Taking Europtimism serious during fierce discussions in Warsaw
If there is one city in Europe that can rightfully be called a Fenix that has risen from its ashes, it is the city of Warszawa; the capital of Poland at the Vistula river. It has known a vibrant and often violent history, which climaxed during the Second World War when the city was totally raised to the ground. After the Warsaw Uprising at the end of the war and the Soviet liberation of the city, not much was left of what once was the proud capital of the kingdom of Poland. Today, the city has re-emerged from its ashes and it lives as never before. It’s filled with construction works, young people, businessmen and trendy bars. During our stay, we got to know some of the ambitious young people that represent the future of Poland and even very much the future of Europe.
Visiting the new veins of the city
During our visit, we got the opportunity to see the change in the city with our own eyes. The biggest construction site in Warszawa at the moment and even one of the biggest in Europe is the second metro line project that will connect the Eastside and the Westside of the city. The metro can be regarded as a symbol of the new Warsaw: a city that matters internationally and the centre of one of the fastest growing economy in the EU. We had a presentation of the CEO of the Warsaw Metro who gave an overview of the current state of affairs and explained the importance of the metro for the development of the city. It was interesting to see how much details were involved in working on such a complicated and multi-faceted project. Moreover, it seemed also to be a great example of European cooperation while it’s mostly EU funded and brings together companies from Italy, Turkey and Poland in a joint partnership.
An optimistic view of the EU
While people in some of the older EU member states seem to be facing many years of crisis and at the same time develop a more pessimistic attitude towards both domestic and EU affairs, Polish youngsters seem to be very ambitious and positive. We have been discussing this during the workshop with students from AEGEE-Warszawa. Almost all the participants stated that they thought that the EU was a positive thing; either for creating peace in Europe, integrating different cultures or making it possible to move around between countries. On the other hand, it was also mentioned that the EU does connote with a sense of bureaucracy; with a feeling that a lot of rules are been imposed that are not necessarily positive. It was argued that the accession of Poland to the EU in 2004 was a very important step in recognizing that Poland was part of Europe and that this development has very much helped in creating the Poland of today.
One of the questions that were raised was whether it would be good to have a United States of Europe. While most participants agreed that it was not a good thing to compare Europe to the USA, many of them nonetheless stated that it would be good for Europe to have a federal state with a real government. It was argued that a federal Europe would be more capable of addressing problems that go beyond the nation state and that it would strengthen the position of Europe in the international playing field.
Playing the advocate of the devil
After the general discussion, it was time to turn the opinions of the participants around. They were confronted with a “House of Commons” style discussion in which two groups had to debate either in favour or against a stronger EU. One of the groups had to defend the idea of a stronger EU in a federal form, while the other had to take a very Eurosceptic or rather Euro-negative position. Although the room was filled with Europtimists, the discussion became quite fierce and both sides came up with strong arguments. The Europtimists stated that a federal state was important for giving people more opportunities to move around and to get the right education. The sceptics, however, argued that a stronger EU and an increasing mobility of people caused countries and regions to loose valuable people and to lose on some of their important interests.
All in all, Warszawa was a great place on the route for our team to get the final input on the topic of Europtimism. We have heard the opinions of students from Mannheim, Berlin, Prague and Warsaw and seen some interesting differences between the participants. This morning, the 25th of April, we have left Warsaw by bus in order to travel to our next stop Riga, where we will have a very interesting meeting about the European elections!