Text: Narcis George Matache
The dream to unite Europe is as old as Europe itself. Through various ways, many have attempted precisely that. However, the "many" rarely reflected the majority. The discussions about Europe have long been the fine salons and tea houses domain, where rulers, politicians, accomplished thinkers and business leaders would debate and decide on our shared future. Even the European Union has started as a top-down, elite-driven project.
Why did I use "has started" instead of "is"? Because the European project gave life to the European citizens, which took ownership of the European Union. Today's Union is rapidly developing, with the interest of the citizen at its core. You don't believe me? Check out the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is the largest democratic exercise globally (and the first of its kind), where all citizens of Europe will contribute to a collective future.
The next step in the evolution of the European Union will not only be driven by fancy people in fancy places - it will be driven by us (regardless of background) that want to shape the expected future.
"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 -
"Look, mom, we just passed the border… and there was no one to check us!" I still remember my first contact with the idea of Europe vividly. It wasn't when I applied to study abroad or even when I got accepted. Instead, it was when my family and I crossed border after border, without any guards present, on our way to the university in Denmark. The idea of no borders planted a seed in my head. Who knew it would blossom into a strong desire for federalism and love for the European project just a few years later?
I was not born European and had minimal contact with the European values in post-communist Romania. However, after years of nurturing, the European project made me into a European citizen. I am just one of the many millions that have witnessed this transformation. The project of our founding fathers intended to end the war in Europe and bring prosperity. It did that and a bit more. It created us, the European citizens.
Are all the European citizens, fancy people meeting in fancy places? No, we are not. We represent all walks of life, and since our creation, we have pushed the European Union to become more citizen-needs centred and more democratic. In that way, you can say that the Conference on the Future of Europe is the epitome of our influence. A chance for more courageous moves towards further integration.
Can we, everyday people, be braver than the elites in the construction of the European Union? Yes. Why you wonder? Because we don't get bogged down in complicated ideals. What is the Union, after all? A tool to make our lives better.
How can you contribute?
The Conference on the future of Europe will run up until spring 2022, when the Conference's conclusions will become guidelines for the Union's development. It will contain the future that the majority wants, whatever that might be. You can choose to participate in the Conference or let others decide your future for you.
If you want to contribute, you can easily do that. Access the hub of the Conference, which is a multilingual digital platform https://futureu.europa.eu and submit your ideas, hold discussions with others, find events related to the Conference or even guidelines on how to organise your own events. 2021 is all about Europe. The best way to mark Europe Day (9th May) is to participate in the Conference.