May 18, 2013
Thursday last I participated in a meeting held at the Romanian Senate, organised by the Romanian Association of European Federalists (AFER) on the European Citizenship, the European Year of citizens and the European Citizens Initiative. It was part informative for those who were not up to speed, part hallucinating through some of the opinions expressed.
My first intent was to start a thread on the way the procedure involved in submitting a citizens initiative (7 people from 7 different EU member states) is important to the federalist movement. In order to have 7 people come together and submit a proposal, that means 7 people with different social and economic backgrounds living in 7 different countries under different circumstances, some specifics would have to be met – the proposal must adress an issue present within all 7 states or the issue adressed in the proposal must have universal value or the 7 people would have to have had some prior mutual experience, know each other, or belong to organisations that are part of a network. We can agree that in more than 50% of cases at least 2 would have to apply to achieve the set requirements. Either way, the 7 people coming together, from 7 different places, can be nominated, at large, as a small federative unit. Mainly because having to work together to see the proposal through they will share experiences and create bonds that will outlive the proposal. They are also the driving force behind the signature gathering process, which means that in turn they will also share more with the communities they come from. In turn and in time, putting all these things together, they become ambassadors of multiculturalism, as they will have an impact on the community they come from. Or they will have an impact on all our lives if the proposal went through and would become legislation. But what is infinitely more important is that they will become building blocks to a shared new identity.
However, this is not the main subject of this post. I also mentioned in the first paragraph that in part the experience was hallucinating for me. There I was, surrounded by people either elected in the Senate or working in the support system of the aforementioned, thinking that in here at least, people would be aware and in touch with the European framework, and how things work. Of those there, only a handfull actually spoke. The information exchange was good in terms of programmed speakers, but where my eyes got wider was when the Q&A session started. Because that is where someone, and allow me not to share names, felt obliged to express more than a few of his personal opinions. It would have meant absolutely nothing, but this particular individual was one with considerable influence, an educator and a participant in various EU themed research projects. By the time he was done speaking I was enraged. Partly because what he had said had been insulting to me, and partly because some of the things he said made me think that maybe he needed to be in an institution. But what was even more disturbing to me was the sudden realisation of a greater truth – I was enraged that my identity came under attack. My identity as an European.
Later that day I was browsing Facebook and came upon a post that ended with the following:
“O mână de prieteni, o mână de cunoscuți, câțiva Facebook pals, câteva rude, adresa din buletin și cam atât. E destul ca să formeze o țară? I guess not.” – in Romanian, roughly translates as “A handfull of friends, a handfull of acquaintances, some Facebook pals, some relatives, the address in the ID Card and that’s about it. Is that enough to constitute a country? I guess not.”
The post was longer, and it was a follow up to his post on the 9th of May. It fitted my frame of mind at the moment perfectly.
And that got me thinking. The 2 events of the day made me question my identity. Or at least put it under scrutiny – the result of that scrutiny went up on twitter:
A conversation came to life on twitter on this subject with a fellow blogger, Euronomist. He is more optimistic than I am, but by the time we had stopped I had postulated the following – Those of us who assume primarily their European Identity before their national identity are a countryless minority.
There are a few of these minorities across the globe, but they tend to share an ethnic connection. This new minority that has arisen within the EU is much harder to pin down. It has nothing to do with nationality or ethnicity. It has nothing to do with education or political affiliation. It has to do however with the EU. Under the influence of the dream that is Europe, as it was before with the dream that was Rome, enticed with our experiences across the continent, with people from other countries within or exterior to the Union, we have crafted a new identity for ourselves. An identity that bears no connection with our immediate surrounding.
The optimists, such as Euronomist, will say that we have a “country”, and that country is the EU. I’m less optimistic about this. And I am less optimistic because I look around and I see the dream under attack. Euro-skepticism is on the rise, and local politicians have made it a succes story to blame the EU for a wide array of issues for personal gain. The media exploits all of this for commercial value, and inherently spreads the tumor. All sorts of uncertain individuals blame their failures on this dream that is Europe. We are, at sorts, endangered.
When talking about identity, there is this text I always come back to. It is in the Introduction to Paul Lukez book Suburban Transformations. It goes like this:
As an old man looking across the Lake Zurich in Bollingen, Swiss psychologist Carl Jung could see his life represented in the shapes and forms of his house. The house, consisting of towers, courtyards and walls, was started by Jung in 1926, and added to over time as his needs changed. [..] His beloved home became a repository of the memories of his life, his family and his friends. It had an identity uniquely associated with a person, his unconscious, and a particular place in the world.
The home portrayed here is without a doubt a central place to the individuals identity, and as such it is the place he builds on. Brick by brick the house and the identity come together, in unique ways that cannot be any different as they are results of choices and decisions. Moreover, the house/identity is the central place that allows the individual to experiment and “travel”, with the certainty of the stable element that he can always come back to – the house.
My inner quest has led me here, to this question – Where is our home? Where do we Europeans congregate to recharge our batteries? Where are we safe?
Is it Brussels? Can it be? Doesn’t Brussels already have an identity of it’s own? Is it ok to derail that identity and build a new one on top? One that might end up not being accepted, or more to it rejected?
With every passing day I find myself less and less connected with the identity I was assigned at birth. In its stead I have assumed my European identity. And each day I ask myself when will I be truly countryless.
As such, I have to ask: Where is our house?