Imola is a city of around seventy thousand people. It’s located right at the edge of the metropolitan city of Bologna, at the invisible border between Emilia and Romagna in the north-eastern part of Italy. This city has everything that can be thought as typically Italian: there are monuments all around the town from different ages, historic buildings decorate the streets, and the city center is surrounded by a magnificent countryside that is rich with fields that are devoted to agricultural production (mainly fruits such as peaches and apricots). Imola, even during the recession that came after 2008, maintained a healthy economic life — and because of this, the city is considered to be a bubble. Though it is not a perfect one.
Mounting discontent has been rising in the last year because of chronic dissatisfaction with government performance over some of the determining areas for people. Part of the resentment comes from the vision that many locals have about the European Union, who perceive it to be a governing body that is too distant to properly tend to their needs. This belief is unfounded.
For the people of Imola, the role of the European Union is crucial, even if not recognized. One example for all is that of Mr. Paolo Cassetta, the owner of Ca’ Lunga — a small winery in the town. His winery, named after the street on which it is located, is the definition of small Italian family business. Indeed, Ca’ Lunga does not have any employees; the entirety of the work, from the harvesting to the bottling, relies upon Paolo’s family.
Paolo and his business owe very much to the European Union; through the Single Market, he has been able to sell his wine to many European Countries such as Poland, the United Kingdom and Spain. These exports are the lifeline for Paolo’s winery growth, and this growth would not be possible without the assistance of the European Union in the development of its business.
Paolo’s story is key because it puts in perspective what the European Union does and represents for many business owners of small enterprises. His story stands to say that macroeconomic trends are indeed significant, but that it is also crucial to underline the importance that the European Union project has for the average European citizens.
Personally, I feel the importance of the European Union when I understand the benefits that the Single Market, the customs union and other EU regulations have brought to people like Paolo. Small cities such as Imola benefit economically and culturally by the frame that the European Union project is working to create. I chose to work for the EU Delegation to the U.S. here in Washington because I wanted to better understand what it means to be part of this project.
What I saw with Paolo and what I am learning here in DC is invaluable. Working at the trade section of the Delegation has allowed me to recognize the incredible amount of research that goes into ensuring that any business deal is going to bring more prosperity for the European people. In order to improve this Union, people from Europe need to engage with the European Union because we need more stories like Paolo’s so that we can perfect this project in their interests. Paolo and many others in Imola know how important the trade relations granted by the European Union are for them and their country. Now, more than ever before, it is vital to have their voice heard to keep this network alive.