Written by: Julika Häusling
Until recently, I did not understand why so many people in my environent opposed to being called “German” and, instead, insisted on being called “European”. While I felt, and liked to be German, I did not understand what made one “European”.
Every single country seems so different to me. There is such a variety of culture: different architecture, cuisines, art, but also political systems, values and priorities. It is self-evident that there is not such a thing as “the German”. There might be a similar sense of humour, we might be more organised than other nations or whatever other prejudice there might be, but in the end we are all very different.
At the same time, while travelling or being part of international projects, I met people with mindsets similar to my own. However, these people where from all over the world, not only from Europe. So, what was so special about being European?
I am studying law in Berlin. In my 3rd semester, the curriculum included European law. Thanks to this class, I began to understand the dimensions Europe has.
Everything started with the Schuman Declaration in 1950. The declaration, made by the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, proposed to place the German and French coal and steel production under one common High authority. The planned organisation was open for other Western European countries to participate in. On April 1951, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg, signed the ‘Treaty of Paris’ which created Europe’s first supranational Community – the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
Just after World War II, Schuman’s aim was to prevent further war between Germany and France. With the creation of a common industrial market, war among its member states became impossible. Furthermore it helped to rebuild the economy. The ‘Treaty of Paris’ was followed by numerous treaties, until eventually in 1994 the ‘Maastricht Treaty’ was signed. Not only did it lead to the creation of a single European currency, but it also introduced the Citizenship of the European Union. After that, the last step was made; when the European Union changed its purpose from purely economical to economic, social and political.
The Citizenship of the European Union entails many benefits: among them is the right to vote and stand in elections to the European Parliament, the right of free movement and residence throughout the Union, the right to work in any position and the right not to be discriminated on grounds of nationality.
Being part of it, might be the most normal thing in the world to you, you might not even realize its influence on you. But a supranational community such as the EU hasn’t been normal for the longest time in history and is still unique in the rest of the world.
There are two very important parts of the definition of the EU that I would like to start by highlight, starting with the first part – you have the right to vote. At last the election in 2014, the turnout in Germany was a low 48.1 %.
It is not just Germany that is facing this problem – the general turnout has constantly fallen in every EU election since the first election 1979. Back then, the turnout was 61.99%, while in 2014 it was 42,54 %, indicating an increasing apathy about the Parliament – all despites its increase in power over that period. The reason for this low turnout might be, that very few (including myself for a long time) understand the importance and influence European Law has on national Law: it ranks higher than the national one. The result is, that every decision being made by the EU has an immediate impact on all member states and their people.
The second part – free movement and residence throughout the Union. What comes to mind is traveling without a passport, stepping on an airplane or train and not realizing when you are crossing a border. Even greater is the significance of the residence component, which gives freedom to live wherever you want to (within European borders).
The right to work hasn’t really affected me yet. But looking towards my future, I know I won’t be limited by the German borders.
We are the generation, which has to stand up for Europe. I myself went to school in France, my best friend is studying medicine in Latvia and my boyfriend is from Lithuania starting to study in Germany soon. We have to show our fellow Europeans what it means to have the chance to be part of the EU.
Being European has numerous advantages; not only for us Europeans but for all states. Europe is a community in which everybody can live individually (and in which this individuality and diversity is protected by law), and be part of a greater whole.
The Citizenship of the European Union is additional to national citizenship. In my case this means, that I can be German and European at the same time.
This article was written by one of our volunteers, Julika Häusling.
The featured image was also taken by Julika.
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