Yesterday our campaign was officially launched with a screening of The Great European Disaster Movie in the gorgeous Solvay Library in Brussels.
What better way to announce Wake Up Europe's arrival to the world than to test our highly critical film on a Brussels audience?
The Great European Disaster Movie does not pull any punches on the failure of EU leaders and EU institutions alike. But its underlying message that Europe must be saved grated on British Eurosceptics ( as most things do) when it was broadcast in Britain.
Would our Brussels audience, a mix of students, journalists, expats with a smattering of officials take exception at our portrayal of a Europe ‘sleep walking towards disaster’?
Judging from the applause at the end of the film they did not. In the debate that followed (featuring Richard Corbett MEP and Camino Mortera-Martinez of the Centre for European Reform as well as the film’s authors Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott) the audience, asked whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Europe, declared themselves by show of hand overwhelmingly optimistic, which perhaps is no surprise.
What was surprising was how emotional some audience members were when I caught up with them after the event.
A lady left the screening in tears and told me the warning of a Europe sleepwalking towards disaster had resonated intensely with her: "We don’t realise what we have built, we have forgotten what Europe is for", she told me.
A young woman went further – she felt ashamed, she said, that Kiev, not Brussels or Paris or Rome – has witnessed the biggest pro-EU rally ever seen, the Maidan. “As a EU citizen I think the onus should be on us to demonstrate support for the European ideal.” Hopefully that's what our campaign can help us do: link up individual citizens and organisations anywhere in Europe, show them they are not alone and that together they can agitate for a different kind of Europe.
Freelance journalist Tim King and Andrea Bonanni, of the Italian daily La Repubblica, remained dried-eyed but agreed that the film was successful in making an emotional case as well as rational arguments for Europe. That too is important: people need to be inspired not just bored to death or scared into keeping the EU project alive or it will fail.
The behind the scene video we shot gives a flavour of the mood on the day. Take a look: