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Long live the EU patriots!

Commissioner Timmermans, European Commission Vice-President, addressed an assembly of European citizens a few weeks ago in Maastricht with the following words: "we need more EU patriots". This statement went largely unnoticed but the expression EU patriots should mean a lot to all Europhiles that claim for a stronger Europe able to cope with rising nationalism and growing incapacity of European Member States to have their single voices heard on the world scene.

Commissioner Timmermans, European Commission Vice-President addressed an assembly of European citizens a few weeks ago in Maastricht with the following words: "we need more EU patriots". This statement went largely unnoticed but the expression EU patriots should mean a lot to all Europhiles that claim for a stronger Europe to cope with rising nationalism and growing incapacity of European Member States to have their single voices heard on the world scene.

Being a EU patriot doesn’t mean buying passively economic liberalism, financial austerity and free trade. It means something much more disruptive: the need for European citizens to claim Europe as theirs. Timmermans introduced the notion of EU patriots when answering a young dutch students that was asking him how she could do more for Europe. The answer was cristal clear: “don’t ask me, do it yourself”.

Asking young people to be the first EU patriots may seem weird. Even if they have always been the most pro-Europeans, they are the first victims of the crisis, hit by unknown unemployment levels and rising poverty, threatened directly by terrorism and radicalization. Young people are increasingly tempted by extremist and nationalist ideas. But we have no choices. It all starts with young people! Being an EU patriot addresses young people core values that have been silenced in the public debate.

Young Europeans have something that resist and overcome the crisis; a capacity to dream and imagine the future that adults don’t have any more. This is a unique story to tell, the story of young people that believe in Europe. Tensions and contradictions abound: integration of migrants is our new challenge and social inequity has never been so high. But hundreds of thousands of young people speak the language we would all like to talk, the language of generosity and openness. They devise and participate in incredible actions and projects for social inclusion. They deserve to be heard and tell us the Europe they dream of, the Europe they make.

Europe is also a gigantic factory of young talents. Artists, musicians, architects, scientists, students… are the best ambassadors of Europe. These talents would be normally impossible to find in one place, and we have so many in Europe. Our factory of talents is open day and night everywhere in Europe in our labs, theatres, museums, universities…

And last but not least, we have a forward looking in Europe that continuously advocates and works for modernization, innovation and internationalization. These are more than words. Experts meetings, events, workshops, conferences, publications, etc. are often perceived as an example of wasted time but they contribute to tirelessly build a vision for Europe. They are a symbol of what is happening in Europe to respond to the challenges we face for our health, our climate, our cities, our education.

(Young) EU patriots have the willingness to make change happen, being a facilitator, a catalyser, a multiplier of ideas and solutions. Their passion is central to the historic and core mission of Europe. They need to be heard and recognized.

Long live the EU patriots!

European Debate