Just an ordinary day in an ordinary pub in Breda, a mid-size city situated in the south of the Netherlands. After a few beers, conversations turn towards a global economic topic,and more specifically the current financial crisis. Dutch politicians are claiming that we are gradually climbing out of the recession. Whether this is due to a European or national efforts, forms the foundation of the discussion.
Striking in this discussion is the discrepancy between the pro-Europeans and the anti-Europeans when using the word “we”. Where the anti-Europeans use the word “we” as in identifying themselves either with their region or their country, the pro-Europeans tend to more easily identify themselves as Europeans with the use of “we”.
The question arises as to what forms the basis of this discrepancy. There is no unambiguous answer to this question. However, the issue remains important and needs addressing. Most often the situation is compared to the one in the United States and the lack of a United States of Europe. Several attempts have been made to pin-point the reason why there is no coherent European feeling; such as the presence of a democratic deficit, the historical evolution of Europe, a lack of transparency within the European Union and the distance from the ordinary man in the street to the politicians in Brussels.
So is there no coherency within Europe at all? Are there moments that trigger a united European feeling, making us all feel more like Europeans whilst maintaining our national identity? During the current crisis, European governments have joined together and formed a combined front to tackle the problems arising from the crisis. This united front however was not always found in the national politics, making it impossible for the average Joe to see the bigger European picture, be European and feel European.
For the average Joe, even when living in Belgium, Brussels seems so far way. The reason for this distance could be academical, however still very real. Protectionism for the current way of living, the society that has been built and the wealth acquired is triggered by the lack of transparency for the future. Transparency clouded by the democratic deficit and a lack of communication by European politicians.
Can Joe be pro Europe when local politicians blame misfortune on European legislation and European politicians seem to agree by not replying? The answer, though unfortunate, seems to be no. How can one ever be part of, love or support anything when there is no clear picture of what to be part of, love or support? At its current status this issue is large, but efforts should be taken to prevent its growth. If not, it will be inevitable to reach a point where the words “no taxation without representation” are yelled within the streets of Brussels. Yet, this is one part of American history we should not strive to achieve.
It should be up to the coming European leaders to develop and maintain a policy of democratic transparency to bring Brussels closer to the Europeans. This seems to be the most important issue to be addressed in the upcoming elections. Direct democracy should not end at any country’s border, if we all want to feel and be united within Europe, the future of Europe should not be in the stars but in the hands of the average European Joe, making “us” both our country and Europe!
This article was written through collaboration of Saskia Van Dijk with Rakesh Autar.