Happy New year! We begin 2018 by publishing the thoughts of MEP Eva Maydell, from Bulgaria, on the meaning of European identity. For many, for not for all, being an European remains a feeling that “we have something in common, beyond borders and differences; a shared cultural heritage, shared values, and above all a common future”. From the moment a country becomes a member of the European Union, does that “feeling” becomes stronger, such as with countries from Central and Eastern Europe? Eva Maydell believes not.
“Our common European identity is not a vague concept but an every-day reality felt by many Europeans. It is a feeling that we have something in common, beyond borders and differences; a shared cultural heritage, shared values, and above all a common future. My engagement as a Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the European Movement International is rooted in this feeling. I am convinced this is something many European citizens experience when travelling, when going on Erasmus, or doing a European Voluntary Year – concrete activities that are facilitated by open borders and specific EU programmes. More importantly, you don’t have to cross a border to feel European: across Europe, citizens engage with the EU through different actions and activities in their member states, and civil society organisations are actively reaching out to everyone that wants to have a say and participate.
Furthermore, European identity is not a privilege overlapping fully with a country’s EU membership. The societies of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including in my home country Bulgaria, felt close to the values which EU represents even before their actual accession to the club. Recent developments in our neighbourhood show that this is also the case for many young people in places like the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. That is why our perception of European identity should be an inclusive and open one. We also need to open more practical opportunities for their engagement and dialogue with the EU. This will be a guarantee to nurture our common understanding about the civilizational choice of our continent based on democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights”.
Eva Maydell (Paunova) is the youngest Member of the European Parliament within the European People’s Party (EPP) Group, representing the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB). She is a Member of the Internal Market (IMCO) and Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committees and of the Parliament Delegations’ for relations with China and the US. Until her election she was Executive Coordinator of the GERB-EPP Delegation and Senior Policy Advisor in the European Parliament. Previously, she also served as Policy Advisor to former MEP Iliana Ivanova. MEP Maydells’s key interests include innovation & digitalisation, SMEs & entrepreneurship and education.
At the 2017 Federal Assembly, MEP Maydell was elected President of the European Movement International. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European to hold the position.