It seems to me that one of the main problems we have in building a more integrated European community is the inadequate communication within Europe. And by that I mean in the everyday life of people – or peoples – rather than at the diplomatic level. To this day, it is often the case that each one of the 27 member nations interprets the same European treaties in its own way. Media coverage is almost exclusively dominated by national considerations. Knowledge about neighbouring countries is still scanty – with the exception of a comparatively small group of students, business people, intellectuals and artists.
To date, Europe does not have a single European public space which could be compared to what we regard as a public sphere at national level. First of all we lack a lingua franca. There are 23 official languages in Europe, plus countless other languages and dialects. A German who does not also speak English or French will find it difficult to communicate with someone from Portugal, or from Lithuania or Hungary. It is true to say that young people are growing up with English as the lingua franca. However, I feel that we should not simply let things take their course when it comes to linguistic integration. For more Europe means multilingualism not only for the elites but also for ever larger sections of the population, for ever more people, ultimately for everyone! I am convinced that feeling at home in one’s native language and its magic and being able to speak enough English to get by in all situations and at all ages can exist alongside each other in Europe.
A common language would make it easier to realize my wish for Europe’s future – a European agora, a common forum for discussion to enable us to live together in a democratic order. This agora would be even more wide-ranging than the one pupils perhaps know from the history books. In Ancient Greece, it was a central meeting-place, a place for ceremonial gatherings and a court at the same time, a place for public discussion where efforts focused on creating a well-ordered society.