Yes, from what I see, and that is students going on exchange programs, Erasmus or an another one. I think that has considerably changed mentalities. I believe that the teaching system gives a very good sense of the specificities of each country. Europe happens more that way than with laws.
But I would like to point out that those exchange programs do not really concern a whole generation. In that sense, I object to the term ‘eurogeneration’. Europe has not yet extended to secondary education. Students go on exchanges programs, but very few junior high and high schoolers. And not everybody goes to university to study.The people that benefit from those exchange programs (and I include in that those that welcome international students) are therefore a minority.
Nevertheless, to use the word ‘elite’ would be unfair. Exchange programs are becoming more accessible. They are put into place in a large number of fields and not only in ‘Grands Ecoles’ and other prestigious schools. It is the ambition of Europe to make it possible for a majority.
We may also object to the term ‘elite’ because exchange programs are more of ‘a Europe on the ground’ rather than an abstract political Europe?
You are also teaching in universities in Central Europe and Eastern Eureope, have you observed changes in the way students perceive the European Union?
I am working in Poland and Romania. I am aslo teaching in the Copernic program. Doing so, I observe a very large panel of ideas about Europe.
First of all, there are the core states of Central Europe. Countries that have been Europeanised and occidentalised for very a long time. There is no difference between young people of Central Europe and of Western Europe. I would even say that the first are more dynamic. They are also more optimistic because they have more opportunities. They have access to financial aid, entrance exams…They’re winners. A young man that speaks several languages can be very sucessful, in every aspects.
Young people from Western Europe are more pessimistic. They see the difficulties in reforming their countries, the high unemployent, the tight job market. Where Central Europeans see opportunities, they see difficulties.
To the East, in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine or Bielorussia, everything is more complex. They are experiencing difficulties in creating a democracy. They are all conscious of what needs to be done, and very active politically. They wonder whether they should stay in their country, go away to benefit from other opportunities in other countries, and then maybe come back home. So there are impotant differences between European students, especially between those from Eastern Europe and those from Central and Western Europe.
According to you, what attitude could adopt someone from the eurogeneration if he or she comes to a important position within the government of a European member state?
Maybe it is a question that cannot be answered as such. There are differences between the everyday political life of Western states and that of Central, Eastern European states.
Czeslaw Milosz (The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1980 ) considers for example that there is a Europe made of the countries that have endured totalitarism. They relate to democracy in a different way than France would for example. France has forgotten the great obstacles its democracy had to face. I would much rather compare Central and Eastern Eauropean countries with Spain for example.
You come across the same difference when you look at the relationships between China and Tibet. The issue has been very much debated in Central Europe because it relates closely to minority issues.
Maybe a student from the Eurogeneration could bring a new look on the nation state?
I think that education within the framework of a nation state is out-dated. It does not mean that the nation state do not exist but rather that other systems of reference came into existence. After the fall of the Berlin wall people have grouped in cultural areas. It seems natural to me to see cross-border cooperation emerge, outside of states’ control.
It is not a matter of destroying the nation state. Not everybody is ready for that, not every body has the possibility to read in several languages, or travel. One should not shock mentalitites. However, the nation state is part of a world vision that is dated. Something needs to be reinvented and Europe seems to me a very good solution.
My fear is that bureaucracy could kill the « hot link » necessary to man. The nation state is a « hot link ». I think there could be one in Europe. It would s not only be a link through citizenship, a political link, but a sense of belonging through a cultural heritage. A dish, a landscape…
Interviewed by Haude-Marie Thomas
Translated by Juliette Abbesse