What the EU has done for me
No day can pass without hearing yet other scary news about the EU debt crisis: will we survive these woes? Hopefully yes! I would be very disappointed if politicians in Brussels let Greece to default and pull out of the Euro. However, I also feel a bit sorry for poor Germans: they have to pay for Mediterranean (Italians included!!) peoples who have a 'creative' attitude when it comes to book-keeping.
Leaving aside economic considerations about what is better for the whole economy of EU-member states, I'm more interested in the social and cultural dimensions of this crisis. In fact, I consider myself a EU enthusiast.
At the beginning of Oct I attended a workshop on "Intercultural Cooperation and its success factors" in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It was organised by the local European Cultural Contact Point as part of its activities within the EU Programme Culture 2007. The Programme aims to encourage cultural cooperation within Europe, bringing to the fore the common European cultural heritage and encouraging the emergence of EU citizenship.
The workshop took place at the Europos Parkas, a beautiful sculpture park located in the outskirts of Vilnius. As I was taking a walk in the park during the lunch break, a thought came to me: the EU has brought me a lot of benefits and given me huge opportunities.
First of all, in 2006 I was selected to take part in the Leonardo Programme (it funds mobility initiatives to enable people to train in another EU country) and spent 3 months working in England for a local company. That work placement resulted in a job offer. This was just the first step into a 4-year experience in England, working and studying. In this respect being a EU citizen and enjoying equal rights as British nationals has made a massive difference to me. I have friends who are not EU-citizens or do not enjoy full working rights despite being EU nationals (that's the case for Bulgarian and Romaninan migrants), hence I know how hard it is to live and work abroad for them. In my case, the EU has made things much easier. From the point of view of employers, offering me a job didn't involve any extra paperwork and this is not a minor aspect as we all know that the job market is very competitive.
When I decided to enrol for a master degree at the University of Warwick, I was required to pay the same amount of university fees as British nationals, while non EU citizens pay almost double. Thanks to the EU I was allowed to study abroad in a top-quality university at a "reasonable" price.
Finally there's the workshop in Vilnius I just mentioned earlier on. It was a great opportunity to meet people from a broad range of countries, within the EU and outside. I've always found it fascinating to engage in conversation with people from other cultures so I was really happy to take part. It was also a great opportunity for networking as all participants were from the cultural sector. Furthermore, I was also entitled to have travelling and accommodation expenses paid, yet again thanks to EU funds.
I strongly believe in the EU project and hope it will stay in place and even move further so that other people can access the same great opportunities I've had.
Dear EU, many many thanks! :)