Europe is doomed to be united

Posted on 16. May 2014

Europe is for me an undoubtable historical reality. United or not under a same political or social framework, the different European regions have never survived in an autarkic way; on the contrary each of them have had a parallel development dependent on their relations with the other parts of the continent. At the same time, the Europe we know nowadays is for me the result of a modern myth based on the ideals of peace and prosperity. A myth in which I believe and which I defend today more than ever, as a response to the dramatic situation we are currently living in. Europe is condemned to be united, but only through cooperation it will be able to build a sustainable and solid future.

I believe Europe is a long-term project whose aim is to include that myth of peace and prosperity into the historical reality of the continent, making it possible to integrate the different countries in the most balanced way in order to assure justice and social equality for its citizens.

What I don’t like about the European Union is the lack of determination on creating a solid union. I find it remarkable that despite the well-known slowness of the EU, during the last seven years rushed decisions have been a regular thing. The EU  appeared exhausted and on tow to the successive events that continually stressed out the resistance of its different institutions. And of course the daily breaking news of all these have had a negative impact on the population.

Furthermore these chaotic years have served the national governments in order to use the European institutions as scapegoats. The citizens have been more conscious than ever on how the decisions taken at European level affected their country and them personally; and those people with only a minimum interest and basic knowledge of politics and economics easily got lost in a sea of acronyms and institutions when they tried to understand what was happening. During this time there seems to be no true will to explain how Europe really works; instead, the main intention of the different institutions and countries was to avoid being pointed out as guilty of the never-ending difficulties.

The Spanish case is even worse. Its secondary role in the EU was finally evident and the population has suffered from how both, the social-democrat and the conservative, parties accepted without complaints what was ordered “from the top”; while at the same time, their sympathetic media used all their power against Europe and those European countries that, according to them, were harming the Spanish sovereignty.

We can take here Mafalda’s words to sum up the last seven years’ attitude of the EU: the urgent does not leave room for the important (lo urgente no deja tiempo para lo importante). The urgencies have completely blurred the main pillars of the European project, and therefore the faith on keeping going forward towards the union has diminished. While the most ambitious and successful decisions of the European Union have been made following the above mentioned ideals –peace and prosperity-, recent setbacks have been responded to with short-term and national perspectives; and this has led to today’s revival of the tensions between the EU member states.

I vote because I know in the end my decision will count. It is not easy to gather different ideologies, different economic rhythms and different national interests into one direction, following a same short, middle and long term program. However, the vote of the citizens would definitely tip the balance in favor of one or another option. In the complex institutional framework of the EU, the citizens have to take advantage of one of the very limited opportunities they have to participate in the construction of Europe. There are more than forty different parties in Spain running for these elections, and I am confident that between all of them any Spanish citizen will find his- or her idea of Europe well-represented.

These EP elections are the perfect moment to get to know the disparate visions of each of the starring actors of the European project. Now the responsibility of the citizen would be to collect information about them and to support the one they find most convincing. As I said before, citizens are already conscious of the relevance of the decisions taken in a European context –at least Spaniards should be- and those citizens should also have enough experience to know who has betrayed their ideological principles and their electoral promises in order to satisfy the interests of an extra-element, hidden to the public behind the general and undefined name of “the Markets”.

While I believe in the responsibility of the citizens to vote, I am also sure that the parties have the duty not to claim for a fear vote, which only contributes to a voter disillusion. In fact, I would like to understand these elections as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Europe and the EU, in which from now on EU will again be presented as a positive project of development, leaving behind the image of the EU with one only function: attack the sovereignty and well-being of the countries, cutting back rights and limiting the growth of the regions.

In short what has to change in Europe is its lack of definition. This lack of definition is not based on the convergence of opposed interests but on the incapability to assimilate different discourses. From its very foundation, the EU has seemed to be made from and for Germany and France; and so the other countries have assimilated the French and German European discourse.

I don’t think it is convenient for the Mediterranean regions to adopt this unique discourse inherited directly and completely from the North. In the case of Spain and the rest of the “obedient” countries, it is in their best interest to promote parties capable of raising a new critic voice, creating alternative European discourses independent from the German and French perspectives. Paradoxically, in order to avoid the incomprehension within its different regions, EU should be able to integrate many and different voices. A European discourse able to integrate many voices would help the citizens to feel closer to the EU, and thus more represented.

The prejudices of being lazy and unworried have been always attributed to the Spaniards; especially during the past few years. The fact of demanding continuous efforts from a people more and more exhausted and downcast –what has been called an “austericide”- is in the end a way of admitting certain people don’t make enough efforts. In other words, we can see that –consciously or not- the pressure on Spain normally goes with these prejudices. Furthermore, we already know where the mistakes that led to the current Spanish situation came from. So punishing the whole population is a way of attributing to them the prejudice of irresponsibility that really only belongs to a minority. The oppressing attitude towards the South not only contributes to the consolidation of those stereotypes, but also explains the generation in return of harming prejudices towards the Northern nations from the Southern perspective.

This is not the moment to carry on punishing the Spanish people. This is the moment to bury the stereotypes of fiesta and siesta. This image has nothing to do with the reality of a country with plenty of resources, know-how and people ready to seize any opportunity to finally make a living, consequently improve the situation of their country and feel relevant in the construction of a better Europe.

What do young people feel when they think of Europe? What would they want to change, where does the EU plays on their nerves? Handelsblatt Online and FutureLab Europe joined forces to bring up a set of young voices. The respondent today is Germán Jiménez Montes (23) from Spain. Read the original article on Handelsblatt Online.