What Europe means to me
In this post I will explore my perception and opinion about Europe and the EU- I’m curious for yours, feel free to share it with me in the comments. In times of increasing nationalism and seperation, hatred and terroristic attacks I wanted to reflect myself: What does Europe and being European mean to me?
Being European and living here is something really personal to me and I was aware it from an early age onwards. I grew up in Germany with my German Mum and my German-Greek Dad. So already within my family I was confronted with different cultural backgrounds from the beginnig on. My childhood consisited of endless summers in Greece with my Greek grandma and rest of the family. In my German High School were numerous other young people with different European and non-European backgrounds. For my study I moved to the Netherlands – My life was and is affected by different cultures, languages and countries and I never perceive it as something unsual or special but probably quite European. Also I am of the so called “Millenial” generation, I was born and raised in the EU as it exists today. (Well now the UK is no longer part of the Union so yes this indeed changed…)
Yes, yes probably when you went to school somewhere in the EU you had to learn those 4-freedoms but it’s good to be reminded of the very foudation and heart of the Union and what most of us take for granted every day.
Free Movement of workers
As an EU citizen you are allowed to move freely within the Union to seek employment and also study possibilities and of course to travel.
Free movement of goods
This freedom aims to eliminate any borders within the Union. Trade of goods is supposed to become as easy and convient as in a single national market. More specifically this means that there are no boarder controls, and tariffs.
Free movement of capital
Within the EU there are no restrictions concerning capital movements and payments among it’s member states.
Free movement of services
Companies are allowed and encouraged to provide their services in other member states aside from their homecountry. EU-customers benefit from this and are free to choose among those diverse service providers.
It aims to make the Union stronger-although this is mostly happening on an economic basis not so much for forming a common identify.
Privilege of having an EU-passport
Hving grown up in the EU to me travelling within the Union was always easy, no border controls and in most countries you don’t even have to change currency. But also when it comes to travel overseas outside of Europe for most Europeans entering those countries is easy. Did you know that your passport holds a certain “strenght”? The more countries you can enter without having to set up a visa the stronger is your passport. The first time I realised that my travelling life is so much easier compared to some of my overseas living friends,was when my South African host mum told me that she has to start months earlier to apply for a visa for her familie’s winter holiday in Austria. MONTHS!
And then there is me with my tremendously priviliged German passport, currently it ranks 1st place in 2017, together with Singapore, in being the most powerful passport with being able to enter 159 countries VISA-FREE! You can check the strenght of your passport here, and if you have to citizenships you can compare those as well. The Top 10 list is mostly European countries, we are super priviliged by solely our birth place and please don’t ever take this for granted!
The gallery of my Europe
Here are some pictures about what Europe and being European means to me, click on the pictures if you want more information about them:
Of course this gallery only shows a tiny bit of the vast diversity in landscapes and nature within Europe, and yes indeed I would like to travel all the EU-member states one day 🙂
My wishes for Europe
My biggest wish for Europe is to come closer together-especially in times like this. And I want Europen citizens to look beyond the framework of the EU, yes it’s an artifical political framework, yes it is too bureaucratic and their way of handling issues is often too slow and also often unfair towards other Non-EU nations and nationalities. But when we start looking beyond this it’s about our homes, our communities, our neighbours, our families. Being European for me starts with your very self and the way you treat others. we live in one of the most privildged parts of the world, freedom of speech and press are not just “empty promises” but lots of European countries try to stick up for them every single day. Nontheless there is a worrying tendency in many countries of tyring to cut down those rights for example in Poland where a nationalistic and very conservative government was voted in charge, but citizens stand up against it and I see it as a duty of all of us other members to constantly remind ourselves and each other about how we want to live in this region.
We as Europeans need to move beyond a solely “Shared-currency-shared economy” community. We need to become a real community with shared values, and no this doesn’t come overnight and no this involves conflicts and hard work- but it’s our home.
More practical steps that I think would be benefical to develop together to a “European family”:
- Esperanto language
How about we do learn a language that is actually all foreign to us and try to make it the most commonly speaken one amongst our community? Then in that sense “nobody” is a native speaker and nobody feels superior over the other.
- More common holidays
In my opinion we need more holidays which remind us of our Union and where we celebrate all together, the Eurovision song contest is a good event for that, but it simply is not enough. For example: did you know that there is a “Europe Day” at the 9th of May? EU institutions In Brussels and Strasbourg open their doors to citizens so that they can learn more about them. Shouldn’t this day be celebrate much more?!
- Support and do Erasmus as a student/study abroad
The best time to explore the culture and customs of another country is I guess when you are still young and yet don’t have too many responsibilities. If you have the means and the possibility (also check scholarships!) to do your full study or parts of your study in another European country then I really encourage you to do so- by being part of another culture we establish a vibey and active culture of understanding of each other.
- Democracy building
In my opinion the EU should be more daring with different forms and approaches towards democracy and it’s very diverse stakeholders. Why not trying a more participatory approach and where are the “new media” and the civil society organisationa and iniatives situated in all this?
Yes finally since Mid June the EU FINALLY got rid of the roaming costs in the EU-wide cellphone network. Now your EU-contract which you established in any member state is vaild in other EU member states (thanks that this happened after I already lived 3 years in NL 😀 ) In my opinion this is a very good and highly needed step into the right direction, all EU citizens should be able to communicate easily and without any “roaming borders”. Internet becomes more an more an important preconditions in most of the lives of many Europeans, but the infrastructure hectily varies among the different member states: this needs to change an all EU countries need an efficient access to the internet to be able to stay competitive for comapnies and attractive for citizens. But also communication in a much more practical way: discuss European issues amongst your family, friends and peers. Discuss issues with your overseas contacts which are not European and can give you interesting input about their perspective.
- Interrail- Travel to fight prejudice
I think this iniative could be one of the most powerful and useful ones if we want to create a European culture of understaniding and co-craeting instead of what we often currently encounter: prejudices and mistrust.Interrail is a long existing way of travel within Europe, it’s a train ticket which is vaild in almost all member states and enables travellers to see different places in Europe rather on a budget- of course ths ticket prices are still not affordable for everyone.
And in this gap the iniative #FreeInterrail- Moving Europe forward” wants to fill. They campaing a proposal to the EU demanding that every EU-citizen should get a Free Interrail pass (valid for 6 years) when they turn 18 years old. In that way also young citizens are given a chance who normally could not afford the ticket or who live in communities where travelling further is not that common/encouraged. This is definitely a cause close to my heart as I truly believe just like the founders that: it helps fighting prejudices that citizens have amongst each other and further enables and promotes international frienships and discussions and is confronting young people with different cultures and also gives the possibilty to access and see different living and possible working conditions.
Europe is a beautiful place on Earth to live in- it’s on us to keep it this way and even improve it.
“Wherever you go-go with all your heart”