I'm a staunch Europhile, as I've alluded to in many other posts, so I thought I would let people know why I think the EU is so essential, both idealistically and practically.
First, it speaks to my idealism. Nationalism, with each country trying to go it alone, is dead. In our inter-connected world, any single country which tried to do without international cooperation would commit financial suicide. So, it is obvious that good relations with other countries are important, but the question is how close do you get.
People can travel much further than was traditionally the case, and what we've seen is that foreign countries aren't alien, they're full of people, people just like us. Each country may have evolved different traditions and practises but their is no reason why the citizens of any two countries shouldn't get along quite happily side-by-side. It's summed up beautifully by George Orwell in '1984', which I've mentioned in a previous post:
"It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same — everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same."
So, if we as people are essentially the same, what sense does it make to impose these arbitrary divisions, to brand us with one nationality and refuse to allow us to work closely with one another? It made sense in the past, when people didn't know that other lands existed and it was impossible to liaise easily across land masses, but it makes no sense now.
It may seem a digression, but this idealism is the starting point of my opinions on Europe. To me, a united Europe is the starting point for a united world. The EU is an essential tool for bringing people together and finding ways that the collective power and qualities can do more good than the individual efforts of single nations. As a country, we have a much louder voice when we at the heart of a united, strong Europe, bound together by more than fragile trade agreements. Already, we have seen that on issues like climate change, it is only through collective efforts that real change can be made and Europe continues to lead the way in fighting global warming.
As a collective, Europe also has much more power for good than it would fragmented. The lure of EU membership has transformed Turkey into the most liberal, democratic Muslim nation in the world. All this without even the beginnings of a thought toward invasion and conquest. Contrast that to the American position on its neighbours such as Cuba and Columbia. After attacking and funding civil war the country is ravaged and little good has come from it. The carrot is mightier than the stick.
As Europeans, we have different views, but surprising levels of similarity. We're certainly collectively more similar to each other than we are to the Americas or Asia and as a collective we can extol the virtues of our shared values.
You may not feel like a European, more someone who happens to live in a country which is in Europe. But as Johann Hari reminds us in his excellent blog, in 1871, the year of Italy's unification, only 5% of its citizens had even heard of the word 'Italy'. They created Italy, then made the Italians. We've made Europe, now we must make the Europeans.