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The European Spirit

, by Matteo Manfredini

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

In the course of my life I have had the possibility, and above all the luck, to travel around the world. Even more than that, I have had the chance to stay in foreign countries for a couple of months. I used to live in France, Australia and now I am in Germany. Therefore I have had the privilege to grasp aspects of our society that otherwise I wouldn’t have understood.


Finding Europeanness Down Under

Some months ago I was in Sydney, Australia. There was a different environment, culture, history (a relatively short one) and mentality that outlined Australia as such a different country than our European nations. As some said before me, there is no best way to understand a nation and people’s mentality that try studying them through interaction or better yet from another point of view. I have always been a true supporter of the idea of a United Europe, but it wasn’t until I was in Australia, exactly on the other side of the World, that I felt as European rather than Italian.

It was daily custom to hang out and study with guys and girls from all over Europe. At the beginning I was really surprised to find out how many things we had in common: our mindset, our way to converse and our way to understand things.

Overcoming barriers at home

I am certain that it has happened to you while you were living or just travelling in France or Germany (just to mention two countries I visited), that you felt really uncomfortable, confused, like a foreigner. This is what we have to fight; this is what must be overcome. We can have a united economy, common policies, but is the spirit what makes a nation great, a federal state.

lack of a common spirit delays the Community process

We have to build that European spirit, because the lack of a common spirit delays the Community process. I am afraid that the older generations (being more precise our leaders) miss the sense of that spirit. Given some rare exceptions, the trend that I’m seeing among our political body is exactly that. With their words they can build nations, resolve wars, but it is the will that makes things happen.

The European Spirit will be the keystone of our future, our European future. If the young generations, the next generations will be able to draw upon this ideal, the challenge will be won. Teaching several languages, not just English, is the first step; creating a compulsory civil service that concerns a period of time abroad and teaching European civic education in schools are just a few more examples that would help bring about this spirit.

Local challenges

Last month I had an encounter in Italy with high school students, talking to them about my Australian experience, but after a few minutes I addressed my speech to European matters. Without understanding it I was giving them practical information about how to move and travel around Europe. It is an environment that I really didn’t know; they still believe that Ryanair and other low-cost airlines offer too cheap flights to be truly reliable. A true surprise was that 70% of students in that class had never travelled outside of Italy!

Hence the challenge is to provide them with information, education but above of all giving them chances, opportunities and motivating forces. We have to make them understand that, after their university, they don’t have to find an occupation necessarily close to their own villages or cities but that there is a big world out there that is worth exploring.

That is the European Spirit, our big potential.


Before the 17th March 1861 there wasn’t any Italian Spirit (maybe someone of you will ask if it exists today, I think it does, even though it is sometime hidden), there wasn’t a common language, and the county was really different from the country that we know today. In those circumstances the challenge was won, with a small group of far-seeing politicians, and the process was completed after the Second World War establishing an out-and-out common Spirit.

In a globalised world, in a world that is changing every day, our generation has the great responsibility in this matter and we cannot put off the creation of a European Spirit any longer.

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“Europe: Find Your Way and don’t get lost!” by Vladimir Gutsulak, one of the 20 winning photos of JEF-Europe’s European Vibes project, source: European Vibes

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