I am writing this article as a simple Business student, proud member of a European Student Organization and critic young Spanish “Indignado”. My trips abroad and my post as Erasmus responsible in Santander, Spain, get me in contact with young students from all over Europe. I wish to share with you one of my and most young people’s biggest concerns: we do not feel represented by our political class in our home country, left alone in Europe.
I hear far too much on the news how politician is the least valued profession in Spain and a low valued profession in other countries in Europe as well. One of the major issues for the population is the outrageous widespread corruption. Young people in Spain, as my international friends feel with their own governments, consider that a change of government only changes “who” will steal public funds and “how much” they will get a hand of. Is the population starting to consider this inherent to our system or are we forgetting that this should not even happen?!
It is sad to say that the European Union, as it is often seen as an artificial and complex structure that tries to tie together countries too far apart, does not get a better opinion. Voting for the European Parliaments is not even conceived between young students! Europe is seen to be directed by Germany and France anyway, so what would be the use? People do not notice the changes these functionaries bring and do not understand the complicated structure of parliaments, councils, delegates, commissions, etc.
In an experiment set to our Erasmus students in Santander, we found out that hardly anybody was able to name European Parliament members, and only recalled names of few tip-top post European politicians. Most of them though, could not even explain what they were responsible for. Our surprise was to learn that most did not even care. “We didn’t vote for them!” But politicians can create a government over 27 governments and do not even have to ask us. “Why would they? They don’t even do it “at home” was a usual answer.
To put the matters even worse, young people do not feel represented because it is almost impossible to name one European or national politician younger than 40. It seems that we must accept that young politicians can only aspire to become responsible for minor secondary posts and ministries. This current is surely changing but it is too slow to perceive. If nobody defends our point of view in the government, why would we believe in their promises?
We have examples of these problems bringing us visible trouble. We are in the middle of a huge crisis in Europe. The solution is financial and has to do with these invisible, fast-moving, ruthless markets we hear about on the news. Politicians and bankers try to convince these nameless investors and private rating companies that Europe will grow and prosper.
But how are they going to believe our leaders when not even we do? We are lied to once and again that this year the economic growth will appear, on the number of jobs predicted to be created, on the ability to reach settlement of the debt, etc. We are promised heaven by the politicians, and once voted, we see how they skip and cancel, one after another, promises they have made!
Living a life surrounded by young Europeans, in a country that is in the eye of the storm, I can assure nobody even starts to believe what our politicians say. It is the reason why Spain is so pessimistic about its own recovery and the population, independent of what the government promises, just gets ready for a new bigger down-turn of social care, employment and stabilization. If the whole population does not believe in the economic revival how are “the markets” going to?
As anybody who is critical, and therefore is seeking to point out a problem, I cannot finish this article without offering my opinion on what the solution could look like. My frustration and criticism look like hatred towards the European institutions, but that is very far from the truth. As a business student I have learnt that critical insight and changes are a way of making things more efficient and cost-worthy, and must be seen as a blessing, not a curse.
An old Chinese proverb signs out that a crisis is the combination of a problem with an opportunity. We have a major problem, let us use this opportunity to change things to the better! I would try to promote the following ideas for the future:
Firstly, politicians at the national and the European level cannot lie in an impervious way! We, the people, have decency and cannot be handled with a carrot in front of our heads to lead the way. I strongly support a 15-M initiative in which politicians can be sewed for promising something and doing the opposite. What would happen if you work for Audi and you promise keeping the number of employments and kick out half of the workers once put into office? Just like any job in the world, lying bluntly cannot go without sanction.
Secondly, Europe as an institution should cease to be seen as an intricate ghost structure imposed on us. I am sure that measures are being taken in this direction, but they are unnoticeable . Studying Europe as a structure and institution at schools, high schools and university should be necessary. Not only law scholars should know how Europe works as a whole.
Thirdly, I know myself that young politicians are being encouraged by European institutions because I have visited them in Brussels. I find it a reasonable, logic and intelligent decision, principally because we represent the future and should help decide about the world we want to live in. This does not happen at the national level. I think Europe should not impose numbers on member countries in this matter but should encourage it through political activist associations for young people and formal recommendations.
Written by Rafael Van Oppen Ardanaz, AEGEE-Santander