On a cup of coffee

Often I have heard that people can­not relate to the topic of “Europe”. But why is this so? The first step, I thought, is to under­stand. So I have tal­ked to people on the street and asked them their opi­ni­ons about Europe. These talks I will publish here.

Trust

Today I was in the mood for ano­t­her cup of cof­fee. Soon I was tal­king to a young guy next to me. “What does the word “Europe” mean to you?”, I asked. “To be honest”, he ans­we­red, “I do not quite get the con­cept. I mean thin­king of Europe I see bureau­cracy, unne­cessary regu­la­tion, lack of trans­pa­rency. It’s not even that this is my opi­nion”, he added, “but I do not really know anything about it. And to search the inter­net for long explana­ti­ons — I neit­her feel like doing that, nor have time for it.”

Actually, I was a bit sur­pri­sed to be only now con­fron­ted with this opi­nion. But I did­n’t want to give up so soon. So I asked: “Well,are you gene­rally inte­res­ted in poli­tics? Do you know what your government is doing?” “No”, he ans­we­red. “But somehow I trust that this will be okay. And I often see these poli­ti­ci­ans at least in the news.”

So trust is one of the keywords.

In dif­fe­rent talks and con­ver­sa­ti­ons I had heard over and over again: I lack trust in Europe, because I don’t under­stand it. And I don’t have the fee­ling that ever­yone is loo­king for the same, stri­ving in the same direc­tion, and so ever­ything will be okay. A psy­cho­lo­gist had once exp­lai­ned to me: Trust is not some­thing you just have. It has to grow over time. If your friends or family have trust in some­thing, this helps. But trust is the result of posi­tive moments and a sense of pro­xi­mity, of knowing what to expect. If this is mis­sing, one will be scep­ti­cal or reject some­thing. 

The guy I was tal­king to had already said “bye”, but I was still thin­king. Do we actually trust in poli­tics? 

Or is the suc­cess of popu­list par­ties in France, the Nether­lands or Ger­many an indi­ca­tion for losing trust? Do we grant poli­ti­ci­ans with whom we often grew up give an extra por­tion of trust? And how could this work for Europe?

Bureau­cracy, the young guy had been frus­tra­ted about this. But Europe is made by poli­ti­ci­ans, not bureau­crats. Bureau­cracy, regu­la­tion — this is often not­hing else than the necessary glue for living tog­e­ther: The inter­nal mar­ket, open bor­ders, a bet­ter pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment. Okay, some may be over­done. But the­re­fore reject the whole pro­ject? 

The important thing is that our direction is okay. That politicians communicate, where they want to go. And that you can discuss about different concepts. 

This “we”, it first has to grow. Trust that we are all moving in the same direc­tion. And at the moment it is at least gro­wing in some sense, loo­king at pro-Euro­pean demons­tra­ti­ons like „Pulse of Europe“ or being anxious about what elec­tions in neigh­bou­ring coun­tries will bring about. 

Still: It would be nice to get a little bit clo­ser. To have in the news not only Jean-Claude Juncker as Pre­si­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, but also mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.  Euro­pean orga­ni­sa­ti­ons, civil society, this all exists since long. To know more about Europe, there my cof­fee­mate was right, is not only some­thing you yourself have to take care of. 

You…

..often ask yourself how people can know what you are thin­king — alt­hough they haven’t tal­ked to you? This is why I went out to talk to some people just on the street and asked them their opi­nion on Europe. Today: Marie and Gabriele.

Marie is 21 and lives in Ber­lin. Gabriele (27) is from Nap­les.

Where both agree: Europe is important and the only frame­work, in which cross­cut­ting pro­blems can be sol­ved. Where they also agree: There is a lack of the fee­ling of unity among people. Somehow Europe seems to be the logi­cal point of refe­rence, but the per­so­nal, yet emo­tio­nal refe­rence is mis­sing. Why?

Marie is asking herself this ques­tion as we speak. “To be honest, I have never really thought about this.” Much is self-evi­dent for the two of them: being able to tra­vel freely, open bor­ders, a com­mon cur­rency and the pos­si­bi­lity to study abroad. This is what gabriele is about to do: With the Eras­mus pro­gramme of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion he wantts to study one year at a Spa­nish uni­ver­sity. He is sure that a fee­ling of com­mon belon­ging will soon evolve there. “But there need to be dif­fe­rent ways for those who don’t study, for example.”

On my jour­ney to look for ans­wers and opi­ni­ons I have yet come one step fur­ther: The fee­ling of “we” is one thing which is mis­sing. How to create this? This is some­thing I will ask during my next cup of cof­fee!