Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reforming the education systems across the EU.

Recently in most debates on how best to deal with the current economic crisis in Europe, the issue of youth unemployment dominates the discussions. And no wonder. One of the worse consequences of the economic crisis is the high youth unemployment rates across Europe. The young generation is the worse hit with up to 50% unemployment rates in countries like Spain and Greece. 

Many ideas of creating new jobs and tackling youth unemployment are being put on the table by politicians, thinkers, businessmen and workers' unions representatives. New working contracts, social security plans, new jobs and industries to be introduced, are some of the suggestions or solutions proposed.

The problem is, that if we want these solutions to be long lasting, we need to start investing in different educational system too. If we invest in new industries, innovation and a new European economy, we will have to train and prepare our youth to be equipped and qualified for those changes. 

In the future, if Europe becomes more "green" and innovative, there will be many new kind of jobs in offer. How many European youths have degrees for them? We need to reform first the European education system, before we reform the European economy. Otherwise we will have people with too many degrees, but no jobs on what they studied to find work as their countries' economies will change dramatically. 

We need to rethink what kind of professionals we want for the future and instead of importing them from other countries, perhaps try to create them in Europe first. A multilingual, young and highly skilled workforce is needed if we want to kick start Europe's economy and make the recovery last, if not prevent future crisis. 

We have the grounds for multilingualism and we do have some of the best universities on the planet. All we have to do is reform the third education level across Europe and perhaps harmonize them. In some countries they still teach modules that have little use in our modern society, or with outdated methods. 

Hopefully all EU states will agree to introduce a new way of teaching old modules, or new modules altogether that will help students accumulate the right knowledge that will help them pursue a career path with prospects. This of course combined with new policies introduced that will help young people find work and make themselves attractive for employment.

Tackling European youth unemployment requires many reforms in the European economy and its workforce. But should we leave out our youths' education, then any victory will be short lived. And when the next crisis arrives we will once again wonder what we must do to tackle the same problem. We will once again fail Europe's young generation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Brits may ponder on leaving, but the Irish are staying firmly inside!

Dublin, 18 January 2013: With British Prime Minister, David Cameron, due to deliver a highly-anticipated speech regarding the UK’s future in the EU, a European Movement Ireland/Red C poll suggests that a majority of the Irish population believe that Ireland should remain as part of the EU, regardless of the UK’s position.

According to the Red C poll commissioned by independent, not-for profit organization, European Movement Ireland (EM Ireland), 85 per cent of respondents believe Ireland should remain part of the EU, with 83 per cent of Irish adults believing that Ireland has, on balance, benefited from membership of the EU.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of those polled held the view that Ireland should remain in the EU even if the UK leaves the Union.

Furthermore, despite on-going economic hardship in Ireland, only 1 in 4 Irish adults believe Ireland should leave the Euro currency.

EM Ireland/Red C Poll Results

Results from the poll carried out between the 7th and 9th January 2013 show that:
  • 85% of Irish people want Ireland to remain in the EU
  • 83% of people believe Ireland has, on balance, benefitted from membership of the EU
  • 73% want Ireland to remain within the Euro currency
  • 66% want Ireland to remain in the EU, even if the UK leaves the Union
  • 82% of men and 71% of women are aware that Ireland is holding the Presidency of the EU
  • Almost half (45%) of all adults in Ireland claim that they think of themselves as both Irish and European while 47 % see themselves as Irish only
  • 38% of 35-44 year olds think Ireland should leave the EU if the UK does – a higher average than the general result of 29%
  • Awareness of Ireland's current role as President of the Council of the EU was highest in the Connacht/Ulster region at 79%
European Movement Ireland commissioned Red C to carry out this poll at the start of the Irish Presidency in order to ascertain Irish people’s views on a variety of different topics related to Irish-EU relations.  The poll was conducted among a representative sample of over 1,000 people aged 18 and over from across the country.

The poll held good news for the Irish Presidency, with a high level of awareness among respondents that Ireland currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU – with 76 per cent of those polled aware of Ireland’s current role.  Interestingly, awareness is strongest amongst men and those in older age groups, with the Connacht/Ulster region ranking highest.

However, within this statistic; a contrasting indicator showed that just over half (52 per cent) of the 18-24 year old demographic were aware that Ireland currently holds the Presidency.

Source: The European Movement of Ireland. ( http://www.europeanmovement.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/EM-Ireland-Red-C-Presidency-Poll-Report.pdf )

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nationalism semantics.

I often get very embarrassed by the rise of nationalism in my home country, Greece. Somehow, a bunch of misguided airheads and the youths that fell for their doctrine of hatred believe that they are true Greeks and they represent Hellenism or protect it from the “corrosion” of immigration. 

I feel so ashamed that the Greek nation became synonymous with xenophobia, neo-Nazism and far-right nationalism. In a country that suffered so much by the Nazi occupation and that had experienced mass emigration to Europe, the Americas and Australia, to have now groups of skin-heads beating up any immigrant they find is disappointing.

How can they ever call upon the ancient Greek ancestors of theirs, to justify their brutality and ignorance? If they had ever read the speech of Alexander the Great at Opis, where he famously claimed that he does not classify people according their descendance or race but their virtue, I wonder why then they think they honor his memory by beating immigrants. 

Have they ever understood the teachings of many ancient Greek philosophers, especially of the Stoic movement and those of Zeno of Citium? They promoted cosmopolitanism and believed that all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another.
So if the Greek mind has in the past given birth to those ideas, how on Earth their descendants believe that with their actions are protecting and promoting Hellenism and “Greekness?”

Yes, Greece has an immigration problem that must be solved soon. And indeed people are angry and rightly so, because they were let down by their politicians. But why is that the immigrant communities are used as scapegoats for all the country’s difficulties? 

I am also a proud Greek and a bit of a nationalist. I love my country and I want it to shine, to be prosperous and its people to have the same living standards as any other country in Europe. I also want to promote and preserve our culture and heritage, while making Greece an example for other countries to aspire and follow. 

Now how can we achieve all the above if we want to close the borders, deport all immigrants and allow such groups like the Golden Dawn to exist? What is the example we give to the rest of the world? Where is the preservation of the Greek culture that these brutes are claiming they are promoting?

Yes Greece right now has too many immigrants and can not cope with the crisis, the unemployment, the economic collapse and the immigration issue. But that is not a reason for violence or hatred; it is a reason for better and more functioning immigration and integration policies. Why hasn’t the Greek state promoted those, while it relies on those bullies to offer a solution to the problem by promoting a fizzling of the public’s anger? 

This can have disastrous consequences for the social order in the future, as well for the country’s reputation in the world; funny how the supporters of the Golden Dawn think that this is what the country needs right now.

When trying to compare Greece with the country I live Ireland, one can draw interesting conclusions. Not that there are not any racism incidents here. But Ireland has managed to attract a right mix of immigrants that come both from poorer developing countries and richer, developed ones. In that way Ireland has managed to benefit more than Greece from its immigrant population.

Socially Ireland changed drastically and it all comes down to one factor: the Irish came in contact with other cultures, either by traveling or by interacting with them at home. When the Irish became wealthier, they started traveling a lot and that was a positive factor. At home too, many students or immigrants from the rest of Europe, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada and many other developed countries arrived, bringing new ideas and way of thinking with them.

In that aspect Greece is lacking behind. My wish is to create an open country, modern, cosmopolitan and wealthier, both in an economic level but also in a cultural. If we manage to attract the right workers with the right skills and do not use them only as workers and exploit them, but also integrate them totally in our society, the ones who will be benefiting in the long term will be ourselves.

If we become a cosmopolitan society, groups like the Golden Dawn won’t be able to thrive. The old established elites, either the religious or political ones, won’t be able to manipulate or blind us with their outdated ideologies, holding us ransom to achieve their goals and promote their interests. We won’t fall as easily for their propaganda. 

And there will be economic benefits as well. When a lot of these immigrants eventually return home, provided of course they have a positive experience in our country, they will form strong links with Greece that will ease trade and cultural exchanges. They will become what most of the Greek Diaspora have become: ambassadors of Greece in far and away places. If we beat them up and abuse them of course, that will never happen.

Yes there are challenges to face with immigration and we should learn some lessons of the failures of many other European countries like Britain, France and Germany in integrating their immigrant population. Most of them still have problems. But we should normally have the advantage to learn from their mistakes and don't repeat them. Do we have this ability; are we mature enough or we get what we deserve in the end?

Greece is lacking behind for the exact reasons that we have made no effort in benefiting whatsoever from the presence of foreign nationals in our country, apart from exploiting them. And we have made no effort in attracting the right skilful workers, or students from other countries and enrich our culture with theirs and through their active participation in Greek social and political happenings. 

And the more we become xenophobic, the more we ruin any chance of ever achieving change and progress in our country. Now I love Greece and I want change and progress. I do not think that these “nationalists” have Greece’s best interests in mind. If fact I am more of a patriot than they are, and I want quite the opposite of what they do. Time to rethink I guess our priorities as a nation!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Launching of the European Year of Citizens 2013, in Dublin City Hall.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the accession of Ireland in the European Communities and it is also the 7th time that the country holds the rotating Presidency of the EU Council. The beginning of 2013 has kick-started the first months of Ireland's reigns of the EU and also the launching of the European Year of Citizens 2013.

It was an idea developed in the European Parliament, that called on the European Commission to make 2013 the European Year of Citizenship. MEPs wanted to boost the debate on EU citizenship and inform EU citizens of their rights.

Today it was its official launching in the Dublin City Hall. The speakers included Ireland's Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny TD, An Tanaiste Mr Eamon Gilmore TD, EU Commission President Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Commission Vice President Mrs Viviane Reding and Ireland's Minister for European Affairs Mrs Lucinda Creighton TD.

The event was kick-started by its moderator, Mr Pat Kenny with a brief introduction. Soon after that Taoiseach Enda Kenny, President Barroso and Mr Eamon Gilmore TD opened the debate with their speeches and answering few of the audience's questions.

Mr Kenny stressed in his speech that we need to create a new Europe of peoples. We take for granted what we have achieved but in years such these we need to remind ourselves about our achievements. This year should be a year to consider what Europe means to us and that it is important for all of us to deepen our cooperation and relations.

Mr Gilmore stated that the economic crisis lowered the public trust in EU and that we must restore it. It is an Irish tradition to submit great change in the EU through the country's referendums on further agendas. And this year we need specific changes of the EU Treaties. Restore the financial and economic trust, promote stability, create new jobs and solve the crisis. "It is up to us to decide our future, it is in our hands," he stressed. The EU should become a union of rights guaranteed by law and we should encourage citizens to exercise these rights.

President Barroso talked about the need for further integration, stability, a banking union and how all European countries are dependent on each other. "Even countries with high standards are finding hard to solve problems alone," he mentioned. He underlined the need for new rule in banking so that "it should be not up to the public who shall pay again for the banks in the future."

He also made positive comments on Ireland's efforts to battle the crisis and he explained how the country has now a unique opportunity during its 6 month presidency to help other members get back to sustainable growth. He also added that while it is important to get the economy growing again, "we can not do this without the support of the citizens. Europe needs to gain their trust again and engage them."

President Barroso closed his speech by vowing that young people under 25 will be receiving a quality offer in a job within 4 months of leaving higher education in the future. He also added that constructive criticism of the EU does not pose a threat, but a constant negative outlook does.

The three speakers then answered a few questions by the public and the debate focused on the issues raised by them. The discussions focused on if the EU is doing enough to tackle the crisis and how Ireland is dealing with it. Sorting out the country's finances and recapitalizing the banks is very crucial, while cooperating with the EU Commission and the ECB to achieve that.

The efforts should focus on international, pan-European level but on national as well and so far Europe is doing well on structural reforms, reducing deficits and dealing with the crisis.The future of the euro is not in question anymore.

On a question of what will Ireland gain out of its EU Presidency this time, Mr Kenny mentioned that "we can demonstrate that as a small country we can emerge as an example to other countries on what can be achieved." Mr Gilmore stated that "Ireland's agenda is Europe's agenda" for the next 6 months: growth, employment, banking union, expanding trade with other countries that will increase employment. "Our priorities as a country are aligned with the European agenda."

President Barroso agreed and added that "what is good for Europe is good for Ireland, and what is good for Ireland is good for Europe." The discussion then focused on future plans to promote trade with other blocks dealing with large powers like China and investing in "Blue Growth", meaning the exploitation of maritime energy, the wind and the currents of the seas around Ireland and Europe. During the Irish Presidency there will be a number of conferences organized, debating on climate change and the environment.

The conference then welcomed Mrs Reding and Mrs Creighton on the platform and moved on to the second part of the open public debate. Three videos were shown on screen, focusing on three different subjects: the current economic crisis, rights of European citizens and the future of the European Union.

Mrs Creighton stressed that we need to go through this painful process to meet our targets, as we are laying the foundations for future growth. The discussion focused on youth unemployment and how to deal with it, but also how to deal with the fact that Europeans will have to work longer. Will that postpone young people in entering the job market? We must ensure that we pay our way and not force older people out of work to benefit the young. But in the same time it is the young who have been hit the hardest by this crisis.

"If we want young people to continue to have faith in democracy, the economy and the EU we need to gain their trust and give them opportunities for jobs," stressed Mrs Creighton. Mrs Reding added that "Europe is not about institutions only, it is about people. We need to start thinking out of the box. We must not break the solidarity mechanism in our societies. We must not overstretch the age of retirement and in the same time we need to develop the capacity of training."

The speakers continued discussing how we ended up in this situation, when in the past it was decided that the EU Commission should not be given the full power to handle EU money, but this power was given to the national governments. Now we see that this does not work anymore, we need to learn from this situation and adapt, ensure the same mistakes won't happen again and break the cosy relationship of national banks with their national supervisors.

Mrs Reding also made a comparison between Ireland and Greece and described the current situation in the Balkan country. She noted that we must help build up the taxation system in the country that was not working for years. "Greece as a state did not function," but we have to keep with the very difficult work of building new structures to get out of this situation. The EU gives its members the freedom to take initiatives to deal with the situation, but we must close the gaps that were left out by the Maastricht Treaty and restore the damage.

She then introduced Mrs Antogoni Papadopoulou, a Cypriot MEP who was a rapporteur when the creation of the European Year of Citizens was debated and decided in the European Parliament. Mrs Papadopoulou wished all the best for the Irish Presidency and reminded us that to solve the common problems we are facing we need the synergies to find common solutions. "We are here to hear your voice, we can make a miracle," she stressed.

The conversation continued to social issues like the gender pay gap. It was stated that so many years of legislation exist to deal with this issue but we still fail to implement them. We need to create "more responsibilities for fathers, more opportunities for mothers," Mrs Reding noted. Ireland's situation on women's equality was also mentioned after 40 years of EU membership and the huge leaps the country achieved on this issue.

Solidarity and the discrimination of the small EU states was the next topic of discussion, with Mrs Reding dismissing such claims. She brought as an argument her own native country, Luxembourg and how it benefited from EU and got protection from the big powers it is surrounded by. "The EU gives a chance to small states to survive," she claimed. If it wasn't for the protection of Europe, Luxembourg would not exist.

The future of Ireland and the EU was the last topic discussed. Ireland needs to change the culture that exists in Ireland on having property. For Europe's future the environment, the Chart of the European Citizens of Fundamental Rights, reforming the CAP, the EU expansion and more dialogue with the citizens became the hot topics.

We also need to change the way we are doing politics. That we have to push for the respect of the human rights in all EU members before any new country's accession and that we, as citizens must know our rights. "65% of EU citizens believe that their voice is not heard or count in Europe. That is not true," Mrs Reding claimed.

The two speakers concluded the debate with the plans and next programs of the European Year of Citizens. Today is only the beginning of the process. We must appreciate what we have and improve it and have politicians that are listening. This project is a new adventure: it starts with the citizens and we should ask them what they want to happen in the future in Europe. The citizens have a part to play.

We have to improve accountability and democracy to the citizens. The evolution of Europe is in process, we are in the middle of a journey. Concluding, Mrs Creighton promised that 2013 will be an interesting year for Europe.

I personally would love to see all that was mentioned above to be implemented as soon as possible. They must not remain on paper. If we indeed manage to achieve the proposed plans in a short period of time, then yes 2013 will be the start not only of an interesting year,but of a very interesting future for the EU, Europe and us citizens. If only we grasp the opportunity our politicians are giving us, become more active and have a positive outlook and hope.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Should Europe help developing countries?

In periods of economic difficulties like the current we are living,often the issue of charity or aid comes to the surface of any political or social debate. Should a state offer aid to other poorer nations? Should Europe be helping developing countries, or the EU be the World's largest donor of aid?

The logical answer to this would be of course that we all should do what we can, to help other fellow humans and show solidarity with them. We are all after all, citizens of this great wide planet. But giving aid to poorer countries is not anything new. It has always been taking place for as far as I can remember, yet somehow we still haven't managed to create a more equal world.

Perhaps we are doing the right thing, the wrong way. All these money collected or promised by our governments or social and political elites,somehow fail to create a permanent impact; ending poverty in this world and create a more equal planet. Maybe it is not just money we should be giving but something else as well.

The best way I believe for Europe to help developing countries is by NOT giving money to them. But expertise, assistance to develop their own abilities and exploit their own resources, advice and shared knowledge. What Europe does though is keep offering them money, that is often being misused and it creates a dependency.

It helps establish a corrupt elite that misuses the aid money portraying the limited success as their own to perpetuate their rule in the country. Trust me, I am from Greece I know. It happened over there during some of the most troublesome decades in our and Europe’s history and now we see the results.

A poor country does not need money to become rich or at least wealthier, if that is what we want in reality in Europe and not a new type of dependency for these countries. A new type of colonization and exploitation.

A poor country needs direct investments, jobs, factories and education so it can stand on its own feet and start exploiting all the best that it has, investing then in innovation with its own money. It needs the knowledge and organization skills to develop, as well with a better or more appropriate education system.

So all that Europe could do is set up companies that will promote the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, schools, factories – but not sweat shops to exploit the local population with cheaper salaries for the continent’s rich elite benefit.

Sadly, before Europe decides to offer help and invest in one nation it demands certain obligations. Help does not come without price. They want to establish an ever pro-Western regime and transform their “aid” into an investment. And investments usually mean a return in profits, so here is where the problem lies.

By being so selfish and offer help but with many strings attached, we are doing more harm than good in some cases. We sink nations into deep debt and  establish a pro-Western elite, to make sure we are going to get the return of our investment we are counting for. So we actually promote corruption and injustice in this country.

If that is not the case, then with these money we create a dependency that is hard to wean off. To promote certain "standards" for a country that usually reflect our own Western ideology, the money given is also helping to establish an elite that our own ones favor. This results into nothing really developing or changing. Countries that are in dire need of aid, usually remain in that condition for decades. 

I am all for European aid and help to any country in need, because as many others have argued, this is what Europe must stand for for the future: human betterment, across the continent and beyond. But only if this help comes with a totally selfless attitude. Instead of looking down on those “poor” “Third World” nations, we should actually try to inspire them to be proud and confident in achieving greatness. Be a invaluable member of the global community.

Because it is in our interests to create a prosperous and equal world. More stability results in more wealth and prosperity for EVERYONE. But that is something that some of the elites both in the West and the East do not want. They prefer a fragmented world with extreme poor and extreme rich nations or people to serve their own interests.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Scenarios of a British exit from the EU.

During the past few months certain debates have gained momentum in Europe. Catalonia seceding from Spain, Scotland from the UK and the UK leaving from he EU altogether. 

The United Kingdom has had an uneasy relationship with Europe ever since the creation of the European Communities. To them, Europe should never proceed to a full political union, they prefer to keep things as they are and keep the EU just a large market. 

I guess the interests of the political and leading economic elites are better served if things remain as such. Britain outside the EU could do well, in fact if any member state decided to leave would not be the end of the world for them. But are the citizens interests best served in the EU or outside?

Britain always wanted to safeguard the interests of the City of London and its financial services sector. They have invested hugely in creating the sector that dominates their economy and allowing it to be subdued to any interference from outside could prove costly. 

But they did reform their economy in the past to the detriment of the ordinary workers and their unions. It happened during the "Thatcherite" years when Britain's financial sector was established and the country's economy shifted dramatically. 

Then the ordinary workers suffered and the country went through some very difficult years socially and financially. So why can't they do it again? Is it because the rights or interests of the workers are not as important as those of the Bankers? Is protecting the banks and ensuring the favor of the markets far more important than having access to the European Single Market and influencing European affairs? 

Of course it is not about only protecting the financial sector of the City of London. It is also a reflection of different mentalities or a cultural issue. The British elite and the press always believed that Britain should remain outside a European "superstate" and pursue a more global economic, political and cultural influence or even dominion, through their cooperation with the US and the Commonwealth. That is why the majority of the British press was not very friendly to the European project for many years now. 

The question is, will the other Commonwealth countries be willing to always be part of this "British" club? India for example has grand aspirations of its own. And what about the other aspirations of the British "euro-sceptics" for their country, that want to be just like Norway and Switzerland? 

Norway is an oil rich country but is also part of the EEA (European Economic Area) having access to the European single Market without being an EU member. It is through all the treaties it has signed to be part of EEA, three quarters member of EU. They have to follow and adopt most of EU legislation and even pay into the EU's budget.  

Oslo gives around €350m annually to fund capital projects in the newest EU states like Poland and Romania. They recently helped build a smart new maritime museum in Gdansk, Poland.

But they do not have a voice in the EU, as they do not have a seat in the EU Parliament. Of course being a rich country very few bother or complain about it. But if Britain left the EU, they would lose their seats too and they would also have to find alternative ways to deal with the rest of Europe. 

They would most probably seek to remain in the EU Single Market as Norway or even Switzerland have done. It would be certainly be catastrophic if they chose to leave the EU totally and not be even part of the EEA/EFTA. In theory they would do so, only to cut the ties totally with the rest of Europe, a move that would be unwise.

But unlike Norway, Britain is a large country. And they do not have the resources that Norway has. Can such an important country just follow regulation that has been decided elsewhere but have no chance of influencing? If Britain wants to play a far more important role in the world politics and economy, can they lose their voice and influence in the continent on their doorstep? How can they assert themselves in the rest of the world if they ignore Europe? 

And what will happen if Scotland decides to leave the UK too and join the EU as an independent state? Then the oil in the North Sea will most likely be claimed by the newly formed Scottish state. Can the United Kingdom adapt to all these changes at once?

Even their relationship with Ireland will change. The two countries have signed numerous agreements that have made the two countries very close partners. The Common Travel Area, the Good Friday Agreement and many others between the two countries could be forced to be revisited. 

That would make it more awkward for Ireland to be fully integrated into a more federal EU and keep intact its agreements with Britain. Because of the Common Travel Area, there are no borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Irish citizens also do not require passports to travel to the UK, just like in the Schengen Agreement Area. 

If Britain withdraws from the EU that will mean that Ireland can never join the Schengen unless it agrees to reinstall its borders with Northern Ireland; something that no side would want. And if Britain decides to withdraw totally from the EU and the EEA or EFTA, this situation could become even more complicated. 

The people of Northern Ireland can have under the Good Friday Agreement any nationality they want (Irish or British) and hold any of the two, or both passports. If the UK leaves the EU and decides that it does not want to be part of EEA and Schengen like Norway has, will the N. Irish people chose to keep their British passports or rush to get an Irish one? Can this have an effect in the change of status quo in Northern Ireland? 

Ireland will have to rethink its relationship with the EU too, but I do not think that it has much choice. Most multinational companies that have settled in the country have done so because Ireland is an EU member and an English speaking country. The multinational companies want to have access to the EU Market, plus enjoying the benefits of Ireland's lower corporate tax rates. 

Should Ireland be forced to leave the EU too after the UK, it won't have the above advantage. 
Britain is one of the most important business partners of Ireland. Britain is Ireland's biggest export market, while Ireland is Britain's 5th biggest export market. Most British retail companies have also branches in the Republic of Ireland and vice versa. A complete British withdrawal from the Single Market would be awkward for both sides. 

So the UK has two options, either to join EEA or stay in the EU for good. By staying in the EEA they will lose their influence in Europe and they will allow France and Germany to fulfill their vision for the continent. The British will still have to abide to 3/4 of EU law but they will have no voice or no influence on it. This situation in my opinion is not ideal if you wish to have a greater say and influence in the world. You still have to follow EU law that was decided by any other country in Europe, but not you. 

Preferably I would like them to stay in but become more active, committed and leading members of EU. They can achieve far more if they share the lead of the Union than being increasingly isolated in Europe. If only they could understand that and see that instead of always being the awkward member, they have more to gain if they became an active one. 

Europe needs Britain too and perhaps might eventually make it easier for them to feel more comfortable in the Union. A bit more cherry picking like the Swiss are doing and they will be happier. The truth is that neither Switzerland nor the EU are happy with their bilateral relations and both seek a revision. The EU is looking to corner Switzerland and pull it closer, while the Swiss are not happy with the lack of representation of their interests. 

They always rely on Britain in representing their interests in the EU, as they both have a large financial services industry. If Britain also leaves, will this alliance last and who will represent those two countries then? 

How can we build a functioning union if every state picks only what suits them and opts out from what it doesn’t? There will be no "union" if this happens, we will have to revert back to EEA or EFTA . Many "euro-skeptics" of course will be delighted for this, but not me. I want to have a vote on what is being decided for me on a European level, I do not want to end up being a Norwegian or an Icelander. 

And if the UK is allowed to get all the opt outs and still remain in the union, then why not every country do the same and only accept laws that do not interfere with their sovereignty? But if you want to keep your sovereignty then why join a union in the first place! I do not want a free trade agreement only because there will be no European Parliament (EP) and the laws of the Single Market will be decided for me, but without me. 

In the end of the day you can not keep them in by force and it is becoming annoying for everyone to have one country constantly complaining and moaning about everything. Perhaps we should let them be out for a while. Sometimes when we wish for something for too long, when we eventually get it we realize it was not what we wanted in the first place!