The London Globalist hosted its flagship event of the term on Wednesday evening: a screening of “The Great European Disaster Movie”, a 90-minute drama documentary set in the near future which explores the hypothetical consequences of the abolition of the European Union.
Aboard a jet in the European skies, an eight-year-old girl finds herself sitting next to an ageing British archaeologist (Angus Deayton), who shows her five objects encompassing five European values that have now been shattered by the demise of the EU. Intercut with the fictional segments are present-day interviews with leading figures from the worlds of business, finance, politics, journalism and the third sector, who comment on the challenges facing the EU and how Europe can best respond to them.
The film’s central premise is provocative, as it asks us to imagine a world without the EU and the implications this would have for our day-to-day lives. While a sizeable portion of the interviewees are British, writer-director Annalisa Piras weaves together insights from across the continent into a coherent narrative.
Travelling from Catalonia to Croatia, we hear from the social activists on the front line of the Spanish housing crisis, the UKIP representative from Margate who exposes the party’s shameless racism in a particularly revealing interview and – perhaps most movingly of all – the war photographer who sees contemporary Eurosceptic nationalism as a reminder of the worst excesses of the Serbian-Croatian conflict in the early 1990s, which culminated in the Srebrenica massacre.
While the film has an unashamedly Europhile stance, it makes its points clearly and cogently, appealing to the heart as well as the head, and thus providing a useful corrective to the Euroscepticism that dominates much of the British press. It is a powerful reminder that the rights and freedoms we enjoy in the European Union are fragile and all too easily taken for granted.
After a brief introduction to the evening and a screening of the film, we were treated to a panel discussion chaired by Julian Hoerner, LSE Fellow in EU Politics at the European Institute. This featured Ms Piras as well as fellow producer Bill Emmott and Professor Charlie Beckett, head of LSE’s Department of Media and Communication. Topics ranged from the role of the media in shaping public opinion about European politics to the question of whether the film was preaching to the converted in its explicitly pro-European viewpoint. Highlights of the debate included a fiery exchange between Ms Piras and Prof. Beckett on the legitimacy of anti-immigration arguments and Mr Emmott condemning David Cameron’s proposed EU referendum as an act of “extraordinary political cowardice.” Bill Emmott stressed the need for the pro-European side to work with the pro-status quo majority, who have largely been excluded from the debate in favour of more utopian arguments to keep EU membership.
The discussion was then opened to the floor for questions. When asked why war was featured in the film, Ms Piras pointed out that it takes roughly 60 years for a conflict to disappear from our collective memory and that it has been now 70 years since the end of the Second World War. Even the lessons of more recent atrocities such as Srebrenica are not being taught to an entire generation of Croatians, with the implication that disaster will ensue if we allow the borders torn down by the EU to become entrenched once more. On German behaviour towards Greece, Mr Emmott commented that the Euro crisis exposed the systemic flaws in a single currency without monetary union. Despite this, there is still significant political momentum behind the Euro: no countries have left the zone and in fact more are willing to join.
To conclude, the audience were polled on whether or not they feel optimistic about the future of the EU. The majority felt optimistic, with some expressing the need to return to a politics of solidarity to avoid the mass conflicts at the beginning of the 20th century. The audience was also asked what they would do to improve the EU, the main suggestion being greater accountability. After taking count of the audience’s nationalities, it was found that there were more attendees from outside Europe than from within Britain itself!
In all, the evening was a thought-provoking experience and a worthwhile addition to this year’s line-up of Globalist events.
This article first appeared on the London Globalist website and is reproduced here with their consent.
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