Human beings are complicated sometimes. Need to travel to the ‘edge of the world’, looking for new challenges, to realise that things are not that bad at home. It is not to say that yearly ‘adventure’ of my family in Miami was driven by doubts arising from our life and work in Brussels. Still, although we enjoy many positive aspects of our stay here in Miami, we understand that we miss quite some things (let alone people) that we found pretty normal in ‘Europe’. This blog is nevertheless not about a comparison between the two sides of the same ocean. First, it would be premature and, second, not very scientific based. I could say that I miss ‘Comte’ or ‘Gruyere’ cheese, white Alsatian vine or Slovak bread. On the other hand, wearing short sleeves and swimming in the ocean at this time of the year is not bad either. These are nevertheless very personal preferences, this post is about more serious issues.
The elementary school which my children attend organized a ‘career’s day’ during which parents came to the class of their kid(s) and explained the nature of their job. I hesitated to participate as there were heavyweight contenders, imagine, how can I compete with a firefighter presenting all sorts of firefighters’ equipment, or a baker who ‘bought’ the attention of kids with freshly cocked cakes, or a t-shirt designer who prepared very nice t-shirts for every kid in a classroom? The feedback I received from 7 years old children was nevertheless very encouraging.
We played a game. I started in the class of my older son. I asked his school mates whether anybody wants to be a president. All hands rocketed up. The president designate had to campaign to be elected. This was not a problem with 10 years old children. ‘No home works, better food in the cantine, no uniforms, and new iPhones for free for everyone’. Naturally, after such a successful campaign it was not difficult to get elected and the promises had to be followed. The president therefore started taking decisions. ‘I order that new phones are distributed next week!’. This was the moment for an adviser to suggest that the president better checks with a budget office whether there are money for such a purchase. ‘I order that wearing uniforms is not obligatory anymore!’ Again, advice from the right side of the president to better check with the Miami Dade School Department in order to prevent conflict of competence with the responsible body. As it went on, and the president, together with her electorate, were becoming more and more depressed, it became apparent what is my role in the European Parliament when I try to advice the President and Members, (subject of advice is slightly different though).
While I was confident that this charade would work well with older kids, I wasn’t sure whether 7 years old kids buy that. The younger were just amazing! Their campaign was less IT focused, but contained many of the issues raised by their older colleagues. A week later I received 23 thank you messages from the younger kids. Some of them are attached.
As well as for children, this event was very useful for me too. It helped me to realise how privileged am I. Yes, the EU public service is sometimes complicated and improvements are possible as in many areas of our life. Still, we are part of the service which aims at making lives of people in EU better. I know, it is not easy to see this sort of higher goal in our every day job, be it endless formatting of complicated documents, drafting /revising amendments that might never be adopted or providing a piece of advice to our masters. Despite all difficulties, it is worth trying to do our best for the good of those to whom our institutions serve.
There aren’t easy answers to difficult questions. The questions asked in relation to the Paris attacks don’t belong to the easy ones. Although Paris is far from Miami, we were very concerned by what happened in France and followed closely the situation in Belgium. Sharing EU views on the events, the EU Center organised series of round table discussions which offered views linked to terrorism and refugees. Panelists presented the topic form the UN perspective (prof. Moss), situation in Germany (my colleague M. Goergmaier), situation in V4 (CZ, HU, PL, SK) countries (myself), Spain (prof. Roy), France (French consul P. Letrilliart) and in the United Kingdom (the UK consul D. Prodger).
Students interested in the EU matters raised many interesting questions, such as those concerning the future of Schengen or the EU as such. Although there aren’t easy answers as to what should be done today, tomorrow and days after, we know what kind of values our society adhere to and what is the world we would like to live in. The world in which people can go to a restaurant or a concert or a sport event without being killed.
Many think that such a vague vision serves nothing and there has to be an immediate answer which will solve the terrorism issue tomorrow. Some consider the EU answer to the attacks insufficient, arguing that there is a lot to be improved in the EU collective response to security threats. It is therefore worth comparing responses of the EU to Paris and the U.S. to the San Bernardino shooting. The latter event was followed by a number of contradictory action plans and proclamations ranging from comments calling for a very cautious response until those demanding a complete ban of people from one religion to enter the U.S. territory. Presidential campaign surely plays a role in publishing headlines catching titles. The discussion on both sides of the Atlantic shows that a simple answer doesn’t exist and any long term security vision can be implemented only with a broad international support. Perhaps the very recent COP21 agreement could serve as an inspiration for future international action on other matters.
With this positive spirit, I would like to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a successful year 2016!