I am a passionate pro-European. One of my reasons for this, which doesn't get the kind of public emphasis that I think it should, is that it is ever more important in a world where nasty, narrow-minded nationalism seems resurgent that we break down rather than increase barriers between nationalities. I consider the European Union for all its faults still a powerful vehicle in enabling that to happen. One important way in which I believe such an agenda can be taken forward is through finding ways to bring members of different nationalities together in pursuit of a larger goal. For 40 years, in the no doubt small world of classical music the EU has facilitated this through its support of the European Union Youth Orchestra.
I am not claiming that the mere fact of uniting young people from 28 nations in a symphony orchestra is necessarily going to change the world but I do firmly believe that it achieves two powerful and important things. Firstly, it can, and the evidence from past participants clearly shows that it does, forge links between those who participate who might otherwise never have encountered one another. Links which go on to enable other such cooperation and moments of understanding. Secondly, it is a powerful symbol of cooperation between nations at a time when we badly need such things. As an aside the Orchestra regularly delivers high quality performances (I recall with particular pleasure a fabulous one of Busoni's mad Piano Concerto at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012).
Given all this, I was astonished earlier this week to learn that the EU has cut off funding for the Orchestra. You can read the detailed circumstances around this here. I find this a simply outrageous decision. This is a pan-European co-operative organisation par excellence. If the EUYO doesn't meet the EU's standards for such things then it is pretty hard to see what would. I am not a conspiracy theorist and think it much more likely that the explanation for this mess is cock-up. I also know how difficult it seems to be for people in senior positions to admit when they have cocked something up. But if ever there was an occasion to admit that you'd made a mistake and put it right by restoring the organisation's direct funding this seems to me clearly to be it.
Should you agree with me on any of this the EUYO provides detailed guidance on how you can support their campaign to be saved. A petition calling on the EU authorities to reverse their decision exists here. It is not too late for the European Union authorities to correct this mistake. I sincerely hope they will.