Are you still euphoric after Loreen’s fantastic feat of securing another win for Sweden or sympathising with the immensely popular Finnish contribution the juries failed to appreciate? Whether you love or hate the annual spectacle of catchy tunes and lavish glitter or simply choose to ignore it, you must give it to the good old Eurovision Song Contest: implausibly, and rather inexplicably, the almost 70-year-old show is still going strong. Perhaps it is because, despite being ultralight entertainment, the contest does channel a vision of Europe. “United by music” might sound as cheesy as the lyrics of your typical Eurovision ballad. Yet, it is rather exhilarating to experience this cacophony of a continent, home to so many disparate cultures and seemingly incompatible national idiosyncrasies, finding common ground, or scene, for a night.

    “People with visions should go to the doctor,” claimed the late West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once. Deluded as we might be, we still need our visions. And Europe is quite desperate for one these days. A battleground of a brutal war turned chronic, the continent is grasping after a vision powerful enough to guide us through the multiple challenges of our times, from climate change to waves of migration and digital transformation.

    Trust a French leader to rise to the occasion. Just like the ESC, President Emmanuel Macron chose a neutral British ground to channel his vision for Europe last week. Writing in the Financial Times, he argues eloquently for European sovereignty, anchored in a common industrial policy. The pivotal dual crises of a pandemic and a Russian invasion should, according to him, finally make us acknowledge our strategic dependences and decide to act to reduce them.

    It is hardly the first time he is advocating the sovereignty idea. “I have come to talk to you about Europe,” he said in a speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris in September 2017 that has since become famous. “’Again’, some might exclaim. People will just have to get used to it because I will not stop talking about it. Because this is where our battle lies, our history, our identity, our horizon, what protects us and gives us a future.” At least, we can all agree that he gave us a fair warning.

    Unfortunately, much like France’s sophisticated Eurovision chanson this year, Macron’s vision for the future of Europe appears to be kind of évidemment and perhaps a tad too French. “Without compromising our openness, we are acting to protect our interests, our independence and our values, and to assert our European economic and social model,” he writes with a confidence that some might misinterpret as the proverbial Parisian arrogance.

    I get goosebumps, for all the wrong reasons, reading the president’s call for reindustrialising the continent. “We need more factories and fewer dependencies. “Made in Europe” should be our motto. We have no choice, as sovereignty is intertwined with the strength of our democracies.”

    This “Made in Europe”-slogan does not strike me as particularly original, or European, to be honest. It rhymes rather too well with a regrettably successful political campaign of an ex-president on the other side of the Atlantic. Even coupled with praise for the EU’s Net Zero Industry Act, which is supposed to drive more investment and skills to green and clean technology, Macron’s factory-heavy vision fails to convince me.

    No wonder I am drawn back to the motley crew of colourful Europeans gathered in Liverpool instead. If only for the show of solidarity with Eurovision-crazy Ukrainians, forgetting for a day or two the battle they are fighting passionately for – their vision of liberty.

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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