This evening I gave a talk to a bunch of young Syracuse University students on a visit to Brussels from their Strasbourg campus. I have been giving these talks now twice a year since 1987 (see 15 October 2009 post). The curiosity and alertness of my audiences has never changed but the tenor and themes of my presentations have evolved a great deal over the past twenty-two years. In that period I and my contemporaries have had the privilege of witnessing all the ‘grand narratives’ – the avoidance of war, the end of the cold war, German unification, the single market, the single currency, enlargement – come to pass. By chance, there was an article in today’s Guardian newspaper by Timothy Garton Ash on the same theme: ‘The deepest reality underlying this crisis,’ he writes, ‘ is that the personal experiences and memories that have pushed European integration ahead for 65 years, since 1945, are losing their force. The personal memory of war, occupation, humiliation, European barbarism, fear of Germany, including Germany itself; the Soviet threat, the cold war, the ‘return to Europe’ as a gurantee of hard-won freedom, the hope of restored greatness. These were massive biographical motivators which drove people like Mitterrand and Kohl evn unto the euro. Can Europeans go on building Europe without such profound motivators? Are there new ones in sight?’ My answer to the students tonight was a determined ‘yes’. This new narrative – of consolidating the Europe we have achieved whilst exporting our successful model with more proselytism – is maybe not as attractive as all the recent history we have lived through but I am sure it can be as inspiring. As I get older, so I speak more about the duty of future generations to maintain an idealistic approach towards world affairs. The ambitions of the students sitting at my table – including conflict resolution and fighting against child trafficking – were proof that this idealism is encouragingly alive and well.