“Young people do not care about politics, citizens are disillusioned by Europe, euroscepticism is on the rise…”. These were some of the thoughts and main motivators we had on our minds when we set off with the MovEurope bus tour.
However, the majority of people we met in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Spain and France did not meet those expectations. Young people do have strong opinions about Europe and ideas on what the EU should do better. Obviously not everyone thinks the same: some were rather sceptical, some positive, we met optimists and pessimist. But during those 20 days and over 5000 km we did not meet indifference about Europe along our way. No matter what social, cultural or economic background, people care about Europe and are interested in being a part of it and in contributing to this common project, even if sometimes they do not know exactly how.
We realized that this lack of information and awareness is one of the main problems the European Union is facing. That is why JEF’s MovEurope bus tour and similar projects from civil society are important. But to have a continuous impact, also the national states must take up the responsibility to properly inform their citizens. Media has a role to play in this as well: they often do not cover deeply European issues, and when they do, information is often biased and not impartial. Europe needs to communicate better its policies and tell what Europe is doing for citizens and how it influences our daily life.
Along the tour we collected “Wishes for Europe” from young people and their visions and ideas impressed us: “Europe is what WE make of it”, “More tolerance and solidarity”, “My grandparents fought for it, my parents established it, I am voting to shape it”, “Europe speaking with one voice in the world”.
The conversations with people on the street were one of the best parts of the tour and in fact, the most interesting discussions were those we had with the less “convinced”. Europe is not doing anything for you or your country? But you have done Erasmus, you have done InterRail without a passport? You have a European health insurance card? Your city’s main square is renovated – with EU Regional Fund? You can pay with the same currency in 18 countries? Your girlfriend is from a different country? 500 Million citizens vote for a common Parliament?
Confronting people with these facts about the EU gave them some food for thought. What Europe has achieved so far was only possible through active participation of its people and not by taking for granted the status quo.
We went through ten different cities, in ten different countries, and had every time different actions adapted to the local environment. But we must say that one of the best actions happened in Strasbourg, the last stop of the MovEurope bus. The action took place right next to the footbridge connecting France and Germany. This historically important spot was the perfect setting to promote the European elections, as well as the European project as a whole. Given the city’s strong European history, we were surprised, however, by the number of people who did not want to go vote due to their loss of trust in their political representatives. In this context, it was a very good thing we were there, that we engaged them in a discussion and explained them that only by voting they can make change happen. In the end many people we spoke to thanked us for doing this action and were really happy to see the young generation carrying on our European dream of unity and peace.