Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece based on my experiences in Europe. I may get some things wrong or say something you don’t agree with, but do not fret because it’s not the end of the world.
I have been in Europe approximately 5 months. When I first arrived I had a slight notion of what the EU was, but I didn’t even know there was a unifying flag. I questioned: what is the blue flag with stars and why it is everywhere?
I’ve learned a lot these past 5 month, talked to a lot of people, and read a lot of European news. I’ve realized that countries are proud to be part of the EU, especially the less western ones like Slovenia and Croatia. I’ve also realized a lot more countries than I expected are in the EU. You have to have certain standards of living and infrastructure, and there are only a few places left in Europe without them.
Visiting the EU parliament (museum) taught me a lot about what the EU actually *does*. It was created after WWII when Winston Churchill stated that Europe needs to be more like the United States and be the United Countries of Europe. The EU was formed to prevent another atrocity like the first two world wars to happen again.
Besides promoting unity and conflict prevention, the EU allows free economic trade and an overall currency that is together, stronger and not quite as susceptible to some currency. The Italian lire for instance was in bad shape when the switch was made. 1800 lire for 1 euro? They had 10000 lire bills and more. A few too many zeros on that to be considered a strong currency. The euro though is strong, comparable to the US dollar. Only two countries are exempt from the euro, Denmark, and the U.K. (Mention of brexit to come). The rest are supposed to phase into it at some point, some places accept both euro and the local currency, even if they aren’t in the stage of phasing out.