CesUE, in collaboration with the Faculty of Law at the NOVA (New University of Lisbon) and the Jacques Delors European Information Centre, in a joint initiative co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, promoted a discussion on the history and future of the European Union (EU) amid several dozens of high school Portuguese students.
The representation of the musical “Europa: que Paixão! História de um amor atormentado” (written by Daniela Martinelli and Francesco Pigozzo), which presented the evolution of the European Union since World War II to the recent UK Brexit, set the stage for the debate that followed, in which the students had the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns before a three-women panel of three different generations (Isabel Baltazar, Ana Rita Gil and Joana Vitorino Mendes).
With women of different generations gathered on stage, the young audience had the opportunity to acknowledge how they lived the different stages of the EU (since the Portuguese accession to the introduction of the single currency and to the Brexit), and to experience their personal insight of how the EU evolved over time.
The questions and remarks posed by the students reflected not only their concerns about the future of the European Union and of its Member States, including Portugal, but also their awareness of the challenging times the world is experiencing nowadays.
The students asked the panel’s overall opinion about the main impact of the most recent political worldwide events, as the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit in the UK and the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President in the USA, on the EU – and, subsequently, on Portugal –, and what those events mean to the European political and economic panorama.
The audience was indeed particularly interested in understanding the consequences for Europe of a number of hypothetical situations involving the USA – from leaving the NATO to an economic downfall – and of the unavoidable Brexit. Regarding Brexit, there was a critical remark on the positive impact this isolationist position may actually have in the English economy, which reflects the younger generations’ skepticism to take the present-day EU as an absolute truth.
Moreover, concerning the refugee crisis that has beset Europe, the students were curious to know what specific steps have been taken in practice within the EU institutions to address this major social scourge, and what could EU do to help the millions of people fleeing from their countries of origin.
Thus, in light of the growing sense of pessimism felt by people across all the Member States, in which Portugal is included, the audience mostly looked forward to understand what the EU still has to offer to this young generation in the near future, and how the EU is reacting to the new challenges set by the global scenario.
Nonetheless, all these challenges the EU is currently facing trigger the urge for new answers. In this sense, any discussion – when informed – on the future of the EU is an excellent opportunity to enlighten people, specially the younger generations, of the benefits and upsides of a united Europe. In fact, looking back in time, more integration has been proven to be the most economically viable and peace-oriented solution. .
Posted by Ana Rita Gil and Joana Vitorino Mendes
PhD Students at Faculdade de Direito at Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Lisboa Nova Law School)