Back in 1999, on the eve of the introduction of the European Single Currency, when, with the swollen sails of certainties, "entering Europe" was mandatory, I published a booklet titled "Europe Single Ticket". It had a very limited diffusion but it also gave the start to the work you have before your eyes right now. There too, there was a small informal text with which I introduced the pictures, this one:

"So, here’s Euro and everybody is happy. We’re happy for this Europe that elects the President of its bank long before electing any other President, happy for this Europe where the distance between the business centre and the limbo of the periphery is growing ever more, happy for this Europe where the market dictates the rules and politics meekly carry out, happy... Well, not really happy, perhaps, not even with the music by Beethoven and Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, which this nation-non-nation chose as its own anthem. [...] And so, full speed ahead for Europe, with a smile on our face and a single ticket in our pocket: yes, because there is no coming back from Europe, it appears. Ladies and gentlemen, everybody on board and don’t forget your umbrella."

Now, I can't help asking to myself if, twenty years later, I would have written the same things.

I must confess that the feeling of being ruled by a board of directors rather than by a parliamentary assembly has even strengthened; what's more, we are witnessing the rise of nationalisms that we believed were buried together with the ideologies that had generated them, and barbed wires and walls are taking the place of boundary lines that we believed being, at most, symbolic. There was no talk of jihadist terrorism back in '99, nor of immigration (although there were already premises for the emergence of both), and the optimism of those years now gives way to a bleak indolence almost everywhere, if not to an increasingly manifest and widespread hostility.

What future, then, for a "country" with such a large - and often embarrassing - past, that nobody would really be happy if it were the only certainty to turn to? What future in the face of the marginalization imposed by distant and "deregulated" industrial powers, ever more immaterial financial markets, policies that are less and less debated but rather agreed in places very distant from "the Europe of the peoples", whatever the slogan means?

Along the Balkan coast, there's what for centuries has been the village of Sveti Stefan, a human and architectural micro cosmos, built on the surface of a small island in order to give better protection to the Montenegrin fishermen and their families. The conjugation is correct, "has been", since it no longer is: the whole islet is now managed by a Thai multinational that has turned it into a luxury hotel, whose guests include music and movie stars and even some crowned head. Yes, the whole islet and everything above it.

Closed to non-paying public, of course.

And, for some reason, when I think back to my wanderings along the roads of the Continent, with its dandyish cafes, its jeweled galleries, its combed flowerbeds, the memory of Sveti Stefan resurfaces along with the, not particularly pleasant, feeling that Europe is increasingly becoming a grand hotel of sorts, a place where its guests can gracefully age, punctuated by the mild rituals of old habits, while elsewhere the winds of history rage.

A hotel?

A luxury hotel.

A 12-star one.

Closed to non-paying public, of course.


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