No love affair to break – European people and the Britexit

Posted by Horatiu Ferchiu on 16/01/13
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The thing that bugs me the most about the possible Britexit is that people around me seem to take it very lightly. So what if the Brits want out? Let them out, we don’t care. And i take that as a sign of the unfinished construction of the European populous. No matter what nation you pick from across the continent, when you talk of a presumable secession of one of the provinces, you get heated arguments and a general rejection of the idea from people not within the respective province. A certain fear of separation, and an almost blind devotion to the integrity of the nation state. Generally I would translate that as unity within the populous around a given set of values that define that social construction.

We don’t yet see that in Europe. The 500 million plus people in the EU today don’t act as one. I would even go as far as saying that the only true EU wide unity (or at least at some multi-national level)  appears only when a mass demonstration is under way in Brussels. Take for example the recent European Milk Board protests that amassed farmers from 14 nations united for one purpose. But that seems to be as far as anyone is willing to go. If results are achieved, then the ad-hoc union disperses as each party tries to get more for themselves.

We lack the unity that would allow us to become one. We lack it because we seldom get reasons to unite behind the European idea. We have no sports team under the EU flag to cheer for, there is no threat against the Union – outside threats are always directed at specific nations! That’s a good strategy for the “enemy”, but a bad thing for the rest of us, as it prevents us for achieving unity. So what if nation A threatens France or Spain, we here in Romania or Poland have no worries. And voila the continuous opportunity to not feel as one united people.

It’s now the case with the Britexit. Except for those interested in EU affairs, the large portion of society could not care less. Neither is anyone clearly explaining that there is no scenario where the Britexit would be painless or uneventful. Public pressure from outside the realm could not value less for the Brit politicians (consider this at large) but it might matter to regular Brits. And it can be easily explained. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, of low cost flights and so on, personal connections within European individuals go further than what one might think. We all have friends and people we interact with all  across the continent. We met them during our studies, while travelling at conventions and fares. We connected. It has been my experience that bonds created at personal level outgun ideas generated at mass level. I spent 1 year in France as an Erasmus student before Romania’s accession to the EU, and had to deal with a lot of misconceptions about Romanian people at large. But those I did manage to strike a connection with, have forever abandoned those ideas, mainly because they had a first hand experience.

All these considered, the Britexit sounds to me not as a “divorce”, but more like the UK saying “let’s stay together, but I get to see other people!”. And what strikes me as odd is that as far as the average Jane or Joe is considered, this is not a problem. And the reason it’s not a problem is that most likely there was no relationship in the first place. No perceived relationship at least. Right now the situation is at a point where everything is possible, and no matter how much we analyse it, i have the feeling that everything that could be said has been said, and it’s up to the British people.

But what we must, and I’m going to stress that – WE MUST, really consider about this entire affair is that there is no relationship between the people. No real, heartfelt relationship, and a certain lack of emotion. Because there is a lack of emotion towards the EU – maybe! Because we are too entrenched in views about the nation – also maybe. Separation of understanding between the people and their politicians greatly diminishes the connection between the EU and its people. 2013 is an important year -it’s the European Year of Citizens. Let’s fight to make it count. Spread the word – we are all Europeans.

3 Responses to No love affair to break – European people and the Britexit »»

  1. Comment by George Mc | 2013/01/21 at 02:26:00

    Horatiu,

    Excellent blog. I would like to congratulate you in absolutely nailing it! As a Eurosceptic Brit, if I had posted similar they would be queuing up to take pot shots at me!

    Funnily enough when Europe plays the Americans at golf in the Ryder Cup everyone seems to come together to support them. Absolutely no idea why.

    Returning to the thrust of your post I would largely agree with you and add the following:
    The EU has no ONE beating heart, just many beating at different rates. Can anyone define what a European is, coming from so many disparate backgrounds and cultures with many different languages? Is there such a thing as a European? It is a bit like saying someone is Asian.
    I do not think that Europeans have the capacity to relate to a large population of 500 million, and say with emotion and pride, I am part of that. This is not helped by many different cultures, customs and languages. I think that the Nation state is the most that they can handle, where they share culture customs and languages.

    I admire your sentiment but where and how will we find the right glue to hold it together. I am of course talking about the ordinary citizen and not the politicians, technocrats and bureaucrats who have gone ‘native’ in Brussels and worry only about their own well being and survival.

    Regards
    George Mc

  2. Comment by Horatiu Ferchiu | 2013/01/22 at 18:30:46

    Hey George,

    First of all let me say sorry i couldn’t answer fast enough to your comment, but hectic days are always usual in my line of work this time of the year.
    To compliment the views you have expressed I’ll have to redirect you to a post by fellow blogger Protesilaos Stavrou – http://www.protesilaos.com/2013/01/european-identity-democracy.html. He developed some of the issues. He comes up with a few arguments that could compliment the ideas expressed here.

    As i have told him also, when it comes to the European populous (i refrain from European people for obvious reasons) my opinion rests less on geographical boundaries and more on a cultivated set of ideas and value/virtues shared by a group of people – hence my closing remark on this blog post – “we are all Europeans”.

    As for my views on nation states and how the identity of the people can be preserved even if the nation state disappears i will direct you to my very first blog post – http://fedeu.blogactiv.eu/2012/08/31/nations-regions-identity-–-a-federal-perspective/

    Hope that will give you a more detailed look into how i see things.

    Have a good evening

    H.

  3. Comment by celt darnell | 2013/09/04 at 21:57:32

    It’s a shame that for all your comparisons to the American Civil War (last post) and a lack of relationship (above) that you don’t consider another historical angle: that the UK’s relationship to the EU is rather like Canada’s viz. the US.

    Canada was founded by those American colonists who supported the Crown in the War of Independence (French Canadians also rejected the Americans). Canada, despite sharing common origins with the Americans (being British colonists), rejected the American political structure and culture, forming a nation state wholly independent of the US.

    While Canadians and Americans obviously have a great deal in common, and are linked through NAFTA (which results in constant flows of people, not only goods, between the two nations) Canadians aren’t Americans and Americans ain’t Canadians.

    Speaking as a Briton, not only do I feel no sense of common identity with Europeans, I feel a greater cultural and political affinity with nations like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I’m happy to trade with you, I’m happy for Europeans to come and visit or live in Britain, but I not only don’t want to belong to a European federation, I actively oppose ever belonging to one.

    If you chaps want to federate fine — but most of us don’t want to belong. So count us out. You be the US, we’ll be Canada. Hell, we’ve even got out own Quebec (Scotland). You have your northern states (Germany and France, etc.) and your southern ones (Italy, Spain, etc.).

    Gosh, it’s amazing where comparisons lead, isn’t it?

  4. Comment by Horatiu Ferchiu | 2013/09/05 at 07:19:18

    I’m on the run, but thank you for your comment and let me say that i have in some ways considered this angle, Canada and the US, UK and the EU but decided against it as there is a much more discreet link between the people of the UK and those of the EU than in the other case. Centuries of history have seen us rise together or against one another, and although the UK has always maintained a certain type of relation with the continent, the realities of today challenge that status quo. It’s normal that you feel closer to New Zealand, Australia and Canada, as all these nations share a very particular relationship with the UK and maintain a very vivid connection through the Commonwealth.

    Time permitting is shall elaborate more on my views on this particular topic.

    Thank you for the time and consideration.


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  1. [...] I wrote this article, I may also direct the reader to the blog posts of fellow bloggers Horatiu Ferchiu and Euronomist who have also recently written on the theme of a European people. What I have [...]

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