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Látogatók száma : 1340214

EURÓPAI PARLAMENTI TEVÉKENYSÉG

You cannot understand the EU if you don't know its history
2013-02-12

Iuliu Winkler MEP believes that having the history of the European Union taught in the schools of every member state would bring a significant contribution to the construction of an European identity. 

On yesterday's „Citizenship and Dialogue in Europe" conference opening held at Bucharest, which was the first of many events in Romania which mark the European Year of Citizenship, Iuliu Winkler voiced his opinion that currently the EU is not only dealing with an economic crisis, but also with a just as profound and dangerous identity crisis.
„We are in the middle of a European identity crisis. Quite frankly, not only did we not succeed in building a European identity, but we have also never really tried. A few weeks ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron clearly stated that there is no European demos. Nevertheless, there are contradicting opinions as well", said the European deputy. He further added, that a creation of a textbook about the history of the European project which would be taught int he schools of every member state of the EU would be one of the constructive elements of an European identity.

„Being young is not a virtue, but a joy. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to be a young person born in 1990. I would be 23 years old now and, drawing on my experience of with young people, I can confidently affirm that I would be clueless regarding what happened in Romania in the 70's or 80's. So I wonder what kind of knowledge the young Romanian has about the Treaty of Rome, the Coal and Steel Community, the first steps of the EU, or the political compromises and efforts that have been made to create a unitary European currency", stated Winkler, European Deputy for DUHR. In his opinion, it is impossible to fully comprehend the Union or the crisis it is now facing without any remote awareness of the history and processes behind its construction. According to Winkler the textbook should cover every significant event which contributed to the establishment of the EU from the first day of peace after World War II until today. „I think we should launch a project in Romania to create a textbook from a communitarian and not a national perspective" said the MEP who also expressed his desire to create a political union on a European level. „I believe in the idea of a political union, or what is also called the United States of Europe. Together we are much stronger than we would ever be separately" added Winkler.


Winkler further praised recent activities and events in Romania regarding the European Year of Citizenship, underlining the fact that the creation of an European consciousness is a crucial process that MEPs are part of as well. „It is important to inform the citizens of Romania about the fact that they can play an important part in the EU. (...) We need to be brave and voice our opinions. (...) We must make the most of the possibilities that we have and earn the place that we desire in the EU" stated Winkler.
The conference in Bucharest, alongside the representatives of the organising body - the European Parliament, the European Commission and Europe Direct - was also attended by the Commissary for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş, the Irish Ambassador in Romania Oliver Grogan and European Deputy Renate Weber (NLP, ALDE).

Bucharest, 12th February 2013

 

 

You'll find below an essay on the idea of a history textbook on the European project written by Iuliu Winkler.

 

The History of the European Project

 


At the moment, Europe finds itself in a full on identity crisis. This crisis is perpetuated by a number of factors, the economic and financial impediments being the most acute and recent ones.
In 2011 the European Commission (EC) came up with the idea to dedicate the year 2013 to the citizens of the EU. The initiative mirrors the importance and increasing necessity to directly involve the citizens in the construction and decision-making process of the Union. The political discourse of the EC on the topic is constructed around the notion of „European citizenship" - a rather volatile concept so long as neither citizen of the member states of the Union are in possession of an EU issued document which attests their „European citizenship".
European citizenship, as defined by the Treaty on the EU signed in 1992 in Maastricht - including rights, obligations and opportunities for political participation - sets out to consolidate the image and identity of the EU as well as to better implicate the citizen in the process of European integration. Any citizen of a member state is a citizen of the European Union as well, European citizenship completing the national one.

Unfortunately more than twenty years after the concept was introduced the Commission finds that there is still a long way to go before the set out purpose can be fulfilled and the wider political implication of the citizens can be achieved. I believe that this unsatisfactory result can be traced back to two main causes: Firstly, public communication errors made by the European institutions and secondly, lacking cultivation of a European identity.
In this context, I believe that it is futile to discuss what has not been done, but we should instead focus on what could be done - and I mean targeting the generations that are still in schools, for they are the ones who, in the future, should benefit from the European project.

To a young person who today is fourteen, eighteen or twenty of age, regardless whether he/she was born in a western or eastern member state, the idea of the European Union translates into benefits taken for granted: freedom of movement within the borders of the Union, opportunities to study and work in either one of the 27 member states, as well as making the most of institutions, research projects, infrastructure and communication networks financed and supported by European funds. At the same time, when listening to the political narrative on national level the same young person seems to regard the EU as a brutal invasion from Brussels of internal affairs: whether it is the introduction of any laws and taxes that catch the fancy of the Union or more recently, the increasing numbers of austerity budgets and unemployment. Not long ago, the EU won the Nobel Price for Peace, an event which launched a wave of wry comments from the euro sceptics who have tried their best to corner the Union and its institutions in Brussels. Unfortunately the response were weak and inarticulate and failed to point out that this prize acknowledges an unprecedented achievement in the history of Europe as a continent - almost seventy years of peace and prosperity on the territories of the Coal and Steel Community, later the European Economic Community and today the European Union. What does a teenager with superficial knowledge about the EU understand and know about this struggle? About the thought processes and efforts that have been made to construct the Union as it is today only to be systematically bombarded with contradictory and negative information.
Unfortunately there is no coordinated approach which enables the adequate information transfer regarding the institutional history of the EU in the pre-universitary educational systems in every member state. I believe it is necessary to introduce a programme into the curriculums of every single European school which would provide children with detailed knowledge about the history of the European project. Apparently such an initiative might be contradicted by previous failures. In 2007, three months after the adherence of our country to the EU, the German Ministry of Education set in motion a debate about the issue which was quickly picked up by the European media and public; a discussion which got dropped just as quickly and ended with no tangible result. The Minister at the time suggested the elaboration of a universal textbook of European history which would have been taught in every school of the EU. The initiative got rejected on the feeble basis that member states are the only ones in charge of their educational system and would not accommodate interference from the EU on the matter. In reality, resentment of the idea was largely fuelled by the thought that European history would be rewritten by Germany.

In order to be able to visualize the future we invoke the past, something I have just done by talking about the European history textbook. I am one of those poeple who believes that histroy should be left to historians and that we should only call for it in order to learn from past mistakes. However, I believe that especially now we must turn to the history of our common project in order to see where we have set off from and thus understand the efforts and achievements that have been made until the present moment which then enables us to construct a Europe for and of the future. Undisputedly, a EU that does not constantly regard its citizens and their involvement in its politics is nothing more than a bureaucratic project lacking any kind of substance and purpose.

The majority of the young people in Europe have a superficial knowledge about the European construction and therefore do not fully apprehend or appreciate the noble nature of the initiatives which lie at the fundament of the Union.
The truth is undeniable and ever present in many member states. The lack of a real cohesion which relies on our common history leaves a large gap which enables the development of euro scepticism in societies and unfortunately more and more among young people. What's worse is that euro scepticism increasingly manifests itself in the forms of intolerance, extremism and xenophobia.
The more representatives of the generation that built Europe pass away, the less the new generations understand the meaning of their belonging to the Union. And so I wonder: how can we involve the citizens in a project they cannot relate to or having a false understanding of? I firmly believe that the history of the European project should be taught in schools across Europe. Equally in Romania, Hungary, France, Germany or Italy. We need a textbook which embodies unitary views and theories covering everything from the East to the West, from the North to the South of the EU.
An institutional history of the EU should study and expose the searches for solutions and principles which create the basis of a war-free environment. It should present the succession of events the way they happened as well as the step-by-step evolution of the European project. The history of the European project should shed light on the creation and functioning of the European institutions, the European Commission, the Council, the European Parliament, the European agents and their legitimacy thus explaining that in the history of humanity, the European Union is a project one of a kind.

Including these ideas into school curriculums does not presuppose the elimination of national perspectives on contemporary history the way some historians seem to believe, but would, in time, bring an important contribution to the establishment of an European identity and perhaps an interesting aspect - horribile dictu! - to the formation of the European demos.


Deva, 11th February 2013 



 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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