The Benefits of the European Union (EU)
The European Union (EU) is a supranational political and economic union of 27 member states with a total population of nearly 450 million people. Catherine, who is currently doing her voluntary service in Lüneburg, Germany, shares an outsider's perspective on some perceived benefits of European integration, which has been ongoing since 1948.
Arriving in Germany for my volunteer year was very exciting and scary at the same time. I was very excited to finally experience all the seasons, especially winter with snow everywhere. Since we arrived in January, I was well prepared to endure the long nights and cold winter days. It's a shame that last year we weren't lucky enough to get snow here in Lüneburg, but this year was different. And finally, my long-cherished wish to experience snowy days came true. My biggest fears were speaking the language, because German is known to be very complicated with long words. Additionally, the integration into a new environment and cultural circle appeared as very intensive.
Freedom to travel, live, work and start a business anywhere in the EU
When we all applied for our visas while we were still in Tanzania, I personally had in mind that I would only travel through Germany with my visa. For the first seven months of my stay here in Germany, I lived with a host family who was very nice, warm-hearted and super helpful to me. They then explained to me how the European Union is constructed and working. The European Union consists of 27 member states, which are mainly located in Europe. Aside from being able to travel freely without being inspected (especially if you are traveling by car), one of the main benefits is that 20 out of 27 states have the same currency. This is a wonderful ideology where you can move freely between states without having to change currency when you travel to another state. The only difference you notice is the sudden change of language. I wish that one day we will create a union like the European Union among the African states. This does not mean that there is no such union/community in Africa: In East Africa, for example, we have the East African Community (EAC), which consists of 7 countries. The traffic and relations between these countries are easy, but all these countries have their own currencies, which entails a cumbersome exchange of currencies. Although the African Union, based in Addis Ababa, already coordinates continental integration, transnational cooperation on issues such as a Common Market, free trade, customs, foreign policy, climate protection or migration is not as integrated as in Europe, because the continent is divided into 14 regional economic blocs to facilitate continental integration.
Peace and Security
So, with my EU Visa (Schengen Visa), I am allowed to visit all the countries of the European Union. And I have used the opportunity to visit other countries in Europe whenever I could. I visited Austria, France, and Spain. On a road trip, I was also able to cross Luxembourg and Belgium in just two hours. It's really a great fascination and amazing at the same time. These are the benefits I see from this Union as an outsider, but there is so much more to this Union that has restored peace in Europe for such a long time.