(Alessandro) Europe is made by its citizens and these are present in all layers of our society, which means Europe must be taught everywhere, even in ‘popular courts’ let’s say. People who have problems getting to the end of the month because their salary is too low, people who are unemployed, people who were not born in Europe – they are citizens and they are impacted by this project even if they do not always feel so. This is why I feel education is essential: we need to first and foremost build the mindset of European citizens. I work as a teacher at a Belgian school in Schaerbeek, one of the poorest areas in Brussels. A lot of the kids I teach, even though their families have been in Belgium since the 70s, they say that they still feel more Turkish or Moroccan or any other origin they are from, than they ever felt Belgian. This is sad, because they are Belgian citizens … they are European. You know what? I think the European identity can be something that can provide them with the sense of belonging they lack. They may still not feel an integral part of the society they live in, but with the idea of European identity, they are part of something deeper. It no longer matters that their grandparents are not from Germany or Italy – they simply are European. It is important although sometimes difficult to teach these youngsters openness, diversity and inclusion in our society. Otherwise they do not feel involved, and if they do not feel involved, they do not believe in the project anymore, and without its people behind it, the project does not mean anything.
(Anita) Precisely. It is important to first teach about Europe before one can promote it; this is why I am part of various pro-European organisations – I am part of a pro European movement back in Italy and part of many others here in Brussels. I am an interpreter so of course I have to work a lot to do but Europe is my passion. We are trying to teach citizens to truly know Europe and not automatically blame it for problems they encounter in their member countries. The issue is, when things go well, people are ‘proud Europeans’ – but when things go wrong, they suddenly start to blame it all on Europe! I strongly believe this is mainly due to the presence of a lot of disinformation on what Europe is. Actually – not everybody knows what the European Union is. I am half Romanian – half Italian. You know how we have the Romanian presidency starting in January of next year*? Well, the truth is that a lot of Romanian citizens do not even know what the presidency is about. This lack of knowledge/information is present even though – believe me – Romania is probably one of the most pro-European countries you can find! So there is a lot to do in many, many directions. We try to educate people because we want them to be aware that: a/ change can happen here and b/ this change is in their hands.
Alessandro and Anita (left to right) both work in Brussels, as a teacher and an interpreter, respectively. They are also part of pan/pro European organisations aiming at making Europe closer to its citizens.
(*the presidency of the Council of the European Union, rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this period, the presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda and cooperation among member states. To do this, the presidency must act as an honest and neutral broker. Currently it is Austria which holds the presidency (July-December 2018), it will be followed by Romania starting January 2019.)