Europe without Europeans?

EU flag

The 9th of May was Europe Day, so I thought it’d be a good idea to start this project with something I care about very much.

There are a lot of downsides to growing up in a small village located in the middle of nowhere, but with time I have come to appreciate both my childhood and town more than many would expect. For sure, I seem to have developed a better and wider picture of how the world actually works, but what I find extremely intriguing is that I have come to appreciate so many things that others wouldn’t even notice.

However, when it comes to knowledge about the European Union, its functions and structure I must say that rural areas have one big problem, which is lack of information, or rather, of interest. We all know that the EU is facing a number of different difficulties: an endless stagnating economic and debt crisis, terrorism, an assertive Russian foreign policy and the on-going refugee crisis — and the list goes on. Yet, what will put an end to the almost 70 year-old project of European Integration won’t be the result of external pressures, but will probably be the outcome of apathy and indifference by the very ‘Europeans’.

Hardly anyone in my home town knows what the EU institutions are and how they are organized within the overarching system. Even fewer know the meaning of words like ‘supranational’ and ‘intergovernmental’ and I’d be very surprised if my dad could name the President of the European Commission or the President of the European Parliament. However, it is, in part, the EU that is to blame for their lack of information. Indeed, the European Union does not invest enough in making sure that its core values reach everyone. When I asked my older brother his opinion about the EU, all I got in return was a list of negative traits such as the loss of national sovereignty, bad economic policies or too much bureaucracy. Though how could I possibly blame him? After all, he lives in a country where the youth unemployment rate is almost 40%, which is not a great start for a man in his twenties. And yet, the vast majority still struggles to understand that the present situation is the result of bad national and internal policies. There is much confusion about the distinction between EU and national competence, which is in turn a consequence of the very nature of the European Union, with its overly complicated acronyms like CSDP, CFSP, PCS — just to name a few — or its ad hoc solutions that seem to ignore the wider picture.

This short reflection has reminded me of a widely known statement, which goes like ‘we have made Italy, now we have to make the Italians’, referring to the initial state of social chaos following the Italian unification in 1861. And even though no one here is trying to create an ‘EU Super State’ (we certainly do not want to scare our fellow Brits) I have a feeling that, although we are securing socio-political and economic integration, we have lost out on shaping the concept of an EU identity, especially in those secluded and remote areas where this very identity is needed the most.

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