“It’s easy to blame the EU”
Instead of talking about our neighbours, we decided to talk to them. Sagwas-author Hripsime Zohrabyan asked citizens of the Czech Republic for their opinion on Europe, the European Union and the upcoming elections to the European Parliament.
In the region of Hradec Králové three cities were visited and several random people stopped in the streets. Here are the main questions they were asked: What is the first thing coming to your mind with the word “Europe”? What emotions do you feel in connection with European Union? Are you going to vote in elections to the European Parliament?
Meeting other cultures enriches my soul
Travelling is part of my job. And my hobby as well. Meeting other cultures helps me to see how different we are, although the principles behind our lives are very similar.
Europe means many things to me. Unification as well as diversity, closeness of neighbouring countries, historical background, languages, etc. I don’t understand politics. For me the most important topic is travelling. I live in the heart of Europe, so it’s easy to take a train, bus or a sit in a plane and be in a different country in a while. I love meeting other traditions, enjoying their food, seeing the cultural differences. Travelling enriches my worldview. I can see the range of different habits and approaches to small things as well as the crucial topics. At the same time, I am well aware of how happy I am at home and always gladly return back to my family. Every time with something new in my mind and in my heart.
Europe is my home
As a mum of two kids I don’t have time to always follow what is new in politics and world events. I learn most of the information from my husband and my friends. If I vote for the European Parliament, that depends on whether my husband chooses somebody to vote for.
The first thing that comes to my mind regarding the EU is: Euro. According to people around me it is not profitable for us to have the Euro as our national currency. I fear getting paid less. So I would prefer not to pay with Euro in the Czech Republic. But on the other hand, it’s great to travel in and around Europe without changing money. It’s a paradox, right? However, Europe is great, many countries at one let’s say small place. My home. I say “I am from Europe” when somebody doesn’t know where the Czech Republic is. But I feel like a Czech.
The EU won’t last long
I am not a fan of the European Union. It evokes in me a feeling of uncertainty. The idea behind the Union is not bad but the execution is poor. On a longterm basis, I think it’s a project that is not sustainable.
To be honest, I see the EU as a dictatorship that tells us what to do and not to do. Yeh, it’s understandable. How else can you manage a platform where every member has its own interests which don’t always correspond with the idea of one unit? This leads to commanding and suppressing national sovereignty, as an example look at the Euro! Therefore, I see no point in voting in elections to the European Parliament because I have never heard of anybody from the Czech Republic who has defended our interests. In Brussels I just saw too many officials doing nothing. My opinion could be seen as strict. To add some positives, as an ecologist I point out waste reduction, recycling or ban of landfills.
I am afraid of immigrants
I live in a city where there is a refugee camp. I was against it first, but now I am used to it. I can’t say I feel less safe, just sometimes when I walk by somebody living there I don’t feel well.
Everybody speaks about migration, the media is full of news about refugees. The European Union wants to accept them and I don’t like the idea. I am a patriot. I love Europe and I think that we are in danger. I am afraid of strangers and diseases. My children and grandchildren live here and I would like to protect them. Thinking about it more deeply I don’t feel a real threat, I have a fear on a global level. Actually, I am not against migration in general. I just hate that they come here, they don’t want to work just exploit our social benefits. Sure, I would hire a foreigner but first I would need to check how she works. As a beautician I would look at how she can tidy up, if she is clean and emphasizes hygiene.
Safeness in Europe is questionable
I see the European Union as a positive thing. Borders are open, so we can travel easily and with no problem. And, of course, there are EU funds.
As a mayor I am glad that we can repair so many things here – canalization, wastewater treatment plant, roads. We can gain money that our own country would not be able to give us. Our region and the whole country is developing, that’s great! Is it good that member countries cooperate, communicate and share their practices. But then it is very easy to blame EU for almost everything people don’t like. It is a good target and there are many fake news about it. For example migration. In our region there is a lack of workers in automotive, so immigration helps to cover this need. On the other hand, Europe is open to terrorist attacks which I am most afraid of. That’s why I travel to eastern countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Russia. I feel more safe there. Also because I visited western countries shortly after the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
BOHUMIL, 82 (didn’t want to be photographed)
It’s good to be part of the European Union
I love Europe. I am grateful for living here, it’s a great place.
In my age I have seen and learned many things, visited almost the whole of Europe, some parts of America and Asia. What I appreciate in Europe is that after the Second World War there is a safe and stable environment now which the EU helps to create and maintain. Therefore, I think that the European Union is good to have. Of course, it has its negatives but what hasn’t? If there is going to be a referendum about “Czexit”, I would vote against leaving the EU. If we want to make changes in EU, we should be part of it. What can we change from outside the discussions about where Europe is heading? That’s why I vote to European Parliament and pro-EU candidates.
All photos taken by Hripsime Zohrabyan