In the midst of the growing division caused by the euro-crisis, people started pointing at certain countries; the credibility of the euro as a currency is dwindling, and that of the Union as a global entity is shaken. Yes, the Union is in a massive crisis, yes some of the EU leaders don’t hide this fact and neither am I satisfied with many things.
I do not like many things in the working of the EU. As a sign of solidarity, EP members should cut their daily allowance of 295 euros (besides their 6300 net monthly salary); I do not like that I come from a country that acceded almost 5 years ago to the Union, but was vetoed twice to enter the Schengen zone and has work restrictions in several major EU economies (the realities of which I did have the “pleasure” of witnessing in the last 4 years); also, I do not like the fact that the entry into the Eurozone was rushed and so on. The EU is not yet a unified political entity, the single currency is only applied in 17 out of the 27 Member States, the UK did not want to join the Schengen zone, while Romania and Bulgaria were not allowed to do so. Yes, it is not perfect and I don’t like some aspects either. BUT, please knock it off with the let’s split up the Union comments or how about we make it disappear or let’s create a Mediterranean, Central European or etc. unions.
Being 20 years old, when my country joined the EU, meant that I had sufficient perception of how suddenly a lot of things changed; things that for most critics are and were natural because they were already born in a system we were wishing to accede to. My dear friends, who believe the Union should not exist, look a bit at these arguments and you might change your mind:
If there wasn’t a Union and a Schengen Zone:
- Everything you buy from export, would be taxed at the border, meaning that your favorite Nike shoes, Kellogg’s cereals, H&M underwear and Smart car would be way more expensive (try going to South Africa where an import Philadelphia spread cheese costs 5/6 euros, Nivea deodorants more than 4 euros, and a second-hand car twice as much as in the EU).
- Welcome back passports and visas at the border. You wouldn’t be able to just go around with your ID card. No, you would need a fine looking VISA just to go from Germany to Poland and make sure you have your passport with you. Someone coming from Romania knows that some years ago in order to go to Germany by car/bus/rail you needed an Austrian and German visa.
- Welcome back border controls. Yes my friends, if you go England or Romania and Bulgaria, they might just still check your luggage. Now imagine poor Jap going from Maastricht (Netherlands) to his cheaper home in Aachen (Germany) and having to wait hours each day at the border, while someone checks his luggage. Guess what? I still know what it feels like when I go back to Romania.
- Forget working freely in another country. Many of these people seem to forget that life would be more difficult if you moved to a new country and in order to work, you’d have to wait months to get a permit. Wow, as a Romanian national I still know how it feels like. It made me get a second nationality.
- Forget buying land and houses in another country. As you might have forgotten, the fact that you can own a house and a piece of land in another EU country is not something you were granted at birth.
- Forget money transfers in Euros without charges. Yes, thanks to the IBAN system, you can transfer money from one country to another in euros, without charges and paying other taxes.
- Forget being able to practice your profession anywhere else. Yes, if you are a lawyer in Belgium, defending your client in the Netherlands, it might not entirely be accepted.
- Forget having the right to be protected in some God forsaken land by the embassy of another country. The fact that you can apply for diplomatic protection in a country where your country does not have diplomatic representation, is not something that always existed.
- Forget that your state would be able to get loans from other states for favorable interest rates. If you are in the eurozone, you can get state loans for much lower interest rates.
- Forget that anyone would bail anyone out, just like that in times of financial crisis.
- Forget being able to execute your judicial decisions in other countries and so on.
- Forget cheap Ryanair and Wizzair flights and passenger rights. Yes, the fact that all these low-cost airlines proliferated and you have some passenger rights is thanks to this Union as well.
- Forget a lot of standards when it comes to food, clothing, machinery, etc.
- Forget about the Erasmus program. That students can go from one country to the other without paying tuition fees at the receiving institution. That you can mingle with people who speak a different language, have different attitudes than you, and ultimately these people become your friends. One of the greatest initiatives ever made I would say.
- And most of all, you probably forget that your grand and great-grandparents fought in some deadly wars, and ever since the Union, no EU country went to war against another one.
As the citizen of one of the newest Member States, who will just start enjoying (now, thanks to my Hungarian passport) my EU rights to the fullest, how about you think a bit before you speak. How about all of you who think the EU is bullocks, you try imagining a world with higher prices for everything, without the freedom to move around and establish yourself; a world with hour long border controls, transfer taxes, lack of diplomatic protection is certain areas, no freedom of student mobility, no cheap flights and so one. And mostly a world, where you neighbor might just attack you.
Brussels, 5 November 2011 – yes it is Guy Fawkes night