Peace, more choice and increased prosperity are just a few arguments

Many of us will soon be going home, possibly to our country of origin, to spend the holidays with our family and friends. We will celebrate, eat, (a lot) and discuss issues, big and small. We have all heard that politics should be avoided at the dinner table. Easier said than done.

We here at the EIB have all been to a few family or social gatherings back home where Europe, Brexit or simply what we do here at the Bank came up. We have often found ourselves justifying the EU and explaining why it makes sense.  

Ahead of the European elections in May 2019, we expect friends and family to have more questions for us … and we will do our best to “sell Europe even to the most reluctant.” Have you ever found yourself in the same position? What were your best arguments? Here are some of ours, with the hopes that they will help convince Granny, the cousins or your favourite school friends that Europe is worthwhile.

1. The origin of the EU: Peace between nations

Sometimes people forget that, at the beginning, the European project was not really about trade, jobs and currencies, but about something more basic: the need for peace.

History books tell us that Europeans were good at waging wars, and at pulling the rest of the world into our conflicts. The European Union was created with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War, the deadliest military conflict in history that resulted in the death, directly or indirectly, of as many as 85 million people (3% of the world population at that time).

The fathers of the EU (Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi...) wanted lasting peace. Moreover, the nation many of us at the Bank now call home, Luxembourg, is proof of how even a small country, tired of repeated invasions, managed to play a crucial role in European integration.

The predecessor of the EU, the European Coal and Steel Community, began to unite European countries economically and politically five years after the end of the Second World War. Since then, EU citizens have enjoyed almost 70 years of peace.

2. To lead globally, Europe must be united

In the coming decades, Europe might see its stature in the world reduced. One reason is demographic: the birth rate in Europe is lower than on other continents. According to UN estimates, Africa’s population will increase fourfold by 2100, and it will compete with Asia as the most populous continent.

“The situation is simple: the world is growing, and we are shrinking,” says Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President. The consequence is an ageing population in Europe and a shortage of workers.

At the same time, Europe’s global influence is waning. According to the Commission, by 2050 there will be no EU country among the seven leading industrial nations. In a globalised world with its myriad challenges, no EU country is big enough on its own to influence events.

3. The single market works for people and products

©Uskarp/ Shutterstock

The European Union is the world’s biggest single market, with roughly 500 million people and uniform rules and regulations. Thanks to the single market, where goods and services are traded freely among members, people have more choices, better prices and guaranteed quality and environmental standards.

This means that if you were looking for a pair of Italian shoes made with Portuguese leather and fine Slovenian buckles, you could order them on Monday and have them delivered on Thursday, thanks to our internal market.

The single market has created 2.77 million jobs, generated an extra EUR 233 billion of trade a year and given citizens access to a wide variety of goods from all EU countries.

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4. Freedom to move

Free movement among citizens of EU countries opens up opportunities in jobs and education.

Some 50 million Europeans, from chefs to consultants to nurses, already work in a country that is not their own. They bring their talents, skills, expertise and qualifications to industries that need them.

5. The EU isn’t as expensive as people think

At some EUR 137 billion (for 2017), the EU budget is smaller than the budgets of Austria or Belgium. Here are more comparisons:

  • EU spending represents less than 1% of the total value of the EU economy. By contrast, an average national budget in the EU is 46% of the value of the economy.
  • The EU's administrative staff is relatively small. Around 70 000 EU civil servants and other staff serve some 500 million Europeans (and countless others around the world). By comparison, the city of Vienna employs 65 000 people, and the French Finance Ministry has 146 000 employees.

Those of us who work at the Bank don’t even fall under the EU administration. The Bank finances its own operations through lending and transactions on international financial markets.

That’s it! We hope you enjoyed this little reminder. There are many other arguments we could have made, and we count on you to complete the list with your friends and family.

On behalf of the EIB, seasons greetings to all of you!