At the heart of a more united Europe, there must be, in Jean Monnet’s words, a more united people. DLP15’s UE Lib’ project, whose motto is “Europe through books and sharing”, is a wonderful case of citizens’ initiative to build cross-border bridges through dialogue and culture at the local level. For this concrete support to integration in everyday life, UE Lib is recognised as the second runner-up to the 2018 edition of the Jean Monnet Prize.
This Europe-oriented project started with DLP15’s monthly public events promoting literature, Circul’Livre. Since 2003, DLP15, a local association promoting participative democracy in Paris’ 15th district, has endeavoured to increase access to cultural events, provide inhabitants with better information through local studies, and contribute to more solidarity with the district’s most vulnerable people. Literature, cinema, and activities for kids or the elderly therefore came naturally to the organisation. Circul’Livre, an initiative where books are given for free set up in 2004, was one of them.
Selda Besnier, President of DLP15, tells a story of an increasing demand, over the years, for books in other languages. This demand, as well as the perceptible return of nationalist feelings in Europe, led to the creation of UE Lib’, which aimed at granting everyone access to European literature while nurturing local social cohesion.
After collecting a sufficient number of books in European languages and getting approval for the use of a local public space, the project could start. It launched with over a thousand books in six languages, over half of which we taken that day. Conversely, over 300 more books were donated to the organisation by local inhabitants, with promises for more.
In order to broadcast news of UE Lib’, and in line with the project’s polyglot nature, a website was launched which now exists in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and most recently in Croatian.
And the advocacy has paid off: the number of participants continues to grow and each edition of UE Lib’ sees its share of dialogue and exchange from people brought together by a common interest in European culture.
In recognition of these efforts and achievements, UE Lib’ was awarded the 2017 Label Paris Europe award. Proud of their achievements, DLP15 now openly calls on other people in Europe to diffuse UE Lib’s concept and stands ready to help them out. The organisation now also considers exploring new avenues for European integration through culture, including music and culinary traditions.
DLP15’s project embodies two essential aspects of European integration. On the one hand, that small-scale associations have a strong role to play in launching initiatives for the benefit of their local communities. As such, European integration cannot be limited to institutions and policies: Europeans from all across the continent already live together in cities, and local projects are key in bringing them closer together.
On the other hand, UE Lib’ highlights the existing closeness of European cultures. European countries may have different languages, but literary classics from all over Europe already form the literary foundation of our common culture. And, in the same way as authors would often travel and get inspiration from each other, European citizens were inadvertently raised with and greatly learned from European classics, from Spain’s Don Quichote, to France’s Les Misérables, to Germany’s folk tales by the Grimm brothers. Encouraging the discovery of this shared heritage is a wonderful step in realising and appreciating how much we all have in common.
Two runners-up for the 2018 edition of the Jean Monnet Prize have been announced. The official winner will be announced on 9 November, anniversary of Jean Monnet’s birth.