A European Adventure: Unity Through Diversity

A European Adventure: Unity Through Diversity

Published on December 5, 2017

As I have lived for an extended period of time in a foreign country, I personally can attest to the complexity as well as the inconvenience of the processes of visas, passport checks, resident permits as well as the different rights and responsibilities foreign residents have than that of a citizen.

It is perhaps only now that I have lived abroad in a foreign country for so long that I have realized how much I have taken my privileged status as a European citizen for granted.

Over the course of my life I have watched the growth and development of the European Union before my very eyes; it's astonishing to believe that Europe was once an area of the world ravaged by war, destruction and devastation. For the majority of recorded history the continent of Europe and the countries within have been invading, colonizing, as well as laying waste to their neighboring nations.

Indeed, a far cry from where we are today, where Europe, as a continent, can attest to the longest lasting period of peace in European written history, thanks in no small part to the formation of the European Union over 60 years ago with the Rome Treaty, and the rights and freedoms to which membership of such an institution provides.

As Chairman of the Board of The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China-Shanghai Chapter, I, together with other members had the opportunity to present the Position Paper 2017/18 in Brussels this year. Upon the completion of these very fruitful and productive meetings with E.U. officials as well as in the heart of the E.U. Institution, we felt it appropriate that on the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty, where the foundations were laid for the Europe we now know today, to take some time to revel in the splendor and beauty of Europe and so, we decided to venture upon a short leisure trip through the continent by train. 

During our travels through Europe we came across distinct, diverse as well as opinion altering experiences.

We first ventured towards the Netherlands and the capital city of Amsterdam, revered around the world as a trendy cosmopolitan municipality, however in our visit we were struck by the architecture which documents the different styles and times the city has gone through over the years, which is a feast for the eyes regardless of interests. More surprises came in the form of how eco-friendly the city was; even the police could be seen riding bicycles around the city’s canals. We found the people of this city were very warm and open, a strange notion for such a busy, bustling metropolis. A lesson perhaps can be learnt from Amsterdam, a city renowned across the world, yet still manages to keep its soul.

In Berlin, we went to visit the iconic Berlin Wall, more specifically Checkpoint Charlie on October 3rd, known commonly in Germany as Unity Day. This monument, once a worldwide beacon of a bordered globe as well as conflict is now an exemplary symbol of the integration and unification of European countries over the years. The Berlin people were, on this day, celebrating quite literally tearing down barriers and borders between people, a strong statement of our growth and tolerance learned from our past.

In the past, for unfortunate reasons, whenever I would think of the city of Prague, my mind would conjure up images of the Prague Spring which I had studied in various history books. A city which has changed greatly over the years, however, upon our arrival in the Czech Republic capital, we were taken aback by just how impressive the cities development. Prague is now an international cultural hub full of activity, artists and remarkable architecture to go along with its rich history. In recent years it is now become one of Europe's most visited cities and anybody can now see why.

A trip through Europe could never be deemed complete without a stop in my homeland and what better place to end our trip than the city of eternal love, Verona. A city which we had since never had the pleasure of visiting, struck us with not only the best Northern Italian dining cuisine has to offer as well as its historic architecture which has been awarded as a World Heritage site for its structures, showcasing the grandeur of the Roman empire, but almost certainly, Verona is first and foremost, a city of romance. Verona has been synonymous with romance from the cities role as the setting of the Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, visitors every year come in their droves to relive the fantastical story of the two star crossed lovers. In Verona, you may encounter Juliet’s balcony, the iconic site where Romeo declared his love for Juliet, as years gone by a tradition of “The Promise of Love” has arisen, a symbolic ceremony where a couple which intends to marry one day, declares their feelings to each other all in the town of love, I can say with earnest and pride that we were among the many in Verona who made “The Promise of Love”. Verona, showcases the fairer side of life, outside of history, politics, work, travel etc. there is always love, it is quite unique to find a city that celebrates it quite like this.

In essence, as a European citizen, my passport is not just that of my native country, it is also a European passport. The ease of traveling through Europe is clearly evident in the means of transportation in which I was able to take on my journey, that of by rail. The Free Movement of People, among one of the four freedoms of Europe’s single market (along with Free Movement of Capital/Services/Goods), allows citizens of one member' country to travel, work, study as well as live freely in another member state without any restrictions as provided by Article 45 Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union. 

This sense of identity as a European citizen may seem strange to persons from different areas of the world, as Europe is, although not the biggest continental plain, it is quite possibly one of the most diverse in the world. Every country and indeed every stop on my rail travels through this great continent brought with it different foods, cultures, customs, landmarks, languages and in that there is a unique beauty that can only really be found where cultures collide. As the European Union grows and develops further and its residents continue to move between member states, the concept of a “European citizen” will be all the more solidified. In recent years, The European Union has had its fair share of detractors and criticisms as well as setbacks. However, for now I’d prefer to focus on the positive as opposed to the negative and to strive to working towards more prosperity in the future as well as resolving the relevant issues.

There is a great lesson to take from the diversity and integration of Europe and I intend to further pursue and push for unity through diversity, truly this is, the European way.