In recent years, we have witnessed not only the rise of several far Right movements, but also radical Left movements and political parties in Europe, mostly due to the economic and refugee crises. It is disappointing that Europeans are failing to accept the new reality that the continent is finding itself in. The world is changing rapidly and so must Europe and its citizens. Why would anyone seek to find solutions to our new challenges by studying political ideologies or realities of the past?
In my native Greece, people are still divided between the communists and conservative nationalists, a division that has existed since the Greek civil war. They oppose each other at all costs, forming numerous radical subgroups that brainwash their followers to follow their ideology strictly like doctrine. This indoctrination begins in our universities which have become breeding grounds for all of these radical political movements, as well as recruitment agents for the two main political ideologies and parties in the country. It is no wonder that Greece has progressed so little as a society, since its population is still stuck in a war that took place seventy years ago. Time to move on. The country is nowadays heavily integrated into the EU and it is about time it started acting like a modern European society and economy. But it is not just Greece that suffers from the “past”.
One step forward, two steps back
In Ireland there are still scars from their civil war and many former colonial powers like Britain suffer from a post-colonial nostalgia. A lot of the Eastern European nations are sliding towards more authoritarian regimes, similar to what they fought so hard to liberate themselves from.
How can Europe ever move forward, while constantly looking back? And why must we follow one ideology or another? Just like any great recipe for a successful dish which is not comprised of only one ingredient, so must our political system be diversified. Why must we follow socialism, communism, liberalism, nationalism or capitalism blindly, while we could create a modern political system that has elements from all the above, under a pro-European agenda and reality? We should be striving to create a European but also national parliaments, that are comprised of politicians who are representing our new reality and needs, plus who are capable to think outside of their ideology.
A socialist politician is needed to promote social equality and justice, as much as a liberal is needed to support a free society that is the pillar of a modern, integrated Europe. A capitalist is needed to promote the interests of businesses that, whether we like it or not, are much needed to promote innovation, a competitive marketplace and economic growth that we all enjoy after all. I do not see why we should support only one or another, while we need a bit of all the above. You would not cook a dish just with salt and expect it to be tasty, you would add different spices and herbs to achieve the flavours you like. So why are we as voters stuck in one ideology that we support so blindly?
In addition, we need to realise that our communities are increasingly being diversified, thus we need to reflect these changes in our elected representatives, in order to give every community a voice. Women are still largely under-represented in our parliaments, while having a minister of an ethnic or religious minority background, or sexual orientation is still often considered a taboo.
And as if national parliaments are not bad enough, when it comes to the European elections we are still failing to take them seriously. As if the European Parliament (EP) and its decisions are not affecting us at all.
Furthermore, we have yet to get rid of the many restrictions when it comes to voting in the European elections. We have a highly mobile workforce, thus an ever moving electorate. Understandably, when someone has been living in a country for a handful of years, they cannot have the same voting rights in the national or local elections; but how about the European ones? When we vote for the EP, we do not only vote to represent our country in the EU institutions, we have our members of the EU Council for that. We should start voting for the most competent politicians to serve Europe as a whole, as a group of nations.
The make up of the current European Parliament
Therefore, why are we still reluctant to vote for a politician of a nationality other than our own to represent our interests in Europe? If I am a highly skilled professional, and through my job I am forced to move to a different EU country every 5-6 years, or my spouse is of another nationality and I reside in a third country for work, wouldn’t it make sense to have an option for a cross-border voting ballots and electorate lists? At the moment as an EU citizen, I have to register with the local authorities each time we have European elections, so I won’t be able to cheat and vote twice; one in my home and one in my adopted country.
Real freedom of movement
But why can’t I permanently register in the Irish electorate lists for the local and European elections, which I am entitled to vote, since I am a resident here? With one simple declaration, I should be able to express my wish to be permanently added in the Irish electorate, thus the Greek and Irish voting lists should be cooperating to track their citizens and exchange, add or remove my information. And since EU citizens are able to stand as candidates in another European country, we should ideally start moving away from our “traditional” family political affiliations and start considering voting for openly pro-European candidates, either of our own nationality or not.
Corruption in Europe in fact exists, exactly because we keep voting for the same family or ideological political dynasties, thus we have created a nepotistic and clientelistic relationship with our elected representatives. Isn’t about time we challenged this status?
The future of Europe lies in our hands and our votes, therefore we ought to be looking forward, not backward. We should never wish to return or remain in an era of the past, since the rest of the world has moved on.
Europe must be striving to lead the globe, by becoming an example for the rest of its nations, not going in circles constantly in an eternal soul searching and hesitation.
We have come this far.