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

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.

TEKSTI Ninni Norra

KUVA Kristian Keinänen