Happy birthday, my dear Europe!

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Why we must stop to talk about Europe as a „project“ and create a European republic

Wow! Europe´s B-day. Of course not Europe´s, but the European Union´s. 60 years ago, a group of statesmen (no women, just to mention) solemnly signed the Treaty of Rome and brought the Coal and Steel Community into life. Today, the EU is 10 years older than me, 20 years younger than my father. It is about the age of my niece and my nephew in the UK. Which brings us straight to the point. My father was working for disarmement in the time of the cold war, he saw the EU in the light of peace-building. In the 1990ies, when Austria decided to join the EU family, I was driven by curiosity and hope for a better world. For my sisters´ children in the country that chose to leave this community of states, it is a source of uncertainty for the future.

Of course, such a milestone birthday would constitute a great occasion to praise and acclaim the jubilarian. And obviously a lot of celebrations are held for the EU on her 60th anniversary. Speeches galore, and all of them somewhat a bit ashamed and belittling. It would be interesting to count how often we hear words like „nevertheless“, „nonetheless“ and „despite“ in the commemorative addresses of our stateswomen and statesmen. It seems that the birthday child is a somewhat forgotten, distant relative who unluckily came back to the family scene and we now feel obliged to follow the routine of honoring.

Clearly, the EU is not a state, rather a union of states. It is unique in world history. There is no other federation of countries of this kind, even if it is growing together and drifting apart from time to time. 60 years are not a very long time for such a construction. As a political union, we just left puberty.

These days, we got used to hear phrases like „do not give up the European project“, „develop the European project“, „the European project deserves another chance“. And debates are poured with sayings like „we must reconnect Europe to its citizens“, „Europe must find the way back to people“. Stop it, please. I cannot take these anymore. Because if Europe was only a project, and not a political space, why should I vote in European elections? Why should I feel the need to shape it as a sovereign citizen, as the owner of the res publica it should constitute? How can a project possibly inspire me to debate and create and own it? How can a project possibly reconnect with me and find me? Nonsense.

From the bottom of my heart I choose to say „Happy birthday, my dear Europe!“. We all should do this, and acknowledge that it is a political space we desire to define and design and build together. The EU must be recognized as a natural layer of our daily life, of the economy, of society and policy making on all levels. It is not to be left to project managers, technocrats, specialists. It is for all of us, and all of us are the EU. It is the sphere that we as sovereign citizens need to redesign to a true European republic.

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