“More Europe”; “Less Europe”: calls triggered by the eurozone crisis and the inability of the politicians to solve it for more than a few months or even weeks at a time. Pro-Europeans seek More Europe; euroseptics seek and look forward to the demise of the EU, or at least its fading away to a trading alliance.
The euro crisis highlights a major weakness of the EU, one known for many years. The Euro-elite quite simply ignore the citizens. The Monnet method, little by little so no-one notices has been exploded. Everyone notices now (except the euro-elite of course).
Do we have a European Union of citizens? We take advantage of its many advantages from cheaper roaming phone calls, ease of low-cost flights, open borders and a common currency for many, no visas and only slightly longer border queues for the rest. But the crisis has shown the cultural fault lines. North/South; hardworkers/skivers; tax payers/tax avoiders. A stereotype blame game. Perceptions are far ahead of reality.
Unity in diversity, perhaps the weakest euro-jargon phrase ever thought up, hardly papers over the cracks. Indeed it has become the clarion call for less Europe.
The Euro-elite call for more Europe, for a more cultural Europe. Mega superstars, Rem Koolhaas and Luc Tuymans, riding on global success and commercial marketing, call for deeper citizenship based on a shared culture. Throughout history there have been sharing of cultures in architecture, in classical music, in some literary areas. The Beatles to Lady Gaga to Adele transcend anything the Eurovision Song Contest throws up. The Soul for Europe meets in November in Berlin focussing on “civil society” and cultural values. The Danish EU presidency brings together more eminent culture players in “Team Europe“, including the obligatory conference in Brussels for probably the same audience as all the events in Brussels attract. The Institute of Ideas brings Euro-sceptics for a debate whether the EU will be the death of democracy.
But is the European Commission starting to wake up? Tucked away in a corner, hidden from the headlines, it has asked us for our views on being European citizens. And on those areas we care about when we move between countries. Moving from one country to another, baffling administrative arrangements, discriminatory tax arrangements, denial of democratic rights. inconsistent health and social security arrangements.
The Commission produced a very good report in 2010 on the problems of the “free movement of people”. Their scorecard on progress is a masterpiece of hiding just how few changes have taken place.
They are asking for your opinion. If you move within the EU.. as a tourist, as a student, as a worker, a retiree. If you are in a partnership with someone from another member country, or want to live in another, or vote or fall ill, now is your chance to have your say.
“No taxation without representation” worked in 1776. About time it worked in the EU; we should be able to vote in national elections where we live as well as European Parliament and local. Tax rules explicitly discriminate against fellow EU citizens.
For me it seems absurd that after 60 years European governments have done so little to facilitate free movement of people: surely the most fundamental cultural aspect of a European Union of citizens. More Europe means just that: More European.