A while ago, I was sitting in a park when I overheard an interesting thought following the abolishment of roaming charges: “The EU isn’t useless after all.”
Each and every person finds the purpose of things according to what they see as important, useful etc. Identifying what is it that we demand of the European institutions is constituted in a similar process. Mostly there would be more issues we consider crucial. However, we usually can see one that we find the most important.
What do I want from the European institutions in the first place? I want precisely the same as from Slovak institutions. I want the rules to apply. I believe this is the base of every community. Many people might find it funny: “Is the purpose of the EU really to follow the rules? What’s the point of that idea?” Well, the very beginning of the European integration started precisely by introducing rules (regarding coal and steel). Those rules changed a region where all states had a past of endless wars and civilians would suffer to a place where an armed conflict is more than unthinkable nowadays.
Rules protect us today, however, only in case there is someone who demands that the rules are followed. I mostly mean rules that are the pillars of the EU: the rule of law or the right to free access to information. Even if I might hold citizenship of a state where its representatives try to sabotage these rights. The problem is some people do not feel that everybody is obliged to follow the rules, in other words, there might be privileged individuals who get away with breaking them. I identify two approaches to this issue.
First, if some institution does not demand that rules are followed by everyone, they might as well not be followed at all. It makes no sense to join a community which demands accepting a specific unit of rules and then not follow them. This denies the very purpose of the community and shows the schizophrenic state of many EU member states’ representatives. They try to make it seem like following the rules is against the good of the people which covers them. They cover themselves by the citizens of their respective countries, while the citizens only demand of them to follow the rules created by a community which the citizens agreed to join. We simply cannot allow that its rules are not followed, even if they might not be followed in some cases. That would be like demanding to stop punishing tax evasion because once a person got away with it.
Second, we can invest as much effort as possible into making sure that rules apply to everyone, not meaning praising the EU only when we see fit. No, I think it is best to create/be part of a community which functions properly and try to have it function properly at all times. Investing our energy into a purposeful community makes so much sense. Just as it makes sense to try to have all cases of tax evasion punished instead of not punishing anyone.
Why would one even talk about this? Is one individual citizen of the EU, one of 500 million, able to do anything at all? To begin with, he has the right to vote in the EU parliament election which I have discussed already. However, it is not the only way to change things. Ask questions to the candidates and listen carefully to what they have to say. When the answer is not clear, rather think twice. Some people may seek election so badly they simply want to be liked by everyone and refuse to give clear answers.
EU citizens also have other options to be heard. There are petitions which have to be reviewed by the EU institutions if specific conditions are met. Public rallies are organized despite criticism. We can control the actions of politicians. We are 500 million and without us, the EU makes no sense. We can invest our energy into the proper functioning of the EU or member states. It only depends on our will to do so.
As G. B. Shaw once said:
“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”