More Europe should mean less EU | Louis Jacques

If you ask me what the EU’s greatest achievement in its 60-year history is, I’d say it was and continues to be the colossal con it pulls by making itself a direct synonym for the word ‘European’. On both sides of the aisle now, whether calling something “European” automatically makes it an abomination or a god-given gift, the aforementioned adjective almost always describes something conceived by the European Union, not just something from the continent.

And who can blame them? It’s almost as if the EU did nothing to make this happen, if by pure chance naming everything they do “European” this or “European” that and crediting everything ever achieved in Europe to the continent, not the creator or his or her nationality, would subconsciously make us confuse the two. While I’m not one to criticise the inevitable evolution of language (I’m not saying this is some sort of linguistic atrocity that needs to be stamped out), I believe that it means the EU has drastically misled people into either believing that something being European is a terrible thing or that the everything good about Europe is because of the EU.

The EU doesn’t need anyone new to sing its’ praises (after all, it spends millions of taxpayer euros on social media ad campaigns), but there are indeed many parts of the EU that reflect the true spirit of Europe. As a half-Danish half-Belgian student having lived in 3 different EU countries, I can not only attest to the importance of free movement, my very existence depends on it. I find it elementary to point out the importance of free trade and how the EU has spurred economic growth for so many by promoting it and I can only praise the union’s willingness to advocate for meaningful cooperation through large swathes of cultural and historical research grants, a manifold of schemes to deal with global warming and projects such as the Erasmus Programme and the CERN.

However, the cynic inside me leads me to wonder whether this is all a distraction to draw us away from the real EU, whether they’re pulling the wool over our eyes (especially young peoples’) with a set of what are essentially gimmicks to lead us to believe that everything going on in the Commission is just to achieve more of these goals. The more gimmicky their endeavours get (e.g Free data roaming and free wifi hotspots in in public places) and the more they advertise those instead of the major, largely more expensive, political moves made in Brussels, the more I grow skeptical about the EU’s true intentions with these otherwise objectively good and harmless projects.

Finding this middle ground is where the issue lies, as the EU’s subconscious association of its actions with the term “European” makes it seem like decimating the role of agriculture, pushing for the harmonisation of military and foreign policy between member states, promoting trade bloc protectionism and discreetly encouraging a lack of awareness of the democratic process, are all European things to do, when they quite simply aren’t. As someone who comes as close to being “European” as one possibly can, I can’t stress enough how deeply provocative this is. European nature is about finding common solutions, friendly competition, respecting the stunning cultural diversity on our continent and by respecting the things we all have in common – values.

This is why the EU’s con has worked so well. It brands everything it undertakes with the EU’s “core values” and the objectively good projects it has undertaken are indeed ones of the dialogue and cooperation we thrive on, not the shoving policy down member states’ throats. For so many young Europeans, the EU is Erasmus and CERN, not corruption and protectionism, largely because of all the gimmicks. Yet at the same time, for those on the other side of the spectrum, anything “European” is hopeless and represents nothing more than the bad and the ugly, no matter what.

The reason I still believe in Europe and EU reform is not just that it is inherently European to discuss and find solutions, but because I want to prove the cynic inside me wrong and one day see my children grow up on a continent brought together, not forced together, without having to endure the ever-widening divide between national isolationism and supranational dictatorship. Long story short, I yearn for a European EU, not a political one.

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