Recently Berlin was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty of friendship between Germany and France. The celebration gave rise to several discussions on the status of the European project and the possibility of a political union.
One long standing criticism of supporters as well as opponents of European unification has been the assessment that the European project is very much a elitist idea and undertaking driven by intellectuals and politicians in a top down process. What Europe is lacking is a demos, it’s a Europe without Europeans. Several smart measures have been suggested to remedy this issue, but many are so disconnected from the times we are living in that the are just borderline ridiculous; who still believes that French intellectuals or German novelists are important for European understanding is really lost to this century; this is the old elitist discourse we need to get rid off.
The European experience needs to be made tangible for everyone. University students who have understood the importance of Europe on more than just the intellectual level; on the emotional level, often have enjoyed the benefits of the Erasmus program. However, it is an abomination that such programs that support student mobility across Europe have mainly been limited to university students who due to the nature of their profession have a high affinity to the international world anyway.
What we need in Europe is a massive program to facilitated the exchanged of young trainees and professionals; blue-collar workers. They are most important for the future of the Europe and need to understand that there is something beyond their immediate environment that has important implications for their lives. Giving them the opportunity to learn about foreign countries and cultures is crucial in establishing the necessary awareness. On the more concrete side of things, they will also be able learn new technics and ways of doing business that will enrich their lives and work at home. This idea is not a pipe dream; an historical precedent exists.
Photo credit: fdecomite