Comment: Johannes Bergande
Our team member Johannes Bergande says that he identifies himself as a “European citizen, rather than a German”. In line with the EU elections, Johannes gives reasons for his controversial statement and declares in a personal essay why the EU is so important for him.
„I identify myself as a European citizen, rather than a German”. That was one of the things I wrote in my personal description on the WBD website. And I mean it! Now, in the dawn of the upcoming elections, I was asked to share my thoughts about the EU and these elections with you and I will gladly do so:
So where do I start? Since the end of WWII there have been fewer wars within Europe. This is a huge achievement, which I mostly credit the EU for.The customs union and the possibilities of free trade have led to an era of ongoing wealth, and even though there have been setbacks like the oil crisis or the dotcom crash, I believe, that prosperity and happiness have very notably increased in the decades since the establishment of the EU, although of course differing in magnitude depending on regional or social affiliation.Then there is the freedom of travelling without VISA border controls, achieved through the Schengen agreement, which in my opinion could not have been established without the EU preexisting. Maybe young people do not acknowledge these benefits anymore, because they grew up with them and are taking them for granted instead of being thankful of what this supranational entity has done for their citizens. Already three generations grew up with the possibility to travel almost anywhere across the continent. This also gave most of the delegates the possibility to come to Cologne without much trouble.With cheap flights and high speed trains, distances have become arbitrary in the last decades. The EU is about to give every person turning 18 a free interrail ticket(which will also be much more environmentally friendly than flying). This idea came from two people outside the parliament and is therefore currently supported by many parties in the European parliament.Then there is the Erasmus+ Program, named after the influential pioneer of humanism Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. I had the pleasure of taking part in the fall term 2016 and it has been one of the best experiences I have made in my life so far. This program, funded by the European commission, helps financing EU students’ their semester abroad. I think it should be extended to include apprentices and young workers as well. Europe should have benefits for everyone. And there are initiatives like the Pulse of Europe demonstrations, which do not have many detailed political positions, but rather want to convey a feeling of European belonging. Those demonstrations are not organized by certain political parties and that is probably why so many people can identify themselves with this mindset.Maybe we can move a little further into the direction of the “United States of Europe”. That does not mean that the inhabitants need to lose their national identity (since it has not been the case for the US), but rather gain an additional identity as a European citizen beside their nationality which they could still be proud of. It also makes sense from a cultural and ethnic point of view. Many European citizens already do not live in the country were they were born.
>Of course, the dialogue is not just for Europeans and I would love to give my thoughts on a hypothetical election of some kind of world parliament, but something like it does not exist (yet?). I believe that barriers and prejudices in the heads of people can often be broken down by simply talking to people of different cultural backgrounds. You can only hate what you do not know!
Lastly, I am curious about your opinion: What are the thoughts of those of you living in different European countries? Do you experience the EU differently? And what about the others of you living in Non-EU countries? Would you want your country to join a supranational political union and why or why not? Let us know – and let’s make sure that the EU will be an even greater success!