Written by Ema Sabljak
EU – United in Diversity
The European Union is often idealistically viewed by the younger population. While older generations mostly view only the economic benefits and the many flaws, the European youth is far more immersed into the social advantages. An integrated Europe is for us a promise of tolerance and opportunities, a Europe “united in diversity.” While not all of European youth takes part in projects such as Erasmus’ and European Youth Parliaments (EYP), we can all benefit from the EU in one way or another, from the freedom of movement within the Schengen Zone to EU funding. So, what do Europeans have against it?
A Call for Change
Five months ago, the UK shocked the world by voting majority in favour of leaving the European Union. The proceedings are longwinded and will not start until Theresa May, the prime minister of the UK, triggers the exit clause known as Article 50, which is promised to be around the end of March of next year. Brexit is the clearest show of dissatisfaction for the EU policies and institutions, but the roots are founded much deeper and are growing incessantly.
A Consensus of Passive Disapproval
Brexit may seem like a wake-up call, but the EU has been tackling the issues that provoked it for a long time. So, what are the issues surrounding this union? Why is Euroscepticism so fundamental to the Member States? Most would argue that it comes from the perceived democratic deficit, or the perception that the EU is not founded on democracy and that the vote of a citizen fails to have an impact. In short, the EU has three main bodies, the most powerful being the European commission, for which the Member States do not have a direct vote. However, they do have a vote for the European Parliament that have an impact on choosing the Commission. In reality, the democratic deficit has been addressed repeatedly, yet voter turnout for EU elections has been decreasing steadily since 1979. The democratic deficit isn’t based so much on the EU institutions, as it is based on the people themselves. Why are these citizens giving up their right to vote? The answer is rather simple, not only do they often not know what they are voting for, they do not trust it. After all, less than 40% of EU citizens trust the union itself. That is the core problem. The only thing they have less than an awareness of the EU proceedings, is faith in them.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The UK leaving the EU will not go without consequences for the union, the grounds have been shaken beneath its already unstable feet. The trust in the EU will surely not be soaring sky high after Brexit, but the question is whether the fate of this union is already written? What we do know is that the EU must address this lack of faith, a major part of which is accountable to citizen ignorance. A majority of us simply do not know what the EU actually does. Easily visible in the day after the referendum when the most googled phrase in the UK was simply “What is the EU?” The EU is disconnected from the average citizen. Economic and political integration, simply are not the main thing we think about on a daily basis. That is the main issue the EU must focus on – making us knowledgeable citizens who understand the entire meaning of the EU. If they fail to do that it seems very likely they may fail as a union. Hopefully, that failure is not, as of yet, set in stone, but only time can tell.