The time of new elections has come and now, like never before, since Europe is unified under the flag of the European Union, this institution is feeling in danger. The outburst of Brexit and its referendum history shows that what was deemed to be unthinkable, today it can happen.
From many parts and throughout all Europe, the shouting voices pointing at Europe like a big useless (or even harmful) waste raise and seem to be unstoppable as they provide as alternative the safe shelter of so-called “souverainism”, perceived as close to the people, in opposition to the common European institution depicted as far from people’s needs.
What has to do this with us then? The new elections will tell what the future direction of Europe will be, and future belongs to us: the Erasmus Generation and those coming after us.
Here, we, those grown with and within the EU, do not want to be voice of propaganda of one or the other side. What we want to do is to give real and concrete examples of what being grown up and living in the European Union means to us, taking inspiration from our ordinary lives, the things we can touch every day in our jobs and studies, the way we see our future.
Born in the EU
When one is asked to talk about that, it is always hard for to know where to start. There is always the risk of saying everything and nothing at the same time, moreover because we have few memories of how was the world before modern EU.
Given this, I may just start from my present condition: 25 years old, from a normal working class family, graduated (nope, no Harvard nor any private, but public university), Italian living in Sweden, working for an Italian-Swedish industry with a job that takes me to fly quite frequently within the EU. Today anyway, while I am writing in this very moment, I find myself in a flight headed to the United States where I am going to for working purposes.
Hence, these days, I have been experiencing something new and different from usual for the preparation of this trip: the visa and the procedures to get into another country. What does it mean? A first sight, it may mean just to bring my passport with me and show it at the border, but it is much more than this.
What’s more then? First of all, I had to apply for the visa, spending not only time but also money for its submission. Time that I spent also in the procedure when checking in for the flight. Flight that has actually been delayed (with other four flights bounded to the US) due to some mess with passport controls that created a long queue. Queue that most likely I will have to face again when I will be landed and at the border they will ask me for the passport and the customs declaration form. The same customs declaration form the lady sat next to me is trying to fill as soon as she can find a pen.
Now: one might say that it is nothing more than some boring procedures, and after all I may agree on this. But can you imagine what could having offices spread in Europe would mean for a European company like the one I am working for in terms of costs and time if this had to be done every time one of its employees had to reach another point in Europe?
About passport then, there is another thing to consider as I experienced it when I was working in Thailand. At the last page of my Italian passport there is a simple but important sentence stating :
“Every European citizen can refer to the embassy of another country of the European Union when elsewhere than the EU”.
It does not only mean to have safe protection at any occurrence when you are in the world out there, but that you have the benefits of a strong entity such as the EU since the EU has relationships with countries all over the world. Once again, it may sound meaningless, but if you think so, you can ask the importance of this to my indian colleague who made the terrible mistake of visiting Vietnam and had to spend his holiday at the indian embassy in Hanoi for troubles with the visa.
So far, I only talked about the passport itself, but what I missed is that not only the EU is giving me the chance of not going through procedures and costs when travelling, but also to live in another country. Compared to the past or to other countries, this means I do not need any work or other kind of permit to stay there in a country that is not mine. a choice that I did – among other reasons – in order to make some experience abroad and develop my skills and my person. Compared to the past or to other countries, this means I do not need any work or other kind of permit to stay in Sweden, and much more than that: in fact, I have most of the benefits of a Swedish citizen.
Does it make much difference? For this, I should instead re-direct you to the intern starting working with me: as he comes from Pakistan, not only he is in need of a contract to be allowed to stay in Sweden, but for studying at the university he had to pay high fees. If I was instead to start the university in Sweden now instead, it would be free for me, as if my nationality was Swedish.
What is the end of the story? The end of the story is that Europe is not perfect, but it has done it in the past and it is still giving me the chance to study abroad with the Erasmus+ experience where I grew as person and developed my skills and knowledge; it gave me the chance to go out of the EU and feel secure; it is giving me the chance to live abroad feeling always home.
If we think of it from a business perspective instead, Europe is allowing businesses to have lower costs, develop more skills and collaboration among workforce, creating multicultural working environments and teams, enabling the competition on a world scale.
From the corner I am seeing the world and my future life, at the end of the day, Europe is a good deal.