Update: On June 24, 2016, 52% of eligible voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This article was published prior to the referendum announcement.
In 2003 George Steiner—a Paris-born, American, UK-based literary critic, philosopher and essayist—gave a lecture in Tilburg, a small Dutch city on the Belgian border. His talk, which he titled “The Idea of Europe,” made some waves in certain circles but, ultimately, wasn't widely discussed. Years later I found a copy of the transcript in Amsterdam’s Athenaeum, who had tucked it in the corner of a sunken room on a shelf devoted to "Brexit." I read it the following day while on a train to Brussels.
As I trundled across the Flemish hinterland Steiner’s words, delivered with judicious insight and a reassuring cautionary edge, served as a reminder of one irrevocable fact: that Europe is a continent “of linguistic, cultural, [and] social diversity;” a “mosaic” of communities that have never been united with the same scale and ambition as that of the European Union. But before the contemporary Euro-project, came European café culture.