Interview with Andrei Plesu, philosopher, former Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs "Festina lente"
A word of caution to the champions of growth and European prospective thinking: you may find the perusal of this, our interview with Romanian philosopher Andrei Plesu, disturbing. "Europe, he says, is not designed for speed"; so don't be surprised to find more in the following pages about melancholy than about the Lisbon Strategy; more about hikes than low-cost flights. Through the words of Andrei Plesu Eastern Europe speaks to her Western sister, calls on her to ponder her past, to do away with haste and headlong rush and allow herself time for analytical detachment.
For in truth, East and West Europeans do not live either by the same clock or the same rhythm. Certainly, "normalisation" is underway in the East: as the effects of the free competition principle begin to be felt, the relationship to time changes, well"¦ by the minute. Once virtually unknown, stress - efficiency's unavoidable counterpart - has become the common lot of millions of city dwellers. But the travellers who roamed Europe this summer were not fooled: the trail from Brussels to Bucharest is still a journey back in time.
There are several possible responses to such a gap. We could settle for a "two-speed Europe"; or hope that the twin effects of economic growth and structural funding will soon make good the new Member States' "backwardness". This should not stop us from looking, under Andrei Plesu's discerning guidance, into how such an "asymmetry of experience" could benefit a Europe which, lurching from "breakdowns" to "kick starts", has yet to find her cruising speed. If there is to be a tempo suited to all Europeans, it will emerge from a fruitful tension between these two temporalities, the oriental and the occidental: time indeed may have come for an enlarged Union to make Augustus' motto her own: festina lente, make haste slowly.
This interview was conducted in the framework of the research project entitled "What binds us together: European identity".