I have always been passionate about the EU, but somehow it has always managed to keep its distance from me. I have tried to move closer to it for a long time and now I finally came to this place they call the heart of the EU, Brussels, but it feels like there is something that is missing… maybe I expected the EU to be more present here. Even though it is certainly multicultural like a capital of Europe should be, I sometimes find myself looking around, maybe Strasbourg is the place to be. Would I feel more like I’m in the centre of Europe there?
Europeans, even people working for the institutions, including trainees like me, often talk about the EU as if it were a person with its own mind and free will. People often say “The EU is considering” or "The EU has decided". We have a lot of demands and expectations, but this figure that has promised us a lot of things in the Treaties doesn’t always seem to listen to us. On the other hand the further you move away from the institutions, the EU seems to be related to a particular place: “Brussels has decided”.
Speaking about the EU with friends of mine that come from outside the Union makes me think… to some of them it’s so clear that we Europeans form the EU. To us the EU is often not unconditionally part of our identity. I can choose to be a Eurosceptic, but not a Finnosceptic. Nobody ever asked me, if I like being Finnish or not (of course I do, but hypothetically speaking…).
Maybe the lesson to be learned is that the EU is not simply a physical place, not Strasbourg nor Brussels, it is not more present here than in Kittilä (I know, no one knows where that is), it is not a person either, someone who can solve everybody’s problems. I am part of the EU, but not because I happen to be a trainee at the EP, but because I believe in the European idea and I want to defend it and to take advantage of the possibilities that I am given. If I want something to be done, I should make it happen, because the EU is not something external, foreign, Belgian. Maybe the EU is not as distant as I sometimes think, I am a (very tiny) part of it, so it’s actually closer than I might think.