Against the backdrop of the Dutch EU Council presidency, OneWorld.nl has sent Reinier Vriend on a mission to identify the everyday European values and concerns. In the interview series #ThisIsMyEurope he speaks with colourful individuals in and of the continent, trying to find out what ‘Europe’ means to us. This edition he speaks with Edda Pascher, a vegan editor-in-chief from Vienna, Austria.
“For me Europe is not just a continent, it’s also a unity. This extends beyond the European Union. I’m Austrian, but Europe is also my home.”
I speak with Edda Pascher (36), founder of the online magazine ‘The bird’s new nest’. Two years ago she started the site to give direction to her concern for the environment and animal’s rights. “I’m vegan, and so is the magazine. It is about sustainability; it touches all sorts of topics. I try to make a little change for the better and this is my vehicle now.” The site has been a huge hit in the German speaking world. “This indicates that a lot of people care about these topics too.”
I always wanted to be a part of something that could make a change for the better, that could be something that’s more than just the parts
Europe has fascinated Edda from a young age. “Austria was late to join the EU, only in 1999. When I was taught about it in school, it really caught my imagination. I always wanted to be a part of something that could make a change for the better, that could be something that’s more than just the parts. This is what I expected from joining the EU, and I was hoping to one-day work for them.” After her studies, Edda’s childhood dream came true only by accident. “I applied for a job in the field of combatting racism and xenophobia in Vienna. Only when they hired me, they disclosed that my employer was the EU.”
Edda feels that the current state of Europe is far from ideal. “In Austria there is a divided opinion on Europe. Some people will say that everything bad emanates from the EU. ‘You got hit by a car? That’s Brussels for ya!’ Still I believe that most people here believe in a united Europe. Maybe the sweeping expectations weren’t fulfilled. It’s undeniable that some things are not going as planned. Take the refugee crisis for example: it is no-one’s fault, but it has no real solution and is totally chaotic. Another issue that I’m not at all satisfied with is how TTIP and the lobbies in Brussels are dealt with. I’m not an expert at all, but I’ve tried to be informed, and what I found is worrying to me. Interests of certain a small number of companies are what drives these processes, not the interests of population in general or what we know about climate change.”
However, Edda does not expect an Auxit. “During the last decades I have developed a more realistic picture of what Europe can be. Maybe the dreams didn’t come true, but it is better to be part of it and work to change it, than to quit. Dropping out of the EU is not an option.” Some developments carry optimism. “The work I did at the centre against Racism and recent EU workshops I attended are very valuable and they’ve shown me that the EU drives many projects and efforts to change things. It’s just not visible, the outcome is very rarely communicated.”
No-one present envisioned a split, or poverty, or war
“I enrolled in an EU workshop here in Vienna about the future of Europe. The group we sat with here was a representation of Austrian society.” They were asked to paint a vision of Europe, ten years from now. “It struck me that people were willing to bring forward their ideas. No-one present envisioned a split, or poverty, or war. What surprised me the most was the ideas that found a common ground. Like a basic income guarantee for people, a true concern for the environment and adherence to animal rights. These workshops are done in all European countries and the outcome is used as a basis for policy.” It gave Edda hope and motivation. “I had gotten the feeling that the EU wouldn’t be interested in the populace. But they are, it’s just not known. But the outcomes are mind-blowing, and we’re actually choosing where Europe is going. It is my hope that in the end we will be able to keep a Europe where it’s still us who choose a certain path. Not economy or government, but the people.”
This interview is part 12 of the series #ThisIsMyEurope. Join the conversation on Twitter [@OneWorldNL] and read the other interviews on the special #ThisIsMyEurope Oneworld page.