Europe Day a dead letter

13 May 2018

Europe Day a dead letter

On 9th May we marked Europe Day. In Brussels and elsewhere, all of the European Union institutions were closed. It was a day off. It's actually an extremely symbolic day, something dreamed up at the highest level, but because the citizens of the member states have never been asked their views, it remains a dead letter. It's one of the many attempts to create a 'European feeling' that simply doesn't exist. This wouldn't be so bad in itself, if there wasn't a hidden agenda: the European feeling must also make it clear why we are a single market. Why all shops in the EU must eventually look alike. Why it's being made increasingly difficult for member states to conduct their own social-economic policies. Europe Day is less innocent than it appears.

More and more measures, such as Europe Day, are being introduced from on high. At first glance they look innocent enough, but in fact they are anything but. Take all those juicy plans for young people, such as the rushed introduction of four months' free rail travel around Europe to get to know the continent, and the countless exchange programmes for students. All of these are set up to create a 'feeling' that isn't there. Of course young people and students find such things attractive. As a result of marketisation of education and the abolition in the Netherlands and elsewhere of student grants, students have to compete early and look for financial opportunities if they want any extras, such as a placement or internship outside their own educational institution. The European Commission capitalises on this, but forgets to note that such things wouldn't be necessary if the EU had left room for educational systems which put the student's development to the fore rather than falling prey to market-think.

Of course young people are increasingly open to contact with other countries and have had to deal throughout their lives with a 'European project'. But we must be honest: if the EU's aim were to promote mutual understanding, peace and solidarity between the member states, there would be real space allowed for those member states to add their own complementary policies at local, regional and national level. Because despite the fact that the EU's slogan is 'unity in diversity', what it wants above all is to create a 'level playing field' for firms. This leave little room for divergence from rules governing the free movement of workers, service providers, or capital. And so people are set against each other and time and again the power of big capital is reinforced. If we are ever again to celebrate Europe Day, then it will have to be a result of demonstrations that we, young and old, can claim control over our own lives and our own environment. Take back the street. Otherwise, for me Europe Day will remain a dead letter.

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