Almost 34 years ago my parents arrived in France – in a Europe whose borders were still closed, free movement being a thing of the future. Immigration paperwork was still an incredible hurdle. The iron curtain was still standing, the Maastricht treaty wasn’t even on the books and Thatcher was wrecking political havoc in the U.K. Precursors, possibly, but most definitely enablers of the European dream (they came to teach foreign languages), my parents were the first British citizens our elderly Norman neighbours had seen since the Second World War.
A rife reminder of the possibilities of what common ground can bring forth – proximity, community, collectivity. We were then born in France – three siblings, all of which grew up on European soil, with free movement. We ended up growing up between France, Germany, England, Scotland, Italy and Portugal at various stages of our lives, with great ease I might add.
It’s with great pride that we in our own ways enacted the European project – plural, open, culturally multiple – throughout our lives, precisely thanks to the privilege that such a vast and ambitious legislative operation facilitated.
European soil now has more kilometres of closed and walled borders than it had in 1987. The Mediterranean is a graveyard to the EU’s criminal immigration legislation, and the EU parliament is a victim to the populist right wing fascists attempting to implode the social aspect of the original peace project that is the EU.
Ever a testimony that borders and nationality are barriers to emancipation and collective intelligence, Brexit has torn us apart and divided us. But it’s with the tools we have that citizens have to fight, our freedoms being only obtained by using the actions we have to destroy what borders are left between us, or that had disappeared and are being rebuilt. With a great sense of pride in their original foresight into what Europe could and should become, I continue to respect as feel gratitude for my parents choice to turn their backs on Thatchers imperialist nostalgia. Nationality is a status, are rights, a freedom that Brexit has stripped away for millions.
Today, my parents obtained French nationality after some 34 years of living here (with gaps and adventures abroad over the years). It’s a huge relief, and a great civic liberation on a micro scale.
The struggle continues.
But the European project is built up of individual lives brought together collectively, and if we can continue to fight for this right not for the few but for all, there is hope.
Félicitations maman, papa! Vos enfants sont très fier.e.s.
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