‘Before any possible political unification of Europe, the spiritual unity of Europe seems to me a reality – and a task, which finds its deepest basis in the consciousness of the multiformity of what is essentially our Europe.’ These words come from German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, from his 1989 book on Das Erbe Europas (The Inheritance of Europe). He saw Europe as a growing cooperation between different countries. After the horrors of World War II, there was a widespread awareness in Europe that alignment was necessary, for the peace of the continent and the well-being of its people. Countries started to cooperate more and more in fields such as food and energy, in a new European Community.

That European unification was a bottom-up process, with countries noticing the mutual benefits of acting as a unified front when faced with problems. However, my enthusiasm for this project took a blow in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was concluded: the beginning of the European Union. The historic process of integration had to be accelerated, European leaders believed. By introducing a European market (and a European currency), political unification in Europe could be further enforced. This idea fitted well with the neoliberal thinking of the time, but for me, it turned the European idea on its head: a historical process from below suddenly became an ideological project from above.

In 1992, in The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama predicted ‘The end of history’. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this American political scientist believed that market thinking had won forever and that political discussions were henceforth unnecessary: neoliberalism had put an end to this historical development. It was these ideas that I believe also underpinned the current Union: rather than political debate, it was mainly the free market that could best enforce unity. It feels like European politics have become the business of officials in Brussels and not citizens in our country. I think this is also one of the reasons why people do not feel committed to Europe.

The European Parliament is a strange place, because hardly any debates take place here. European politics do not really seem to matter in this country, as they are hardly covered by the media. So what is the point of voting on 6 June? I will vote regardless, because I do not want debate to be seen as something that is over, as Fukuyama believed. Because I want to hear all the voices in Europe, as advocated by Gadamer. Because Europe is for all of us: all these different people. That includes me. That is why I will vote.

Lees meer

Demonstration: yes. Harassment: no

Columnist Ronald van Raak reflects on the demonstrations at the universities against the…