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Rem Koolhaas video: ‘I’ve seen Britain transformed for the better by Europe’

I was present in Britain when it became part of the EU and I’ve lived in London for a very long time since, so I can say that I’ve really experienced the incredible extent to which Britain has become a much better place.

This includes everything from the trivial, such as the quality of the coffee (which at the end of the day is not so trivial!) to huge things such as a vastly more collaborative and sophisticated local culture. As someone who experienced this transformation on a day-to-day basis I can only look at the decision to leave the EU with disbelief.

Eurolab was an initiative of De Balie, a debating centre in Amsterdam. They invited Wolfgang Tillmans, Stephan Petermann and I to work with creatives to show the positive impact of Europe and the EU. We wanted to make sure people voted in the forthcoming European elections, especially young people. In the current media landscape I think that there is a real shortage of concise, understandable and appealingly designed information.

There is also a paradox in that most of the votes for the European parliament are based on national and local issues, rather than ones the European parliament can play an important role in.There’s been a huge wave of simplifications and slogans and an absence of serious argument. Figures such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have benefited from that.

Most national politicians have not had the courage to report the extent to which Europe has played a positive role for the country. Many have used the EU as a scapegoat for decisions they have been part of as members of the European leadership. They assumed that Europe didn’t need an eloquent defence. What’s interesting now is that many leaders, such as the Dutch prime minister, are using bolder language to emphasise how important Europe is to the national interest. We’ve been missing that for almost 25 years.

I am determined not to talk about Europe in terms of crisis or anxiety. I hope that the forces that allow Europe to continue developing constructively can coalesce and collaborate. But it would be foolish to make any predictions about what will happen next. For the first time in my life I don’t understand what is going on in Britain.

Rem Koolhaas was talking to Tim Jonze.

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