September 2014

OPINION: How to be a European

Fiona RintoulThere was much amusement in my household recently when we spotted an article in The Economist titled 'Don't leave us this way: why Scotland should stay in Britain'.

My husband wrote in asking for further details about the feat of hydraulic engineering that would allow Scotland to leave Britain. He received no reply, and so I am unable to enlighten you. 

Confusing geographic designations with political ones is a common problem. How many times in my editing career have I amended the phrase “in the UK and Europe”?* This is like writing “in Europe and Europe”, the UK being ineluctably in Europe. But people write it nonetheless. 

Similarly, Eurosceptics in the UK love to conflate the European Union (EU) with “Europe”, a mythical place pullulating with sweaty foreigners after our benefits. This enables them to peddle the lie that it is possible for the UK to leave Europe. 

These distinctions are thrown into sharp relief by the Scottish independence referendum on September 18. The referendum is an important moment not just for Scots but for all Europeans. Essentially, it is about identity. If the opinion polls are to be believed, for many Scots (whether it is a majority remains to be seen at the time of writing) being part of the polity currently known as the UK is not an essential part of their identity. 

INELUCTABLY EUROPEAN
The brilliant thing about a Europe that is united by the European Union is that it can accommodate this. Some Bavarians may feel more Bavarian than German, some Catalans more Catalan than Spanish, some Bretons more Breton than French. It doesn’t matter. Like the residents of the UK, they are all ineluctably European. 

And not only are they European, research shows that – contrary to what Eurosceptics would have us believe – they feel European. A study by the London School of Economics’ department of government, quoted in a recent Gold Mercury report entitled “Ten Eurosceptic myths about the EU”, found that on average EU identity is much stronger than generally perceived. 

“On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest score of EU identity, the average EU citizen scores 7.09, with 90% believing that their children will feel more European,” says the report. 

COLLECTIVE HISTORY
That is good news, because at this juncture in our collective history, it is essential for anyone who loves peace and prosperity to try and get behind the European Union and help to make it work instead of carping about its failings. 

In an article for Gold Mercury International to mark the launch in May this year of its Brand EU initiative, which aims to increase understanding of the EU brand in Europe and the world, Todd Ruppert, founder and chief executive officer of Ruppert International and former president and chief executive officer at T Rowe Price Global Investment Services, explains why. 

“By any measure of economic data, Europe is hugely important for American and global business,” he writes. “Unity is what makes it so attractive. The market’s tremendous diversity contained within a structured, singular institutional framework creates an economic opportunity of unprecedented calibre, despite its problems.”

Unity in diversity is perhaps the single most important benefit that the European Union can bring to the people of Europe. If we are to realise our potential, it is essential that the diverse nations of Europe embrace that unity – and it is essential that the EU embraces our diversity. 

By the time you read this, I may no longer be a UK subject. Such are the vagaries of nation states. But whether you are a Eurosceptic or a Eurocrat, don’t tell me that I’m leaving Europe. 

*Answer: thousands upon thousands of times

Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe

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