Three countries in one day – a typical European travel plan. I started this morning in sunny Aix-en-Provence, landed in Amsterdam and now I climbed off the train in Düsseldorf. I am still not sure what to make of the fact that I felt the greatest culture shock was in Dizzel where once again a car driver had parked in an area designated for another traffic participants, namely the tram that had to stop because the car was parked on the tracks. Seriously, how hard can this be? In Amsterdam, on the other hand, I felt immediately somewhat at home – such a nice place, really.
When I studied my Master’s in European Studies, one buzz word was always part of our discussions: closeness to the citizens. What is a European citizen and how can the EU work towards making a difference in her citizens’ life? Well, today, I got to experience how policy influences real life first hand. In France, a country formally at war with heavily armed guards patrolling the central station of Marseille, we were forced to go through border control and they looked at our passports closely. This is something I’ve known from flying to London but once I was on the train from Amsterdam to Dizzel, I really got a taste of the “we don’t do Schengen anymore”-decision. A couple of plainclothes policepeople suddenly came in and demanded to see our tickets and passports. They searched the bags, asked why one had been in Amsterdam and for how long and then called some authority to verify our documents. While I luckily can travel legally, it still felt very odd. I almost felt insulted in my Europeaness. The EU member states decisions have, at any rate, suceeded in terms of closeness to citizens.