Family Matters: What I Learned About the EU by Visiting the UN

Family Matters: What I Learned About the EU by Visiting the UN

, by Ninni Norra

Family Matters: What I Learned About the EU by Visiting the UN
Phot of Ninni Nora at the UN Offices in Vienna, taken by Kristian Keinänen

This reflection is authored by Ninni Norra, Tähdistö’s in-house journalist and EU commentator. It is republished from Tähdistö, the online magazine of JEF Finland

Having primarily focused on EU affairs in the past, I felt honoured to be chosen by the UN Youth of Finland for their educational excursion to Vienna in November 2023. The trip, designed to explore global and regional diplomacy, peace mediation, and comprehensive security, provided me with a variety of new perspectives. Over the course of five days, our delegation engaged with various institutions, including the International Institute for Peace, the local United Nations (UN) headquarters, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE).

Given my EU-centric background and limited exposure to the UN, the journey proved to be an enlightening experience on multiple fronts. The programme offered a diverse examination of global politics, presenting viewpoints from NGOs, nations, and diplomats. Despite their differing contexts, one constant emerged – finding common ground is a formidable challenge, sometimes bordering on impossibility.

This challenge isn’t unfamiliar to those involved in EU affairs. Member States often enter negotiations with their own agendas, leading to intense debates, of which the Brexit saga serves as a costly and extreme example. These disagreements should, therefore, warrant serious consideration before escalating into irreversible rifts.

The EU is a complex family, and dealing with family dynamics is often challenging. Yet, when compared to the profound disagreements shaking the international arena, debates over cucumbers and herrings seem trivial. The undeniable truth is that we are far from achieving universal agreement on fundamental principles such as human rights, the rule of law, and gender equality. A Vienna-based diplomat shared during her presentation, "In certain countries, women are virtually non-existent in the eyes of the law, leading to normalised violence and severe limitations in property ownership or inheritance." Notably, these examples were drawn from European countries close to the EU, contrary to assumptions held by many EU citizens.

The world extends beyond the EU’s borders, and this reality became uncomfortably evident during my time in Vienna. Observing the operations of these vast international bodies emphasised the relatively small scale of the EU, and Finland even more so. If the

coordination of 27 EU Member States seems overwhelming, contemplating the 57 participating countries in the OSCE or the 193 members of the UN is a stark reality check. While critical examination and development are essential for the EU, questioning its necessity in upholding liberal democracy is a luxury we cannot afford.

Global conflicts are escalating, and systems once designed to prevent conflicts are now contributing to them. Influential nations are altering policies that were once somewhat predictable, causing concern about the vocal questioning of international law and principles from various quarters, both outside and within the EU. There’s no cosmic law dictating that the future will mirror today’s ideals of human dignity.

It is in times of uncertainty that the importance of family becomes apparent. Regardless of occasional annoyance by neighbouring siblings or cousins further away, the EU will face the future together, be it successful or failing. Let’s ensure that our European family remains united when its strength is put to the test, considering the challenges we currently confront and those that lie ahead.

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