The Flex of being a European Union Citizen

Yes, this following piece of writing is a very praising ode to the European Union.

Why? Because I feel like there is the need for someone to finally acknowledge that the existence of the European Union – and being part of the EU – is an amazing asset of our lives. Every single day in the media, I hear severe sacking of this supranational system, its bureaucracy, and its failures. Most predominantly, the worrying voices of some national extremes highly castigate this continental system that supposedly “undermines” the nation. And these extremes manage to find a significant audience locally. So, while the European Union is just getting bashed from everywhere, I would like to remind (especially) EU citizens why it’s great to be European. 

First off, let me just say: we are a super cool union of diverse countries. The 27 countries (yes, 27, because to hell with Britain now) that are part of the European Union all have different national cultures, history,and customs, are tied by this weird blue yellow-starred flag organization. Many things have happened since the original creation of the original European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 (ECSC, the ancestor of our dear EU). More and more countries gradually joined this ever-growing supranational community, and so the EU in itself evolved and widened its scope of action. But still, one thing has never changed: the feeling of “Europeanness”, and the concept of cooperation. And I find that absolutely fascinating, because the construction of this European “imagined community” relying on intertwined pasts has now resulted in a significant structure that has a say in every aspect of our lives (yep, this is a throwback to Cultural Studies class and Benedict Anderson’s concept). 

It is true that, because the EU is a relatively new institution compared to the centuries-old antiqueness of the concept of “countries”, people of course feel Italian, German, Dutch or any other nationality before feeling European. However, when I entered university, I weirdly still felt this supranational “link” with other EU students that I did not have with overseas ones. Maybe because we all had the chance to pay the reduced EU fees. Or maybe because despite coming from different countries, we all shared a specific cultural education teaching us about the European Union and its meaningfulness. Or maybe because most of us grew up fervidly watching Eurovision while supporting our respective countries. 

However, besides just this cultural “union” of 27 nations, the EU is first and foremost a structure that grants its citizens a lot of opportunities and awesome advantages that we should all be proud of. Firstly, all I have to say is: the SCHENGEN AREA! It might be an obscure concept for most people outside the EU, but for us EU citizens it is a paramount element of our lives. Indeed, every EU country (+ Norway, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland) is part of the Schengen area, which allows the movement of every person, goods or services within it, and without any restrictions. Thanks to this, we can therefore travel or live everywhere in the Union without needing a visa, which greatly facilitates the lives of millions of Europeans outside their country, like me. 

Furthermore, a core element of our society designed by the EU that we could not live without now is the Euro (€). This common currency, shared by (most) EU countries, eases economic and financial transactions everywhere across the continent, without any intermediate processes or supplementary costs. The EU is nevertheless not only a common area and currency; it is also a structure providing essential support to its countries and citizens. It has for example allowed multiple Eastern European countries to experience important economic growth, thanks to its development aid plans. The EU also subsidizes multiple transport facilities in each of the 27 nations, and further heavily supports its farmers by providing them necessary subsidies for their activity. Additionally, it provides accessible and developed healthcare and education, by generalizing their access and costs to the local standards and rates for every EU citizen. From this perspective, it is the EU that ensures our food security, allows us to obtain affordable medical services, and makes it possible for everyone to go to university in their home country but also abroad (whether it is on a full-time basis or in exchange through Erasmus). Finally, through the EU, every country from the biggest to the smallest one is represented internationally as they are part of the “big, united, democratic European fish”, which allows them to have a united say in the global dynamics and grants them a positive and progressive image (at least, that’s how I perceive it). While it might therefore not be visible to all, being part of the EU is a major privilege due to every service that is provided to us on a daily basis. 

Okay, the European Union is far from perfect. This organization constantly faces some serious challenges, whether it be its enlargement, its position on the international scene or its internal inequalities. Yes, all EU countries have different situations and backgrounds. Sure, this inevitably leads to divergences in thoughts, opinions or actions. But you know what? We are also a strong multicultural bloc whose destinies are (somewhat) linked together. Nowadays, you are not able to go through a single day without unconsciously relying on the European Union. The muesli you ate this morning? Well, it was produced by farmers thanks to the EU agricultural plan. The train/tram you took to go to school? EU transportation subsidies. Why you are able to properly take classes at Leiden University in a nice environment, and at the same rates as Dutch citizens? Because all universities are partly funded by the EU (sorry if you are not an European student and have to pay the international fees though). Why am I saying all of that? Simply because many of us are complaining about this complex organization, without realizing how much the EU betters our lives.

Euroscepticism is a highly growing trend in every EU country, and this directly results in the rise of some extremes in power, in their own country but also within the shared institutions. And while we should all respect the people’s choice, the presence of those openly anti-EU politicians on the benches of the same institution they despise so much is an issue. This could later lead to major policies that would undermine the EU’s proper functioning and negatively impact our lives. This is already the case regarding environmental policies that are hindered by multiple national representatives to the EU parliament, but this could also become the case regarding key rights such as abortion and other women’s rights currently targeted by countries like Hungary and Poland. And this trend, dear fellow EU citizens, is very dangerous. This is one of the reasons for which I believe everyone should know why the EU is a valuable organization that should not be that easily spat on without thinking about the consequences.  

I may not have lived there for very long, but as an EU (French) citizen I have seen the perks of being part of this union and have been thoroughly enjoying all of its advantages (thank god I had my EU medical card when I broke my arm during that school trip in Spain). Therefore, I sincerely assert that we should all be proud of being European, and happy that this supranational structure exists. But we also should most importantly promote and protect this structure to foster its improvement without it being dangerously undermined by some abysmal so-called “national interests.”

Long live Europe! Vive l’Europe! Viva Europa! Lang leve Europa! ¡Viva Europa! Es lebe Europa! Viva a Europa! Længe leve Europa! Go maire sibh an Eoraip! Ζήτω η Ευρώπη! Да живее Европа! Živjela Europa! Ať žije Evropa! Elagu Euroopa! Eläköön Eurooppa! Éljen Európa! Lai dzīvo Eiropa! Tegyvuoja Europa! Viva l-Ewropa! Niech żyje Europa! Trăiască Europa! Naj živi Evropa! Länge leve Europa!

by Athéna

This author would like to apologize for non-EU readers who might have felt excluded from this article but also now might be sad not to be a European Union citizen.




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