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Why I'll Be Pegging My Nose and Voting for the EU, But Not This Rotten Leadership

15/07/2015 17:43 BST | Updated 15/07/2016 10:59 BST

Political bullying and public disregard for democracy has tarnished leadership in Europe over its handling of Greece. When I cast my vote in the referendum, I will be voting yes, but as this project shows increasing unwillingness to respect the peoples it serves, my ballot will be cast with a great deal of reluctance.

Last year I worked in the European Parliament for four months and upon my arrival in this maze of concrete and multi-lingual working, my staunch pro-European outlook was solidified. For a fresh faced humanities student, getting to work in the world's second largest representative parliament was too good an opportunity to turn down. I was in Brussels during the build up to what turned out to be a lacklustre European election, quelle surprise. Stuffed into every speech made by the various party representatives, was a commitment to honour democracy and re-engage with the continent's populous.

Fast forward twelve months and the majority of EU leaders who are locked in battle over how to solve the Eurozone crisis, along with the institutions of the currency, have used the lives of 10 million Greeks to make an example of the consequences of not adhering to a unified economic policy. Without getting into the minutiae of Euro macroeconomics, leaders have eroded the right for people to be heard, all in the pursuit of sustaining a currency that has placed politics and transnational bodies above its users.

As Greeks headed to the polls, they did so as Brussels launched a project fear that miraculously manage to outdo what we saw during the Scottish independence referendum by the unionist campaign. Jean-Claude Junker went as far to warn that voting no would result in an exit from the Eurozone. Leaders were steadfast in bulldozing aside public opinion in the pursuit of reaffirming their commitment to the failed model of liberal economics that had resulted in the near meltdown of the nation that gave the world democracy.

My feelings of unity, cultural exchange and democracy en masse, are fast fading as European leaders fail to recognise that grievances towards Brussels are not exclusive to followers of Nigel Farage or the old-guard of the Conservatives. Casting aside Eurosceptics as being little Englanders who harbour seething anger over owning maroon passport, is a grave political folly. For grievances towards the European project are on the rise within the left. The Transatlantic Trade Agreement is becoming the very antithesis of a union that is meant to promote a social economy, but will instead be built for corporations, not citizens.

Glitzy posters promoting the opportunity to study abroad in the sun or roam seamlessly across the continent come as little comfort when 5.6million young people cannot find work. Aspirations have been crippled and hopes of opportunity dashed. Promoting cheap flights to our neighbours and having our supermarkets filled with continental goods is of little compensation.

This European project has lost its way and needs to adapt to retain a sense of purpose. My grandparents, who lived through war and hardship, staunchly advocated European solidarity in order to maintain peace. My parents enjoyed the benefits of deregulated markets, with cheap bottles of Sangria and holidays to the Costa Del Sol. Now Europe must look to offer my generation something more than just a year studying on the Mediterranean.

Calls for reform and exit are growing; London and Brussels may only be a couple of hours away by train but its politics are drifting further apart. I fundamentally believe the European Union can be a force for good but its current leadership risk orchestrating its demise. Should the UK retain its membership, it should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement to the current structures of the EU.

When I enter the ballot, I will be crossing yes box, but it will not be done with unwavering conviction. It will be done in the hope that a better Europe is possible, although increasing numbers of people may be less willing to demonstrate such idealism.