Opinions on a federalised Europe

I am European.

I am European. Before anything else.

I have assumed this identity. I was lucky. I grew up in a decent sized town just outside of Bucharest, Romania’s capital, that offered me a wealth of opportunities to develop my personality – I wrote at a student magazine and I worked as an editor for the same magazine. I learned about publishing software and how things move from my screen to the printing press to the final result you can hold in your hand. I played theater with a young company, full of interesting personalities. I was involved with politics. I met and have been in the company of great people, that today are leaders in their fields. I was exposed to literature and philosophy, to cinema and a carefree existence. I lived in a city that saw the opportunities of the EU long before Romania ever joined. In 2003, 4 years before accession, the town I grew up in was already involved in various pan-European programs, most of them with a direct effect on my everyday life.

Then I moved to Bucharest. The student life. Different experiences, learning a lot about the culture of Europe. History of architecture, history and evolution of cities – I could recognize most European landmarks, and then tell something about them. And it is the curious way of architecture and urban planning that you don’t have to learn just about the bricks and the mortar, the stones and scaffolding, you also have to learn about the why’s and the who. Why did those people do that, at that point in time? What was the driving force, and how did society at that time reach the level where they could support such activities. I learned about the people, and the evolution of the society. Mostly about Europe.

And then I grabbed an Erasmus opportunity and moved to France for a year. Great opportunity to learn about other people, about other ways to live a life. Ping backed between Switzerland and France for a while. Learned a lot about two similar cultures that lived different lives. We were still outside of the EU then. We were close but not yet in. Met a lot of other Europeans, shared stories, cooked together, laughed at similar language patterns, exchanged views and experiences. At one point there were 9 languages spoken at the same table. West europeans, central europeans, east europeans. We got along. We debated on politics and economy, history and society. We were all strangers there, but we were all European and that created a bond.

Had long talks over brilliant wine about the French experience within the EU. Argued pro EU at a time when French people were not so happy with the Union. All prices where in Euro’s everywhere yet many people still calculated everything in French Francs. It was miles away from what happened at home, where the Euro was the currency of choice for all calculations, even though Romania still uses the Romanian Leu even today. We still think in Euro’s though. Met a lot of immigrants, mostly North African. Had great times. Learned about their experiences.

I returned home before the accession. I became a EU citizen at home. January 1st 2007. I can’t actually remember where I was or with whom, but I do remember the EU flag flown for the first time. The joy and the feeling of accomplishment.

I was however European well before that specific point in time. Everything I knew, all my cultural references pointed in that direction. I read the press in 3 languages. I read books and watched movies in 3 languages. I knew just as much about what was going on in France, Germany, the UK, Belgium or Italy as I did about what was going on at home. I had friends all over the map. I did an experiment and mapped out recently the people I know and talk to daily and their position across the map – 35% are in Romania. The rest are all around Europe, from the West to the East, from the North to the South. My core group is spread around the EU.

I am European. I will always be.

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Comments

  1. An interesting insight. I have the impression that there are a growing number of people who think as you. There is clearly a shared culture- Christian heritage, democratic values, etc etc.

    There is an irony for those of us in the UK in that the growing use of English as a shared language is helping the growth of this shared European perspective yet we Brits are outside of that perspective. We tend to split in to Euro-pragmatists or Euro-sceptics with Euro-enthusiasm being something carried on between consenting adults in private.

    It is not a purely rational thing. I can see the virtues of more co-operation and yet my instinctive reaction is to view the symbols of the EU – flags, Parliament and even anthem – with anxiety. Perhaps because the threats to English liberty have come from great European powers, from Phillip II of Spain, from Louis XIV, from Napoleon, from the Kaiser or from Hitler. For us our nation state is the defender of the values you subscribe to. I suppose we are all prisoners of our history..

    1. I’ve always thought that a good EU construct can only be achieved if people have the chance to interact. To go past stereotypes, and actually know each other. That is why I am a supporter of the Erasmus program. It allows people from different cultures to be thrown together in another culture and leads to bonds being created. And yes I too believe that there is a growing number of people who think this way, primarily because bonds of this type have long migrated to real life.
      And yes it is interesting that it’s English that makes it happen. Very much so.

      I perfectly understand what you say about values. For 18 years I studied more or less in a bilingual environment – Romanian and English – at some point I knew more about the history of the UK than I did about Romanian history. Those values are part of who I am today, and the British Isles will always have me fascinated.

  2. Most British people that have a gap year head to English speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa etc, admitted many that I have known do so through sport in particular Cricket In all honesty I don’t know anyone through sport or otherwise that have gap year’d in Europe Brits would go to Thailand, South America, Malaysia, Vietnam before they went wandering across the EU. I think that says more about British attitudes than the Erasmus program which I believe should be funded by the member state citizens own government & not collectively which puts the burden onto the countries that are net contributors to the EU budget

    1. Dear Joe,

      There is one thing wrong here – Erasmus does not deal with gap years – it’s simply an exchange program where you take a semester or year abroad. During the 2007-2013 Budgetary exercise the Erasmus Program generated a bill of roughly 0.385 % of the budget, some € 3.8 billion (for 6 years). More over if you look at student beneficiary distribution for 2008-2011 for eg. Spain is first with 26723 grants, followed by the UK with 24 876 grants, and then Germany. Here is the data http://bit.ly/1icLFIV .
      I would say that the number of grants in the UK is pretty solid, solid enough to say that the UK should not feel cheated at any level.

  3. I can certainly understand the main thrust of this item. I travel very widely both in and outside of the EU, I have both European and non-European friends, but I am British and in all honesty I don’t know anyone who regards themselves primarily as European, everyone I know describes themselves as British / German / French etc and only then European. The vague question “do you feel European?” which is often used by supporters of the EU actually avoids the national identity question entirely.

    Members of my close family have worked in the EU for extended periods (a benefit I agree of EU membership) but those same people have also worked and are scheduled to work, in Africa, the US, Borneo and Australia.

    Like ‘A Londoner’ I regard all the EU symbols as an imposition of a foreign power and I would suggest that the benefits of travel etc are all available without the necessity of such a political structure. While I may appreciate the arts, architecture, history and the sheer variety of people from around the World I do not need membership of an artificial political construct to do so.

    While undoubtedly there are indeed some who would claim to be ‘European’, any serious claim that they are anything other than a tiny minority is shown once you consider the response of both politicians and electorates if the matter of fiscal transfers is mentioned. There remains no evidence of a European demos.

    1. I pay little to no interest to what the politicians say. In vast majority they are motivated primarily by their well being. And unfortunately for us that wellbeing is linked to a national environment.
      I don’t see things the way you do, that is very clear, for both of us. I don’t see EU symbols as a foreign power because I have a say in what happens. I am involved. I don’t work for the EU, I am not a politician. I am a citizen that believes that the Union is stronger than it’s parts. And we might be a small minority. But we are pan European. We have the same feeling in Romania, in Cyprus, in Sweden and France, in Poland and Germany, and so on. We were a smaller minority 40 years ago. We will most likely be stronger in 40 more years. But this identity is not artificial to us. It is what we are.

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