Quo vadis Europa? Europe is still debating about the success of the far-right and populist parties, the reasons for the low turnout at the European elections and the question, if Jean-Claude Juncker might become the President of the European Commission. The blurred fight of the key players about the future of the EU, leaves currently only little space to discuss about real policies and reflect on the status quo of Europe’s position in the world. A mistake that distracts from the upcoming negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or the slow and poor reactions on the Ukrainian crisis. Caught in the middle of the storm, it is easy to lose sight of the whole environment – therefore I asked young students from non-European countries with relatively fresh impressions, how they perceive the European project. Reading their answers mind remind us where we actually stand in Europe, what has to be done and what has been achieved so far – or it can simply challenge our own ideas of the European Union.
„I have to admit that I’m still a bit confused by the EU. As an American, I’ve often heard it compared to the US in the sense of open boarders, common currency, and a shared governing body. But of course you when you come to Europe that’s not really how people think of it. I spent last spring working as a trainee in the European Parliament in Brussels, and I was surprised by how little power rests there. The politicians of course speak about the Parliament or the EU project as a whole as an incredibly powerful idea, but the power seems to stop in there–as an idea. Practically speaking, most young people I know still feel more German/Polish/French/what have you than they feel European. And I suppose that’s fine and it may even change over time, but I worry about the political future of the EU if that’s the case. If there’s not widespread buy-in from the general population on the use of the EU, does it really have a chance at a viable future? I’m not saying I think the EU is going to cave anytime soon; my bigger concern is that it could wind up as a system where only certain people are politically active in a European level. And the policies and future of the EU could wind up being dictated by a small elite. But this, again, could just be my Americanness speaking. I guess I just worry because I’ve seen in the US how disengagement in national politics has helped allow power to be more and more concentrated in the hands of fewer people. I wouldn’t want that to happen here too.“
„As everyone knows, today regional blocs have dominated the globalized financial and economic system. EU stands out to be one of the best models for regional integration. Integration is very important process but at the same time very difficult, African Union and other regional organizations in Africa have much to learn from EU on how to respond to various issues and its overall organization. Genuine investment by its member states is one outstanding factor that has helped EU to recover from several crises a characteristic that is not found among member states in any regional bloc in Africa. EU is a role model for any other regional organizations not only in Africa but in the world.“
„I think the EU is a major world player because of the economic implications of such a large union, however, outside of economics it is hopelessly useless. While the goal of the EU is to be economically focused, it has clearly failed in preparing itself for future political issues (i.e. Crimea), and therefore, to me is absolutely useless on any level outside of a economic sphere. However, because it is such a large collection of countries it has the potential to become more powerful if it could find a unified position on topics and manage to create a balanced supranational government. However, for the time being it is merely keeping small economies afloat and preventing them from failing or growing and acting as a bank to countries who have no legitimate right to be in the EU, until it can expel or help rehabilitate these countries it will not overtake the US or China in economic dominance.“
„Overall I like the idea of the European Union. When you consider how divided Europe has been throughout history, the fact that European countries are now able to band together into a union is just amazing. It seems to me that the EU has a vision for where they want the future of Europe to head, and countries within the union are cooperating and working together to meet those goals. I think the EU has a lot to do with equality; resources are going towards developing poorer countries in the EU, and with policies such as easy immigration, EU citizens have similar opportunities. I’m most impressed with how easy it is to immigrate from one country to another (if you’re an EU citizen, that is) and how there are no border crossings. I am a bit jealous since I don’t think a union such as this would ever be possible for Canada due to its geography. I must admit I am disappointed with how the European Union has handled the plight of the Roma, especially in Eastern Europe. To be specific, I have lived with Romani people in eastern Slovakia and have seen the extreme poverty and daily discrimination that they face. Yet they are supposed to be citizens of the European Union, protected by some of the finest human rights legislation in existence. Of course, social progress can be slow, but I think the lack of action towards alleviating poverty amongst the Roma people is a dark spot for the EU.“
Kevin, 25, Australia:
„Even though it is difficult to manage the EU politically and economically, due to its vast size, big differences in economic situations and cultures, I think the EU is great at preventing war. Not many people think about this anymore but it was the main reason the EU was founded!“
„I think it’s not a bad idea, because it holds all its members to the same (high) standards. It also is an effective step towards promoting peace in Europe. As a non-EU citizen, I can only answer the question what I like or dislike through what I perceive it to be. I get the impression that trying to unite countries can also cause problems with national identities. When people from different backgrounds start using the same currency and blend together, it almost chips away at their nations‘ cultures. At the same time, having a common currency makes it easier for travelers 🙂 But the fact that every member country has representation prevents one nation from dominating, so there is a type of checks and balances system involved, which is good.
Regarding the economic crisis, in Poland, I am merely a consumer (of groceries), and my lack of participation in society prevents me from being able to feel the effects of the economic crisis. I don’t think there is any way to deny that the EU is a global player. They are such a massive market and they have a lot of influence on the global agenda.“