By Nikolas Spanoudakis
Those who love to read the online version of Uttryck Magazine have recently noticed the article “The little union that could – what the European Union means to me” written by Joakim Ydebäck. In this article he presents the point of view that the European Union (EU) despite having a somewhat anonymous presence among the young generation of Europe today, should still be credited for achieving peace in Europe. The success of the EU as a peace project is truly undeniable especially if we look at the bloody history of Europe during the last three centuries. Therefore this is a very important reason to cherish the EU. However, I would like to argue that despite its supranational nature, the EU is not anonymous – quite the opposite. And maybe cherishing the EU as a peace project is not enough when the young generation around Europe (fortunately) has never lived through the tragedy of war. In this article I will briefly try to develop a couple of arguments to justify my position.
What makes an organisation visible? In the era of the internet and social media every organisation has to be present in the digital world. It is doubtful whether the EU has been successful in this aspect. Perhaps only a small percentage of the European population follow the European institutions on Facebook or any other social media. Furthermore the recently launched what-europe-does-for-me.eu has not yet received enough attention. However, there is another project which effortlessly ensures the EU’s visibility: the euro. For the past 20 years, 340 million Europeans have seen the European flag every time they have opened their wallets to take a euro bill. For them, the EU is not an abstract entity but a part of their everyday life. This experience and its possible consequences are hardly appreciated in Sweden because the Swedes have chosen to abstain from the eurozone. Maybe that choice was justified. But it is also possible that choosing to abstain from a project which guarantees the EU’s visibility contributes to the perception of the EU as having an anonymous presence in the Swedish society.
Nowadays, Swedish nationalism dictates that Sweden, a country which manages its economy well, shouldn’t be in the same club (=eurozone) with the P.I.G.S (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) countries which find it difficult to properly manage their domestic economies. Although one can claim that this doctrine is partially a result of the eurozone’s incapability to manage the debt crisis, it shows that there is a divide within the EU: the rich northern countries versus the “poor” southern countries. As long as the EU cannot find a way to redistribute wealth fairly, this divide will continue to produce tension and conflicts and challenge the legitimacy of the EU. Thus, although war in Europe might sound like a a science fiction scenario today, we should not be blind to the fact that the EU, Europe’s guardian of peace, is challenged by intrinsic problems.
To sum up, from my point of view the EU is neither as anonymous as one might think nor is it enough today to celebrate the EU because it has brought peace to the continent. To ensure that the EU continues to be relevant to its people, we have to begin thinking of the EU as a whole and question whether the intergovernmental way in which it functions can deliver efficient and quick solutions to challenging problems. Otherwise, there may come a day when those who accuse the EU of being too bureaucratic will become a majority. Would you dare to imagine the consequences of a such situation?
Nikolas Spanoudakis graduated from a master in chemistry for renewable energy and ever since sustainability is a key aspect of his life. But quite recently he realised that he has to fight for another important element in his life: the European Union. Thus, he decided to become a little champion of the EU. The result is doubtful but he is sure that the cause is good. Let’s see what happens!