It’s cold in Kiev. No, this is not a weather report, though it is freezing here. Rather, it is a reflection on the current political turmoil since the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovitch, did not sign an accession agreement with the European Union (EU) at the end of November in Vilnius. Protesters are braving the weather to gather in squares in the center of the city to express their clear desire to have Ukraine become an official part of Europe rather than join a customs union with Russia. European Union flags are being sold by street vendors, Ukrainian flags on cars are another sign of support, although the manifestations are very limited to a specific area in downtown Kiev.
The 60th anniversary celebrations for the reign of Queen Elizabeth was a show for the ages. From millions of people lining the streets of London to thousands of boats cruising along the Thames to Elton John and Paul McCartney rocking and rolling in front of Buckingham Palace, it was quite a performance. Someone well outside the monarchical British Empire had several reactions while watching the spectacle.
The wedding was truly royal, the spectacle truly spectacular, from the bride's dress through the two kisses right up to the couple's departure in the Aston Martin. Even the weather lived up to the highest expectations. One million people in the streets of London, over two billion watching around the world. British flags waving, thousands of faces painted with the Union Jack. The Empire shone in all its glory, the world basked in the pomp and circumstance.
Why? We know the Empire has ended, reduced to a Commonwealth that struggles to hold even a major athletic event. Royal weddings have lost their shine, sullied in divorces and car accidents involving less than royalty. Yet, there are still remnants of royal dreamers. The starry-eyed young women enthralled by Kate's dress confirmed the multitudes of would-be princesses waiting for their prince charming. Empires die slowly; royalty is still important; fairy tales have a place.
For emotions matter. The European Union was conceived as a customs union created to reduce tariffs on trade. And behind the economic rationality was a political agenda to foster integration to avoid war. It was, it is, so rational, conceived by rational people for rational people.
Watching the royal wedding, seeing the intense joy of the British people singing their anthem, I became more and more convinced that the European Union has totally missed the emotional aspect of belonging. No one will ever sing the anthem of the European Union. The European Union will never field a football team. Brussels bureaucrats are just that, bureaucrats. The antiseptic buildings in Brussels reflect the faceless anonymity of a political institution lacking a heart, or any emotion.
God Save the Queen? Long live the Prince and Princess of Cambridge? The wedding was a jolly good show with lessons for all of us.