The elections for the European parliament are just around the corner. What are we to think about Europe? We asked a few of our international students. How European are you and what does Europe really mean to you?
Erasmus student of Food Technology, from Spain
‘I feel positive about the European Union, because it makes it easier for us to exchange products and knowledge and therefore makes it possible for European countries to grow. I’m quite positive about Europe and I will vote in the European elections, but I have not decided what party. I hope we will have more integration in Europe and that our politicians will look at our common interests, instead of the interests of each separate country. I’m here in Wageningen because of Europe. I now know how other people live in Europe and that experience helps me to grow as a person.’
MSc student of Food Quality Management, from Greece
‘The European Union is advantageous to me. I can come to Wageningen and pay less in tuition fees because Greece is part of the EU. That is the bright side of the moon. What about the dark side? Europe is in a critical condition! Europe needs a vision, needs to be strong and united, and needs to be stable. It should be able to handle the crisis, unemployment, immigrants, and other crucial issues. But I am not sure if I will vote for the upcoming European elections. To be perfectly honest, I am not well informed about the voting procedure here. Also, I am disappointed about the political situation, both in Greece and in Europe. I miss politicians who are trustworthy, politicians with a long-term vision about EU. We should ensure that democracy, human rights, freedom, and the development of all member countries will always be the cornerstone behind a strong and united Europe.’
PhD student of Operations Research and Logistics, from Poland
‘To me, being a European citizen means being tolerant of other religions and cultures. The part I like most is the Schengen agreement allowing me to move freely across EU countries. But being an EU citizen brings some responsibilities with it as well. One of them is voting in European Parliament elections. So of course I am going to vote. It makes me sad that five years ago the number of voters in Poland reached only 24 percent. That’s ridiculously low. Polish people tend to complain about the parliament, whether Polish or European, but how can you complain about the European Parliament if you don’t vote?
Erasmus student of Food & Biobased Research, from Spain
‘I feel European, and I think Spanish people should be represented in the European parliament. But at present Spanish politicians are not the best choice. They are not solving the problems; they don’t care about society. Many people in Spain are looking for a job but, even if they find one, their quality of life does not improve much. Not even graduates will find jobs in Spain in the next few years. So after I get my degree I would like to work abroad for some years. Europe made it much easier for me to come to Wageningen; I can come and go as I please within the EU.’
MSc student of Food Safety, from Romania
‘I think I’ll vote, even if that means that I have to go to The Hague for it. Democracy means that you have the right to choose, so it’s your duty to vote. For us Romanians, becoming part of the European community was a big opportunity. As of last January Romanians can work in Europe without a permit. But there are also drawbacks. Changing to the euro will be a serious problem. Actually it has just been postponed because we weren’t ready for it. Foreign investors have bought thousands of hectares of agricultural land and our government doesn’t do anything to stop this. Although I’m positive about Europe it is still difficult for me to express what it means to be a European. I know how it is to be in Europe because I travel a lot and I am studying abroad. For older people it is different. I think it will take a couple of generations before we feel truly European.’
MSc student of Plant Biotechnology, from the Netherlands
‘Being a member of the European Union has many advantages. Not just material ones, but also the amount we learn from each other. I live at Droevendaal, where a lot of people from southern Europe are living too. They are much more relaxed about life and consider different things important. They are very good cooks, for instance, and spend a lot of time and attention on that. There is a lot of criticism of Europe but I think more things go right than go wrong. We should carry on negotiating and see how to solve problems together. If that means having to pump more money into Europe, so be it. We can learn so much more from each other.’