Drawing Citizenship (a cartoon project reflecting on European Citizenship in the run-up to the European elections, in cooperation with the European Cultural Foundation) has drawn to a close, with the selection of 8 cartoons out of more than 200 submissions from both Europe and the rest of the world.
This has been one of the more interesting projects, as it is a very interesting time for the European project. In western Europe, and in countries facing severe austerity measures (like Greece), euroskepticism is on the rise. In France and the UK, anti-Europe parties (Front National and the UK Independence Party respectively) were the biggest winners of the European elections. In other parts of Europe, the mood is different. For instance, the majority in Italy, Romania and Portugal voted for left-wing parities, not aiming for less Europe, but a more social Europe instead.
So, did the cartoons reflect how Europeans feel about Europe? Well, yes and no.
No, because there were no outright anti-Europe cartoons sent in for this project. This is probably because (with the notable exception of the US, where there is a long and rich tradition of conservative cartoonists) cartoonists tend to be progressive individuals, who shy away from populism, nationalism and migration restrictions (which is what most anti-Europe parties have in common).
Yes, because we did receive some highly critical cartoons about the European Union. There's one by Vladimir Kazanevsky (shown above), visualizing the EU as mountaineers trying to reach the summit. Their safety lines are not attached to each other's waists, but like nooses to their necks. Other cartoons reflect a number themes, some decidedly progressive, others felt by Europeans from both the left and the right side of the political spectrum.
The majority of cartoons about Europe can, broadly speaking, be divided in four categories:
1) Highlighting the gap between the people in power and the European citizens.
3) Focusing on the economy, and the fact that Europe has become (in the eyes of many cartoonists) a representative of capitalist interests of banks and multinationals, with little or no regard anymore for the common citizen.
Cartoons by Anne Derenne and Trayko Popov.
4) The immigration policy of Europe; the EU should be about shared prosperity, but the freedom enjoyed by people within Europe stands in sharp contrast with the way we deal with people trying to get in.
Cartoons by Igor Lukyachenko and Tjeerd Royaards.
What a lot of these cartoons have in common is that they visualize the EU as a polity that is far removed from the Europeans. This is quite an accurate reflection of how many people in the EU feel, and why so many people stay at home on election day, or, when they do vote, decide to support anti-Europe parties.
Part of this project was to explore, apart from European politics and institutions, the ties that bind us together as Europeans. But the sad truth is, that at the moment, it is precisely the institutions of the EU (and the remote and undemocratic way they function) that seem to be the biggest obstacle in the way of developing any form of European citizenship.