This article is part of our special report 20 Visions for Europe.
20 Visions for Europe gathers unique visions from public officials, intellectuals, artists, diplomats, civic actors and business representatives.
The project is part of EURACTIV’s celebration of 20 years of free, independent reporting with European values at its core. The partner of the project is Stars4Media.
Prof. Luciano Morganti is a professor at the VUB, where he teaches courses related to New Media and Society and the European Public Sphere. He is a senior researcher at the research centre imec-SMIT-VUB.
Dear Luca, Carlo, and Giulia,
As I see you grow up and explore this ever-changing world, I cannot avoid going back to when I was your age and remembering the world I was living in at that time — comparing your youth with mine, your world with mine, your perception of the world and mine.
When I was your age, Europe was for me a faraway place. France was for most of us la tour Eiffel, Spain was flamenco y toros, Holland was the place where you could easily spot a lot of windmills… In those countries, there were only strangers looking suspiciously at us as we were probably looking suspiciously at them.
To go to what is for you ‘next door’, we had to have our passports at hand and make sure we had changed enough money before leaving, in case we did not find a bank to change our traveller’s checks. Trains were still much cheaper than airplanes, and for most of us the only way to travel to other European countries.
One of the challenges was to find a phone box to call our parents once we got to those places. Don’t laugh, this was just yesterday for me.
The geographical distance did not change, of course, but the psychological one did, immensely. You have grown up in a very different Europe than the one I did. A Europe that took dreams, efforts and decades to shape.
A Europe that is the result of immense efforts that some today are questioning out of ignorance and arrogance, playing on people’s fears and anxieties, not with facts and reason.
Once you asked me if we are living in the “best corner of the world”. I kept on returning to this question. I do not have an answer for you. In spite of how beautiful and varied Europe is, you will discover, travelling and speaking with people around you, that for many the places they love are those where, simply, they were born.
What I know though, is that in virtually every EU country you can study for a reasonable price (this does not mean that you don’t have to do this seriously…). You can receive medical care almost for free; if you are sick, you do not lose your job.
If you lose your job, there are mechanisms in place to help you go on and find another one. Everywhere in the EU, we can speak what we think, we are all equals before the law, and we have time to enjoy our friends and the things we cherish…you will learn that this brings quality to your life and makes it worth living.
This, unfortunately, is not the situation for many people around and far from us.
Did you ever consider that if you are not satisfied with your life in the country where you were born, in the EU, you have many others to choose from in which you can establish and be equal to the nationals of those countries? Please, “take a knee” and think about the value of this.
Yet, even though you have many freedoms and possibilities that I did not have, you and too many of your young friends do not know what the EU is, why it is important, how it works and how you can make it better.
Is the EU perfect? No, of course it is not. It is a work in progress as every fully-fledged democracy. Much can and should change. But, how can we change something if we do not know what it is and how it works? Would you be able to change the rules of a game you do not play or not know how to play?
If you want to make Fortnite better, you need to know the rules of the game, and to know a bit of its development history would help as well, to make sure we do not code things that did not work in the past…
My vision is, therefore, an EU in which education and a healthy media sector play an essential role in educating and informing European citizens.
Imagine an EU in which primary and secondary schools teach what the EU is and how it works.
Programmes that enable young Europeans to understand the interplay between different levels of governance — so they can blame the EU institutions when they are to be blamed, and blame their national governments and politicians when they are to be blamed, knowing clearly who has the responsibility for the decisions taken.
My vision for the EU in the years to come is an EU in which citizens and their elected politicians recognize the critical role of media and act consequently to fight disinformation with quality journalism and help people participate in the digital media revolution without excluding anyone.
Luca, Carlo and Giulia, I hope that you will always be critical and not accept ideas and opinions without carefully analyzing them before coming to a conclusion.
I hope that you will understand and remember that our European diversity is our strength and beauty, not something to fear and push outside our homes.
I hope that the EU will help you and your friends to do that, and that one day you will know how to participate in the EU governance and help build a better common future.