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Amid doubt on EU's future, some seek common past
Updated: 2005-07-06 20:51

As the European Union agonizes over its uncertain future after French and Dutch voters rejected its constitution, a dedicated band of historians is trying to unite Europe by giving it a common past.

When the EU celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding Treaty of Rome in 2007, the Museum of Europe will open its doors at the foot of the European Parliament building in Brussels.

The aim, according to Antoinette Spaak, president of the "Association Musee de l'Europe" and daughter of one of the EU's founding fathers, former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, is to highlight "a shared history for a common future."

In the wake of the traumatic "No" votes to the EU charter, the need to reconnect citizens with the European ideal by reminding them of their common roots and values has never been more urgent, she said.

"The people, especially our young people, have lost the historical thread of European construction. They don't remember the great European adventure of my generation," Spaak, 77, a former European Parliament member, told Reuters.

The project, which has just received a decisive financial boost from the Belgian government, aims to give a more tangible embodiment of European history and culture than the anonymous concrete-and-glass buildings which are the only visible manifestations of the EU in the Belgian capital.

The European Parliament receives some 300,000 visitors a year, but all they see is an empty chamber and vast corridors.

The didactic project is as politically ambitious as it is historically audacious, since the organizers aim to reinterpret 3,000 years of European history through the prism of "the historical logic of the unification process of Europe."


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