In May 2016 I attended the European Youth Event over at Strasbourg, France.
A magnificent event that lasted 2 days. There, 8.000 members of the European Union aging from 16-30 years old, expressed their ideas on how Europe can change towards a better future while discussing issues with European Organization leaders and with members of the European Parliament.
If you want to know more about the whole trip you can check this article in order to get a glimpse of our team’s experience of the trip.
Among many issues that were discussed in connection with the current state of the European Union’s establishment, the ones that stood out were the upcoming British Referendum, England’s choice to either stay or leave the E.U, The Refugee Crisis and the Economic Instability that many countries of the E.U face.
The Case Of Greece
In 2008 the effects of a long undergoing economic meltdown resulted in the Worldwide Financial Crisis. The stock market collapsed, the real estate bubble was now a reality and banks that were giving out nonperforming loans or just ‘bad loans’ went bankrupt. People lost their jobs, their houses, their pensions while many of the belongings that were accumulated over the last two decades, were nothing more than a facade.
Things escalated quickly and the smallest countries took the largest hit as in every economic crisis.
In the E.U, the country that has been the center of discussion around economic and political adjustment, is Greece.
The effects of the financial crisis were labeled by the political establishment of the time as ”little”, that they will have been long gone by 2011. Six years later Greece is still nowhere near the road towards financial stability, with unemployment reaching 25% of the population (largest numbers around the 18-35-year-old), while investments and free enterprises see little, to no growth.
Greece is fighting for its place in the E.U.
Both ethically and economically.
A country who was no fit to enter the E.M.U was and is always trying to join the large economies.
Between a hard-fought civil war that left the country in ruins, a military junta (1967-1974), and different political ideologies came many trials and errors towards innovation and reform in the country politics, economics, and society.
Nevertheless, the political choices of past governments, as well as the current SYRIZA establishment, is making the people of Greece even more detached in politics for a variety of reasons not to be discussed in this article.
A country who was fighting tooth and nail from the 90s to 2001 to enter the Economic and Monetary Union is now seeing its people struggle, the young generation being pushed to leave their home in hopes for employment in other countries while more and more refugees enter its borders trying to survive the war raged in their own countries.
Of course, a brief history of Greece over the last 40 years shows political failures, corruption, a plethora of loans and real estate accumulation. Many people can make the comment that such a ‘false lifestyle’ could never be maintained with no price.
So after 8 years of the crisis, the citizens of Greece expressed their voice of disappointment towards the European Union by voting a 61% No on the Greek Bailout Referendum that was held on July 2015 in order to let the European leaders know that the current economic measures were making life merely a miserable existence.
Still, three days following the no vote of the referendum, the Athens government “formally asked for a three-year bailout from the eurozone’s rescue fund [on 8 July 2015] and pledged to start implementing some economic-policy overhauls” beginning by mid-July 2015. European finance leaders have scheduled a “crisis summit” on 12 July to consider the request. The Greek request includes a “drastic turnaround” for Prime Minister Tsipras regarding “pension cuts, tax increases, and other austerity measures.” The total amount of loans requested in the Greek proposal is 53.5 billion euros (US$59 billion). The Greek parliament approved the Prime Minister’s request on Friday, 10 July, and the completed package was forwarded to the euro group in advance of Sunday’s meeting. On Monday, 13 July, the Syriza-led government of Greece accepted a bailout package that contains larger pension cuts and tax increases than the one rejected by Greek voters in the referendum.
All this can lead to the conclusion that, through events like this, we start seeing that people, European civilians want a different Europe. A Europe based on the ideals and ideas of its founders, one that the current union seems to slowly drift away from.
The Current Europe
The current state of the European Union is one of many different events, both negative and positive.
A Europe, going through a crisis not only in finance in 2008 but both in ideals and ethics.
Starting by the negative it’s hard to bypass Britain’s choice to leave the E.U, a decision that shake’s Europe’s unified dream to its foundations.
While the United Kingdom may benefit in some areas, one must never be quick to judge the results of such actions too soon. We can only speculate what is going to happen in the next few months, but we already know that by leaving the E.U, British people may have opened the road to other nations departing from the union and persuading their own national conservative freedom away from open markets and shared values.
Another big issue for the E.U is the ongoing Refugee Crisis that started affecting E.U’s agenda heavily in 2014, as a result of the Syrian Civil War. While some countries have dealt with the problem better than others, phenomena of fascism, racism, and fear against war refugees show that reactions to this crisis differentiate from country to country with most of them having both pro-refugee as well as anti-refugee rallies while their government’s actions vary in efficiency and performance.
For the sake of mentioning, we have to acknowledge the issue of the rising Far Right parties in many European countries like Golden Dawn in Greece, VMRO-DPMNE in FYROM, Law and Justice in Poland which are just a few of many parties who rally against the E.U and its actions while promoting nationalism, national conservatism and euro-scepticism amongst other ideas.
We always need to remind ourselves what extremism has done to this world with the break of two World Wars and countless atrocious ideologies like Fascism.
While negative issues are piling up in E.U’s agenda, we must never forget the positive, some of which are the financial help provided by larger economies (Germany) to smaller ones ( Greece, Italy etc) for the sake of survival and the peaceful times we are living. A peace that many people are too blind to notice. Diversion is always essential in free nations but I think it is time to rethink our approach as European citizens and the European leaders ought to consult with their people towards the next steps of Europe. Steps that will either strengthen or shatter the European Union.
The Future Of Europe
With all that being said, it is understandable that people define European Union’s Crisis as a need for change.
Recently a European parliament member in a plenary sitting after the Britain’s choice to leave said: ”European citizens are not against Europe, they are against this Europe.”
While many things have been achieved, others seem to be a dramatic failure.
We must seriously ask ourselves what kind of Europe we want to leave for future generations. The issues that need to be solved in a financial, political and social level and the actions that need to be done.
Are we gonna choose to restore the founding values of the E.U and work for a even stronger Europe, together as a unified force while further developing the Unified European Government and creating a future establishment where all members states work like one, with a united leadership elected as a government, taking actions as a whole, resulting in common decisions and following the footsteps of the United States of America towards globalization?
That is one option.
The other option is to divide the European Union and move backward, towards a more nationalist, conservative and enclosed world where interests vary and countries don’t work together by choice but by need. An option that reminds us of times before the industrial revolution and the world wars.
While this option is unlikely to become a reality in a world where innovation in science and technology are constantly growing, events like Brexit, The Financial & Refugee Crisis and the mishandlings of such events need to make us question the current status quo and furthermore expand our way of thinking instead of closing. Closing down borders, establishing unlivable conditions through harsh reforms in countries with broken economies, bypassing social issues all while going back to ”the old ways”.
In closing I will leave you with this:
”The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation”