Friday, December 27, 2013

Europe, look to the East for inspiration!
Some astonishing events are taking place for the past month in Europe. And when I am talking about Europe, I am referring to the eastern part of the continent and the country of Ukraine.

While the Western part of Europe, especially the old EU member states are riddled with anti-EU sentiments, euro-skepticism, the rise of nationalism, xenophobia, a drift from the European dream and constant bickering between them, the East is reminding us where our priorities must lie.

Ever since the night of the 21st of November, when the Ukrainian leadership decided to suspend preparations to sign the Association and Free trade Agreement with the EU, the protests in Ukraine have been going from strength to strength. The likes of such protests Europe has not seen since the times of the Orange or the Rose Revolutions in its Eastern regions.

What is even more remarkable about this social phenomenon, is that it is the first of its kind for many reasons. Firstly because we see one of the biggest movement and protests by ordinary people, against the actions of their government and that is so important for democracy itself.

Secondly these protests are the only pro-EU and pro-European one that Europe has recently seen. Clearly the Ukrainians despite the block's problems, still believe in the values and political or social benefits that EU membership can offer, despite the dubious economic ones.

The European project is not just an economic one, or at least it should not limit itself to being one. That is something that we in the West have long forgotten and we act solely on national economic interests. In fact the old members of the EU are only contributing in the block's bad name and problems, with their nationalist agenda.

The Euromaidan protests, as they are named, remind us that Europe should be more about the citizens and their will. That the people should be free to chose their country's future and their wish should be listened by their elected leaders.

They are also reminding us that Europe is a continent of nations who chose to come closer for reasons other than economic, or at least that is how it should be. While we in the West argue on who is paying and who benefits more out of the EU funds, very few of us take the time to focus on the benefits of our country's EU membership and fight for them.

Of course above all, the Ukrainians are also teaching us how the civil society must get organized and be vigilant towards the decisions of the ruling elite, that are often against the interests or will of the citizens. How often do we see such passionate participation and a desire for real change in the Western nations?

It is not just Ukraine and its people who stand as a beacon for the rest of us. Most new EU member states, perhaps with the only exception being the Czech Republic, are much more enthusiastic about their EU membership and they are actively engaged in the European project.

Almost all are still eager to join the euro and their economies have high growth rates, while those of the Western member states are struggling to keep up. Poland is perhaps the greatest example of how a positive attitude towards Europe can benefit both national and regional interests.

It is one of the countries that has escaped the harsh economic crisis that other nations in EU are facing and it is becoming a regional power. Together with France it is pushing for the integration of European defense and they are actively and enthusiastically engaged in most EU projects and institutions.

Eastern European nations only need support and equal treatment from their Western partners and they could soon be the driving force of change in our continent, either it is political, social and economic. They have an incredible amount of resilience, passion for freedom, a drive to prove themselves and a pride, that many of the old EU nations have lost altogether.

They have also a vast amount of resources, culture and history that if we use them wisely, we could create a new European cultural and economic renaissance. It is time to start investing seriously in Eastern Europe as there may lie the lost inspiration that Europe so badly needs, to create a new vision for the continent as a whole.