“It’s the same in love as it is in music: the closer the dissonances are to the harmonies, the more frightful they sound.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Dutch writer Godfried Bomans once put it. It is a great pleasure for me welcome you to the latest instalment of the event series “The Sound of Europe”. Today’s event will give us the opportunity to put Bomans’ statement to the test together.
If we take the title of this event literally, then we would probably have to agree that, right now, Europe sounds a little out of tune. The Netherlands holds the rotating EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2016. This function has been regarded as rather modest and manageable ever since the Treaty of Lisbon introduced a permanent European Council President. But now we find ourselves once again in a situation where we have to harness all of our forces in order to solve our current problems – most especially the refugee crisis and the need to maintain solidarity among European countries.
To this end, music might not just give us a welcome breath of fresh air but could also teach us an important lesson. Music is the art form that shows us how to deal well with dissonance. In some ways, Europe’s entire musical tradition is a lesson in this regard. First, this tradition showed us that dissonances serve a function: namely, that sometimes we have to suffer as we work our way towards harmonic beauty. Then, in the 20th century, we learned how to endure dissonance even if it did not promise to deliver harmonious redemption in the end. Now, in the contemporary world of the 21st century, music has brought us to the point where we can shift back and forth between an incredibly diverse range of musical ideas, and this gives rise to entirely new conceptual linkages and combinations.
This productive interaction between autonomous models is sometimes more difficult in the everyday practice of politics than it is in music. But it is precisely the outstanding success of Dutch-German cooperation that inspires the Netherlands to remain actively committed to a strong future for the wider community of nations that the EU embodies. To ensure the continued vitality of this community, it is essential not only to continue working towards solutions to current crises but also to keep in mind long-term objectives such as investment in new technologies. The digital single market, high-quality jobs, and a robust eurozone are key factors that will help us maintain high social standards within the European Union. Europe accounts for 20 percent of the global economy and 50 percent of global spending on social welfare systems. These figures reflect a high standard, and this standard is part of Europe’s identity. Ultimately, we can durably eliminate fears of loss only if we have a good economic strategy.
So let’s not get nervous about current dissonances in Europe. More than anything, these dissonances prove how close we are to each other. In this spirit, I wish all of you a lot of joy discovering both familiar and surprising sounds from the Netherlands.