On 25th March, we will be celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, one of the most important symbols of the European Union. However, it seems almost controversial to celebrate it during one of the toughest times for Europe: economic crisis, migration and terrorism are weakening it, while nationalism, populism and protectionism are taking over. This phenomenon can be seen in almost every country throughout the world, like the United States, but it is a real and unsolved problem in Europe, too.
Nowadays, every European country must face the threat of Eurosceptics and their supporters who are against the European Union, which is seen as an economic, political, financial, social and cultural institution. Both European and national elections showed that this feeling is increasingly widespread and that if Europe doesn’t wake up, the consequences will be huge.
However, there is still hope and it is called the “Erasmus generation”. This generation includes the people who can really benefit from all the advantages the European Union has to offer. The post-Maastricht generation can actually achieve things that used to be out of reach or at least very hard to do; minor things such as a common currency and simply using an ID card instead of a visa and passport to cross borders are just some of the elements that made free movement possible. This helped to tear down walls that had been created in the past, which seem to be appearing once again today.
The Erasmus generation, which includes not only students spending a semester or a year abroad, but also those who are on an exchange program or taking part in an internship in Europe, is familiar with all the benefits of the EU, especially in the Schengen Area. The Erasmus students have a lot to share and teach, without even being aware of it, since most of the privileges we have now are being taken for granted.
This generation wants to build bridges, rather than walls. These exchanges represent hope for those who want to leave their country in search of better opportunities and enrichment as well as those who want different perspectives. That’s why their projects and ideas deserve our attention.
This is exactly what is going to happen on 9th March at the European Youth Work Convention in Strasbourg, where 150 citizens from 38 countries will be working on different initiatives, including the task of providing Europe with a constitution. The text will then be distributed to the candidates in the presidential elections in France and Germany as well as to other countries’ ambassadors. Young and pro-Europe people will also get their voices heard at the March for Europe, which will take place on the 25th March in Rome where the Treaty of the same name was signed 60 years ago, creating the European Economic Community as a first step towards a united Europe.
Nowadays, the number of young people hoping to have an experience abroad is endlessly increasing, proving that the Erasmus program is one of the European Union’s biggest achievements.
It’s a great place to start.