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Culture

Star conductor Daniel Barenboim warns of nationalism ahead of French elections

The EU needs more than economic ties to thrive, and should reactivate cultural exchange, says Argentine-Israeli musician Barenboim, concerned with the rise of the National Front in France.

He is a citizen of several countries, speaks half a dozen languages and makes music throughout the world: Daniel Barenboim, pianist, conductor and general music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin, spoke out against the rise of nationalism in Europe as France prepares to elect a new president. Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is among the leading candidates for the first round of the election, to be held on Sunday.

"Nationalism results from the discomforts of globalization, but it is the exact opposite of true patriotism. Patriotism includes others, whereas nationalism as a reaction to globalization is exclusive," said Barenboim, adding that when people are confident about their identity, values and culture, they can also easily collaborate with others.

Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra Berlin (picture alliance/dpa)

Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with academic Edward Said to promote peace between Israel and Arab countries

As the former conductor of the Orchestre de Paris from 1975 and 1989, he knows how proud the French are of their singularity, but he still hopes that they will return to the initial cultural values behind the European Union.

"The EU needs more than the euro" to prosper, he said. European integration as promoted by former French President François Mitterrand and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was also based on building intercultural understanding between the Germans and the French, "through Beethoven and Thomas Mann, through Ravel and Baudelaire," he added.    

In the upcoming weeks, Barenboim will be touring with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which includes young Arab and Israeli musicians, throughout Europe, with stops in Aarhus, Helsinki, Stockholm, Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna.

eg/sb (with dpa)

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