08/05/2014 10:40 BST | Updated 07/07/2014 06:59 BST

The EU Paradox


The European Union has facilitated uniting its 28 member states in order to achieve lasting peace, whilst the partnership has equally created economic success too. Through not only promoting democracy and allowing free travel for EU citizens but also, arguably the most attractive benefit to many: the EU adoption of a single market. This key benefit to businesses has been perennially supported and improved through the introduction of EU measures such as initiating harmonised technical and health & safety standards for products; uniting the EU with the Euro (thus reducing the currency considerations between businesses trading across Eurozone countries); and utilising policies such as recording your VAT in the same way in the UK as elsewhere, which simplifies conducting business with the EU.

Considering this explanation of benefits, which has resulted in the EU member states encompassing some of the wealthiest economies in the world, it may seem paradoxical that many EU citizens do not feel the unity of EU member states as positively impacting their lives. A lack of popularity with citizens has been particularly noted in that of the younger generation of citizens.

A key illustration of this unpopularity is highlighted by UK political parties demagogic pledges to hold a EU referendum if elected. David Cameron has promised a referendum if the Conservative party are to be elected, whilst equally Ed Miliband has suggested he would seek to reform Britain's EU bonds.

So why is this a decision so many EU citizens are willing to make considering the benefits we all could stand to lose? More interestingly, why is this most prominent in the younger generation?

Euroscepticism may lie in the fact that 5.5 million young Europeans are unemployed. As a student myself I can relate to the pressure of seeking post-graduate employment and I have had first-hand experience of the challenges many face in such a competitive job climate.

The European Commission has stated under the 'youth employment' section of their 'European Employment Strategy' that the youth unemployment rate is more than double that of the adult one. Furthermore, the job climate has changed with the notion of a job for life being far removed from the reality of the unstable job market for young people today. In 2012, 42% of young employees were employed on a temporary contract.

This sense of doubt in the future of employment for many young EU citizens is exasperated by the reporting's of large companies abusing zero hour contracts. Whilst zero hour contracts offer flexibility for young people who are juggling the demands of studying, they can also provide a way for some companies to over work and under-reward staff. My experience of being on such a contract has been positive - it allowed my employer and I the flexibility to agree a working arrangement, which met the demands of the role whilst allowing me to fulfil my studying commitments. However, unfortunately this is not the story for all young people in the workplace.

A key illustration of this type of exploitation faced by those on the zero hour contracts can be seen in the case of Sports Direct breaching the employment rights of 20,000 employees, through giving their staff minimal job security yet expecting them to fulfil the same duties as their full-time colleagues.

The job fears of the young, however, do not account for the growing euroscepticism surfacing in the adult generations of EU citizens, which leads this discussion to the financial crisis and its erosion of European solidarity.

The financial crisis has enforced an associated negativity and suspicion of the European Union by creating the feeling for some member states that they are paying the price for the decisions of others.

Unilateral austerity measures can be argued to have intensified the recession, creating an intractable distance between the many cultures that constitute Europe. The holistic approach of economic unity, such as the implementation of a common currency and collective EU policy is now not met with expectations of a brighter future united but with fear of what weaknesses these ideals create. This can create cracks in the social cohesion of all of the Eurozone states, which may begin to unravel the European paradox.

photo credit: European Parliament via photopincc