There are many good reasons to complain about the European Union. But the alliance of 28 countries can still be considered a political dream fulfilled, says DW's editor-in-chief Alexander Kudascheff.
It's easy to criticize the European Union, the eurocrats, "those people in Brussels." And it's fairly easy to predict the outcome of this weekend's European Parliament elections. The EU's critics - those euroskeptics and parties on the left, and especially the far right, will get a boost - in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and other EU member states. Protest voters will emerge feeling like the winners. And, in all likelihood, voter turnout will be low - certainly under 50 percent.
Europeans are no longer interested in Europe, in the EU, or in the idea of a European democracy. No matter where you look - even to the political center - a completely new choir is singing the first notes of an unfamiliar song: We need Europe for the big issues, but when it comes to the little things (and in day-to-day life, often also for the truly big things), the good old national government can take of things. It's a depressing realization: even in the face of the Ukraine crisis, almost nobody - apart from a handful of idealists - is calling for a greater role for Europe.
The European dream
And yet, the European Union - beyond its over-regulation, beyond its awkwardness bordering on helplessness when it comes to foreign policy - remains a political dream fulfilled. Europe has a soul; it has a distinct cultural, social and historical identity. Europe is the continent of Shakespeare, Dante, El Greco, Plato, Goethe, Rubens and da Vinci. Europe is the birthplace of Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Rousseau and Kant; the home of Beethoven, Mozart and Verdi. Europe has a common cultural soul, which encompasses and defines the entire continent.
Europe has a shared history. For centuries, wars were waged on this continent. This year, on World War I's centenary, we remember the horrors. And we remember World War II, which broke out 75 years ago. Europe - this is the continent where the English and French clashed for 100 years, where the Germans suffered the trauma and emotional devastation of the Thirty Years' War. Where the Balts and the Poles were occupied and divided.
Today, the continent has been at peace at almost all locations for more than 60 years. The EU is a community that promotes peace - not always successfully, that is true. But if the rest of the world were able to manage a peaceful coexistence as effectively as the EU's 28 member states, the dream of world peace would be that much closer to reality.
Peace, justice, success and security
Europe is also a way of life, a continent of boundless freedom that focuses on economic success but still enjoys social security - despite the euro crisis. Europe is a continent where duties, borders and other barriers have fallen. A continent that defends environmental and social standards. A continent that tends to its past. A continent that upholds the rule of law. And it's aware of its differences - in politics, and in the mentalities of its many societies. In Europe, you could be British or Dutch, and still live and feel like a European.
In Europe, a person can live freely, in peace and security. And that's why it's worth it to go to the polling station, to vote for Europe. It's not just a case of exercising your right to vote; it's almost an emotional obligation. And once we've had our say, we can get back to criticizing "those people in Brussels" - rightly so.