After the last elections were held in the UK last week, it seems that Brexit, after all, is going to happen. The desire of Brexit arose after some populist politicians made people think that being a part of the EU is making the United Kingdom weaker. Some anti-EU tendencies can be spotted in Hungary, Poland, and even in EU-”locomotives” such as Germany and France there are people who are convinced that Union brings more harm than good. But is that so?
Let’s just quickly analyse what does an average citizen gets from the EU.
1. Open borders. This thesis is used by right-wing populists to prove that the EU makes their countries weaker, as they don’t really control the borders and can’t avoid unwanted migrants. But besides that, open borders are simply great!
Being a Ukrainian, I always had to go through a long, exhausting, bureaucratic and expensive procedure of visa application. In 2017, Ukrainians got the possibility to visit the EU up till 90 days without a visa, which is a great achievement. However, to come for a longer stay or not for a simple touristic purpose, the procedure is still there. But as a citizen of the EU, you can decide to move from Dublin to Bucharest, and then get settled in Amsterdam without pretty much anything - you don’t have to show a thousand of records and proves of your skills and so on. And, of course, the fact you can come across 4 countries in 2 hours without even noticing where the border was is simply amazing.
2. Common market. It’s not quite visible how good is it to have if you were born with it, but believe me, it’s great. Do you want to have a french cheese or Italian wine? Or both? How about to mix them with Spanish olives and buy some herring from Denmark too? And guess what, for most of these goods prices are pretty much the same as if they were produced in the country where you.
It’s totally not like that outside the EU - simple cheese can cost 3 times more just because it came from Europe and were taxed before coming to the supermarket shelf. It doesn’t mean the rest of the world is starving, of course not. It just means that all these things you can buy in Germany in Lidl for less than 3 Euro can cost twice more in Kyiv, and would be counted as “delicates”.
3. Health insurance. Medicine can be very expensive, and if you’re moving from one place to another, finding yourself a chance to visit a doctor when you need one can be tiring. Luckily for Europeans, they have a European health insurance card, available in all the CEA.
I’m lucky to be insured by Cigna, like all the other ESC volunteers, but if I wouldn’t, I had to pay a fortune to cover my medical insurance for 10 months in Europe. But if you are an EU citizen, once you get the card, you can feel yourself protected in the entire continent.
4. Low international fares. How much would you pay to go from Bonn to Amsterdam? If you have a Bahncard 50, you can find train tickets there and back for 20 Euro only. The same works with buses, other train companies and planes. And yes, plane fares are going to rise, but not because of the economic, but environmental reasons. Now, just take a look at how much would you pay to fly somewhere outside the union - it’s gonna be more expensive. The thing is, prices won’t fly up high just because of the fact that you are going to cross the border of another country. But they do in other parts of the world - for example, a train going from Kyiv, Ukraine to Saint Petersburg, Russia, takes the same time and similar distance as some internal trains in Ukraine, and the service on the train is pretty much the same. But the first option would cost about 50 Euro one-way in the lowest class, while inside the country it would be 5 times lower. Nothing is different - just the fact that you’re crossing the border.
5. EU makes everyone richer. Thanks to the single market, mobility and all the other advantages of the EU, people benefit. It is a pretty obvious thing to say, but analysts from Bertelsmann Stiftung have counted, how much money average citizen of different EU countries gets per year. Average citizen gets an additional 840 Euro a year thanks to all the EU policies. While the gap between more and less developed EU members is big - in Luxembourg, their annual benefit is 2834 Euro compared to 193 Euro in Bulgaria, but all 28 member countries get at least some share of the pie.
Our minds are overwhelmed with information, we live in a very turbulent world where no one can afford to stop for some time and think about what surrounds us. It’s easy to forget to appreciate things you have just because you always had them by default. And yet, those things, even invisible, make our lives really comfortable. So does the EU, if only we could stop for a second and measure all the benefits of it in the long run.