But although a thousand of athletes came,
And each would eat a thousand of chops,
And each would make a great effort,
They will not carry it – it’s such a weigh!
J.Tuwim, The Locomotive
Crisis of the euro zone resulted in the disappearance of all the symptoms of euro- enthusiasm. Future of the further integration is strongly endangered, politicians and economists are pondering over the economic results of the common currency’s liquidation. The rules, which can become the first step in eradication of Schengen zone, are being discussed – almost without the reaction of the public opinion . It is worth thinking of where the Europeans are when the united Europe really needs them.
Certainly, it is not easy to find an answer to this question. It might be even impossible. Actually it is difficult to say whom we think about when we say the European. Observing the opinions that are presented in the media it could be even stated that it is a very offensive name. Are not the Europeans the contemporary Judases, selling out their motherland for Union’s pieces of silver? Are they not degenerates destructing tradition and faith in the name of death’ civilization? Well, maybe it is truth. I am not going to argue with those who do think so. It is not worth either my time or theirs. It will be enough that they accept another definition for this article.
European, which means somebody who does not exist?
I reckon it would be proper to accept that the European should feel relation with the whole Europe’s culture and the so- called European values: democracy or human rights. S/he should support the project of the united Europe. It should not be pondered over whether to put in the first place Europe or his/her country. The only thing that should be accepted is the fact that s/he sees in the united Europe a chance for the development of their motherland in the best and the most complete way. I think it is a sensible and justified plan of a minimum for the European.
When we have eventually felt joy due to the just found definition, after a while we will certainly feel uneasiness coming over us. It is easy to notice that. There is Europe, even the European Union, but the Europeans are still in scarcity. Everywhere there are only Poles, Germans, French, Italians, Spaniards, Greek … the Europeans almost do not exist. And unfortunately, the reason for that is not the abovementioned euro crisis. The lack of European identity is for the European Union a permanent feature. Since always the politicians of individual countries have been trying to take care of their business only, since always the public opinion of those countries has been supporting politics led in such a way. Maybe instead of thinking where the Europeans have hidden, we should ask why they never were there? However, before we start answering this question it is advisable to think of what the Europeans can offer Europe?
Does Europe without the Europeans exist?
A group which consists of people with a strong sense of common identity is among others a politically efficient lobby. It is the power which the chefs of governments of each membership country playing the leading role have to take into account. It is the power which can effectively control the activities of common authorities (that are frequently brushed off by the domestic media), such as the European Parliament or the European Commission. It is the power which – through putting pressure on political changes – can contribute to efficiently functioning European Union and Union’s economy in general. It is economy that is being wasted due to political decisions.
In the United States certain part of the national budget is spent on completely unnecessary things. The congressmen who want to be perceived as devoted to their region vote for the budget in exchange for including there resources for the conduction in their neighbourhood different third- class investments. To produce a similar situation in the European Union the one- seat constituencies are not needed. “Small nationalisms” are enough.
When the country is strong – like for example France – it can lead to recognizing a snail as a land fish. They do this so that French farmers could be given suitably high extra money. Another example – when a Pole runs for a prominent function, it is certain that s/he will gain full support from all Polish politicians. It is silently admitted that a Pole will always fix something for us, that it would be better for us with a Pole. Political divisions or professionalism of each candidate are of no significance. After all, it all really costs the Union.
One could find at least several similar examples. It is not about enumerating them, but proving that there is a relation between the interest of the European Union and the Europeans’ political power. Since we succeeded in disclosing that, we can now think of what prevented people from accepting the European identity.
Culture counts …
Let’s take any American TV series. The characters fly a plane form one coast to another. And these are not only touristic journeys. They visit their families, change job, look for a better place to live in. And what would turn out when we take any European TV series? Nothing. The European TV series do not really exist. There is only BBC. There are no European media – media which would treat more seriously matters concerning Europe than from behind the filter of national business. Polish television is encouraged to broadcast movies produced in Europe by certain law regulations. When it comes to successes, whole Union loved the Nordic detective stories. The European books to be loved still do not exist.
Although based on common foundations, Europe does not have common culture. Not to the same extent as Americans have. Almost during the same history we had two Europes, with border on the river Elbe. Wars that ravaged Europe caused rise of small nationalisms. Almost every country attempts at defending itself from “strangers”, which sometimes – like in case of France – becomes simply a characteristic feature of domestic policy. The British, who through centuries placed themselves in the position of an arbiter and guarded the balance of power on the continent are particularly euro-sceptical, but today they still do not understand the joint business which binds them with Europe, that can be found behind the English Channel. Divisions in Europe, despite unification, are still fine.
Even if the European TV series came into existence, there would be much less journeys by plane. From time to time a middle class representative will fly to see Paris, Rome, London or Madrid. It would be much worse with a journey for work. It would either turn out that the character of the TV series leaves his/her family and travels to work abroad (where s/he would not be able to talk in that language), or that s/he is a local person and protests against flooding the labour market by immigrants. It does not really fit TV series’ script. Travelling by plane in the European TV series (if they came into being) will rather not be used.
. . . politics also
But there are no Europeans also due to more prosaic (because political) reasons. Firstly, the crisis exposed weakness of the new line- up. The international corporations and the European Union turned out to be much weaker than it had been thought, while individual countries showed their power. People who earlier saw in the Union the only chance for maintaining their position in a globalized world had a possibility to revise their views once again.
The main problem of the Union is priority given to economic issues. Even though politicians form each country do not see benefits from the currently existing mechanisms, they are afraid of the consequences which could be caused by the collapse of the whole Union (or euro). However, identity defined in that way is not comprehensive. To become such, Union’s citizens should know not only what binds them, but also what makes them different from the others. The Union does not have adamant external enemies, its base on tolerance towards the otherness cannot define the explicit European model. It has problems with identity – both political and cultural, and the convincing solution still has not been found.
Crisis as a chance for the Union
When we take into consideration extreme opinions on the Union which are propagated in almost every country by the populist politicians, then we should not be astonished that almost no one cares to feel as an European. The united, federal Europe is still an invention of a narrow elite. The invention which cannot be realized without a real support of millions of people. It should be thought over how to win them now. Paradoxically, the crisis is probably the best moment to initiate real changes.
Translation: Anna Brzezińska (firstname.lastname@example.org)