In view of the upcoming European elections, it appears to be just the right time to ask ourselves how much European we really feel. We often hear that EU citizens continue to think along national lines and that a European consciousness is still largely a chimera. To make such a pan-European consciousness a reality, we need to have at least some basic knowledge about one another.
While politicians and experts often stress the need for educational curricula to be reviewed so that the EU rises prominently on the agenda, such an institution-based approach is certainly not the only option we have. Chantal Laroche, a French lady that occasionally delivers lectures on European cultural heritage at the University of Paris, has come up with a simple but, potentially, highly effective tool for fostering mutual understanding among European nations: the Euroculture game.
It all began in 2006 when Chantal put up an exhibition designed to make EU citizens more knowledgeable about the national symbols depicted on the Euro coins across the Eurozone. On the one hand, citizens in the Eurozone countries, Chantal strongly believes, should understand why other countries have decided to depict some symbols and not others. On the other hand, her exhibition aimed at drawing people’s attention to the fact that the national symbols on the coins had been chosen in different ways: in France, for instance, it was the Minister of Economics who had the power to decide; by contrast, Italian citizens had the chance to select the symbols through a TV show. All in all, Chantal hoped that her exhibition could help people gain deeper insights on the significance of these symbols – a topic about which the European Central Bank failed to provide as precise information as it should have.
Following the exhibition, Chantal started wondering how she could expand her project to encompass all EU member states. It was not long before she created the Euroculture game – a board game in which participants have to answer a wide array of questions related to the integration process in Europe, questions not only about the common currency in the Eurozone but also about the European institutions, the individual EU member states, European culture, and Europe’s place in the ever more globalized world of today. Since she first presented the Euroculture game in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in September 2008, Chantal has been trying to popularize it with the support of regional councils across France and, in this way, ‘to let people have more knowledge about European culture’ in a friendly ambience.
What potential do initiatives of this kind have to bring EU citizens closer to each other? There are multiple reasons why we should at least give such projects a chance. First, a game constitutes a special type of social interaction whereby participants get to know each other better. Second, it is through games that we can learn while having fun at the same time. The last but not least, as Chantal points out, the Euroculture game is not just, or even mostly, about winning; rather, it is participation and acquisition of knowledge that matter the most. Provided that people from all walks of life can play the game in French, English, or German, it seems that the Euroculture game can well increase EU citizens’ in European culture and values.
Obviously, games alone will be insufficient to bridge the existing gaps between EU citizens. Nevertheless, they can serve as a springboard to a Europe in which I know you better, and vice versa. Shall we play?