The sense of identity, belonging and citizenship – as well as the notion of ‘the other’ – varies between peoples, regions and generations. Researchers on what is familiarly known as the Euyouth project sought to understand what these values mean to today’s young people aged between 18 and 24, in the dual context of Europe and the EU.
These two Swedes, wielding picks at Monte Polizzo in Sicily, are with a group of young archaeologists working for the Emergence of European Communities (EOEC) project. It aims to compare the social structures of communities living in Europe during the first and second millennia AD. These excavations took place in Tanum (SE), Százhalombatta (HU) and Monte Polizzo (IT).
Do you feel European? That is the underlying question that runs through the survey carried out by researchers on the project entitled Orientations of Young Men and Women to Citizenship and European Identity. It seems that today’s young people are not so very different to their elders. For many, Europe remains an abstraction. When it does concern them, it is usually for practical reasons relating to the convenience of the euro and the absence of borders. Much rarer is a sense of pride in a common European culture or political attitudes that transcend national or regional identities.
It is the Germans, both in the east and the west of the country, who are most aware of Europe, along with the young people of Prague. It is also true that it is in German, Austrian and Czech schools that many debates are held on democracy and citizenship, especially European. By contrast, the Spanish(1) and British are notably indifferent to Europe.
Of those interviewed, two-thirds of the British were monolingual. 17% of Spaniards in Balbao (so close to France) and 26% in Madrid have never left their country. At least 90% of young Austrians, Germans, Slovaks and Czechs have visited another Member State. As to living abroad, that is another question. A clear majority of those interviewed hope to continue to live in the country of their birth until the age of 30.
As to whether the fact of living in an EU Member State is of any interest, the answer is generally ‘yes’ in Bratislava and Prague and much less so in Edinburgh and Manchester. Europe’s youth seem to be mainly interested in Europe when it comes to the jobs and training opportunities (86.5%) it can offer or the quality and content of the education (78.8%). Enlargement? That is seen sometimes as “inevitable and positive” and sometimes as “a necessary evil”, but also as a means of strengthening the Union.
This Union engenders a certain scepticism regarding the functioning of its institutions (Austria, Scotland, Czech and Slovak Republics), its lack of unity (Madrid) and the differences between new and former members (Germany). But Europe’s young people also place great hopes in the Union. They believe it could bring increased democracy and strengthen European power (Bilbao), provide more transparency (Chemnitz and Bielfeld), permit better control over national corruption (Bratislava), create new institutions and legislative bodies (Germany), stimulate cultural exchanges (Madrid and Edinburgh) and bring economic benefit (Prague, Bratislava). Europe is also seen just about everywhere as bringing the opportunity of living in a fairer society, reducing social inequalities and sexual discrimination, and achieving a sustainable environmental policy.
(1) Other surveys carried out in Spain among adults showed a substantial European awareness. See Intertwining roots.
The ‘Euyouth’ survey was conducted in six countries, on each occasion in two specific regions chosen on the basis of the way the culture, economy and history have shaped relations with Europe: Vienna and the Bregenz region, in the Voralberg (Austria); ...
The ‘Euyouth’ survey was conducted in six countries, on each occasion in two specific regions chosen on the basis of the way the culture, economy and history have shaped relations with Europe: Vienna and the Bregenz region, in the Voralberg (Austria); Madrid and Bilbao, capital of the Basque country (Spain); Chemnitz and Bielfeld, two towns previously separated by the Berlin Wall (Germany); Bratislava in Slovakia and Prague in the Czech Republic; Edinburgh in Scotland and Manchester in England.
4 600 young people aged between 14 and 18 formed two groups of interviewees. The first was a ‘general’ sample representing the total population of this age, while the second consisted of more ‘targeted’ individuals who were already directly interested in the reality of the EU as a result of having lived, studied or worked in another Member State. A more in-depth qualitative study was carried out among 224 young people whose ‘European sentiments’ – ranging from the most positive to the most negative – had been estimated in advance.
The results of this survey and information on the approach adopted by the researchers are available here.