Life In Berlin: Pulse of Europe

Apr 18, 2017

A couple thousand pro-European Union demonstrators peacefully gathered at Gendarmenmarkt on Sunday afternoon for speeches, music, and in this instance, rallying around the general theme of France, ahead of that country's election. Various speakers, from Hungary, France, Britain, Germany, and more, took the mic to expound on the importance of unity for Europe. Attendees at the Pulse of Europe demo, Berlin's ninth, gave various reasons for waving the EU flag at this non-partisan, citizens' initiative.

"I think it’s really important that not only the populists, and all the others go into the streets, and show that they are there, and not only left-wing populists like Mélenchon, or right-wing populists like Pegida in Germany, or UKIP in Great Britain, go to the streets and show that they are there, but the silent majority has to go to the streets, and show their support for Europe."

Peaceful demonstrators hold signs in support of the Central European Union.
Credit Susannah Edelbaum/NPR Berlin

Frederik Traut, a 28-year-old student and parliamentary advisor, was at the rally with a friend. He studies nearby and tries to come to Pulse of Europe regularly to show his active support for the EU.

"It’s my first time here. I wanted to see what’s going on and I’m happy that there’s so many people, and..."

Verena Greve, also a student, was glad to see that the crowd was fairly diverse. And while they waved EU flags, and plenty of children ran around with balloons, a few spectators tried to influence the spirit of the discussion. Wearing a sign bearing information for the Bündnis Grundeinkommen, a political party campaigning for an EU-wide basic income, Robert Ulmer handed out fliers while discussing the event.

"I very much sympathize with these people, but I think maybe they neglect a little bit the social aspect. They don’t talk about Greece, or maybe they talk sometimes about Greece, but not enough."

Furry friends attend to show their support as well.
Credit Susannah Edelbaum/NPR Berlin

Others in attendance were drawn to the rally by the potential consequences of EU disintegration.

"My whole life, I’m without war, in peace, and this is for me, the most important thing, because I’m born 1963, and so I knew a lot of people who were harmed by the Second World War — my neighbors, my teachers."

For Sigrid Grajek, a German actress who has lived in Berlin since 1983, the EU's promotion of peace is of paramount importance.

Participants hold hands and dance in a circle at the end of the demonstration.
Credit Susannah Edelbaum/NPR Berlin

"Okay, there could be something better, but peace and friendliness between the people, no borders, no illegals, everybody can move, and this is for me very important, to be open-minded," expresses Grajek.

As speakers made their voices heard in Berlin for a united, anti-populist Europe, others did the same in dozens of cities across 12 countries. At the end, participants held hands to dance in an ever-widening circle. Their message, seen on signs across the rally, was clear. "Europeans do it better — together."