This week sees the last full week before the Referendum vote on 23 June. There will be many campaigners on both sides putting in some serious miles as the referendum still remains very much in the balance. I’ll also be putting in some miles – to London on Wednesday and back to Vienna on Thursday before a day trip to Zagreb for Friday – all part of the job working within the European banking supervision environment – going to the European Banking Authority in Canary Wharf and then the Croatian National Bank, the latter hosting a meeting of an SSM working group.
Weeks like this, while demanding on the nerves, time-consuming (three mornings in a row that I’ll be at airports before 7am) are also something that confirms my general belief in the European project. Some of it also highlights the difference a generation can make. My father, a civil engineer, only travelled abroad for work once in his career – having a three week stay in the then Yemen Arab Republic in May 1985 – he celebrated his 40th birthday there. I travel a lot less now than I did when I was organising conferences with central banks and banks – but have managed to travel to most of the countries of the EU, with a few exceptions, for conferences that I have organised, and even some non-EU Member States.
Austria is home, will remain home regardless of the referendum result, but there is a strange feeling about this week’s trip to London – the fact that the European Banking Authority is based in London speaks volumes for the relevance of the City of London in banking terms. But this will be the last time I enter the country of my birth before the electorate decides on whether it will remain a European Union member. As I make my way from Heathrow to Canary Wharf, I will doubtless be confronted by wall-to-wall arguments from both sides, and I will be in the still surreal position that I will be in the country of my birth, but where I am no longer eligible to vote on its continuing status as an EU Member State. Should it choose to leave the EU, with it I will become politically stateless. The experience of boarding the plane from London for the last time before the referendum will be a strange one – on this occasion I will be flying with British Airways for the first time in over a decade – and on course it is now Spanish owned…
Flying to Croatia, the 28th and most recent EU Member State, will be the first time I have been there for a business trip. My first trip to Zagreb was back in 1998, with Croatia a fledgling nation that was just rebuilding after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Over the years I have been mainly to the coastal parts of Croatia – having had three trips to Dubrovnik and the surrounding areas. The fact that the Baltic states and some of the former Yugoslav states have been able to fit into the EU in under a generation is another factor that instils my belief in the EU project.