To be honest, I don’t really care about the political parties at European level. I know more or less what they stand for but haven’t checked any of the programmes in depth. Green is green, liberal is liberal, social social and conservative conservative. Nothing very exciting and I haven’t made up my mind yet.
What matters to me is the European idea. I spent four years in France, studied, lived there and even benefited from the social advantages for students. And what for? For being a ressortissant d’un Etat membre de l’Union européenne. Since two years, I’m living in Belgium – working, paying taxes, registering etc. like any other (European or Belgian) citizen. There is no law, no administration which has the right to stop me from doing so. On the contrary, as a European citizen, I have the law on my side.
Of course, I also know all the ‘downsides’ of the European integration – lack of transparency and democratic influence, the gap between the institutions and the citizen, etc. etc. But what dominates my experience is freedom. Freedom to travel, to study, to move, to work, to settle down. And not only freedom but encouragement to do so. From an administrative point of view, it is not much more work to move from Germany to Belgium than from one German town to another.
Nobody is forced to benefit from these freedoms but everybody is invited to do so. Maybe Europe doesn’t raise this national feeling of belongingness – Europe doesn’t even have a football team to be proud of – but then again, the history of strong national feelings, pride and ‘superiority’ often enough contributed to discrimination, exclusion and war.
To vote in the elections for the European Parliament is a sign that the European idea is alive. It is not perfect but low participation in the elections is frequently used to undermine European legislation by the very same national governments which benefit from European policies since decades – Ireland, France, Germany, to name but a few. They blame Brussels when they have to implement unpopular regulation but claim the credit when European wide legislation shows its benefits.
For me, voting in June means showing that I appreciate, value and support the freedom, the right and the pleasure to live, travel and work in an increasingly open and unified Europe. After all the benefits I had, that’s the least I can do.