Different Visions of Europe

European Young Journalist Award 2010

Just when Europe goes through one of its biggest crisis – an economical international crack – many people analyze EU future. 33 European journalists met in Istanbul, in May. Their common features? Their youth, their interests, and their compromise with EU issues. In the third edition of the European Young Journalist Award, WAVE magazine analyzes EU enlargement through their works, their winning articles

By MILENA STOŠIĆ, Serbia
and ISABEL BENITEZ, Spain

EYJA 2010  Winners“What did the EU ever do for me?”, asks Nanna Arnadottir, European Young Journalist Award Winner from Iceland, in her report. And one must really wonder which are pro & contra arguments for (non)supporters of this enlargement idea. Is EU design closer to model of former Yugoslavia or closer to Switzerland? Do we give more than we get? What about national identities? What is to lose and what is to gain?

Still EU is open to embrace more European countries who can fulfill what it takes. It seems that for Turkey takes a lot, more than a decade. For Western Balkans this is a hot question as well, but probably path can be easier because all countries together in this area have almost four times less population than Turkey, which is easier for EU to absorb. And they are mostly Christian, another relevant detail. Impression is that people in these countries are very keen to join EU.

According to few Eurobarometer researches (2009), which conducts surveys in behalf of the European Commission in all member states of the EU, opinions about the presence of foreigners in the surveyed cities were generally positive. In 68 cities, a slim majority of interviewees, at least, agreed that their presence was beneficial. At the same time, job creation and reducing unemployment appeared among the three most significant problems that respondent cities faced in 64 of the 75 surveyed cities in EU, Croatia and Turkey. So, it seems that employment expectation is one of the most transparent things that people from countries with European perspective took for granted.

Crossing Borders

For countries where freedom to move and travel without visa is still not possible this would be probably first reason, although they seem to miss the fact that EU membership is not condition for this. Secondly, employment is expected. Then – less corruption, rule of law, blossom of economy, safety, accession to EU funds and political stability.

“And Ismaili, the head of IPKO telecommunications, dreams of travelling without visas, as ‘people who can travel don’t need to emigrate'” – (Kosovo 2.0. Verena Ringler, Austria).

There are so many different interpretations of EU Enlargement as citizens in the whole continent. However, there are some images repeated. One of them is the idea of new adhesions like a priority, a political and social need. The process is seen as an opportunity to change what is disgusting and disappointing in the own country. Becoming a communitarian country seems to be a solution for social instability, a guarantee of democracy and a ‘fire exit’ for economical ups and downs.

Austrian winner points out to freedom of movements. She considers it one of the greatest conquests in Europe. When a group of countries decides to open a door to migration and population’s displacements, it also prepares the ground to professional exchanges and transfers of citizens looking for a better life.

And economy is, definitely, present in a huge group of articles. There are even winners – Denmark or Serbia, who stress the financial benefits of being a member state.

Social and economic impacts

“Since the enlargement of the European Union toward the East, almost two million Poles have left their country to try their luck overseas. However, this economic miracle in the form of emigration has come at a price: that of the ‘euro orphans’.” (Poland: Nobody’s children. Prune Antoine, France).

But EU enlargement is also seen from a critic point of view. Eurobarometer shows that at least half or more of the EU respondents consider that enlargement has made the enlarged EU more difficult to manage (66%), contributed to job losses in their country (56%), caused problems because of the divergent cultural traditions of the new Member States (54%) and led to an increased feeling of insecurity (50%) in the European Union as a whole.

In 2004, European Union became a group of 25 countries. In 2007, Hungary and Romania joined it, too. After a long period of negotiations and public debates, they started to sacrifice parts of their national interests to get common goals. People noticed the change, of course. Emigration is useful in those countries which offer lower salaries and quality of life to citizens. Families break up; children stay in while parents look for money abroad and society cracks once people decide to seek Europe as something they want to, instead of like a project they are part of.

Poland suffers from this European illness. Romania does, too. Since it joined Communitarian institutions, Romanians have become the most numerous group of migrants in Italy and Spain. In 2009, the Government of Romania started a campaign asking Romanians to come back home as they were precise to get the country back on its feet.

Euroscepticism and mixture of cultures

When it comes to negative expectations and euroscepticism, most common is one about national identity, losing independence, lower standard, bad impact on agriculture and when it comes to Serbia – recognition of Kosovo’s independence, as often predicted term for EU accession. As Nanna, from Iceland, wrote: “Euromyths are still a problem, fears about the shape of cucumbers and the enlisting of innocent young Icelandic boys into the vast (and currently non-existent) EU army plague conversations, papers and airwaves and as always the fear of losing our national identity plays up to the hostile nature of trepidatious hearts.”

“Some politicians think that the joining could have been a mistake and the enlargement of the Union could have happened later. But beside the politicians there are other opinions. Vladislav tells how Bulgarian folk dances and music unite people from several countries in the heart of common Europe.” (Bulgarian Sedianka in Belgium. Vladislav Velev, Bulgaria).

Enlargement is more than a political union, anyway. It is more than official meetings, international agreements and pan-European laws. It can be thought as a cultural achievement, as a way to become part of the same group of writers, painters or dancers; as a way to share music, lyrics, life and ideas. That’s what many young journalists propose: EU enlargement like a chance to “enlarge” their borders, to enrich their own historical and cultural richness.

From time to time, Europe has been defined by mixtures, by “lendings”. Its history is the story of thousands of communities moving, running, sharing territories, fighting for lands; is a tale of arguments and pacific dialogues, of a similar past and an undefined future. In Belgium, there are music bands composed of Russians, Poles and Bulgarians. In Spain there are Greeks dancing flamenco, while Serbia receives Spanish guitar exhibitions. They make Europe a place where it is possible to understand each other, where dialogue is feasible, and even advisable.

Between fears from both sides (EU and non-EU) based in reality or in lack of informations and prejudices, people tend to forget or not to notice small things that makes comfortable life and things that EU provides for its citizens. As stated in My Home, My Iceland, My Europe: “Apart from guaranteeing four weeks paid holiday and the protection of part time work, the free movement of goods, free movement of people, the research grants, the Erasmus program, the rigid and prosperous wildlife protection programs, the commitment to environment, the removal of cell phone roaming charges, the extension and guarantee of parental leave – What has the EU ever done for us?”.

EYJA 2010 young journalists reports gives fresh new look to this question and it is up to readers to reevaluate picture of pessimistic or ideal Europe and EU. But, seeing group of young Europeans together in Istanbul, smiling, talking, walking together, sharing experiences, metaphorically reminds to one micro EU with possibility that one day our big picture can be like that.


The Best Winners

EYJA 2010  WinnersEuropean Young Journalist Award is a prize the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement gives every year to best articles and journalistic works in our continent. Each national jury choose a winner. But this round includes a novelty: a European jury has voted for three special winners – they won a cultural trip to a European destination – and three special commended.

In the category of Most Original Report, European jury selected Bulgarian Sedianka in Belgium, from Bulgaria, written by Vladislav Velev. It pointed out that the article was a “clear example of how people-to-people contacts can flourish irrespective of wider political considerations”.

The Best Research Prize went to France: Poland: Nobody’s children. Prune Antoine’s text was considered a good example of traditional journalistic research, because of the different sources it employs and how it puts a face to simple facts.

The third prize, Best Journalistic Style, was for Verena Ringler, from Austria. Kosovo 2.0 holds reader’s attention until the end and analyzes European enlargement from an unusual perspective; from Eastern youth’s experience.

Finally, the three special higher commended remembered Danica Tuntevska, from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kristof Clerix, from Belgium, and Radovan Potočár, Slovakia.

Published in Wave magazine, June 2010

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