Former British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor, joins forces with European Movement UK

Published on September 08, 2023

Renowned art historian, BBC broadcaster and former Director of the National Gallery and the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, joined the European Movement UK (EM UK) for an in-depth discussion on the future of the European community, on Wednesday September 6th. 

A committed European, the event was MacGregor’s first time publicly speaking about how he imagines the future of Europe and the European identity to develop. More than 350 people attended the online event, organised by EM UK's International Committee, entitled ‘Imagining Europe – searching for new histories’. 


Speaking about European institutions and the importance of programmes such as Horizon, MacGregor said: 

“I think we’re now again at a moment where the energy that comes from not wanting to be what we were can be harnessed. The great political development of the last few years across Europe, if we leave aside the war in Ukraine, has been the revulsion across the whole continent against racism, against systemic inequality, and against historic exploitation.  

“There are other areas of Europe that we can talk about, and heroize. The Erasmus programme and above all, now Horizon. What can Europe do together? Horizon, we all know, is absolutely central and we have to be a part of it.  

“The European Court of Human Rights – here is an institution that we ought to be talking about much more. Praising much more highly, and insisting that this is the part of Europe that we want to be.” 


Speaking about the future of the European identity and solidarity, MacGregor, added: 

“I believe that we are all starting at the same point where we want to encourage our fellow citizens to engage more fully in the kind of Europe that we want to be part of again. The question remains; how do we find a way of thinking that holds us together - other than war against an outside enemy? 

“For most of the nation states of Europe, the solution has been pretty simple and pretty much the same. You focus on what we’ve done, and you focus on a few heroes. The main question is; can Europe do this? Is there a way for Europe to find an agreed story of what we did together, and agreed heroes we can celebrate? 

“With mass immigration, the arrival of new populations for whom the stories of heroes and victories have much less resonance, the old idea of the single national hero or the nation fighting its neighbours has lost its power. And so, the museums, the place where normally you set your national history, have had to change and reflect that.” 


On the event, Sir Nick Harvey, CEO of European Movement UK, said: 

“It was a great privilege to have renowned historian and proud European Neil MacGregor join us for our event on the future of Europe. MacGregor brought invaluable insights to the conversation and laid out a roadmap for how the European identity and community will likely develop over the coming years.  

“Crucially, Neil also highlighted the importance of the European institutions and programmes which Britain must engage with, including the European Court of Human Rights, Erasmus and, of course, Horizon – which we are delighted to have rejoined after months of tireless campaigning by EM UK.” 

Watch the webinar, in full, here:

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