ACCOLADES AND CRITICISM
Now, it’s over to you! This gallery is about your opinions! What is Europe? What makes you feel ‘European’? What is our European heritage? If you’re a visitor here today from outside Europe, what are your perspectives of Europe and Europeans?
What is the relevance of our memories? Our memories of the past are important to us, they bring us together and they sometimes tear us apart. Historical enquiry and an understanding of our European heritage are vital processes in understanding our past, present and future.
EUROPE AS SEEN FROM ABROAD
How is Europe perceived externally? The objects displayed here come from museums around the world and offer different insights into how other cultures viewed Europe and Europeans. First contacts with Europeans were marked by detached curiosity. As European countries increasingly imposed their dominance over most of the world through colonialism, perceptions altered, negatively shaped by the experience of oppression, slavery, and exploitation. Yet, Europe was also seen as the idealised location of refined culture and universal values, a legacy of its Ancient era.
A number of European powers established trading companies with countries in the Far East, in the 17th century the most significant being the Dutch East India Company.
The slave trade dominated contacts between Europe and Africa between 1500 and 1800. Early African representations of Portuguese traders and sailors are very telling in this respect. This plaque represents a Portuguese individual carrying manillas, bracelets that became a standard currency in exchange for slaves.
During the 19th century, many wealthy Americans embarked on the European Grand Tour. Classical ruins, Renaissance artworks, and romantic landscapes shaped their imaginations about Europe. Travellers either sent back home, or specially commissioned souvenirs, sometimes of notable sophistication or scale.
APPRAISAL AND CRITICISM
In 2012, the European Union is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to the promotion of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for over 6 decades. Protestors, however, criticise the award against the backdrop of extreme economic suffering for millions of EU citizens, questioning its future role.
The award is handed over to the three EU Presidents at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on 10 December 2012 in Oslo. The fact that Heads of State and Governments of countries which had been enemies for centuries received the prize together is highly symbolic.
Europe faces uncertain times due to problems both within the European Union and at its borders. Will the countries of the European Union grow closer together or, on the contrary, will the nation state restore lost power again? Can the European Union enlarge further? Are the borders fixed and final, or will they continue to change?
The sovereign debt crisis, the impact of controversial austerity measures and bailouts plunges the European Union into one of severe dilemmas since its creation. These measures were attempts to safeguard the Monetary Union of very different national economies. With the Greek crisis of 2015 almost leads to the break-up of the Eurozone.
BRUSSELS: A CHANGING CAPITAL
Brussels was never foreseen to become the capital of Europe, but this happened quite by coincidence and not purposely at all. Now it is a fourfold capital: of Europe, Belgium, of Flanders and of the Brussels region.