Today we are celebrating the European Union and all that it gives us.
To me the EU means peace, guaranteed human rights, freedom of movement and building friendships, relationship and families across borders. Borders that have become more and more irrelevant in our daily lives.
The European Union (and its predecessors the Council of Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community) started as a peace project, originally created to prevent another war. This peace project has been one of the most successful ever created; there have been no violent conflicts between the member states since its existence.
I was born in East Germany, a country surrounded by almost insuperable borders. I remember well how difficult it was to cross these borders. Permissions to travel – even just from one Germany to the other – had to be requested months in advance. So naturally, when I was little, I could have never imagined that one day I would be able to travel to or even live in a country other than my birth country.
Thanks to the European Union, this became a reality.
I joined the Green Party a few months before the referendum, when it became clear that Britain might vote to leave the EU. Since I am not a British citizen, I was not allowed to cast a vote in this referendum that had the potential to change my and my partner’s lives. Not wanting to accept that I cannot change politics, I started to campaign with the Green Party for the Remain campaign.
I got more and more involved in politics and learned that people did not just vote to leave the European Union; rather, this referendum result was a cry for help to highlight some people’s unbearable living conditions.
Once I had realised this, I decided that I had to take my political activism a step further. I stood in the council elections because I see the role of a councillor as one that is able to directly change the root causes of Brexit.
As a councillor I am able to tackle the effects of austerity and can build bridges between the different community groups in our city. The fact that I am able to get elected as a councillor in a country other than my birth country is also a result of EU legislation that allows European citizens to stand in local elections in any member state of the European Union.
So let’s celebrate the many benefits the European Union gives us. And let’s not just celebrate the European Union, let’s aim to make it better and an even more connected place where people from all sorts of different backgrounds meet, make friends, start families and help each other.
We will lose so many of our rights if we leave the European Union, including the right to change what is currently not good enough in the EU. I therefore ask you to get organised and save what’s most precious to us. Join a local group or a party, go to a pro-European protest, or write to your MP, there are a million ways to get campaigning for the future of our European Union.
Happy Europe Day!
Councillor Marianna Ebel is a newly elected Green member of Brighton and Hove City Council.