The soul of Europe is not in Brussels

Recently, I moderated a panel called “30 years of Erasmus: shaping a European identity”. We talked about the effects of Erasmus after 30 years of existence, whether we identify ourselves as Europeans and if we, as EU citizens, need or want to become more .. European and how? I like to surround myself with “if this, then that” equations that lead me somewhere, but in this case, I knew that I would leave the panel with more questions than answers. I was not wrong.

The speakers were as diverse as the voices that try to define Europe:

  • “Europe is a political project that depends on national politicians to promote it better”.
  • “Europe is the sum of all emotions created between Europeans through programs such as Erasmus”.
  • “Europe is the repetition of information about EU that we (should) study in school”.
  • The equation “if this” quickly became “then, Europe is still deciding what it wants to become”.

Europe is amidst reflections and decisions that we should not avoid, nor ignore. Last week, Frans Timmermans, the VP of the European Commission, said that the “forces attacking Europe are stronger than the ones defending it”. We are all aware that Europe is not indestructible. But does that fear inspire us to move forward? The young generation does not vote fear. We vote hope.

  • What is the hope that we will be voting in 2019 when the first post-Brexit European elections will take place? What does this hope depend on?
  • The unity of Europe in negotiating Brexit with one voice?
  • The solidarity of European nations in dealing with the refugee crisis or any other crisis?
  • The ability of the European Commission to actually listen to criticism and reform itself?
  • The energy of the European Parliament to bring Europe closer to Europeans?
  • And most importantly, the dedication of Europeans to fight for Europe and our freedoms? (and not only with shares on Facebook).
  • Should this hope come from our awareness that we share a common destiny? Have we at least agreed on that?

Brussels is the backbone, the spine of Europe, the guidebook, the edges of the puzzle, the platform for member states to cooperate and meet. The soul of Europe is in our votes. Our rational and emotional votes. Without them, Europe will not prevail. Europe cannot remain a political project. Europe needs Europeans. Europeans need to understand and feel Europe. It’s a long way to go but it’s high time to define our options and try to foresee their effects. If this, then what? We need clear “whats” to debate and vote (pragmatically or emotionally, whichever suits best our 500 million souls)!

Europe is in the making right now! It will look much more like us if we are involved!

Photo: Charles Clegg

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