25 June 2016

Today’s Thoughts: We need to keep the European dream alive

European Union woke up to a new world on the 24th of June. The UK’s referendum results were out, and no doubts were left, UK decided to abandon the EU. Exit negotiations will soon begin.
After the referendum results,  new calls to leave the European Union started, from France and the Netherlands, both coming from far-right parties.

I will not say how disappointed I am about this decision, and how wrong I believe this decision to be. It was a decision that divided the UK, half wishing to remain and half urging to leave and regain sovereignity. However it is clear now that most British people believe that the best for the United Kingdom is to leave the European Union.

I am fearful for the future of the European Union. Nevertheless I still believe in the European Union and its Constitution, which promotes peace, combat social exclusion and discrimination, promotes social justice and protection, equality between men and women, solidarity between generations and protection for children’s rights.

These are the fundamental objectives to uphold within  the EU.

EU was created first and foremost as a project of peace in Europe, after two WW having started in this continent. And lets not be mistaken, the EU has undoubtedly contributed for the stability of Europe.  This was recognised in 2012, when EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  “for over six decades having contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Alongside this project of peace, EU promotes tolerance amongst its different cultures. It praises its own cultural diversity, which is valued. It drives on the freedom of movement of people and goods within its countries. Immigration is not feared, its valued.  When in school and throughout uni, I  lived in a climate where being an “European” was a reason for joy and proudness, more than to be part of a nation, one was European, a global citizen. I never felt that I was loosing my own nationality or traditions, I indeed felt that I could share them, as other Europeans would do the same. We were building a common ground of tolerance and multiculturalism. Where and when did we loose  this idea?

Nowadays Europe is living a xenophobia climate, an anti-immigration feeling which goes against the pillars which build this grand EU project. This anti-immigration feeling was plain to see the Referendum campaign which culminated with Brexit. I will not dwell on how wrong the Brexit campaign was in this matter. However I need to highlight how important is to regain the sentiment of tolerance. Precisely now is time to recover the notion of the European citizen, that values fraternity, tolerance and multiculturalism. The citizen that recognises the importance of  a networked Europe, and moreover fosters this notion.

Alongside tolerance, it is important to remember the EU achievements in fostering equality between women and men, which is one of its founding values.  It is interesting that the women’s rights were rarely  mentioned in either campaign, apart from Scottish campaign. EU legislation covers a multitude of areas to promote gender equality and women’s rights, from employment to private and family life.  Although recognising that inequalities still exist, the EU made significant progress and aims to continue to improve in areas such as women’s participation in labour market, economic independence and equality in leadership positions. Let’s not be mistaken, the EU has been a champion for women’s rights, and to be part of the EU ensures all women that a champion will still fight for their equality whilst maintaining those already achieved.  Honestly, I would not be surprised if Emmeline Pankhurst would support UK remaining in EU rather than leave, against what Priti Patel claims, since the EU is such a strong advocate of women’s rights. I am not the alone in believing this.

Sadly EU is not perfect, and surely theres more than room for improvement in such a large project. Criticism over an undemocratic EU were pouring in during this campaign. Nevertheless it is possible to find flaws in one of the oldest democratic system as the UK. This just proves that improving democracy, in any given society is still possible how could it not be in the EU? And lets recall that the EU has been reforming its structure and constitutional basis since its origin, 1948. I believe this one of the most weakest arguments to leave as it is clearly possible to improve  any of the EU fails when one is whiling to contribute. Nobody believes that an unifying Europe would be easy to accomplish, far less when it comprises a disparity of countries. But we must recognise the importance of debating  any difficult issue, and doing it so in the EU is the better way to do it, as once a consensus is reached it will definitely benefit all the countries that are part of this project.

Lets not forget Europe’s history.  Its wisdom. Not even its fails. Building upon our mistakes and learning from them its our strength.  I am hopeful that the outcome of such a shockwave like the UK’s referendum result will strength the Europe Union.  The aftermath of the referendum left many Brits regretting their vote.   There’s much to learn from this Europe. Learn from the disillusion of your citizens, from their desires. Let’s use what we’ve learned  to build a better and stronger European Union.
Together. Let’s keep the European Dream of a tolerant and cohere Europe alive.

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