The EU is going through a difficult phase currently, but at the level of the EU citizens signals have already been clear before. I’ll give you a clear personal example regarding this issue.
In 1985 the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE) was born in Paris. Everything was done from Paris, but in coordination with other university cities in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France – basically the main EU members. Due to the iron curtain, Romania and other Eastern-European countries have not been involved from the beginning. It was only in 1989, right after the events known to all of us, which AEGEE moved very fast with expanding to the Eastern-European countries.
In my home city Cluj-Napoca, the association was already present in spring 1990. However, when I started to lead AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca in 1995, the EU was still very far and untouchable for almost all Romanians. Only the rector of the “Babes-Bolyai” University, Mr. Andrei Marga, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, connected to the Community and its structures in his speeches.
In 1997, I was elected in the EU board of the association, working from Brussels. And I started to feel that I could explain the ‘EU phenomenon’ more easily. It was, for example, not at all popular with the youth in France, in Italy and Spain it was something reduced to a tourist and cultural summer experience, and in Germany and the Netherlands it was seen as a good experience to put on the CV. In stead, Polish, Hungarians, Slovenians, and lots of Romanians (Oana, Calin, Diana, Voichita, Anca, etc.) came to Brussels, as members of the European Board. It was the time that EU was very popular in candidate countries, but losing ground to the 15 EU Member States.
After 2005, paradox or not, the interest from people of the Eastern-European countries in the European movement (AEGEE is not a pro-European association, but a network of people debating about the EU) went down. Taken advantage that AEGEE is present in 40 countries, the European board started to include youth from Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, Russia and even Georgia. This shows indirectly that EU has a lot of fans in that area.
I don’t want to put a superficial conclusion, but I feel that the EU project is kind of ‘tired’, and the youth explains this directly via their lack of engagement.
Dan Luca / Brussels