11/03/2016

Student activism, the EU and Brexit: Reflections by Zachary Confino

Student activism, the EU and Brexit: Reflections by Zachary Confino

The European Union is presented as a distant, foreign and distinctly European problem. There is little to no emphasis or coverage on the potential the EU can offer British citizens. Consequently, and within the context of the Brexit debate, many Britons are reluctant to engage with European politics, me included. I am relatively new to the world of student politics and activism – I entered this world more out of necessity rather than any other consideration. However, through the lens of a young, passionate and devoted activist you begin to see different opportunities that can provide ever more diverse opportunities to express your opinions.

An extremely important outcome from this seminar on EU activism, if any, must be a fundamental change in my perceptions of the EU. The EU is no longer a foreign concept for me. The concept of euroscepticism becomes, from my perspective, increasingly irregular and incomprehensible. The focus by the Brexit camp on the issues with Europe, the influx of immigration and the lack of control over our own sovereignty is continually cited as the fundamental reason for leaving the EU behind us. Such a panglossian ‘cost/benefit’ analysis of what the EU offers the UK is dangerous. 

The four fundamental freedoms made the basis of European integration, from which Europe would be so intertwined that any future war would be impossible. The population, services, goods and capital of each Member State would be spread gradually across the Continent. From the perspective of an avid activist, the EU provides a platform for concerted action – something that would be impossible without overarching institutions such as the Parliament and the Commission.

The EU Activism Seminar allowed me to experience the EU institutions from a first-hand perspective. Engaging with MEPs and Commissioners on a one-to-one basis was an invaluable experience. Not only has it helped in understanding EU law but also renewed my inner activist. 

Seeing what young activists like myself are achieving all across Europe is very thought-provoking and we were able to bond over experiences and share tactics. I came out of this seminar on Thursday a more devoted, capable and passionate activist than the person who arrived in Brussels on Sunday.

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