Würzburg: Centre of the EUniverse (nearly)

EUROPE; WÜRZBURG & the Pro-EU Movement in GB: Sunday 15 May 22

Würzburg, EU flag at the r. Main old bridge
The EU colours displayed at the Old Bridge over the r. Main in Würzburg, Bavaria only 10km from the centre of the EU. Photo courtesy of the author

Do you sometimes actually wonder what people at grassroots level living at the centre and heart of the EU really think about Brexit, Britain’s new position and indeed European matters? Würzburg town is only 10 kilometres from the new Centrepoint of the EU, and in mid-May it holds a large day long International Spring/Europe Day Festival to celebrate both the international element of its population and Europe Day. This year it took place on Sunday 15 May in Würzburg, North Bavaria, Germany.

An invitation to represent Britain had been outstanding since May 2019, so this was the first real opportunity to realise the chance to have a stand at this popular event. Furthermore, the offer to show a film or video led to the idea of holding a hybrid event with a live German and a Zoom-linked UK audience: hence preparations had to be more extensive and detailed. 

The whole event is organised by Michal Kopriva (Team Leader for EU Affairs, WÜ International & Marketing).

The first Grassroots hybrid event on the continent 

The content of the presentations was very much geared to explaining the nature of the other group to each audience. The event began with a short section about Würzburg and the Centre of the EU, and subsequently moved on to a summary in slides about the Pro-EU Movement in the UK. Included was a reference to the IMOS Foundation, managed on Romney Marsh by Briony Kapoor.

The aim of the event was to encourage the building of bridges for people in both the UK and Germany, giving everyone the chance to exchange views about Europe, the effects of Brexit and much more. Partnerships and exchanges would be a wonderful outcome as a result of the interchange.

Once Chris Hammond had completed the presentations, the ‘floor’, or rather the ether, was opened to an interesting Q&A session leading to further discussion. It was considered by all involved to be highly successful and worthy of a repeat sooner rather than later.

Here is the EUTube link to the event, which starts in German, but soon goes into English: 
Europe, Würzburg & Pro-EU Movement in GB 15May22 – YouTube

Want to know what a German Brexitometer looks like? Read on ….

The indoor session took place inside the impressively modern eco Environment Station (Umweltstation) in Würzburg, Bavaria’s first such building. Outdoors there were two main sections to the festival: the International Spring and the Europe Day section. The international section is located in the former grounds of the Regional Garden Show and has a large variety of stands and events, best understood by viewing the plan here.

The Europe Day section was held close to the Environment Station, with about ten stands, including The Pulse of Europe, the Foundation for Democracy and Civil Courage, the Lower Franconia Youth Education Centre, MRIJA (Club to support Ukraine), Amnesty International, some others… and our GB stand, complete with display board, Würzburgometer and accompanying information sheets, focusing primarily on the UK Pro-EU Movement. The stand attracted plenty of attention throughout the day from the passing public, giving Briony and myself the chance to chat about the UK’s situation, as well as sounding out opinions on specific statements. 

A table with options, marked by brightly coloured dots
Würzburg’s first ‘Brexitometer’. Photo courtesy of the author

How many participants agreed to GB re-joining the EU?

The accompanying pictures perhaps give a flavour of the stand. Just as well that we had several sheets for the Würzburgometer, as they all filled up throughout the day. One example is shown. 

The statements are translated below, with accompanying statistics, revealing total results of engagement, and choice of response: 

Do you agree? (Percentages for each response)YesNoDon’t knowTotal stickersRank
The EU stands for Peace, Democracy and the Rule of Law95.51.72.61171
The EU enables us to protect our values and democracy91.56.42.1 948
We are Europeans. (And in addition true Lower Franconians)97.91.051.05967
Germany should remain in the EU96.22.811064
The Conference on the Future of Europe was not advertised enough 78.94.416.7909
GB belongs to Europe82.812.25.1996
Britain’s reputation has suffered through Brexit 82.412.94.71083
The present British Government cannot be trusted 4921.229.81045
Would you agree to GB rejoining the EU?81.213.75.11171

The Centre of the EU/Mittelpunkt der EU in Gadheim 

Noticeboard explaining the centre of the EU in Gadheim
Information board in Gadheim explaining why it is the geodetic centre of the EU. Photo courtesy of the author.

This is calculated by experts at the IGN (National Geographic Institute in France) by determining the centre of gravity of the whole surface area of the EU outline. To understand this simply, it is best to imagine hanging the flat surface of the EU from a piece of string in the middle and, when the ‘plate’ is perfectly balanced, that is the centre point. 

The official centre point has wandered from France through Belgium then into Germany as more countries joined the EU. The Mittelpunkt moved to Gadheim, part of the Parish of Veitshöchheim, in the Lower Franconian country district of Würzburg, when Britain left the EU on 31 January 2020 at 24.00 CET. 

A Brexit loss

It is the first centre point to arise based on a loss from the EU. And perhaps the only one!

The actual point is marked by a steel pole in a block of rock with a small notice next to it. The history of the Brexit Saga also has its own noticeboard.

red and white pole marking the current geodetic centre of the EU
A steel pole set in a rock to mark the geodetic centre of the EU. Photo courtesy of the author.

Raising the flag

Furthermore, on Tuesday morning, 17 May, a British flag, that of Romney Marsh in East Kent, was raised in an official ceremony at the geodetic Centre of the EU, 10km outside Würzburg. This was Briony Kapoor’s initiative: her IMOS Foundation initiated the design and she was present with me to raise the flag. The local Mayor, Herr Jürgen Götz and Frau Karen Heußner led the ceremony, and toasted with some local Franconian wine. There is a separate article about that event here:

Chris Hammond is Chair of East Kent EM, on EM National Council, Kent Bylines Co-Ordinator, and a Member of the Festival/Summer of Europe Panel. He lives in Canterbury and also in Bergtheim, near Würzburg.