Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Opinion

Europe doesn't threaten national identity

  • On Brussels' Place du Luxembourg. Young people understand intuitively that we can all have many different identities enriching our existence. (Photo: Valentina Pop)

EU leaders will come together in Bratislava to discuss the way forward after the Brexit vote. They will reflect on the need to do better when it comes to providing security, jobs and growth. They will focus on delivering results in a way that unites us, not least in the interest of the young.

As European commissioner in charge of education, culture, youth and sport, I think that one of the most pressing lessons from the outcome of the Brexit vote is this: we must do better at creating a European identity.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A European identity not threatening the identities we already have, but complementing and supporting them. And we have to put young people at the heart of this.

Many people in Britain and elsewhere in the EU seem to feel that different identities compete with each other. That a European identity indeed threatens the national one, as well as regional, local, cultural, ethnic, religious identities. And as a result they reject the European identity.

This conflict is not inevitable. Rather I believe that we can all have many different identities enriching our existence.

Young people understand this intuitively. About three-quarters of Brits aged 24 and younger voted to remain in the EU. This is the Erasmus generation – young people who find it natural to freely cross borders in the EU, to discover different cultures, to experience life in new contexts by studying, working or volunteering abroad.

Why are many young people so comfortable with this additional layer of identity? European integration has a lot to do with it, and the Erasmus programme in particular.

Creating a feeling of community

Over three decades, Erasmus has proved an excellent example of EU action that unites without attempting to unify. It does not interfere or dictate, but brings about change simply by exposing young people and national education systems and societies to contact with others from different backgrounds, with different experiences, views and ideas.

Erasmus today is about much more than student mobility, however.

It is also the biggest teachers’ network in the world linking more than 380,000 teachers and allowing pupils to work together on joint projects.

Erasmus also promotes volunteering, with around 100,000 young volunteers over the past 20 years, and it brings together around 220,000 young people and youth workers each year to learn from each other.

All these connections and exchanges combine to help us better understand what differentiates us - and what we have in common.

When Europeans are asked to name the factors most important to creating a feeling of community among them, they point to culture, history and sport.

Strengthening and cherishing our identity

Indeed, we all have a sense of what European culture and identity are, of the influences and heritage we share - William Shakespeare is as much part of it as Franz Liszt, Edvard Munch as much as Pedro Almodovar. It is therefore only logical to strengthen a programme like Erasmus that is excellently placed to promote these factors.

And strengthen it we will. Spending should increase for the rest of the current budgetary period until 2020. We will also make the programme even more open to young people with fewer opportunities and I will also work to ensure that we continue to place a special focus on projects that promote our shared values and inclusion.

In a complex world full of uncertainty it is very difficult to find our place, to find answers to the question of who we are. But closing doors and retreating into our shells will not help. More than ever, we need to come together, to discover and accept each other - and ourselves.

Strengthening and cherishing our identity as Europeans, as a rich addition to other layers of identity, is vital in this - and where better to start than with young people, ideal ambassadors of open, multi-layered identities and the future of Europe.

Tibor Navracsics is EU commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport

EU plans to increase Erasmus grants

The European Commission is considering giving more money to students participating in the Erasmus student exchange programme, a move expected to increase the number of students taking part in the programme.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight