It is often believed that the “Will of the People” is expressed by selecting national representatives through democratic elections. Perhaps this is why politicians have been so focused on pushing the mentality of “us vs them” in order to stand out as leaders who care about ‘their people’ first. But what if national representatives do not represent and act on what the citizens believe? What if “the people” were never given a chance to define themselves before being represented? What if the Will of the People is to not be divided as ‘us’ and ‘them’ through national elections, but rather to willingly cross national boundaries and unite as “We, the Citizens” through an international initiative?
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.“(Article 2 TEU). This European Union was set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours after the the Second World War, but recent spikes in nationalism throughout various countries have threatened these values and the stability of the EU itself. In other words, the Union could disintegrate thanks to the very forces and feelings that it was meant to keep in check (but never to extinguish). Brexit will take away the EU citizenship and rights of ALL British Europeans (approx. 65,110,000) despite the fact that only 17,410,742 (26.74%) voted in favour of this. For the sake of European solidarity and to fight back waves of nationalism, we need to flock [against] Brexit.
In the same way that we have a choice to interpret “birds of a feather flock together” as a good thing (“let us come together”) or a bad thing (“leave them alone”), we also have a choice that is perhaps unique in the history of international relations.
As Article 1 TEU declares: “By this Treaty, the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION, hereinafter called ‘the Union’, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common. This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen.“
Citizenship of the European Union is similarly established by Article 20 TFEU while Article 47 TEU explicitly recognises the legal personality of the European Union as an independent entity. This means that EU Citizenship is an exclusive competence of the Union and just because citizenship is acquired through nationality, it does not mean it’s the same as nationality.
In Annex 1 Section A of European Council document 92/C 348/01, the Heads of Government and the European Council agreed that: “The provisions of Part Two of the Treaty establishing the European Community relating to citizenship of the Union give nationals of the Member States additional rights and protection as specified in that Part. They do not in any way take the place of national citizenship. The question whether an individual possesses the nationality of a Member State will be settled solely by reference to the national law of the Member State concerned.”
Additionally, in Annex 3 of that same document, the Kingdom of Denmark provided unilateral remarks that: “Citizenship of the Union is a political and legal concept which is entirely different from the concept of citizenship within the meaning of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark and of the Danish legal system. Nothing in the Treaty on European Union implies or foresees an undertaking to create a citizenship of the Union in the sense of citizenship of a nation-state.”
All of this suggests that Member States and Nation-States may retain the exclusive power to grant and revoke nationality of their own citizens, but Citizenship of the European Union is something different that belongs to the European Union.
For at least the past 200 years, most people acquire political membership and the rights to citizenship through the accident of birth and the concepts of jus soli (“right of soil”) and jus sanguinis (“right of blood”). Perhaps only those migrants who go through the complex process of naturalization [which varies in all countries] understand the amount of time, money, and effort that it takes to gain rights that others are simply born with. But 2017 is providing the people[s] of Europe with a unique opportunity to take the initiative to define themselves across national boundaries. It’s a chance for UK nationals to stand up for their own rights and for all EU citizens to fight for one of their own, because this revocation of rights could happen to them as well. It could also help EU citizens remain in the UK but this will admittedly only work if we all come together and demand it.
So this is a time for solidarity and a chance for citizens to stand up and fight for a political idea without any violence because this legal concept is already protected by an International Court of Justice which has repeatedly declared that “citizenship of the Union is intended to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States.”
Take a look at this 5-minute video of the Evolution of European Borders or this other one, or any other that you’d like. The background maps on the panels above show what the political map in Europe looked like in the years 117, 840, and 1556, so it seems as though we are almost guaranteed a new political landscape every 700 years [or less]. But the final map above shows Europe as it actually is [at night] rather than as it “was” or as it “could be” if we color-colored it with fictitious labels through a so-called ‘realist‘ ideology that enforces national borders and encourages war and competition rather than collaboration. Perhaps it is only right that the colors in this final map already happen to show a dark blue background with a scattering of yellow spots. There’s no need to Imagine it any differently. But there is something more interesting about the images above…
All of the multilingual proverbs in the front page express the same idea
But we have to understand it across linguistic/historical borders
If you are lucky enough to understand a few of the languages above [or clever enough to use technology in the right way], you’ll realize that they say the same thing without saying the same thing. Each language finds a different way to express itself by using just about anything including: birds and feathers (English), God (Spanish), species (Dutch), children (Swedish), flour (Portuguese) and Equals (German). Anyone reading it in any of these languages will understand the idea that people “stick with their own kind”. But what’s more important is that this idea is indeterminate. Some languages use this phrase with a slightly more negative tone while others say it in a positive manner (and sometimes it varies between people or context). So is it a ‘good’ thing or a ‘bad’ thing for “birds of a feather to flock together”? It can also mean either “people always do stick with their own kind” or “people should stick with their own kind”, so is it an observation or a command? And are birds of a feather always together, or do they flock towards a common cause and then move on with their individual flights?
This proverb is, by definition, a paradox. It is true until we realize that it’s false, and it will remain false unless we want it to be true. Therefore we must choose what a common feather is and whether we use it to unite or we fight over it.
Perhaps this phrase is also the epitome of why the European Union’s motto is “United in Diversity“; We might not always get exactly what the other is saying, and we might prefer to express ourselves with an entirely different metaphor, but in the end we all believe that equals belong together and we can actively choose to make this happen. If this quote and the history of Europe have proven anything by 2017, it is the fact that Europeans cannot be separated by physical walls, or by the idea that humans can and should be separated by blood or dirt. But right now there is a real risk of one of the European “peoples” being taken away by backward-looking nationalism. Others could follow suit and this would not only take away “France” and “Germany”, but also our friends and harmony. So despite the fact that we might not always be able to converse in the same language or use the same metaphors, we always have the choice to understand, stand [up] for each other, and flock/unite towards the same goal.
EN: Birds of a feather flock together
DE: Gleich und Gleich gesellt sich gern (“Equal and Equal associates gladly”)
NL: Soort zoekt soort (“Species seek species”)
SV: Lika barn leka bäst (“Alike children play the best”)
NO: Like barn leker best (“Alike children play the best”)
DA: Krage søger mage (“Crow seeks mate”)
IT: Chi si assomiglia si piglia (“Those who resemble get [it] on”)
FR: Qui se ressemble s’assemble (“Those who resemble assemble”)
PT: Farinha do mesmo saco (“Flour from the same sack”)
RO: Cine se aseamănă se aduna (“Who is alike, gathers together”)
ES: Dios los cría y ellos se juntan
(“God raises them and they get together [on their own]”)
HU: Madarat tolláról, embert barátjáról
(“Birds from their feather, humans from their friend”)
CS: Vrána k vráně sedá. (“Crows always sit with crows”)
PL: Swój swojego się trzyma (“The own holds his own”)
EL: κύλησε ο τέντζερης και βρήκε το καπάκι
(“The kettle rolled down and found the lid”)
RU: Рыбак рыбака видит издалека. (“Fisherman sees another fisherman from afar”)