The time for goodbyes has come. Seven months with my column has passed, as well as the days of my European Solidarity Corps. In October, when I arrived in Greece, the question was always the same: Why do you want to write about Europe? Here, in the country that has probably seen the fiercest sides of the bureaucratic machine that is the European Union.
I had no doubt. Talking about Europe is the goal all along because I’m sure my generation can make a difference. This story doesn’t start with “Once Upon a Time” because not everything is as simple as it sounds. But I want to share with you my adventure, my one-lifetime opportunity to grow up, making you understand how seven months can change – even for the better – the opinions of a convinced Europeanist federalist like me.
When my European Solidarity Corps began, standing on my views, I was a passionate promoter of the European Union. And I still am today, accepting all its limitations. Indeed, my idea hasn’t changed, but it certainly has evolved. Having the opportunity of meeting young people from all over Europe, I have understood how varied our perceptions could be and how Euro-scepticism has different forms and responsibilities.
On my way, I have met people willing to discuss and people holding their positions so firmly that they were unapproachable. Nevertheless, I did not stop. On the contrary, I kept asking, listening, watching. And I realized that although we are experiencing a European life every day, we are rarely aware of it. The people I met made me grow, as well as they explained their idea for Europe and its future. I may not be sure, but I strongly believe that I am part of the best European generation ever.
Thessaloniki is the least European city I’ve ever been to. A mix of cultures, smells, tastes. Meanwhile, it’s one of the cities experiencing the absence of the European Union the most. Every day from my window I see young people, women, elderly, with a backpack on their shoulders, arriving at the train station – little money in their pockets, but a hundred hopes. Hopes nurtured by the myth of a united Europe, a haven and a new beginning.
And to them, I would say that Europe welcomes them and protects them, but I cannot do that. It is up to me, to us, as citizens, to make our voice heard. We are not just a pawn on the chessboard of some government, but an active part of the democratic life of Europe we imagine. Being citizens is about participation, not acceptance.
I realized how much Greeks’ lives have changed in recent decades and why Brussels seems so far away. I figured out why people don’t go to vote and why many of them don’t feel European at all. The European Union lacks confidence and credibility. The economic crisis has made this country poor in many ways, but it has undoubtedly strengthened the spirit of all Greeks.
The European Union must be better, trying not to leave anyone behind. To be the lighthouse and not the darkness. An example of civilization and democracy, not the place of despotism and violations, by fostering cooperation and solidarity among the member states.
Solidarity is the word that has accompanied me these months. The concept on which the European Union has not yet made great steps, but which is already present in everyday actions. Solidarity is at the heart of many European projects, and it would be essential to work with it to build a better Europe, the Europe of the future.
Being united is the only viable solution for those who, like us Europeans, share culture, values and projects for the future. Let us not get carried away by national selfishness and let us try to give our homeland the justice it deserves.
Travel, taste, study, experience. Make Europe your home. You will find yourselves more Europeanists than you could have imagined. I did it, thanks to the European Solidarity Corps. And I couldn’t have made a better choice.
“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”Robert Schuman