It has been pointed out that people think peace in Europe is just taken for granted. The European citizens enjoy the freedom provided by the EU but they do not honour the EU for this freedom and all the benefits. No matter what happened in recent decades, be it further enlargement, the introduction of the Euro or the Nobel Peace Prize for the EU, nothing really enchanted the citizens of the EU.
Bearing in mind that when the European integration process started, back in the 50s, the European Union was initialized by men who had experienced war; a normal status between European nations. To fight for peace on the European continent was a huge goal after centuries of destruction. Today we lack such a big aim for the coming decades. The daily European business is determined by regulations of the single market, the fight against the financial crisis and a commitment for green energy and better job markets. But even the biggest challenges of the 21st century like migration, fighting worldwide poverty, building a social Europe or combating international terrorism does not produce a new European vision shared by all citizens.
I am not sure whether those positions are completely right. It goes without saying that it is almost unthinkable that European countries could go to war again. This idea of peace could be taken for granted. But it does not mean that peace has no value any more or that people do not appreciate it. Maybe they forget in their daily life what it really means to live in a peaceful Europe. And that is why peace is still a big issue in European education – at least it should be one. We should never forget what it means to have peace in Europe.
European education today shall include many different aspects – economic and political perspectives, a cultural approach, the social dimension, the European Union in the globalized world or the development of European citizenship. All those issues focus on the European future and how we want to live and construct our European Union. It would be a mistake to forget about the past. If we do not know where we come from, we might forget why we should walk the European way into the future.
Surprisingly peace is not at all that insignificant within the younger generation in Europe as it is said by those who demand a new European narrative. Discussing Europe with the young people almost always leads to important points like human rights, democracy and peace. The young people are much more aware of the long-term achievement of the European project than people guess. The problem is that they do not connect the peace in Europe with the European integration process. Peace on the one hand is highly ranked in the needs of young people, on the other hand the responsibility of Europe is not seen. Therefore we need to implement in every European education the aspect of the achieved absence of war because of the European Union.
People have to be aware that they experience the longest period in European history throughout centuries without conflict and war because we work together in a family of European member states. Maybe we need a new narrative to make the EU more appealing and to get more commitment from the citizens towards the EU but we still need the education about the past and the focus on the achieved peace on our continent.
Maybe we do not need to change the European narrative at all. Maybe peace is exactly the strong background on which the EU can prosper and develop to become a true Europe of citizens. I believe if you ask people sitting right now on the cold Maidan square in Kiev what their European dream is, they surely will talk about peace, democracy and freedom. Citizens in the old member states may be too lazy for European commitment. But I would rather think that the current construction of the EU is what is in bad shape and not appreciated by the citizens – peace and corresponding issues like democracy and freedom still count very much. Let us not forget about it.