Public Affairs Networking
Schadenfreude – every nation needs a national anthem but does the EU?

The European Union possesses a so-called hymn using Beethoven’s setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy. The original wording is unusable with only a passing reference to ‘All mankind will be brothers’ plus the words cannot be sung. How could prosody be found for translation into a score of languages – asks our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude

Typically the message recalls a historic event such as a call to arms to defeat tyranny, emancipation from a conqueror or the popular establishment of a new political structure. The melody is vigorous, reflecting the national mood of triumph.

In their communal singing the citizens affirm their national pride, their solidarity and the memory of their noble history or homage to their ruler – the fountainhead of national existence.

National soccer and rugby teams need a symbol of their identity. This is a problem for sub-units, requiring for example Scotland to abandon the national anthem in favour of a regional refrain – which in an earlier age would have been a sign of disloyalty. The resulting message is needlessly anti-England. It is unlikely be acceptable if Scotland becomes independent – not triumphant enough.

More generally team members often cannot sing or do not know the words or both. Pacific teams do a war dance, which would be frowned on in self-conscious Europe. The European Union possesses a so-called hymn using Beethoven’s setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

The original wording is unusable with only a passing reference to ‘All mankind will be brothers’. Plus there is not much to be joyful about. The European hymn cannot be sung. How could prosody be found for translation into a score of languages?

It does not have the emotional charge of established national anthems. But this does not matter, since loyalty to the union is not a popular sentiment among its members generally. Happy New Year fellow Europeans.

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