The Cardiff EDC hosted one of its regular ‘What Europe Means To Me’ events on 3 March. Recently, for these events, we have asked our current full-time and part-time interns to research a topic from a range of different perspectives and to present a short report, before having a debate with an audience of students and members of the public. On this occasion, however, we went back to our original format for this event, asking our interns to speak ‘from the head and the heart’ about what Europe means to each one of them.
The following interns spoke:
- Matthew Graydon (United Kingdom)
- Lisa Robillard (France)
- Irina Eremenko (Russia)
- Kathryn Muldoon (United Kingdom)
- Georgios Dalakouras (Greece)
- David Short (United Kingdom)
- Sam Furse (United Kingdom)
- Maria Gimeno Segovia (Spain)
- Cerian Richardson (United Kingdom)
- Yordanka Dimcheva (Bulgaria)
Frederico Rocha from the Cardiff EDC chaired the event. David Hughes, the Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Wales, discussed the topics and themes brought up by the interns.
The contributions by the interns were, as usual, impressive, highly professional and often powerfully moving. Alongside the positive discoveries of the freedom to move around Europe, of the challenges and experiences of living in another country, seeing mobility as a way of sharing cultures and beginning to feel a sense of European identity, there was also a more critical and questioning approach from some speakers that the EU had not dealt effectively with the challenges of the economic and financial crisis of the last decade and more recently with the migration crisis. Solidarity as a principle was constantly extolled in the EU but some felt current tensions were sorely testing the reality.
Some speakers focused on their own country – such as the impact of EU support for the farming sector in Northern Ireland, or the less than fair way that they felt that Bulgaria had at times been treated by the EU. Being a person from Russia living in ‘Europe’ was a hugely enlightening experience. The fascination of different languages as a way of affecting the way you think and speak was also discussed.
We then opened the discussion to the audience. We were very pleased that so many of the audience wanted to actively participate and discuss their experiences. Feelings were mixed, often with one person showing a desire to feel more European and seeing the necessity for European co-operation, while also expressing disappointment with achievements so far. Many called for a greater ‘social Europe’ focused on welfare and solidarity. Inevitably, the forthcoming EU referendum in the UK was touched upon by various speakers with a sense of bemusement and fascination.
Following the formal meeting, we broke off for a delicious buffet, but many of the points raised by our interns continued to be discussed more informally for a further hour or so.
Thanks to Frederico, the interns and all members of the lively audience for making the event such a stimulating occasion. Thanks also to the European Commission’s Representation in Wales for their support.