I could be a world record holder, maybe I should write to Guinness. It’s not a record I’m proud of, or indeed even want, but I have been in and out of the European Union four times!
I’m officially no longer a citizen of the EU. Brexit has now unfortunately became a reality, the island has never felt more like an island before.
My own personal roller-coaster of entry/exit/entry/exit has taken another twist. In 1975, when I was six years old, joined the European Communities, an organisation that would transform into the European Union we know today. So at six I was an EU citizen. In 1998 I moved to Croatia, and although still an EU citizen I had left the EU, but 15 years later Croatia joined the European family and I was back in. Seven years down the road and Brexit kicks-in and I’m out again.
I am on a constantly spinning revolving door. Will I be in again? Well judging by my EU timeline I should be an EU citizen by around 2035, one way or another.
Do I feel less European? NO! In fact, Brexit has convinced me to finally get a Croatian passport. I hadn’t bothered before, because quite frankly there seemed no point, but now I’m officially a citizen of a third nation I think it’s time to get back in the EU family.
As I already have a Croatian driving licence I’ll now go one step further. I’m going to follow the advice of Sir Winston Churchill who first floated the idea of a United States of Europe back in 1946 in a famous speech in Zurich. He’s probably turning in his grave now.
How the world turns. I remember all those years ago when my wife needed visas, papers and confirmations before travelling. Whereas just a wave of my passport was enough for the border guard to raise the barrier. This, to say the least, frustrated her considerably. Now the shoe is firmly on the other foot. Now she is the one with freedom of movement, freedom to work and study and now it’s the border guard who is waving her through.
On the other hand, I have to think do I need a visa now? Will they stamp my passport? Can I stay here for longer than 90 days? Do I have to show proof of bank statements?
The mountain of paperwork is something that I’m not used to. Although one Croatian friend, who is planning on studying in the UK, said to me the other day “We’re used to filling out papers and papers, this isn’t something new to us.”
Yes, I have all the rights of an EU citizen as long as I remain in Croatia, and I have these rights thanks to Croatia. I know many, many people back in the UK who are both embarrassed and frustrated at the decision to leave, but the decision has been made so we’ve got to work around it.
It is already, even in these early stages, proving challenging, and completely unnecessary. I’ve heard of stories of people being charged customs duty of post they’ve received, of losing content on their streaming TV service and having a nightmare with students in UK universities. “Can I use my mobile phone in Croatia this summer without betting charged roaming fees?” asked a friend. The answer is that he won’t be charged….yet.
It feels like we’re going backwards not forwards, I thought that all these problems were behind us, a thing of the past and not the present.
And it’s the younger generations I feel the sorriest for. The freedoms they were used to, or expecting, have been made considerably more restricted. Finding a summer job in Italy, doing a year of their studies in Germany or taking a year out and travelling across the old continent have all been made more complicated. Although I strongly believe that they will see just what a horrible mistake we have made and vote us back into the European family in the future.
Will I be alive to see this, I’m not sure? But I’m certain it will happen. For as the great Winston once famously “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Let’s just hope that the younger generation don’t lose their enthusiasm. I have adapted to being in and out of the EU, but I have a feeling that they haven’t, and that they don’t want to lose their rights.