Thursday, 01 October 2015 15:23

E&M at #30

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Design: Pako Quijada

To celebrate the publication of the 30th edition of E&M, co-founder Christopher Wratil reflects upon the journey the magazine has gone through to reach this milestone. 

How it all began

It was in September 2007 that five young people met and created the idea of E&M. Europe felt as irrelevant as it felt paralysed at that time. Six years before, in 2001, heads of state and government had met in the Belgian city of Laeken, near Brussels, and seemingly agreed on an epochal move in European integration: the drafting and later adoption of a European Constitution. A fundamental text drafted by a representative convention that should envision and settle the interactions between states and citizens in Europe for generations to come. The new millennium had not started with yet another step of European integration but with the most significant initiative since the signing of the Treaties of Rome in 1957. From a European charter of fundamental rights to a common foreign policy with a European army – every federalist dream appeared just an arm's length away. 

In contrast, the September of 2007 felt like the end of Europe – at least in a "political" sense. French and Dutch citizens had outrageously rejected the European Constitution in national referendums in 2005 and eurosceptic opinions and political parties were on the rise across the continent. The first large scale public discourse about the European Union's future had not created support for the project but deep feelings of alienation towards a purely political project that appeared elitist, distant, and foreign. To make it even worse, the political establishment showed no intention of reflection in face of public discomfort with Europe – instead it aimed to simply proceed behind closed doors. Soon the "Constitution" was rebranded as a "Treaty" that was a 97% copy of the contents of the initial text. The less the public would take notice, the better. And indeed, Europe seemed irrelevant to most in 2007.

The birth of E&M 

It was against this backdrop that the idea for E&M was born. Central to it was our conviction that there was much more to say and write about Europe than politics. We were young, we came from five different countries, we liked each other – and we were sure that there was a transnational or European dimension to almost every aspect of our lives. When we cooked, we mixed Italian pasta with Greek feta. When we fell in love, we could not resist Spanish passion or Danish laughter. When we thought about our professional future, we dreamt of living in Rome or Stockholm. Our Europe was not void of politics, but politics was just one part of many. Our aim was to express this feeling of a holistic view on Europe – the magazine's different body parts that define the sections are the embodiment of this approach. Europe concerned us from every angle. While European politics seemed rotten in 2007, so many parts of Europe still appeared interesting and cheerful to us but nobody wrote or talked about them. We wanted to change this. 

120506 Figure for about us page

We also opted for a new approach of dealing with Europe. Instead of pooling news from different countries like a lot of existing "European" media as well as some national "foreign affairs" programmes did, we wanted to take a transnational perspective on issues. We wanted to put an emphasis on commonality – "this concerns us all". And where issues indeed were national and did not concern anyone beyond the country's borders, we did not see our mission. 

Creating E&M from the initial idea over the concept, content, website and design development, recruitment of authors, and editing of the first issue took us 10 months between September 2007 and July 2008. We were all living in Berlin at this time and spent days and nights in the editorial office – effectively a flatshare of two editors who lived together. We all invested about 20 – 30 hours a week in our "baby" (as we called it) while studying for different degree programmes at the city's universities at the same time. I guess for all of us creating E&M had been the most laborious time in our lives up to then, but it was also an exceptional fun experience.

30 issues later...

What has the magazine achieved in 30 issues and more than seven years? It has indeed defined what a holistic European magazine can look like. While we used the word "lifestyle magazine" in the beginning, we soon became aware that this was not doing full justice to E&M's topics that range beyond classical lifestyle matters and cover politics and history, too. We then created the idea of a "life magazine" to communicate the holistic ambition. In fact, E&M is unique in its encompassing mix of topics – certainly among European media. E&M has trained more than 250 young people in its approach to European journalism as authors, editors, and in many other roles. They go on with the E&M DNA into new roles in journalism or the public sector where they advocate new perspectives on Europe. It is this contribution of opening up new perspectives on Europe for which E&M was awarded the European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2011. 

These new perspectives on Europe have probably never been more important than today. Just a year after E&M's creation, the continent entered into the worst economic recession since World War II followed by the still unresolved euro debt crisis and the refugee crisis of this year. While these events have certainly raised the attention we and the media pay to European issues, they have rarely opened up new perspectives in traditional media: "Europe" is almost never associated with anything beyond politics and economics, nor are transnational viewpoints offered. Greek debt remains Greek debt and if the consequences of a euro breakdown are considered, the focus is on those for the national economy – not for Europe as a whole, or the neighbours, or for areas that cannot be "costed". E&M's offer is to not reduce Europe to politics but to see what else is out there, starting from little stories about love between Greeks and Germans, and to ask what something means for Europe and not only for my country. Is there a way out of today's crises without embracing the E&M method? I doubt it.



Christopher Wratil is a co-founder of E&M and has been part of the editorial board from 2007 to 2011 as well as member of the advisory board from 2011 onwards. Currently, he is completing his doctorate in European studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Last modified on Thursday, 01 October 2015 15:44

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