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.
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.
..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!