European Parliament

EuroFusion: “Embracing Diversity, United in Identity”

European Citizenship is a concept that many people have not only trouble pronouncing but also understanding. Everyone knows what it means to be a citizen of a country. But a citizen of Europe or the EU? That is a lot more abstract.

According to the Eurobarometer survey from spring 2023, 65% of Europeans feel like an EU-Citizen. That is not a lot, considering every citizen of an EU-Member state is also an EU-Citizen. This means that you can vote for the European Parliament and that you have all the other rights that come with living in the EU, such as the freedom of movement. So why do we not all feel like true Europeans? There are things that can help unite all people of Europe, from Belgium to Italy or from Portugal to Hungary. European Symbols for example, like the EU-Flag and EU-Anthem or the Eurovision Song Contest. And true pan-European media, that does not only focus on one or a few countries, but on the whole continent that we live on.

European media

We had a chat with European Parliament members Marc Botenga (The Left group in the European Parliament) and Johan Van Overtveldt (European Conservatives and Reformist Group) about European citizenship and media. They shared their thoughts on these important topics, giving us valuable insights.

In the current European media landscape, there exists a noticeable void where a comprehensive and pan-European news medium should be. While numerous national news outlets provide coverage of events within their respective countries, the absence of a singular platform delivering in-depth, unbiased information on European-wide issues is evident. This absence not only limits access to diverse perspectives on regional matters but also hampers the development of a unified European identity.

Students interviewing MEP Kathleen Van Brempt

European Education

Although the knowledge that students can receive from university is the same for European and non-EU students, however international non-EU students, should pay much more for the tuition fee than students from EU. We spoke with a non-EU student from Turkey, Ege Tuncer who is studying at the University of Antwerp.

“My whole process of applying for a resignation and for the school consisted of 8 months. Moreover, it was extremely expensive to get here. The European students pay much less tuition fees than I paid. I actually paid 7,000 euros for a year of master’s in Belgium.” Says Ege Tuncer

Tuition is very important for us students. It gives us the possibility to study. Kathleen Van Brempt (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament) agrees with this.

We feel less and less like a European citizen. Despite that, Kathleen van Brempt says that we actually should be proud to be European.

European symbols

We want the people to create a Europe of social rights

Marc Botenga

One way to improve the sense of being European is to connect ourselves with symbols. Think of the flag or the Eurovision Song Contest. Marc Botenga (The Left group in the European Parliament) disagrees. “When countries like Israel compete in Eurovision Song Contest, I feel anything but European.”

Is there a way to improve the feeling of being a European?

“Should we? I don’t think that we should increase the feeling of being a European citizen. What we do need to improve, is the cohesion. We need to have the feeling that we all be together. It does not matter which nationality you have. What we need today is to bring the working people from Europe together. In that way we can say, ‘ we deserve beter living conditions, work conditions, etc. That is much more important than to be proud under what flag you want to march.”

Do you think that events like Eurovision Song Festival unites us as European?

“Most people don’t watch it and there are things that I don’t understand about it. Why does Israel for example still participate in this event? That is not compatible in any way with the values that the European Union claims to defend.”

Do you think that there are enough symbols for Europe?

“For me it is not important under which flag someone marches. We don’t want a European Union that is going to fight under one flag and conquer Africa. What we want is that people are coming together, and creating this Europe of social rights. Don’t use a flag to ask people to support their leaders. Today we have a Europe that is dominated by multinational companies. The common workers don’t make the laws in Europe, but the big corporations do. And if I speak for myself, I don’t want to walk under a flag by big corporations.”

Johan Van Overtveldt highlights a pressing concern: the lack of attention given to European issues.

Conclusion

European Citizenship is more than a legal status; it is about connection, solidarity and embracing our different cultures. For many, “European citizenship” is a vague concept and many of us do not feel connected to Europe. This was true for us as well. However, as we delved deeper, we came to realize how important it actually is. Whether you like it or not, you still benefit from it. Ultimately, acknowledging its significance is the first step towards appreciating its profound impact on our lives.

Authors | Marie Van Dijck, Maya Mentens, Robine Verheyen, Stan Nelis, Malika Kitapbayeva, Livio Koppe, Tiber De Wilde and Uma Mertens

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