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Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

Hacktreks in Europe

Stewart Mandy
A New Europe
Will this be the European Century?

"I am proud to be a European," said the young man at the next table.
It was late September 2002; the place a sidewalk cafe off the Champs Elysee in Paris, where I was having cafe au lait at a table adjacent to Louis, a nineteen-year-old self- styled "European Citizen". Louis was sitting with his friends, a group of similar aged young people, with varying accents. I had been drawn to the conversation by the fact that despite the fact they were all clearly non-native English speakers, the language they were using for their conversation was English, and which they all spoke fluently. After eavesdropping for a while, I felt compelled to inquire why they were speaking in English.
Louis, the most outgoing of the group quickly filled me in. This was the 'new Europe', he explained, the European Union, and the movement of people within the Union meant that he was just as likely to have friends from other European nations as from his native France.

It turned out that the group was indeed multinational, consisting of a German, an Italian, a Dane, a Dutchman, and of course Louis from France. They were speaking English because it was their common language, and having learned it since they started school, they were all as comfortable speaking it as their own native tongue. Louis proudly assured me that it would be rare to find a young European who could not speak English nowadays, and indeed in the following weeks as I traveled around, I frequently encountered these groups of young Europeans from different countries within the Union, all speaking English. Indeed wherever I went, from the cafes of Paris, to the streets of Berlin, to an office building in Rome, I heard more English being spoken than ever before in continental Europe.

Our conversation shifted to the Euro, the new single European currency, in circulation for a year now, and a symbol of pride to the new Europeans. Louis was particularly outspoken on the subject of the Euro. "I'm not just glad, I'm proud," he stated. "Proud, because our countries, which fought each other for decades, decided in 1957 to unite our destinies. To share a single currency is more than an economic decision. It is also the ultimate symbol of our wish to live together, not only with the aim of increasing prosperity, but also with the goal of preserving peace." Louis said this with a broad, sincere smile on his face, continuing "I am proud, because when I buy a drink, I know I am using the same notes and coins as millions of other young people across the Union, whether they are in Ireland, Germany, or Portugal. I'm proud because when my Italian and Belgian friends visit me in Paris, the Euro will help them feel at home. I'm proud because in the eyes of millions of extra-European tourists we will form a single area. I think that we, the European young generation have to be aware of our privilege to live in countries, which are not involved in wars on their own territories, especially since this has not always been the case. The Euro notes and coins represent a symbol of that, and that is why I am proud to have them in my pocket."

Pulling my own Euros from my pocket, I paid for my coffee, looking with some awe at < the money that meant so much to Louis. It no longer seemed like "just money". After exchanging contact information with the group, I moved on, my head full of their vision for the European future. Will this be the "European Century?" I wondered. It is widely considered that Britain dominated the 19th century, and America the 20th, but with such a great vision of the future in the minds of the young generation, the European Union as a whole, which will soon encompass even more of the continent, must stand a great chance of defining the 21st. As I traveled around, I realized that Louis was right. It is indeed a new Europe, finally maturing, and confident of shaping its own destiny. It is a Europe that in large part no longer cares what America thinks, or wants Europe to do. It is a Europe that is fast adopting English as its lingua franca, and with the Euro, no internal border controls, and welcoming natives will continue to be a major destination for tourists and those seeking a change of lifestyle.
Even the notoriously Euro-phobic British seem to be coming around to the European vision. While they are yet to commit to join the Euro, the fact that more and more of the continental population are speaking their language is helping to warm the British attitude towards the Union.

As a long time expatriate from Europe, it felt good to see the "New Europe" that is taking shape. I'm still happy to live in America, but I'm also happy to be able to say that like Louis, I too, am proud to be a European.

© Stewart Mandy 2003

About the author: Stewart Mandy is an accomplished international freelance correspondent and travel writer, and a member of Agora International Press Corps. He has been published in various print and online publications, on a wide variety of topics including travel, hospitality, industry specific topics, and current affairs. He is always available for worldwide assignment, and all offers and story ideas will be considered. He can be reached by email at

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