The European Union is one community – made up of 28 different states and dozens of regions with different cultures and traditions. This diversity sometimes makes Europe complicated, but it also makes it colourful, interesting and full of ideas. European integration must therefore be about cross-fertilisation, but not homogenisation. Only countries with different strengths are in a position to socially and economically compensate for the weaknesses of the others. This relates directly to the EU motto: “United in diversity”.
In the Irish city of Cork it rains roughly 150 days a year, whereas in the Spanish city of Seville you’ll need an umbrella on 50 days at most. In Paris, some 20,000 people live on one square kilometre. In Lapland, this figure is less than two. In the Dutch town of Houten people cycle more than anywhere else in the EU. London has the most tourists, and Madrid is the city with Europe’s highest density of pubs.
These differences must be taken into account – and European policymakers are well aware of this. Not only the member states have a voice in Brussels, but also individual regions through the “Committee of the Regions”. Cohesion and infrastructure policies are used to support less developed regions in Europe. And the European single market also defends these regional distinctions. True champagne is still only bottled in Champagne, Parma ham comes from Parma, and Nuremburg sausages really do originate from the region.
Finally, this European diversity is not just nice – it also has tangible benefits, because the international division of labour ensures greater prosperity and quality of life for all Europeans. Individual countries and regions can focus on their strengths. This is evident, for example, in mechanical engineering, which is undoubtedly a German preserve, but also has a European soul. The Italians sell a relatively large number of food processing machines, while in Denmark a particularly large number of turbines for wind power plants are built. In France, the production of agricultural machinery is fairly widespread, while Austria produces a lot of plastics machines.
Europe means that we work together on important matters, but not that all regions do the same thing. A functioning EU means cross-fertilisation – but also respect for our diversity.
Number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the EU: 386