I want to talk about the reasons why I support and love the European Union. Euro-scepticism is on the rise, and I find this very sad. Maybe many people cannot see this, but from my experience, the EU has brought much prosperity to our lives and it deserves to be recognised for its merits and achievements. Of course it’s not a perfect institution, but perfection does not exist. It needs to be worked on and improved, but it has a huge potential and has already achieved some goals that were unthinkable a few decades ago. This is to remind you of what I think should be kept in mind about the EU:
- No more border control: yes, if you are a Brit you might not have enjoyed the pleasure of getting off a plane without any need for queuing at a passport check but I have. Even in Norway and Switzerland that are not even part of the EU. I know it’s part of their jobs, but I feel really stressed when I get my documents checked and the officers frown and put on a very strict and nasty face. I am glad I don’t have to go through that anymore.
- No need of a passport: Yes, it is rather sad that in the US most people don’t carry a passport, but in the EU it’s different. If you move from California to Arkansas, apart from the landscape and the accent you don’t really get such a different cultural experience, on the contrary, the gap between Calais and Dover is rather big from a linguistic and cultural perspective, and same goes for Milan and Stockholm, Madrid and Prague, Lisbon and Reykjavik etc. I have not travelled outside Europe in the past 10 years (I’m only 22 and I plan to travel around Asia in the next four years, so that it’s clear that I’m not a provincial idiot) and the 180€ or so that one needs to get a passport in Italy would have gone to waste. I strongly dislike the idea of a passport, to me it’s an old fashioned, bureaucratic nasty piece of paper which should not be necessary in this tecnological world. In fact, I can travel around Europe without any document-worry by carrying my 15€ worth European ID-card, which is very light (the size of a credit card), water(and beer)proof, easy to get and to use and with a magnetic rainbow-coloured band with some fancy numbers and my signature printed on it. It can be read by devices that can be found all over Europe, and saves me from having to go around with that nasty piece of paper that would make me paranoid in case i lost it (considering how expensive it is), spilled drink over it, got caught in a rainstorm etc. I don’t have a handbag, and I like to keep my documents and cards in my wallet, safely stored in my pocket, Having a passport in the pocket is a hassle i do not intend to take. At least not when I travel around Europe.
- University and School Exchange Programmes: I studied in Edinburgh for free along with another girl from my uni, and this year, other students including my English girlfriend are coming to my home uni in Italy to study there for free and have a European experience. International students from America have to pay thousands of pounds if they want to have an experience in a European University. I am glad that among Europeans we have some privileges that makes it easier to make friends and create links around the continent.
- Peace: we take it for granted, but we should remember that our continent has been torn apart since the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476. No peace at all for nearly two thousand years and yet we don’t see the extreme success that the EU has had in granting peace on our continent for more than half a century. Fortunately the nobel prize commission in Oslo knew better, and last year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU.
- A single currency: I’ll talk more about this later, but now I just want to say that from my point of view (and as someone mostly ignorant about economics) I perceived the coming of a single currency as a blessing. No more money lost by exchanging currency in greedy banks or offices, no more worries when you are abroad and need to convert a currency that is exchanged with yours at a rate like 1=387,69. I felt also that despite the fact that prices in my country went a bit up, I could buy much, MUCH more abroad. There has also been a great protection from the governments’ ancestral temptation to use inflation, making people poorer.
- Easier contact with other European Citizens: let us face it, despite past conflicts and rivalry, we’ve been all genetically connected since the early middle ages and even before. Romano-celtic, germano-slavic, germano-celtic, romano-germanic people, normans in France, Britain and Sicily, Lombards from Scandinavia to Hungary and then Italy, Vandals in Spain etc. And what about all the cultural movement that have always irradiated from one place to the rest of the continent? The Renaissance, the Baroque, the Neo-classicism, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism and so on. They were all born in a specific state and spread towards the other European states and changed the course of their history. Because of this highly inter-connected cultural (and genetic) history, I’d like to feel more connected with people from different parts of the continent. With the new European policies it’s now more likely to meet people that speak one language that you either understand or master. In this way I now have friends from Scandinavia to Bulgaria, from Spain to Russia. I love it, it makes life richer, and it wouldn’t be as easy without the EU encouraging contacts.
And now just a few myths that I’d like to try and debunk:
The European Union is a threat to our identity.
- The Welsh, the Cornish, the Gaelic and the northern Irish cultures in the UK, whose local languages and tradition have been constantly suppressed over the last centuries for the sake of British national unity.
- The Breton and the Occitans in France, whose language is still the victim of discrimination for the sake of a unified French identity.
- The Galicians, the Basques and the Catalans, suprisingly less threatened.
- The Sami popuations in Lapland, who have only very recently obtained some forms of local government and funds to susbsidise their language and tradition.
- The Lombards, Sardinians, Venetians, Tyrolese, etc. whose local languages do not enjoy any form of protection whatsoever by the italian state and are not even recognised as minority languages, despite the EU officially recognising them
Brussel is an alien institution who tells us what to do even if it’s against our interest.
Yay! More power to the people and less to foreign bureaucrats!
The truth is, no matter what form you choose, democracy can never really be the ideal form of government where people decide what to do all the time, and this is because local interests often clashes with the broader scope of regional/national interests. The EU is just another democratically elected institution that tries to promote peace and prosperity and that sometimes clashes with the national decisions of member states, and in this respect it’s no different from our national parliaments.
Just for the sake of citing some authorities, here is what professor Farrel from the University of Manchester has stated about the EU parliament: “the EP is now one of the most powerful legislatures in the world both in terms of its legislative and executive oversight powers”. This is not meant to awake any euro-pride or euro-centric megalomany: it’s just about the simple fact that there are emerging powers in the world that are more often than not using unethical means to expand their power and influence. And we cannot hope to compete with those economies if we keep minding our little back-garden and making a fuss about our next-door neighbours wanting to take over us. The threat to our identity or prosperity lies elsewhere, not in Brussels.
Indeed, but unfortunally not all countries have large oil resources, and without prosperous neighbours one wouldn’t have anyone to sell it too. Moreover, the idea that Norway is so prosperous BECAUSE of it not being part of the EU, is total nonsense. It is well off because of the way the administration has managed to handle its small economy to grant a strong welfare, jobs and investments.
The reason why Norway is not part of the EU is, again, to do with blind patriotism. Norway has been an independent state for approximately a century. It’s a very young nation and with a weak identity which has been threatened by globalization and the pervasive strength of American media and brands. In fear of losing their identity, the Norwegians have voted to stay out of the EU twice, despite being urged by their governments to vote the opposite. A victory of democracy you may call it, but someone else calls it a victory of short-sighted nationalism.
With the ongoing debate about the EU referendum in the UK, people keep citing Norway as a model, and quite wrongly to be frank. In fact, it was not a European burocrat, but a minister of the Norwegian government who warned the Brits about idealising the Norwegian situation. What he declared is basically that Norway’s economy is still caught up by the EU’s, but being outside the union, it cannot benefit from the privileges of the member states, nor it has a say in what is decided at European level. The importance of the EU to Norwegian economy is summed up by this short paragraph, which you can find on Wikipedia with the due references:
Norway’s trade is dominated by the EU and Norway is the EU’s 4th most important import partner. Norway to EU trade amounted to €91.85 billion in 2008, primarily energy supplies (only 14.1% is manufactured products). The EU’s exports to Norway amounted to €43.58 billion, primarily manufactured products.
This might sound like a trap, but it’s actually a blessing if you think that if Norway decided to cut its trade with Europe and start trading with China or America, we could hardly imagine such a smaller nation to be given space to challenge and change the trading policies of those super-powers. In Brussel nations can make their voice heard on a continental scale, and for how small they can be, they will find stronger allies in that parliament.
If you find this to be too much in the realm of possibilities, listen to what the opposition leader in Norway had to say to BBC journalists: Norway contributes about 240m euros (£205m; $313m) annually to the EU, yet it has no seat at the meetings where EU decisions are taken. So access to the EU single market is expensive and entails a “democratic deficit” for Norway, Ms Solberg says. […] belonging to the EEA is essential for Norway’s exports, but it means Norway has adopted three-quarters of EU legislation without having a say.
Don’t know about you, but it looks like they’ve done the wrong thing to me.
Greece, which is always cited as an example of what happens if you adopt the €, is actually an example of something quite different. The euro-crisis can be hardly blamed on the currency itself. On Wikipedia we read: The European sovereign debt crisis resulted from a combination of complex factors, including the globalisation of finance; easy credit conditions during the 2002–2008 period that encouraged high-risk lending and borrowing practices; the 2007–2012 global financial crisis; international trade imbalances; real-estate bubbles that have since burst; the 2008–2012 global recession; fiscal policy choices related to government revenues and expenses; and approaches used by nations to bail out troubled banking industries and private bondholders, assuming private debt burdens or socialising losses.
Think of the Tokyo protocol: the Scadinavian nations are the best in the world in terms of how they respect the environment, but all their efforts would be in vain if their neighbours kept polluting more than ever before. European directives make sure that applying a regulation will have a more effective result.
The EU is just a system to bailout lazy and less-hard working countries. I don’t want to give my money to Greece.
You’ll be pleased to know, that Greek workers actually work much more than any others in any European country. Even more than the germans! In fact, in an article published a few months ago on BBC news we read:
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average Greek worker toils away for 2,017 hours per year which is more than any other European country.
Again, it’s about finance and administration, and about the fact that Greek economy is smaller and more fragile. This goes well with another fact: Italy, my country, has got roughly the same GDP as the UK, a figure that clashes with the stereotype of Italians lazying about all the time and enjoying the sunshine.
To go back to bailing out, well! from my experience, those who are against it are generally quite conservative people who are perfectly happy to call themselves christian until the moment they are asked to be charitable.If you are not christian but still don’t like the idea of helping other european countries in financial trouble, remember what I said about other countries failing and dragging many others in a chain reaction.
And even without this practical and factual problem, think about post-war Britain: when other countries, such as mine, were going through an economic boom that brought wealth and tecnology about, Britain was going through a recession and food was rationed. The day was saved by the Iron Lady, at the costs of thousands of jobs, some lives and heaven knows what else. Some of you (or your parents) might wish there had been some way of bailing out Britain then, instead of having to go through an unfair and mercyless austerity.
Furthermore,why are so many English against bailing out Greece, but they are perfectly happy to subsides depressed areas of, say, Wales? Wales is still another nation, the only difference being that the partnership with it has a longer history and therefore is more appetising to tradition-fetishists. If we look at facts, the Uk and the EU are both confederation of nations who put aside historical rivalries for the sake of peace and economic growth.The only difference being that the EU has shown to be much better at spending money to protect minority cultures. The UK is not perfect, and many would like to break free from it, and so is Europe. Many UK unionists, who are often the most eurosceptics, wan’t Scotland to remain in the UK and the UK to exit the EU, primarily for the sake of nationalism. And a short-sighted one, for that matter.
If it’s traditions, local peculiarities and that kind of stuff that you love so much, I’ll say it again: there’s no better institution than the EU for you.
Then if you tell me that you are happy bailing out poor area of the UK because it’s part of a tradition but you won’t do the same with your European neighbours because there is no tradition or patriotism attached to it…well, I’ll just drop it and leave in a cloud of embarassement.
I realise that I adressed the UK and the British people quite often. There is a reason for that, and it’s called UKIP. Particularly the way this party is gaining more and more support, particularly in England. And to me this is a mystery. A very big one indeed. I’d like if any of you reading this post are British and Euro-sceptic to answer this question and help me understand: why are you perfectly happy to renounce part of national sovereignty in a condition of equality among England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the sake of peace and prosperity and you fear the idea of a divided Britain with small kingdoms fighting each other, but then you don’t want to do the very same thing with the rest of Europe? For how I see it, the EU is just a UK on steroids, that is, countries that put aside national pride in pursuit of peace and prosperity. With the sole exception that to strengthen your union in the last few centuries, you’ve massacred people and forced English onto them, while the EU gives money to local communities to protect their traditions and languages. In other words. the EU is a larger and more ambitious UK, without its nationalistic and conservative side. Should I think that it’s this very side which makes you like the UK better than the EU?
Just as a post scriptum, I’d like to post here a comment by a visitor of the website of The Guardian, a British newspaper. It pretty much sums up what I think about the issue of democracy in an ever stronger EU:
01 July 2012 1:18pm
Response to DisaffectedYouth, 01 July 2012 1:09pm
Sovereignty = democracy, is that what you’re saying?
So are you saying that when the British Isles were a fragmented group of warring kingdoms and nations, separate from each other, they were more democratic? That when these separate entities came together to form Great Britain the land somehow became less democratic and more despotic?
The amalgamation of nations is an ongoing part of history. It’s called progress.
Accountable, responsible institutions can hold a union together. It is as democratic as we the voters allow it to be.
Given the apparently rampant corruption at the heart of UK civil society at present, I’d say we do a damn awful job of governing ourselves effectively. We certainly don’t govern by the people or for the people.
A more distant governance, based on more principled government and accountability would in no way be a bad thing.
The pernicious delusion of europhobes knows no limits.