“We must become more political”

Journalist Hasnain Kazim is convinced that Europeans should talk more about what they want in and with Europe. But no necessarily in the social media.

dpa/Karlheinz Schindler - Hasnain Kazim

For me Europe is home in spite of its cultural differences. Europe is so diverse – and yet has a single framework: liberal, free democracy. The most important thing in Europe is that you can live in peace and freely express your opinion here. We forget that all too often. My generation at least still remember the Cold War. We ought occasionally to remind ourselves that war was the normal state of affairs on this continent in past centuries.

A European place? I know practically no other city that is as European as Austria’s capital Vienna. Europe is simply lived here far removed from EU institutions. On the street you hear Hungarian, Czech, Slovenian – the eastern European influences are just as strong as the western ones. And: the people are adventurous, willing to experiment. Vienna embraces the future. I still always find it incredible that you can get in a train in Vienna and in less than an hour you are in Bratislava. For a long time such freedom of movement could not be taken for granted.

There is also a danger that things will not stay like this in the future. We can see the populists getting stronger all over Europe. We must constantly work for a free, democratic Europe. I certainly hope that Europe remains as we know it: a great union of democracies. But I am afraid that there will be a return to nation-state thinking with borders and fences. Ultimately, following the election in the USA, Europe is the last bastion of liberal democracy. We must fight to support it. But the social media are not suitable for that. They are precisely where the greatest opponents of free thought and democracy attract the greatest hearing, because they have the loudest voices there. What we can do is talk more about what we want in and with Europe. We must convince people to become more political, not to retreat into the private sphere – and we must already begin that at school.”

Hasnain Kazim was born in Oldenburg in 1974 as the son of Indian-Pakistani immigrants. He studied political science in Hamburg and became a navy officer. In the course of his career as a journalist he has spent time working for Stader Tageblatt, dpa (South Asia Bureau) and Heilbronner Stimme. He was correspondent of Spiegel Online and Der Spiegel in Pakistan and in Turkey and has lived in Vienna since March 2016.

Transcript: Anja-Maria Meister