Umberto Eco


[Asked to describe European identity in 2012, Eco says it is widespread but “shallow”.] I am using an English word that is not the same as the Italian word superficiale, but which is somewhere between ‘surface’ and ‘deep’. We must change this, before the crisis strips it [Europe] of everything. (…) The university exchange programme Erasmus is barely mentioned in the business sections of newspapers, yet Erasmus has created the first generation of young Europeans. I call it a sexual revolution: a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children. The Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate. (…) That’s why I said that our [European] identity is ‘shallow’. The founding fathers of Europe – Adenauer, De Gasperi and Monnet – may have travelled less. De Gasperi spoke only German because he was born within the Austro-Hungarian empire and didn’t have access to the internet to read the foreign press. Their Europe reacted to war and they shared resources to build peace. Now we must work towards building a more profound identity.

Interview with The Guardian, 26 janvier 2012