What does "United in diversity", the motto of the European Union, mean for citizens? Which diversity are we talking about? These are some of the questions 34 participants discussed on February 22 at the Maison de l'Europe in partnership with the Mission locale de Paris and the NEXTEUK project.
Written by Alexandra Selee, a MA IR student at Queen Mary Paris with an interest in diplomacy and cybersecurity; and Laura Matteini, a MA IR student at Queen Mary Paris and who has previously achieved her Bachelors’ degree in Anthropology and Sociology at the Goldsmiths University of London.
On February 22, 2022, Maison de l'Europe de Paris hosted Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) along with 25 other participants from the Mission Locale de Paris an organization that works closely with GIDEF, a training center financed by the Fonds Social Européen(FSE). Collectively, the 34 participants represented a range of countries, nationalities, ages, and backgrounds. The event’s sessions were led by Maison de l'Europe de Paris staff and focused on how the European Union (EU) is “United in Diversity.”
The day was broken up into a two-hour morning session and three-hour afternoon session. The morning sessions included an introduction to the construction of the EU through a giant map, evoking the topics of “United in diversity of belief” and “United in sexual diversity", whereas the afternoon session focused on the themes of: “United in cultural diversity” and “United in social and territorial diversity.” While each session concentrated on a particular aspect of unity within the EU, during the session debriefs, attendees were encouraged to then consider these applied to the larger concepts of unity, diversity, and role of the EU.
During the Afternoon session on “United in cultural diversity” participants listened to a simple story about five fictional characters and then grade each character’s morality on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 representing the most moral and 5 being the least moral). No two characters in the story could be assigned the number. After participants individually ranked the characters, they split up into groups and comprise one single group list. As group members were diverse in age, race, gender, and nationality ranking the characters on morality was challenging but required compromise between members. Members explained their positions, perspectives, and reasonings to create a final list.
This exercise demonstrated the diversity in perspectives and cultures found within the EU and the considerations policy makers must keep in mind when making decisions based on morality. As morality is shaped in many areas that influence culture: family, religion,environment, beliefs, languages, relationships. And although all EU citizens may differ in cultures and opinions, and compromise may not always be easy, it is possible when everyone's voice is heard and valued.
Following this discussion about morality and cultural diversity was the “United in social and territorial diversity” workshop. Maison de l’Europe de Paris invited the European Youth Parliament to work alongside workshop participants to address certain topics currently debated by EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, and Court of Justice) and present proposed solutions. Participants were broken up into five groups to discuss and present policies that would efficiently and effectively address concerns with all EU member nations in mind. The five topics included:
This final workshop was especially fitting for the European Union’s 2022 annual theme of “European Year of Youth,” as it incorporated the European Youth Parliament and asked them to engage with policy within the EU. The European Youth Parliament is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization, which empowers European youth to engage in EU politics and cultural awareness of EU member countries.
QMUL participated in the discussion concerning the European minimum wage. This was particularly interesting to discuss and address this issue because each group member of the group came from a different country. Proposing a policy in this context proved to be difficult because group members realized that even though all countries are united in the European Union, the different countries face various and different situations, from politics and economics to cultural aspects. Another difficulty was to find a policy that could be applied uniformly to all countries. However, group members realized how this, even though with the intent to eliminate inequalities, could instead create ‘conflicts’ between EU countries’ members. Nevertheless, even if the exercise was difficult, as it required a lot of European knowledge on the subject, it was very exciting to discuss with young participants the future of the EU. In fact, the sharing of knowledge and point of view between group members made it possible to find a comprise solution to create a European minimum wage policy.