market, then we got a common currency, but we are still missing a single democracy. We are taught to be citizens of the European Union, but actually, “citizens of the European Union” is a meaningless phrase. The EU legal community supposedly offers freedom of movement for everything. In reality, it is goods, capital and services, basically us as people in our factor as work, who are equal in front of the law. The only ones who are not equal before the EU now, in the European community, are the EU citizens themselves. We are still compartmentalized in legal containers as Finns, Germans, Portuguese, whoever. In regard to the things which are the most important things for the citizens, which are le sacre du citoyen to quote the famous French sociologist Pierre Rosanvallon, − voting, taxation, social rights – the European citizens are not equal. If we were to be equal, we would build a European Republic − equality before the law, equium jus. That is Cicero’s definition of a republic. So the people who decide to create a community on the basis of equal law, they build a republic. In my book, Warum Europa eine Republik werden muss, I basically tried to pick up this heritage, which is a cultural heritage from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero to Kant and Rousseau. You cannot fall in love with a single market or a European currency. What we should do on this continent is to create a political unity which gives us – the citizens – the sovereignty of the political project we are in. If we want to have that, I am just suggesting, together with Robert Menasse, that the one market and the one currency must be embedded in one political democracy. Our suggestion for this is the European Republic, a democratic way to organize Europe based on legal equality of all European citizens. This is it, in essence. It would be very easy. We achieved a lot in Europe in the last 60 years.
Now the EU faces many challenges (e.g. populism and nationalism) but I think we should push the European project further and take it, in a way, out of the hands of the nation states, who do or do not do Europe, and bring it back to the citizens. This means as artists thinking about the linkage between citizens and sovereignty. Citizenship is the central topic that we have to strive for in Europe. One example: The Treaty of Maastricht of 1992 was supposed to give us a union of states and a union of citizens. If we had today a normatively valid European citizenship, the UK as a country could easily leave the European Union, but the British people would still remain European citizens. The fact that the European citizenship has no normative meaning, that is the problem for the British living on the continent, those who belong to the remain camp and want to be in. Thinking about what belonging really means, − a sense of belonging as a European citizen to an entity like Res Publica Europa. Robert Menasse and I are working on a normative base, which is legal equality as a perspective for European citizens. This is the way to move us out of the crisis.
The European Balcony Project is a project to proclaim the European Republic on 10th November. Many big theatres like the Schaubühne in Berlin or the Burgtheater in Vienna are participating; as well as schools, youth groups, free artists and trade unions. Bert Brecht always said, theatre can shape the world. I am deeply convinced that we need to speak out. This is the theory of the speech act. This is what we want to do, we want to do a pan-European speech act. We want speak out on 10 November at 4pm and we proclaim the European Republic. Together with Milo Rau, we have written a manifesto, a very short text that has been translated in more than twenty languages including sign language. The idea is: you print it this out, you speak it out. We all want to be European citizens under the premises of equal law. We invite all theatres, artists, citizen to do this as a little act of ten minutes, it does not have to be long, but we invite every participant to add whatever performance – art, theatre, discussion – they want to do. Discuss the manifesto. It is free. Our aim is to do the speech act and, for the first time, horizontally unite European citizens on one single moment in time. Why 10th of November 2018? Hundred years ago, in November 1918, all these republics were proclaimed, the Bavarian, Austrian, Weimar, Hungarian Republic. Hundred years later we look back and we want to turn the past into the future. The European Balcony Project is about the emancipation of European citizens. 11th November is the end of the First World War. Combining these two dates, it gives us a new “Lieu de memoires”, which could be that we turn dates of the past in a common date of the future. That is the idea.