When you become 25 years old you hit some sort of existential point in your life. You’re still young, though not as young as you might think you are, and are virtually standing on the doorstep of the rest of your adult life. But the realization that I might be getting old really hit me when I figured out the age of the EU. Or better: the European Union as we know it since the Maastricht Treaty. Yes, we can both celebrate existing a quarter century this year.
I’m part of the generation who’ve grown up in the EU and for us it’s something ubiquitous in our daily lives although we hardly put any thought in it. We’ve seen the coming of the euro, enjoyed travelling around the continent without restrictions and basically can live wherever we want because we’re all Europeans right? Nationalistic feelings are mainly football related and unaware or not we consider us Europeans overall. There’s no nostalgia for a pre-EU era simply because we’ve never experienced living in it. We take being in a European Union for granted.
But much like my own introspective thoughts that come with this age, so has the EU to deal with a quarter life crisis of its own. Turning 25 is a milestone, but I wouldn’t say it’s a particular happy birthday. Well it might’ve been, if it wasn’t for the United Kingdom to leave the party a bit early. Therefore I really hope this event serves as a precedent. An unsubtle and uncomfortable one, but at least it shows the reality and necessity of staying together as nations. Of course we can all claim our ‘independence day’ but I’m not sure if rampant nationalism is going to get us any further. Now the Brexit is an easy target to pick on; it dominated the news for weeks and made the results of an EU member going rogue painfully clear. But over the past years other cracks in the union have shown up and they’ve become all too visible. The current Europe seems more divided than ever, and that really worries me.
Conservative, far right parties with a Eurosceptic point of view are on the rise and here to stay and I find that somewhat disturbing. Thinking about us as a United States of Europe might be unsettling for some, but I have to admit I like the idea of being cool with our neighboring countries and staying together as a union. Especially now we’ve got an unresolved migrant crisis, mutinous Britain and Turkey as an uncomfortable partner while Erdogan is slowly tearing the country to pieces (and now I’m skipping a whole bunch of other less obvious issues). The EU as a concept is being plunged in some sort of stress test which I’m not sure it can withstand. Or can it?
So that’s in general what I will be focusing on in my posts to come. Why do we feel so disconnected with the EU and how can we turn the tides against the hate fueled campaigns by the far right? What should we really be afraid of if we should be afraid at all? Because in my opinion, that would be the parties that polarize us even further. We might not always realize it, and there’s a lot to criticize as well, but overall my generation has and will benefit from being European citizens. So here’s to you EU, it’s been an interesting 25 years and I surely hope there are many more years to come. But please keep an eye on your wish list because you’ve got lot of work ahead. Cheers!