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Being young in the Old continent

Lost generation, sacrificed generation, precarious generation… I get the impression that society absolutely wants to define and characterize us by our current difficult situation, forgetting what we are probably above all: the European generation. 

According to a report from the European Commission, 70% of young Europeans aged between 15 and 24 believe that Europe is part of their citizenship – a higher figure than for other age groups. For my generation, Europe is something natural. Paying in Euros, crossing the border for a few hours, living in an area of the world in peace, it has always been part of our lives. We were born here, but grew up there. We are studying here and maybe will have our first job somewhere else. For many of us, it becomes difficult to define us as coming from this or that country. Identities are more and more mixed: one is European, that’s all. We don’t need symbols to reassure ourselves about the European Union or to remember that it exists: we live it every day.

Sounds a bit naive? Yes, we are in a difficult and worrying situation. But I also believe that we have more opportunities than ever thanks to mobility and a real inclination to move forward all together. Our generation has a lot to offer to Europe: our open-mindedness is priceless. What will be left of it in tomorrow's Europe? Stefan Wolff, a German political scientist, may have understood it: "give it 15, 20 or 25 years, and Europe will be run by leaders with a completely different socialization from those of today”.

And yet, we don't feel that the policies of the European Union are relevant, and only few of us voted in the last European elections in 2009. In France for example, 70% of the 18-24 years old didn’t go to the polls. This is in my view not a result of being indifferent to the European Union, but represents rather a lack of confidence in politics in general, whether national or European. Many of us believe that our vote will not change anything at the end. But in parallel, we are engaged in any other manner to promote Europe: European voluntary projects, European Citizens' Initiatives, mobility programs… Actually, we choose a different way to exercise our European citizenship.

So the big and good old question remains: how can we reconcile our generation with politics? Young people have to do the effort to go to the polls, but it’s also up to the political class to prove by May 2014 that it is ready to engage for us. In the end, we have the same fears and the same desires for the European Union of tomorrow…

Picture: Charles Clegg, GlasgowAmateur, http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasgowamateur/7892308660/

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