- Published on Saturday, 25 March 2017 11:51
- Category: Articles and Commentary
- Written by Monika Michulec and Agnieszka Pelczar
Sixty years ago, on March 25th 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed, laying the groundwork for the creation of the European Union via the European Economic Community. Over those 60 years, the European community has evolved through greater integration and enlargement. The end of the Cold War, the establishment of the Eurozone, the Schengen Treaty and the 2004 accession of the Central and Eastern Europe states helped give shape to what the EU is today. However, since then the EU has been struck with a series of crises including the 2008 economic crisis, the 2014 annexation of Crimea and war in east Ukraine, the 2015 migration and refugee crisis and the 2016 Brexit referendum.
One of the driving factors in support for the European project has always been the enthusiasm of the youth. From the regional perspective, the youth from Central and Eastern Europe have various attitudes on EU integration. Some see advantages of being a part of the Union, while others have a sense of a loss of national identity and sovereignty.
There is no doubt that the members of the EU from the post-communist countries are the biggest beneficiaries of the support and funds they have received in order to align their level of economic and social development with the more advanced Western members. Yet, open borders, opportunities for self-development, transparent governance and democracy and others advantages do not convince everyone to become a Euro-enthusiast in today’s reality.
To gain a better understanding of how the younger generation, born after 1989, see their place in the EU, we asked for input from the youth, not only from member states such as Poland and Slovakia, but also from those to the east in Ukraine and Belarus – countries which are not yet members. The questions we put forward were: “Are you a Euroenthusiast or a Eurosceptic? What do you think about current situation and the future shape and direction of Europe?”
On the occasion of the 60 year anniversary of the Rome Treaty, we present their answers below:
Dorian, student from Poland
“I would define myself as definitely Euroenthusiast. I think that functioning in an international environment is conducive to equality and tolerance, which is very important for today's Europe, which, unfortunately, is seeing the loss of these values. At present more and more radicalised backgrounds are coming to the fore, of which actions are supporting the escalation of identity- based conflicts. The EU is an institution which helps enforce internal policies of member states in order to comply with EU standards. It is also an association for developing long-term prosperity, not only in the international political sphere, but also for each individual citizen. The Concept of European federalism is also a guarantor of the two -way support in economic and security issues, as well as unification of many aspects of administration which undoubtedly rationalises its functioning in the international environment. I would like the Europe of the future to be a place of multicultural humanism, however today’s trends show that this vision is quite Idyllic and the old continent is becoming a multi-speed Europe, in which places less and less emphasis on the interests of the community’s welfare and there is a shrinking space for compromise.”
Lisa, student from Slovakia
“Ever closer union” – the phrase stated in the Preamble to the Treaty on European Union is getting more and more attention on a daily basis. Why? The concept of integration is being nowadays often contested and criticized both by EU member states as well as their citizens. On the one hand, creating an economic and monetary union made the European trade flourish and prosper by agreements on economic co-operation, removal of tax barriers within the EU, free flow of investments, common currency or by the core principles themselves - the free movement of labour, goods and capital. In addition, for some member states, like my country Slovakia, it meant a progress towards liberal and democratic principles and their implementation into the political agenda of the state. Moreover, EU membership strengthened our economic indicators like GDP or the unemployment rate. However, on the other hand, the integration tendency drives EU members to adjust their policy to the EU dictate in a still-increasing scale of spheres. This creates a picture of authoritative or supra-national power which discourages states to take part in deeper integration. For example, Slovakia refused the refugee quotas proposed by the EU to redistribute the refugees coming from Syria or other war-affected areas, thus taking down the burden from the countries which are attractive destinations for them, e.g. Germany or the UK. The common attitude of the Visegrad countries towards quotas declared a definite “no” to this EU policy. Despite the initial aim of uniting Europe, the opposite – sources of disunity – tend to manifest themselves more intensively in the last few years. Political disunity concerning the political division within EU – principalities, kingdoms, nation states; colonial competition among America, Asia or Africa and the national disunity being the ethnic nationalism definitely cannot be neglected in the question of attitudes towards the EU. The scale of integration, from free trade area and customs union through the common market and monetary union, is put under light when we are approaching the next level – the full economic integration which places EU into a sovereign position – controlling spending and imposing taxes – on all its members. This proposal is alarming and turns the EU members into a rather opposing camp as they cannot reconcile with the idea of having limited sovereignty. Actually, they already think that they have to fasten their belts enough even now. To sum up, I personally belong to the Euro-sceptic camp at present because the original EU project of an economic union has derailed from its direction and has gained authoritative, populist and egoist characteristics.”
Inna, student from Ukraine
“I am Euroenthusiast. I hope that in the near future Ukraine will also join to the EU. I want this because I think that in Europe we will have a better future and more opportunities. Being in the EU would open borders for people and we will be able to travel without standing for hours at the border. But answers to this question would be different depending on the region of Ukraine. Many from eastern Ukraine would be rather Eurosceptic while in the west Euroenthusiastic. In my opinion the current situation in the EU is not ideal due to crises and the unstable economic and political situations. I also think that EU is too strongly under the influence of Germany.”
Artur, student from Poland
“I think EU is good for Poland for a few reasons. First of all, it gives us, as a country, many ways to progress and develop. We've got significant voice in the EU council, where [former Polish Prime Minister] Donald Tusk is chairman. The second important thing is the budget and subsidies for many sectors – agriculture, culture, roads and science. I think I can call myself a Euroenthusiast, but that does not mean that I agree with everything that is going on. The problem with migrants has not been solved yet, what scares me a little bit. In my mind, this is a very important problem, but it is possible to solve it quickly.”
Helena, student from Ukraine
“I am a Euroenthusiast, because to me the European Union has more advantages than disadvantages. The fact is that today, the EU is in a crisis situation – economic crisis, migration crisis, Brexit, etc. and it seems that the end of the European Union is possible. But, in my opinion the integration process of the member states and their dependence are so deep that there is no way back. It is hard to imagine that the EU will collapse in one moment in the future. However, as a result of many problems and national interests, The European Union is going to be in a state of stagnation for a short term period without any enlargement and further integration processes.”
Adam, student from Slovakia
“Many years ago, Europe looked very differently. We had wars, we had conflicts and we had long periods of uncertainty and instability. Luckily, those around Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer pushed through the concept of a united and integrated Europe. Today, a lot of people say that the European Union is more of a restricting factor influencing the loss of nationality and national identity. However, as a young person, I can say that I consider myself a European citizen before a Slovak citizen. I love all the possibilities that the European Union is providing and creating for all the countries. Without it, there would be no single market, no free movement of people and the conflicts could possibly become devastating wars which Europe might not survive. When I was born, Slovakia was not a part of the European Union but I cannot imagine living outside of it now. For the years to come, I hope more and more people will understand how important the role the EU really is and we will all co-operate to create a better future for our generation and the generations to come.”
Raman, student from Belarus
“In my opinion EU is in an existential crisis and there is no doubt that the Union barely maintains unity. Attempts to solve the problem in Brussels clearly show that Europe can choose association or democracy but not both. The EU has never aimed to create a European democracy. The destination was to create better conditions for capitalist corporations. The introduction of the euro was realized like a state revolt, without the support of the real state of the economy. The contradictions inside the EU caused by a large number of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East are still growing. The EU is close to its breaking point. Europeans are the ones who are guilty for this situation because of the wars in the Middle East.”
Bogdan, student from Ukraine
“Today`s situation in the EU is a little bit destabilized. The main reason is Brexit. I think that it will not have a great impact on the whole EU, but certainly on the budget. On the other hand it will be the end of the UK rebate. In my opinion in next few years the EU will not accept new members, but it will be try to become stronger in the shape that it is now. The European Union is not weak enough to collapse in a short time. In fact, the Brexit forces the EU to become stronger and help it grow up.”
Monika Michulec and Agnieszka Pelczar are students of European studies at the Jagiellonian University and editorial interns with New Eastern Europe.