[Paleopsych] Thomas Jansen, ed.: Reflections on European Identity
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Reflections on European Identity
Edited by Thomas Jansen
EUROPEAN COMMISSION FORWARD STUDIES UNIT
WORKING PAPER, 1999
The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinion or
position of the European Commission.
Table of contents
Preface.... 5 by Jean-Claude Thébault
The dimensions of the historical and cultural core of a European identity ....
7 by Heinrich Schneider
Consciousness of European identity after 1945.... 21 by Gilbert Trausch
European Identity and /or the Identity of the European Union.... 27 by Thomas
A contribution from political psychology.... 37 by Tom Bryder
What is it ? Why do we need it ? Where do we find it ? .... 51 by Korthals
European identity and political experience....57 by Mario Soares
How to define the European identity today and in the future? .... 63 by Ingmar
European identity - A perspective from a Norwegian European, or a European
Norwegian....73 by Truls Frogner
European identity - an anthropoligical approach.... 77 by Maryon McDonald
European identity and citizenship .... 81 by Massimo La Torre
From poetic citizenship to European citizenship .... 89 by Claire Lejeune
L'identité européenne comme engagement transnational dans la société.... 99 by
Security and a common area.... 103 by Adriano Moreira
Neither Reich nor Nation - another future for the European Union.... 107 by
Roger De Weck
What does it mean to be a European ? Preliminary conclusions .... 111 by Jérôme
Annex:....115 A dialogue on unemployment between Truls Frogner and his
List of contributors....119
The texts that have been gathered in the following pages were written or
pronounced during the «Carrefour Européen des sciences et de la culture» which
was held in 1996 in Coimbra. This event had been organised by the Forward
Studies Unit in cooperation with the ancient University of Coimbra whose
academic excellence made this small Portuguese town so famous.
The Carrefours Européens aim to provide a forum where personalities coming from
the world of science or culture can discuss and exchange their views with
Commission officials. Participants come from different European countries to
propound ideas on issues that are particularly important for the future of our
continent. Each of them brings different experience and sensibilities and thus
contributes to the openness and the richness of the reflection.
The debates that took place in Coimbra focused on understanding how the
European identity expresses itself. Their richness is reflected in the
following texts that are at long last submitted to our readers with the deep
conviction that neither their relevance nor their actuality has been lost.
A characteristic of European identity is that it facilitates, fosters and
stimulates variety in modes of expression, form, content and approach. And it
is clear that this same principle can be applied to the definition of this
identity itself: several paths may lead to the recognition and the assertion of
an European identity which in itself is made of a plurality of ethnic,
religious, cultural, national, or local identities.
Each of the discussions that took place in Coimbra have, in their own way,
reflected this approach. Both the University's rector and Marcelino Oreja
Aguirre (the Commissioner in charge of communication, information, culture and
institutional questions at that time (1995-1999)) highlighted three constituent
poles of European identity. First, Europe is steeped in humanism and all the
values that make up its heritage today. The second is European diversity: even
if the construction of the Community seems to be a harmonisation process, this
harmonisation is just a necessary step towards the realisation of a European
market-place which should allow underlying diversitiy to flourish. Diversity is
truly Europe's richness. Finally, universalism is a European value and an
obligation. At a time when Europe is sometimes tempted by the idea of becoming
a "fortress Europe", this founding principle has to be constantly remembered
The debates gave further opportunities to put forward some key issues linked to
identity, memory or nation. Thus, identity appears as two-sided: on the one
hand memory, and heritage, and on the other hand voluntarism and a project to
be achieved. Contrary to what is usually thought, identity seems to be
constantly evolving and changeable. All these reflections ended in a discussion
on the theme of "Europe and its role in the World", and of its contribution to
the promotion of peace and progress.
Marcelino Oreja had expressed the initial interest in a meeting such as this
and had encouraged the Forward Studies Unit to organise it. The Commissioner's
active participation highly contributed to the intellectual and human success
of the event.
We now offer our readers these collected thoughts, for which we most warmly
thank the participants with the wish that they will cast light on a question
that reaches right to the heart of the European political project.
Jean-Claude Thebault Forward Studies Unit Director
The dimensions of the historical and cultural core of a european identity
The topic "dimensions of the historical and cultural core of a European
identity" may appear to be a historical and theoretical one. However, it is
political in its nature. It stands in the context of a political discussion.
Obviously, it is a contribution to the assessment of new political projects of
the European Community : On the one hand, a discussion of the role of the
cultural heritage, the historical traditions of Europe in the formation of a
political identity which will and should]d necessarily arise if the projects of
"deepening" are to be successful ; and, on the other hand, a discussion about
the question : what is the significance of the common cultural and historical
roots of those nations which belong to Europe, in view of the "widening" of the
Community. Historical reflections, theoretical reasoning, and scholars'
analyses can help with the orientation of opinion and decision-making
processes, but they cannot replace decisions about political goals. What we are
really dealing with is the political identity of a European Union. What it
should be has to be decided politically.
Problems of clarifying the terms o what is constituting identity ?
Every now and then, politicians have talked about "European Identity, but
mostly without ever trying to explain its meaning1 ! The term "identity" is
used in the context of discussions on European identity as psychologists,
sociologists, and students of civilisation apply it o not in the sense
philosophers deal with the concept "identity" in logics or metaphysics.
Primarily, one talks about the identity, or the formation of identity, or an
individual. Can we construct a concept of collective identity just as well ?
Perhaps as an analogy. But we must be careful in doing so. For all that : one
does speak of the identity of social groups, and there is also the concept of
the identity of larger social or historical units, for instance nations.
However, we cannot possibly construct the concept of "European identity" in the
same fashion as we perceive group identity of Boy Scouts or national identity.
These models are not adequate and thus we have to search for a more general
Anyone in search of her or his identity will pose the question : "Who am I" ?.
With regard to collective identity the questions are : "Who are we ? Where do
Cf., for instance, the "Document on European Identity, adopted by the Ministers
of Foreign Affairs of the member states of the European Community in
Copenhagen, 14 December 1973
from ? Where do we go ? What do we expect ? What will expect us ?"2. But these
questions really serve to clarify another, more fundamental one : Why and how
can we (or must we) talk in the first person plural ? There are two common
answers ; one of them sounds as follows : "Because we want it that way !. The
other one refers to certain things that we have in common : a common history,
common views about our present situation, common projects for our future and
the tasks that are facing us there...
In the lingo of sociologists, this means : it is the common "definition of a
situation" which serves as a mutual link and creates solidarity.3 Identity is
thus founded on "spiritual ties", it can be grasped in a "core of shared
meanings"4 in sharing consensually a common universe of symbols and
relevancies.5 We do not only speak a common language ; we also agree about the
things that must be talked about as well as the things that are important
without words. This sharing of common values is not hanging somewhere in
mid-air over our actual everyday life. Normally there are common societal
conditions of life as well. Therefore, we also have to deal with the
"sociological dimension" of European common cause.
Our common "world of meanings" ("knowing about life") is one thing that we need
in order to find our collective identity. Another one is the delimitation as an
element of identity. Knowing about myself also implies that I distinguish
myself from others ; identity is always based on negations, as Niklas Luhmann
shows.6 Collective identity as well needs the distinction between "Us" and
"Them". Nothing leads more effectively to the formation of group identity than
a common enemy, according to those who do research on small groups. An analysis
of nationalism shows that national identity is mostly defined through relating
to "counter identities".7
A third element is needed to constitute collective identity in the full sense
of the word : the ability to act and to be responsible for one's action.
Personal identity includes the capacity of independent action. Collective
identity calls for, and implies, authorisation, which enables the collectivity
to conduct collective action.8
2 This, by the way, is how Ernst Bloch begins his book "Des Prinzip Hoffnung",
Vol. 1, Berlin 1954, p. 13.
3 In this context, the present situation has also a historical depth-dimension,
and there is a perspective into the future
4 Cf. Talcott Parsons, Politics and Social Structure, New York 1969, p. 292ff.
This concept of collective identity is in accordance to Parson's concept of
individual identity being "the core system of meanings of an individual
personality ; cf. Talcott Parsons, The Position of Identity in the General
Theory of Action, in : Chad Gordon and Kenneth J. Gergen (eds.), The Self in
Social Interaction, New York 1968, p. 14.
5 Cf. Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. A
treatise in the sociology of knowledge, Garden City and New York : Doubreday
6 "Alle Identität konstituiert sich über Negationen"; cf. Niklas Luhmann, Sinn
als Grundbegriff der Soziologie, in : Jürgen Habermas and Nikias Luhmann,
Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie, Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp
1971, p. 60.
7 Cf. Orest Ranum, Counter-identities of Western European Nations in the
Early-Modern Period. Definitions and Points of Departure, ~n : Peter Boerner
8 Cf. Burkart Holzoer and Roland Robertson, Identity and Authority. A Problem
Analysis of Processes of Identification and Authorisation, ~n : Roland
Robertson and Burkart Holzner (eds.), Identity and Authority, Oxford :
Blackwell 1980, pp. 5ff., 10f., 18f., 22ff.
Aristotle already knew that, by the way : The identity of a Pólis is primarily
a constitutional identity, the "politeía", through which a community becomes a
political subject, so to speak. It is founded on the "koinonía" of knowing
about right and wrong (the "díkaion") as well as about what is beneficial or
not (the "sýmpheron"). It rests on the solidarity ("philía") of people, and its
political manifestation is a general consensus, "homónoia" as "philía
politiké".9 Therefore, collective identity in the full sense of the concept
implies a political dimension : Collective identity formation tends towards the
establishment of a polity.
Only against the background of this differentiation between the requirements
and dimensions of collective identity, it does make sense posing more exact and
detailed questions to find out what European Identity is, what it can be, and
what the possible impact of historical, cultural, and sociological components
looks like. Some theses and problems have to be introduced and considerable
aspects in our context are to be pointed out.
The primacy of politics
The first task we have to deal with is to find out whether "the European
Community will be able to build up a 'European identity'"., namely, under the
present "new circumstances, now that the 'old' historical frontiers of the
continent are reappearing". This language sounds clear enough ; but the matter
itself is rather complicated.
The "reappearance" of the "old historical frontiers of the continent".--do we
know what we are talking about ? To quote Oskar Köhler "Neither in a
geographical sense nor in a historical view, there is a static' definition of
Europe".10 A lot has been said about the validity of that formula, "Europe goes
from the Atlantic to the Urals". But Willem van Eekelen, the Secretary General
of the Western European Union, has recently stated that "the whole of Europe
..." ("Gesamteuropa") reaches "... from Vladivostok to San Francisco", and he
is not the only one to say that.11 Statements of this kind do sound as if
inspired by the experience of the CSCE process. But the most famous German
XIXth century historiograph on European politics, Leopold von Ranke, has
already pointed out that America belongs to Europe ; "indeed do New York and
Lima concern us much more than Kiev and Smolensk''12 o and we must bear in mind
that Ranke, of course, saw the Russian Empire as part of the European system.
Other authors took the same attitude ; there is for example the definition of
the European system of states as "the connection and interdependence of all
European states and empires ... including the independent states that have
arisen from the colonies of Europeans in America".13
9 Aristotle, Politics, book I chapter 2 and book III chap. 3.
10 This is the introductory sentence of Oskar Köhler's article "Europa", in :
Josef Hofer and Karl Rahner (eds.), Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 2nd ed.,
2nd printing, Freiburg/Br. 1986, colt 1187.
11 Ambassador Henri Fromont Meurice did join him in sharing this opinion, cf.
"Europa im Aufbruch. Auf dem Wege zu einer neuen Friedensordnung", Protokoll
des 91. Bergedorfer Gesprächskreises 199
, p. 29 and p. 34.
12 Leopold von Ranke, Geschichte der germanischen und romanischen Völker
(1824), p. XXXIX, cf. Heinz Gollwitzer, Europabild und Europagedanke, München :
Beck 1951, p. 279
13 Karl Heinrich Pölitz, Die Staatswissenschaften im Lichte unserer Zeit (1824)
cf. Gollwitzer, op. cit., p. 443
On the other hand, there are much narrower definitions. When Winston Churchill
held his famous speech at the University of Zurich in 1946, in which he called
for the creation of a kind of United States of Europe, he entertained no doubts
that Great Britain must naturally be a friend and supporter of this new
political entity, but of course not a member. And the author of a well-known
book about "The limits and Divisions of European History stated that usually
the eastern border of the European community today, both in earlier times and
today has always been the Western frontier of Russia".14 This, of course,
refers to modern times ; in the Middle Ages, Europe's eastern borderlines were
located much further westward. Where do we find those "reappearing 'old'
frontiers of the continent ?"
The controversy on how Europe is to be defined geographically is, nowadays,
hardly touched by the question whether America ought to be included in the
European identity ; however, there is dissent whether Europe coincides with the
occidental part of the continent, that is, whether the border between Latin and
Byzantine civilisation can serve to delimit it, or should do so.
Now we have a whole series of problems : It cannot be denied that the schism
between "East" and "West Rome" appears to be a symbol for a cultural
demarcation. In the West, there was the struggle for supremacy between
political and religious authorities, and in the dead corner between both of
them the freedoms of the estates and urban autonomy could be developed. As a
consequence, the "civil society" had more of a chance to spread out than in the
East, where church government was integrated in the Empire, thus perpetuating
ecclesiastical rule in the political order, respectively Caesaropapism. This
had further outcomes ; but there also had been other preconditions that did
contribute to the different course of social and societal history, like
small-scale geography and the harbourly-structured landscapes of many of the
regions of Western Europe15, as against massive geographical structures of the
East, and others.
v Surely, there was the great schism ; but there was also suffering that arose
from a common consciousness of a fundamental unity--up to the Ecumenical
Movement of our days.
v Even in the days of Peter the Great, Russians reached out for Europe. Were
the East European Westerners of his days and of later times erring in their
illusions ? Can we deny that cultural and political identities are open to
historical change, and that there have been, already, processes of "widening"
of the extent and range of European civilisation ?
v And, with respect to social and mental differences between different parts of
what has been called our continent, is it not a constituent feature of the
cultural uniqueness of Europe that opposites meet here, time and again, turning
the task of ever-renewed conciliation into the principle of productive dynamic
14 Quoted from the German edition : Oskar Halecki. Europa Grenzen und
Gliederung seiner Geschichte, Darmstadt : Gentner 1957, p 79
15 Hans Georg Gadamer speaks of "einer einzigen großen Hafenlandschaft die für
die Entdeckungsfahrten zu neuen Weiten förmlich aufgetan warn", cf. Hans Georg
Gadamer, Das Erbe Europas, Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp 1989, p. 40.
I do not want to say that such "old frontiers" like those between the Latin and
the Byzantine tradition are irrelevant. But how far Europe will reach tomorrow,
or the day after tomorrow, or in the next century and later, cannot be looked
up in a historical atlas of the Antique, the Middle Ages, of the XIXth century,
or of the Cold War period in our century either.
Besides, the supreme representatives of the CSCE participating states have
adopted in 1990, the Paris "Charter for a New Europe", and we can read in this
charter that the new Europe extends as far as the reality of human rights and
democracy, rule of law and pluralism, economic freedom, social justice, and the
commitment for peace is reaching on European soil. We all know, and have only
recently again become painfully aware, that there is that discrepancy between
what is and what should be, what we want to do and what we achieve. But should
it not be our common cause to realise and safeguard these principles of a
European political order for all nations whose representatives have stood up
for them ? Can we deny this solidarity to those who wish to subscribe to this
common European order--wherever they may live in Europe ? And is it possible to
denounce the declaration of thirty-four heads of state and government in favour
of a new "united democratic Europe. as a mere emptiness, a proclamation that
cannot be other than untrue o in view of the fact that even Albania has now
joined these 34 ?
Certainly, there may be reasons for a narrower concept of uniting efforts that
have to be carried on during the years ahead of us o such as political prudence
may suggest. In Western Europe, governments and people might ask themselves
whether the chances for organising European security within European borders
may not be better if one denies responsibility for certain regions. It can be
argued that the political and structural requirements for a certain kind of
economic or political integration may indeed call for a restriction in certain
areas, in order to be optimal. And there are much more such questions and
Just one of these questions is the one we are dealing with. What would be the
most favourable historical and cultural conditions for including parts of
Europe in the Union-to-be : soon, or later ? But, according to my opinion, it
would be unjustifiable trying to avoid all these reflections, not to discuss
their ramifications and to shun--or to disguise--political decisions by
pointing out old historical and cultural borders. And indeed, if one were to
stress that cleavage between ancient Latin and Byzantine culture, then the
motherland of European political thought, Greece, ought not to have been
accepted into the Community--and the definite stand the Community had recently
taken in favour of Yugoslavian unity would have been absurd... Hence, the
primacy of politics should not be denied.
Options of the European Community
When speaking about the "reappearance of old frontiers" in Europe, some other
aspects come to mind. What is really new in the European situation, is the
disappearance of "less old" frontiers. What allows the states of Central and
Eastern Europe to "return to Europe"--as they call it--is in the first place
the fact that the fatal barriers, the wall in Berlin, the barbed wire obstacles
and iron curtains, are removed, and that people hayed been successful in
overcoming totalitarian systems. But along with the end of East-West
polarisation, with the termination of the
antagonisms of political organisation, some other "old frontiers" and
controversies have reappeared. We face again the situation about which Karl
Jaspers said, some decades ago, that Europe has got to make a choice between
"Balkanisation" and "Helvetisation". "Balkanisation" means a tangle of
conflicts and hostilities, whereas Helvetisation" points to the attainment of a
political identity across a multitude of national heritages and languages. The
beginnings of the formation of the European Community, restricted to the six
founding nations of the Coal and Steel Community and later the EEC had been
initiated as such a process of "Helvetisation"., as a first step towards a
confederation with an identity of its own.
However, this policy was determined by some quite specific options. At first,
things were started with a small community of states that intended integration
; but it was clear that this community could not identify itself with "Europe".
The Community of the "European Six" was regarded by that organisation which
considered itself as maid-servant to a union of European states--i.e. the
Council of Europe--as a case of establishing "specialised authorities" for
specific functional areas. In Strasbourg they thought that all such endeavours
should always take place "within the frame of the Council of Europe" and thus
being securely bound to the "proper European policy"(as the Council had
And yet this Council of Europe was in itself limited to only a part of the
European states. As a representative of a European identity, it was some "pars
pro toto", and the Community of the Six was some "pars partis". This changed in
the course of time. In the Treaty of Rome, "the foundations of an ever closer
union among the European peoples" (and not only those peoples that are directly
involved) are mentioned. And in the Single European Act, the parliament of the
Twelve is called the instrument of expression for the endeavours of "the
European peoples" ; as simply as that. This implies that the political identity
of the Community is to be further developed to become the political identity of
Europe as a whole. If this is wanted, one cannot deny any European nation the
right to participate in that political identity. Now, if today some 81 percent
of the Hungarians, 79 percent of the citizens of the CSFR, and still 68 percent
of the Poles have a positive attitude about the creation of the United States
of Europe", and affirm that their own nation belongs to this future policy16,
than the Community of the Twelve will have to reconsider what is to be done
about the Community's own identity.
Another decision of the "founding fathers" has been quite important. What the
Community was all about originally, was to form an administrative union to
manage the common coal and steel production as well as the distribution,
notwithstanding the idea to use this union as a lever to promote political
integration by creating interdependence of interests. Later, a widening was
achieved in more than one dimension : the Community was extended to nine at
first and then step by step to twelve member states. And the area of functions
and policy fields was expanded, comprising now the whole of national economies
and more and more common tasks up to a common foreign and security policy. The
reason for this widening of functions and interests lies in the interdependence
of policy areas. There is hardly a problem area which is not to be treated on
the EC level. On the other hand, the states have not given up their spheres of
responsibility, and they are still thinking (or
16 Cf. "Mehrheit im Osten für Vereinigte Staaten von Europa", in : Die Presse
(23 April 1991), p. 22.
dreaming) of their complete autonomy and "sovereignty". Thus, they try to keep
under control what is happening. As a result, political processes on community,
national and "mixed" levels intertwine. Complex procedures of mediation and
grey zones of responsibility evolve. There was talk about "traps of policy
tangles"17 and "Eurosklerosis".
The reforms initiated by Jacques Delors were aimed at breaking up these
entanglements and the sclerosis of the Community. Since the EC is supposed to
gain more freedom of action rather than simply retaining its status, this will
hopefully end in a strengthening of its political identity. This becomes
particularly clear in view of the goal to form a European Union of a federal
character. Under this perspective, the Community can no longer be regarded as a
system to co-ordinate just the problem management of its member states who so
far try to push their own interests rather then bear jointly the common
consequences of their interdependence. A federal union cannot be achieved
without an established supranational authority to determine a common policy.
And this does not only raise the problem of democratic legitimacy but also the
question of political identity.
Thus, it is not surprising that the question of political identity of the
Community, and in particular of the European-Union-to-be, is posed anew. In the
first place the upheavals in Eastern Europe raise the problem how the Community
intends to define its own purpose with regard to the identity of the whole of
Europe--even more than for example the intentions of EFTA states to join the
Community. Slogans like "centre of gravitation" or "anchor of stability" are no
adequate answers to that. And secondly, "deepening", strengthening the polity
character of the Community, transforming it into a "European Union" also
implies the necessity to clarify identity problems.
In search of a definition of European identity
We have to find out what Europe has in common, historically and culturally, in
order to define, to articulate and to strengthen its identity. If we are to do
that, we should remember what the fundamental dimensions of a possible European
identity are, according to the conceptual and theoretical explications I tried
to give in the first part of this contribution :
-the "spiritual ties" as they are manifested in a common "world of meanings" (a
"universe of symbols and relevancies"), as they allow to achieve a consensual
"definition of the situation"., and including the three dimensions of a shared
"today", "past", and "future" ;
-the "delimitation", knowing what is special about "our thing" as compared to
other people's things ("nostra res agitur"--not some "res alienorum") ;
-the ability to act and bear responsibility through authorisation and, thus,
institutionalisation (which means, in consequence, polity building).
17 Cf. Fritz W. Scharpf, Die Politikverflechtungs-Falle. Europäische
Integration und deutscher Föderalismus im Vergleich. in : Politische
Vierteljahresschrift, vol. 26 (1985), p. 323ff.
What is primarily called for, is obviously a "political identity in the concise
sense of the term--a capacity which enables to institutionalise common action,
and a quality which provides an adequately wide and massive basis of consensus
It may well be that remembering common historical and cultural roots, and
activating consciousness of them, helps to strengthen this basis. Yet one
wonders why this historical dimension must be shoved into the foreground when
the real issue is what Aristotle calls "homónioa" and what in our context might
be called "European spirit" or "consciousness of a European common cause".
To translate this into educational terms : Can we, should we, make our efforts
to form European consciousness only by looking at the past, at our common
history ? Would it not be equally important to recall what Europe means today
and will mean in the future ?
Some hypothetical answer is at hand : the matter is seen in the same way as it
was seen in the last century when national identify had to be formed. The
formation of a national consciousness, however, came about under remarkably
different circumstances.18 When the nation decided to take over the power of
government--as in the typical case of France, the main thing was to create the
political will and to keep it alive (in the "plébiscite de tous les jours", to
cite the famous formula Ernest Renan found). "Res publica" was to replace "res
regis". The case was different if an ethnic or national group wanted to
emancipate itself from a supra-national or foreign regime (as in the case of
"secessionist nationalism"), or if people which were convinced that they belong
together wanted to break up the barriers between constituent states (as in the
case of "integrational nationalism). Whereas, in the first of the three typical
cases, the state that shall be taken over by the nation does already exist, in
both of the latter cases a state shall be created which does not yet exist. The
representatives of the people's political will need a "metapolitical"
justification. It must be explained that this state should exist. This
explanation refers to the existence of a "cultural nation" that now wants and
deserves to constitute itself politically. Usually, the "meta-political"
justification is given with a reference to history : in the past we, or our
ancestors, did descend from one family or tribe ; or we grew together as a
spiritual community ; and we shared a common fate even in earlier times. Or
even this : history has uncovered a common metaphysical substance which unites
us in national identity o Herder's doctrine of "Volksgeist".
In political reality, this idea serves efforts of make-believe in the service
of a political will.19 It derives from religious doctrines and concepts which
are given a new interpretation by transferring into socio-political thinking.
To give an outstanding example : the originally theological concept of the
"corpus mysticum", that is the
18 The following remarks make reference to Theodor Schieder's triple typology
of nation state building in Europe, namely (I) the process of assumption of
power of an existing state by the "nation", (II) the process of secession or
separation of a "nation"from a multinational empire or state, and (III) the
unification of--up to then independent--states, whose peoples regard themselves
being parts of one single "nation". This triadic typology, according to my
opinion is more revealing than Friedrich Meinecke's famous distinction between
"Staatsnation"and "Kulturnation"; but Schieder's idea is able to explain
Meinecke's comparison. Cf. Theodor Schieder, Typologie und Erscheinungsformen
des Nationalstaates in Europa, in : Historische Zeitschrift, vol. 202 (1966),
19 Cf. Raymond Grew, The Constitution of National Identity, in : Boerner (ed.),
op. cit., p. 31 ff. community of the faithful who find their identity in
Christ's "pneuma", in which they eucharistically and spiritually participate,
is transferred on the nation, whose members are spiritually bound together by
their participation in some metaphysical substance, which Herder called
"Volksgeist". It is only later that such notions lose their "mystical" (or
mythological, or pseudo-theological) character, so that the nation then (and we
might say, "only) becomes a "community by common culture and disposition
through having shared a common fate.20
If today a political unification is to be attempted, for instance, a European
Union, and if we all, perhaps without much reflection, still see the paradigm
for the creation of a political identity in the way nation states were formed,
then we must suspect that the idea of a "cultural Europe", which would have the
same function as the idea of a "cultural nation", will here be conjured up. I
do not want to say that one might dismiss the idea of a European cultural
identity and the quest for its historical roots as nothing but ideology, as a
mere construction to serve a political purpose, as, for example, Geoffrey
Barraclough did.21 Indeed, there is a "fundamentum in re" : there is a European
spiritual and cultural identity ; it would lead too far astray if I were to
quote the witnesses for that--from Ernst Robert Curtius to Denis de Rougemont,
Arnold Toynbee to Hendrik Brugmans.22 But reminding ourselves of the names of
such authoritative scholars does not dispense us from the effort to identify at
least some substantial contributions to what we might all "European spirit".
What is meant to be represented by these centres of experience and of thought ?
And what has been further developed from the achievements those keywords refer
to ? It is difficult to answer such questions, for several reasons. One of them
is the fact that the "fundamentum in re" of European spiritual and cultural
identity is characterised by an agreement to disagree, a "concordantia
discors", as Jacob Burckhardt called it, a common cause with sometimes lots of
antagonism. Yet there are achievements and experiences imprinted in a common
memory that constitute common understandings and are in the background of such
political declarations as the "Charter of Paris" conjuring so emphatically an
identity of spirit and will.
There are problems both in principle and in method which have to be faced, if
one tries to reconstruct and to explain them : that of the "hermeneutic circle"
and of the inevitably subjective and specific perspective as well as that of
the criteria for adequate selection of sources, etc. We cannot deal with these
problems here in extenso. So we just turn to the "authorities", to the
specialists of information. There is plenty of general agreement about the most
important and significant issues-- maybe not perfect, but considerable
consensus. After all, the historical and cultural identity of Europe has been
an interesting topic for a long time, and many have taken part in this
discussion. At least, there is an agreement about the most important historical
eras, what their message is today and what should be kept alive in the
20 Otto Bauer regards the nation as a "Kultur- und Charaktergemeinschaft",
based on common historical experiences ("Erleben und Erleiden des Schicksals")
; cf. Otto Bauer, Die Nationalitätenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie, Wien 1924.
21 Cf. Geoffrey Barraclough, Die Einheit Europas als Gedanke und Tat, Göttingen
: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1964.
22 See the contribution by Hendrik Brugmans in this volume. "collective memory"
of Europeans. In this context phenomena, issues, and essentials like the
following ones are named23 :
-Extra-European and "Pre-European" achievements that were significant
stimulators of European culture, i.e. the impact of ancient Egypt on
pre-classical and classical Antique, above all the tradition of the Old
-Classical Hellas : The Greek tradition of the "polis", the "civilisation" of
social life and the Greek understanding of politics which had to have such a
deep influence all over Europe ; the "discovery of the mind" ; the idea of
"paideia" and thus humanness ; the evolution of philosophy--the beginnings of
critical cognition of reality, that is, the Pre-Socratic thinkers, the
classical philosophers Plato and Aristotle and the creation of the various
genres of European literature.
Rome as Republic and Empire : The idea of the "res publica", Roman law, the
"virtutes", the Roman answer to Greek philosophy (Cicero, for example).
Christendom as creative power in Europe : the surpassing of the reality through
God's salvatory work ; the idea of the "corpus mysticum" ; the several types of
Christian attitudes in the mundane world ; the relativity of secular power, the
construction (or discovery) of the concept of "person" in christological
thought and dispute the interrelation of religious orientation and secular
order, of political power and church authority--with view on the different
development in the Latin and Byzantine empires and its consequences for the
forming of their societies--, and the importance of Christian social doctrine.
The laying of the foundations of "Occidental culture" after the
"Völkerwanderung", the role of Benedictine monkshood, the "Regnum Europae" of
The "Second Awakening of Europe" (Albert Mirgeler) in the Middle Ages ; the
controversy between "regnum" and "sacerdotium" ; the struggle for "Libertas
Ecclesiae", the intellectual disputes over the recognition of authorities (the
establishment of the "studium" as an institution. The rise of scholastic
philosophy and of universities), and the rediscovery of the "inner mind"
(mysticism). The inclusion of Middle and Eastern Europe in Western European
The dawn of modern times : Schism, growth of towns and municipal self-
government ; Renaissance and Reformation ; striving for religious freedom, the
building-up of the territorial state, development of a bourgeois economy, the
construction of a European state system and the growth of its dynamics of
power, the expansion of Europe into other continents.
The Enlightenment, the emancipation of the middle classes, the great
revolutions in England, America, France, and their intellectual foundations :
human rights, basic freedoms, civil society, and representative government.
The political ideas and movements of the XIXth century : liberal and democratic
progressism, conservatism, socialism, and imperialism ; idealistic and
23 The list of phenomena, issues and essentials is in particular influenced by
the author's subjective view. But as it shall be nothing more than an impulse
for discussion, it can be done without references o which had to be very
extensive o to the corresponding literature.
philosophies as well as the new critics of civilisation, society, and the inner
life (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud). Finally the movements for emancipation in the
The age of world wars, totalitarianism, and the efforts to overcome it.
Once more, there are many questions with respect to such an outline. Do we
recognise in this landscape summits of the first, second, and other order ? Are
there essentials that are either continuously effective or slowly rising in an
evolutionary process ? Maybe with regard to the concept of man (personality,
the call to freedom and solidarity). Further on in view of the productive
collision of involvement and distance, mundane responsibilities and
transcendental calling, harmony and antagonism. And also in ranking individual
before cause ; in the development of attitudes of "critical loyalty", broken
affirmation, the combination of tolerance with firmness of conscience, and so
on... But is it possible at all to present more than subjective opinions or
convictions, as far as questions like such ones are concerned ?
Furthermore : Is it possible to draw a precise and adequate picture of the
relations between transnational developments, structures and movements on the
one hand, and of the particular contributions of nations, ethnic or religious
groups, and regions on the other ? Does in this sense, a "historical image"
exist, truly "European", reflecting indeed the contribution of all nations and
groups that make up the Community of Europe, and will this image continue to be
understood (at least by the more sensible contemporary minds) as a cultural
common obligation ?
I think, nobody would be able to present a definite answer to such and similar
questions. The meaning of the European heritage and of the living European
spirit can only be actualised and made effective through a permanent effort of
intellectual realisation of its components and elements. This effort must take
place in form of a dialogue and discourse, through which we expose ourselves to
the impacts of what we are affected by and called on, in order to widen and
deepen our understanding and to activate motivational strength.
Integration : colonisation of the world we live in as subversion of identity ?
Posing once again the question of the meaning, of the function and of the
importance of a "meta-political" identity of Europe today and tomorrow, we do
this now in a different perspective. This is the case because matters might be
taken too easily by simply identifying common heritages, leaving the business
then to the mediators of a European consciousness, say teachers, classbook
authors, or journalists. Is all that we have recalled perhaps only a heritage
loosing its formative power, as some contemporary theoreticians want us to
Jürgen Habermas has asked whether "complex societies" can anyway form "a
reasonable identity".24 He says that this is only possible in a process of
24 Jürgen Habermas, Können komplexe Gesellschaften eine vernünftige Identität
ausbilden ?, in : Jürgen Habermas, Zur Rekonstruktion des Historischen
Materialismus, 3 ed., Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp 1982, p. 144ff.
communication taking place under conditions of an "ideal form of life", free of
any domination. All other "knowledge" about identity would be unreasonable and
could be only a mystification of conditions which one has not to identify with.
Niklas Luhmann is disputing Habermas' question. The "intersubjectivity of
cognition, experience, and action created by symbolic interpretation and value
systems" is, in his opinion, not apt to integrate modern societies. It cannot
satisfy the "requirements for the control of highly differentiated societal
sub-systems".25 The idea that political order has to do anything with spiritual
sharing, that politics receive meaning from the conception of a common cultural
heritage is, in his eyes, a totally outmoded notion (a case of "false
consciousness"). Habermas insists that a humane life must be governed by
"communicative reason". But he diagnoses a fatal discrepancy between the demand
for reasonable identity and such trends in modern development which he assumes
are manifest especially in the process of European integration.
Along with the increasing rationalisation of social life, the integration of
societies is more and more carried on "through the systemic interaction of
specified functions".26 The control over social processes works through
"speechless media of communication", through exchange mechanisms like money in
the economy and through mechanisms of power in the sphere of politics. And
while these control systems were embodied for a long time in a normative
framework according to the "Old-European" tradition of a common weal where
there was communication about necessary and appropriate actions in terms of
common sense and philosophy, it then came to a "mediatisation" and, finally,
the "colonisation of the life-world".27 Those spheres in which individual and
collective identity may find themselves and may realise themselves are now
occupied and exploited by the politico-economic control organisations using
power and monetary incentives in order to get societal life going on. Morality
and culture are being robbed of their substance and, thus, cultural identity
Seen through such glasses, European integration as it has been in process for
the past forty years would appear as a gigantic and typical example for the
deliberate promotion and acceleration of just such a development : the
take-over of power by a rational functioning macro-organisation that combines
governmental and economic interests to control interdependencies. Habermas
would be able to formulate his diagnosis o primarily made about the modern
state o more precisely with respect to the EC system : The utilisation and
instrumentalisation of conceptions of cultural identity and public political
discussion in order to legitimise that what will be done anyway through
calculated interest and power bargaining ; the substitution of democratic
decision-making through relations between welfare administrations and their
clients ; transformation of rule of law into an instrument of organising
interest- controlled systems of regulation ; and finally, "make-believe of
communicative relations" in the form of rituals in which "the system is draped
as the life-world".28
This might appear as a caricature, and Habermas has indeed met with decided
protest. His thesis of the reduction of politics to systems control is shrewd,
but is resting on
25 Niklas Luhmann, quoted by Habermas op. cit.
26 Jürgen Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, vol. II, Frankfurt am
Main : Suhrkamp 1981, p. 175.
27 Ibid., p. 240, p. 470f.
28 Ibid., p. 472, p. 476, p. 536ff., p. 567.
rather fundamentalist premises. If it has been brought to attention here and
now, then primarily because of the fact that our discussion may well need a
thorn in the flesh so that we do not take things too easy on the subject of
cultural identity and the building of a polity out of the EC system.
But there is still another reason for taking such theses and discussions into
consideration. In spite of all exaggeration, a very senseful question arises,
making our special topic particularly relevant : How is it possible to secure
the political identity, through which the "meta-political" components and
dimensions of identity only obtain their full significance as well as their
motivational relevance, while the European Community is developing ?
It looks as if political actors or political scientists would have asked us to
find the historical and cultural potential, so that we produce and promote
European consciousness, because they expect some contribution to the progress
of political community-building and polity-formation for the benefit of a
European Union which shall be deepened and widened.
But a complementary perspective exists, too. In the framework of European
integration, it is necessary to strengthen the structures and the processes for
the articulation of a truly political self-understanding and for a process of
conceiving and comprehending what the tasks which Europe is confronted with
are. Only if these processes are going to take place, our spiritual and
cultural properties" will play a significant role in our joint endeavours to
solve problems and to meet the challenges of our time and of the days to come.
Therefore, we need efforts to create a political identity of a uniting Europe.
If not for other reasons--then at least in order to encounter trends which tend
to make the content and the substance of our metapolitical traditions
politically irrelevant. The reality of politics and policies is more than a
complex system of functionalist management of socio-economic interdependencies
and power relations. It is also a field of communication and interaction
between human beings, groups, communises, regions, and nations, on what is
important, what is meaningful, and what should be done and pursued. By this
process of communication and interaction, a common identity is being formed.
This is also true in the field of European co-operation and integration.
In the humanistic tradition of our European civilisation, it has been passed on
from the philosophers of the Greek "polis" to the outstanding thinkers of our
time that politics always means two things : to make possible what is necessary
(Paul Valery), and to find agreement on what is real (Hugo von Hofmannsthal).
Both of these will help to create, to keep alive, and to perform a European
Consciousness of European identityafter 1945
The question of Europe's identity can be looked at from many angles within the
perspective of this Forum o that of post-1945 Europe, and, even more
specifically, that of the European Community. Sociologists, political
scientists and philosophers have all made interesting contributions o highly
theoretical, as can be expected, given the academic disciplines in which they
work. A theoretical approach is particularly apt for the question of European
identity, because, in the final analysis, Europe is a construction of the
mind' (J. B. Duroselle).
However, we must not stifle the voice of history. This is a discipline that is
kept in check by two rigorous parameters o time and space. What is true for one
region is not necessarily true for another, and what is acceptable at one time
is not always acceptable at another. I mention this because historians
construct facts from documents of all kinds. The constant need to bear this in
mind sometimes clips their wings and stops them getting carried away. Marc
Bloch called them those nasty little facts which ruin the best hypotheses'. A
historical approach to the European identity after 1945 inevitably brings us to
the conditions in which the European Community was born.
No reasonable person would deny that the sense of a shared identity was and
still is a major stimulus in the quest for a closer union. However, the
disturbing fact remains that European integration only became a reality after
1945, with the creation of the OEEC, the Council of Europe, the Brussels Treaty
Organisation, and, above all, the European Communities (from 1950). Robert
Schuman's appeal on 9 May 1950 in Paris was translated into action, while
Aristide Briand's in Geneva on 7 September 1929 fell on deaf ears. Both were
French Foreign Ministers and therefore influential men, and both addressed
their appeals to German politicians at the highest level who were very open to
Europe, Gustav Stresemann and Konrad Adenauer. So why did Europe take off in
1950 and not in 1929?
The philosopher Jean-Marie Domenach hints at an answer when he says that the
European Community was born not of Charlemagne but of European nihilism. He
uses Charlemagne to symbolise Europe's identity. Many historians think that we
can speak of Europe from the time of Charlemagne, who is referred to in certain
documents of that time as Pater Europae'. But for Domenach, the jolt which
finally induced the Europeans to unite more closely was the havoc wreaked by
the two great totalitarian systems of the 20th century: Marxism-Leninism and
National Socialism. The Gulag and Auschwitz were seen as the last warnings
before the final catastrophe. The figures are clear and chilling. First World
War: 10 million dead; Second World
War: 55 million dead (including 45 million Europeans). If this geometrical
progression were to continue, the next step would be an apocalyptic Thirld
World War. In other words, the European Community emerged in response to the
challenge posed by two ideologies which were born in Europe from a shared
How can Europeans be united? Basically, there are only two possible approaches:
political and economic. And where should we start? This was a question that
already exercised Aristide Briand. When, in 1929, he called for the creation of
a United States of Europe, he proposed to start with economic unification. One
year later, in a memorandum submitted to 26 European governments for their
opinion, he shifted his stance and backed a political approach, the reason
being the Wall Street Crash which had changed the situation. Briand thus played
it by ear, without a precise idea of the path to be taken or the objective to
be attained. In this he differed from Jean Monnet, who had clearer ideas on
both the end and the means.
The same questions arose after 1945. Although it was clear that the two
approaches should be separate, it was felt that there was no reason why
progress should not be made on both fronts simultaneously. This is what the
Europeans did in the years 1947-49 with the OEEC and the Council of Europe. The
result was hardly encouraging, even though the two organisations did manage to
group together almost all the states of Western Europe, because they were
confined to the framework of simple cooperation between countries without any
transfer of sovereignty. An attempt to move forward on the economic front o
negotiations for an economic union between two countries (France and Italy) or
five countries (with Benelux) under the name of Finebel o was to fail
In the spring of 1950, Jean Monnet realised that the political path was closed,
because the European countries remained strongly attached to their political
sovereignty. Having learnt his lesson from the failure of Finebel, and not
impressed by Adenauer's proposal for a Franco-German economic union (23 March
1950), Monnet opted for the economic approach, but on a smaller scale: a common
market in coal and steel.
This option had a number of consequences. Jean Monnet expected that this first
pool' (coal and steel) would lead to others (agriculture, energy, transport)
and hence, gradually, to a genuine common market. This prediction was to end up
coming true, but only after forty years or so, which is probably longer than
Monnet reckoned. Monnet also believed that this economic approach would
eventually be followed by political unification. In this respect, events proved
his hopes wrong. The attachment to national sovereignty in the world of
politics (security and foreign policy) has turned out to be more tenacious than
anticipated in 1950.
By launching the process of European integration through the economy, Jean
Monnet o no doubt unwittingly o defined its identity over several decades. The
European Community which, with its fifteen countries, is starting to represent
Europe as a whole, is perceived essentially as an economic entity. However, men
(and women), being creatures of flesh and blood, do not easily identify with
economic indicators, quotas and compensatory amounts. The failure of all
attempts to create a common foreign and security policy (European Defence
Community and the planned European Political Community 1951-54, Fouchet Plan
1961-62) and the less than binding nature of the Maastricht Treaty provisions
explains why the European Union
continues to be perceived by ordinary people as an economic machine. It is
difficult, in these circumstances, to see it as the expression of a common
Jean Monnet's proposal for a coal and steel community, put forward by Robert
Schuman, was a response to a multi-faceted challenge. Like everyone else, he
was aware that Europe could not continue to tear itself apart, or it would end
up disappearing completely. Also, Europe's difficulties over the last hundred
years had always started in the form of a Franco-German conflict, so it was
here that action needed to be taken: to make war between France and Germany
not merely unthinkable but physically impossible' (declaration of 9 May 1950).
This is why the French appeal of 9 May was addressed first and foremost to
Germany. The two world wars were to some extent Franco-German wars, at least
when they started, and can thus be seen from a similar angle to the 1870 war.
This explains the determination of many Europeans to reconcile the French and
Germans and bring them closer together. Jean Monnet understood more clearly
than others that Europe's future depended on France and Germany.
Like it or not, the European Community has been built around France and
Germany. If monetary union comes to fruition in the next few years, it will
happen again around these two countries.
Jean Monnet's game plan o to make the Franco-German axis the motor of Europe o
could not be achieved unless Germany played along too, in other words unless it
aligned itself with the western political model for good. It had to be kept
from the temptation to swing between West and East' (Jean Monnet, 16 September
1950) and therefore had to be solidly attached to a host organisation. Neither
the OEEC nor the Council of Europe, with their loose structures, could take on
this role, but the ECSC fitted the bill. The European Community, along with
other organisations such as NATO and the WEO, thus became a way of resolving
the German question.
The effects of the Cold War
The appeal of 9 May 1950 was also a response to the challenge of the Cold War,
which created a new situation in which Europe was not so much a player as an
object manipulated by non-European players (the USA and the USSR).
Jean Monnet had no difficulty in accepting the Atlantic Alliance, which was
essential in order to ensure Western Europe's security. However, he felt that
it had helped to fossilise mindsets and create a rigidity of thought'. Thus
any proposal, any action is interpreted by public opinion as contributing to
the Cold War' (note of 1 May 1950). Monnet believed that a Community as he
conceived it could break out of the Cold War mould, which was not the case for
the Atlantic Alliance. He thought that the ECSC could incorporate West Germany
without raising the question of rearming it, which he still felt (beginning of
May 1950) would provoke the Russians. The Korean War (25 June 1950) was
responsible for overturning this kind of thinking. German rearmament was put on
the agenda. Very rapidly, the ECSC became the model for a European Defence
In fact, throughout the first phase of European integration, from the OEEC
through the ECSC to the EEC, Western Europe was subjected to a whole set of
Cold War- related pressures which had a direct impact on the integration
There was American pressure, which could be described as positive in that it
encouraged the Europeans to unite. American diplomacy pushed the Europeans to
come closer together economically and politically, though it was understood
that a united Europe must remain open to American influences and products. The
pressure was also positive in the sense that it did not impose any specific
solution on the Europeans. In the case of the OEEC, for example, the United
States would have preferred a more integrated solution than the one finally
chosen on Britain's initiative. Similarly, the first British application to
join the EEC (1961) owed a great deal to American encouragement.
The same cannot be said for pressure from the USSR. It felt it was not in its
interest for the Europeans to unite opposite it. Its policy thus aimed to
divide the Europeans and to separate Europe from the United States. Thanks to
its impressive military apparatus, which its acquisition of atomic weapons in
1949 rendered credible, it was able to put pressure on Europe o indeed
virtually blackmail it. In the Cold War climate which set in from spring 1947,
the Europeans lived in fear of the USSR, a fear which Paul-Henri Spaak gave
full rein to in a famous speech. The Brussels Treaty, the Atlantic Alliance and
the WEO, and also the ECSC and the EDC, were a response to the negative
pressure from the USSR.
The process of European integration is inseparable from the climate created by
the Cold War. Throughout its history, the European Community has been very
sensitive to international developments. The Korean War had a positive effect
on the ECSC negotiations and the beginnings of the EDC, but the death of Stalin
and the ensuing détente affected the EDC negatively. In the autumn of 1956, the
preparatory negotiations for the Treaties of Rome were heading for an impasse
after wide-ranging last-minute demands made by France when they were finally
saved by the events of Suez and Budapest reminding Europeans how weak they
In periods of tension, the Europeans close ranks, and in periods of détente
they loosen their ties. Overall, the process of European integration has to be
seen in the Cold War context. To push the image to its provocative extreme, one
could say that the European Community is Stalin's baby. Only when they were
forced to did the European countries agree to the surrender of sovereignty
which characterises the Community. One can imagine only too clearly the
consequences that the end of the Cold War may have on European integration.
The effects of the Cold War can also be seen in many other areas, particularly
that of political institutions. Between the wars, democratic countries suffered
a period of profound crisis, which explains the rise of fascist dictatorships
and authoritarian regimes (central Europe and the Baltic and Balkan countries).
Where democracies did survive, they were weakened and discredited by major
scandals. After 1945, however, western-style democracy became the political
system par excellence, fully adopted by the nations of Western Europe. The last
bastions of authoritarian regimes o fascist or semi-fascist o fell one after
the other (Greece, Spain, Portugal). The rule of law and respect for human
rights which became established in Western Europe contrasted with the communist
model. Confronted by a regime which claimed to have history on its
side and to be both politically and economically more successful, European
democracy was obliged to furnish daily proof of its excellence and superiority.
The example of the Federal Republic of Germany in its face-off with the other
Germany illustrates this situation. The East German regime became a foil for
the resounding success of the Bonn democracy.
The flourishing health of western democracy is not unconnected to the creation
of the welfare state after 1945. The social insurance system goes back to the
19th century, with considerable differences between the different countries.
However, it is the English model, developed during the Second World War, which
was to become the source of inspiration for the other countries of Western
Europe. Within one generation it had become the norm, and the differences
between the countries diminished, even though the extent of provision was not
the same for all countries.
The welfare state model stopped at the iron curtain. Beyond it, social
protection was certainly well-developed, but the philosophy underlying the
system was different. The weakness of the command economy explains the
mediocrity of the services provided. Basically, the welfare state is a
characteristic of Western Europe, different from both the communist system and
the American system.
The fact that this model is now under threat, and that some are arguing for the
American model, has particular historical significance in view of Western
Europe's identity as it has been constructed, in particular through the
European Community, over the course of the last forty years.
The Carolingian image
In its quest to unify in the aftermath of the war, Western Europe was to take
various forms based on different institutional approaches and different
concepts. There would be the European Community, EFTA etc. Opposite, there was
another Europe: the Europe of Comecon and the Warsaw Pact. However, it was the
smallest of these configurations, the six countries which formed the ECSC,
which was to dominate. Gradually, slowly but inexorably, the Community took on
o or usurped, depending on the point of view o the name of Europe. It is easy
to understand the irritation of some, such as the Scandinavians or the Swiss,
on seeing the word Europe' increasingly applied to the Community during the
1960s, a usage which successive enlargements have only reinforced.
The Community is thus at the root of one of the concepts of Europe. For 22
years, until the first enlargement in 1972, it was this little Europe of six
countries which incarnated Europe's identity. Right from the start one could
see the historical imagination set in motion. Very quickly, potential
commentators and journalists started talking about a Carolingian or
Lotharingian Europe. It is true that the map of the six founding countries of
Europe covered exactly the same area as Charlemagne's empire. In both cases,
the Elbe formed a border, even a barrier, against the barbarian tribes o or the
communist countries. Of course there was no causal link between the two
constructions, separated by eleven centuries. This was a mythological
projection, but one that was popular for a long time because the historical
connection seemed so
irresistible. Clearly, calling it a Carolingian Europe stresses western
Christianity's role in founding Europe. The force of the image led some people
to speak of the Community as a Europe of the Vatican.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the six countries which were the first
to launch themselves into the European adventure are still seen as the
spearhead or core of the European Union. They seem more committed than the
others. And they are destined to be the heart of a future monetary union. It is
all the more distressing, therefore, that one of them (Italy) has to stay on
the sidelines, forced to by the Maastricht criteria.
This essay deliberately leaves aside the question of the European identity in
terms of culture and civilisation. Few observers contest the fact that Europe
has a cultural identity, formed over the centuries, encompassing the diversity
of national cultures. But this identity may not be as clear-cut as some would
see it, and it is blurred at the edges: Europe's borders have always been
Beyond this cultural identity, which the elites have recognised since the
Middle Ages, but which has not stopped the Europeans constantly and mercilessly
tearing each other apart, the period since 1945 has seen the emergence of
several Europes, born of the convulsions of the First and Second World Wars.
Only one of these Europes has managed to establish a public image - the
European Community o and even that took four decades. The Community only really
entered into public consciousness in the member countries with the Maastricht
Treaty and the public controversy which it generated.
European Identity and /or the Identity of the European Union
When speaking of "European identity" one needs to state what exactly is meant,
as each of these words taken individually may be ambiguous and confusing. The
"European" identity we are seeking to outline here is that of the European
Union, the word "Identity" being understood to mean the spirit of this
community, indeed, the very source of its cohesion. In so doing, we assume that
both the European Union as an organisation and its tangible manifestations,
policies and achievements are expressions of that identity. It is incumbent on
the European Union as a political and democratic organisation to ensure that
its citizens and peoples not only understand but actually espouse the spirit of
the Union if they are ultimately to identify with it. Indeed, the Union's very
ability to survive, grow, act and succeed in its endeavours depends on it.
The factors of european identity
Let me first recall the basic factors of European identity in a broader sense,
which even a precise definition cannot dissociate from that of the European
Union. For, even if since its inception the European Union has never embraced
more than a part of Europe, its vocation still relates to Europe in its
entirety. And the historical, cultural, social and political components and
factors of European identity which bind the continent together, east, west,
north and south, will certainly increase in importance as the Union grows
Ever since the early Middle Ages, all political processes in Europe have been
interconnected. There gradually arose a complex system of relations between
tribes and peoples, dynasties and classes, states and empires, which, in a
context of constant change, became ever more intricate and refined. Systems of
domination and counterbalance arose and collapsed as a result of recurrent wars
only to be followed by fresh attempts to build empires or peace settlements.
Just as nations are defined as communities of destiny, it can also be said of
Europe as a whole that a shared history over many centuries has given rise to a
differentiated yet in many respects interconnected and mutually dependent
community of destiny. Proximity and the shared nature of both individual and
collective experience have fashioned a special relationship between the peoples
of Europe which, whether consciously or unconsciously, has had the effect of
forging an identity. Even in places where togetherness gave way to antagonism,
where proximity resulted in demarcation or where coexistence deteriorated into
rivalry and ultimately war, shared experience has left a deep imprint on
Europeans. Likewise, the very causes of the
wars in this as in previous centuries sprang from intellectual currents
simultaneously at work everywhere in Europe.
The shared historical experience is underpinned by a considerable degree of
cultural unity of which, paradoxically, diversity has been a constituent part.
This diversity has common roots, i.e. it is the outcome of a combination of the
Mediterranean Greco- Roman culture, which contributed the sum experience of the
ancient world as a conservative and stabilising element on the one hand, and
the continental Germanic- Slavonic culture, which contributed the dynamic,
youthful and forward-looking component on the other.
The decisive catalyst in this synthesis was Christianity. The European world
which emerged from this process during the Middle Ages never lacked awareness
of its unity. Likewise, in modern times and even very recently, this awareness
has always survived despite the bloodiest of wars waged in the name of national
differentiation or opposing nationalist or ideological aims.
Not least because of its cultural unity, in which any differences can be seen
as so many aspects or individual expressions of a shared background, Europe
developed into a single area also in social and economic terms. Despite all the
typical differences between its diverse regions, a similar pattern of economic
development served as the basis on which social life progressed along similar
lines everywhere. A significant part was played here by a highly developed
trading system involving large- scale exchange of goods, labour and know-how.
It formed a large internal market which, despite the restrictions imposed by
the upsurge of nationalism in the 19th century, flourished up until the First
Symmetrical social development in the regions of Europe was matched by a
simultaneity of social crisis and radical change and then in turn the formation
of social groupings or classes predisposed towards transnational
identification, thus creating the conditions in which the integration rooted in
historical developments and a common culture could take hold. A radical break
in this movement towards social integration occurred only with the division of
Europe into two fundamentally different economic and social systems after the
Second World War, a period from which Europe is only now beginning to recover.
History since the Second World War has shown that the intellectual and cultural
strengths of the Old World are far from exhausted. The fact that the Europeans
adopted a critical stance towards their history but at the same time opened up
to stimuli from the new worlds of America, Asia and Africa and the fact that
they ultimately responded to the challenge of Communism also impelled them to
develop a new self-awareness. The European identity expressed in that new
self-awareness is characterised by a marked drive for organised action which,
now that the Central and
Eastern European nations in an act of self-liberation are reuniting with the
nations of western Europe, is confronted with new challenges.
The open democratic societies did not succumb to the threats or enticements of
Socialist revolution and its claims to march in step with history. On the
contrary, they succeeded in maintaining and developing their attractiveness.
They emerged strengthened from all economic, social and cultural crises. In the
North Atlantic Alliance, they were able to jointly organise their security.
Lastly, in the European Community, a significant group of democratic states
created a model of peaceful cooperation, peaceful change and unity which exerts
an extraordinary power of attraction throughout the world.
National unity of the states and political unity of Europes
The European Union is a young and still incomplete community composed
nonetheless of old communities. Its Member States still possess a fairly strong
identity. It is therefore only natural that, in seeking to define an
appropriate way of expressing the European identity that appeals to the public,
we should ask how the identity of the Member States expressed itself when (in
the 19th century or before) they were still in their infancy.
The unity of the Member States as they came into existence was based mainly on
o a common language and culture or common cultural and linguistic bases ;
o a common experience of history, which could even encompass the experience of
mutual antagonism between different sections of what became now one nation ;
o one economic area with neighbourhood markets developing right across the
o a shared need for security against external threats ; Similar factors go to
explain the process of European integration and the emergence of a
supranational European Union :
o the experience of history acquired by the peoples and states of Europe both
in war and peaceful exchange ;
o common cultural bases even if their expression has been diverse ;
o economic necessity and shared practical interest within the market which
transcend the national and continental framework ;
o the setting of limits in relation to an enemy power which poses a threat to
freedom and integrity (the USSR with its aggressive ideology and totalitarian
regime). Just as the factors referred to with regard to the formation of the
nation state did not all affect all participants in equal measure, not all of
the population feels equally inspired or convinced by the foregoing
justifications with regard to the European Union. It will nonetheless be
observed that it is these common factors which, now as then, influence the
decisions of the political, social and intellectual elites. And now as then we
see amid those same elites sizeable minorities and occasionally even majorities
of Luddites who, unwilling to relinquish the past, reject any identification
with new contexts and find arguments for their ideas which are heard and
believed by a certain section of the population.
These are all socio-psychologically explainable transitional phenomena which
arise in the definition of a new European identity (including the difficulty of
expressing this identity in an appropriate fashion) or in the search for a
European awareness which transcends the national awareness. To see them as
problems specific to European unification would be to approach them from the
wrong angle. For it is clear that changes in political and social circumstances
do not always immediately result in a change in awareness. Only when new
circumstances are perceived as realities do we adapt our thinking and planning
accordingly. The time lapse between the appearance of the new and its
perception is attributable to the fact that the old continues to coexist in
parallel with the new for a while or even permanently. As a result, awareness
continues to revolve around the old and therefore barely notices the new. The
debate on the feasibility/non-feasibility of supranational/transnational
statehood or democracy offers prime examples here.
The lack of identity for the young, new and constitutionally not yet
established community known as the "European Union" is also accompanied by
certain problems of legitimacy which its institutions in particular have in
projecting and asserting themselves. However, if one compares these problems
with similar problems of the Member States and their constitutional situation,
they can be seen to be quite obviously commonplace phenomena with which all
communities have to contend regardless of the level at which they are
established. In this respect, the problems at the various levels may perhaps be
o the weaker a nation's self-awareness, the less problematic is its European
o the weaker the confidence in the system of the nation state, the greater the
hope placed in the European institutions ?
The absence of a consensus on the constitution
This is a practical problem and one which confronts politicians with practical
tasks. It manifests itself in the deficit of legitimacy with which the
authorities have to contend every time they want to make innovations whose
advantages are not always immediately apparent given the time it may well take
for results to be produced, whereas the disadvantages, whether short-term or
medium-term, real or imaginary, have to be taken into account. For any
political project to gain acceptance it is therefore important, indeed
indispensable, for its meaning to be clear, its components visible, and its
effects foreseeable. If the European project is to succeed, then it is
crucially important for it to be understood.
But what does the European project entail ? A Union organised on federal
principles and endowed with a democratic political system which, through its
institutions and laws, guarantees internal and external security and which
takes on major tasks,
beyond the capabilities of individual Member States, in a manner accepted by
the public as serving its interests.
However, in defining the project, we see at once that the project thus defined
does not enjoy the support of all the participants. There are governments,
parties, parliamentary factions and important social and cultural groupings
which want to achieve a different project. Their European project is based on
another idea. For example : Cooperation between a group of states which agree
on institutions and procedures to perform jointly defined tasks, case by case,
but without submitting to the discipline of a democratic and federal system.
In other words, there is no consensus on the "finalité politique" of European
integration and this makes it above all difficult to establish and give
expression to the European identity. For the European Union remains the
unfinished practical expression of an ultimately undefined project. It is
therefore more process than project ; it is the blueprint for a product, the
real shape of which remains undecided.
Equally undecided is the geography of the Union. Where does it place its
borders ? There is no consensus here either. The dilatory treatment of Turkey's
desire for Union membership is proof of this, as are the difficulties in
agreeing an enlargement strategy with respect to Central and Eastern Europe.
And then there is the fact that we have become accustomed to seeing certain
challenges as the most important motives for the unification of Europe :
establishment of an enduring peace between the participant nations,
reconstruction of a devastated continent, reacquisition of a role in
international decision-making, defence of freedom against totalitarian
Communism, the guaranteeing of a democratic future and greater and more
As European integration policy achieved results, so these motives gradually
faded into the background ; and since the watershed year of 1989, it has become
clear that the European Union needs new motivation.
This does not mean that all the original reasons and motives for the policy of
European unification have become obsolete. They retain, albeit in a different
context from before, a certain reality content. This is true even if it no
longer carries the same weight as in the 1950s and up until the 1980s because :
o the process of rebuilding Europe from the ruins of the war has long been
o the peace between those nations of Europe which took part in the integration
process is today guaranteed by the existing set of institutions ;
o the Soviet-Communist regime has collapsed ;
o democracy has established itself in all European countries and can be
regarded as secure ;
o the aim of a more widespread prosperity has been achieved to an unparalleled
o Europe can regard itself once again as a leading player and partner on the
The question as to what makes it necessary to take integration further now that
the most important goals have been achieved is therefore warranted ; it
challenges us to define and explain the new objectives and motives in order
thereby to give appropriate and perceptive expression also to the identity of
the European Union.
The new tasks
The new challenges confronting Europeans now and in the future arise from
various developments :
o the process of unification itself, which has generated a dynamic through
which the responsibilities of the European Union have increased substantially
and certain reforms of its political system have become indispensable since it
will otherwise be incapable of performing the tasks entrusted to it ;
o the collapse of the Soviet Union and the accompanying end of a bipolar world
order based on two mutually opposed superpowers ;
o the technological and industrial developments which are giving rise to new
ways of living, working and operating all over the world. Many of the
individual measures enacted in the decades since the Second World War can be
seen as preludes and pointers to the changes of recent years. However, we are
only now becoming gradually aware of their full implications. New situations
are arising, which we are attempting to conceptualise when we talk for example
of the "globalisation of the economy" or the "information society".
In coming to terms with the new situation, Europe will above all have to face
up to the following challenges :
o the renewal of European society ;
o the development of a democratic and workable constitutional order ;
o the enlargement of the Union to include the countries of Central and Eastern
o the creation of a new world order in line with technological, scientific and
The European nation states cannot rely on their own discretion and devices to
carry out these tasks alone. For the challenges involved are directed at the
entire Union. They can therefore only be properly addressed through the
combined effect of contributions by the individual states to the united action
of the Union of European states and the added value of joint effort.
The Renewal of European Society
There are in Europe various competing models for the most effective and fairest
social order. They are inspired by differing national concepts and traditions
of social organisation and social life ; even regional characteristics can be
discerned, finding expression for example in the differences between the
Northern European (more Germanic Protestant) and Southern European (more Roman
Catholic) societies. And neither must we ignore the influence which ideological
and political convictions have exerted on societies in the individual European
countries : Conservative and Liberal, Socialist and Christian-Social ideas have
all left clear, distinguishable traces.
And yet, we can now ascertain that over the decades, thanks to a common
cultural foundation, a broad consensus has formed on a model which corresponds
more closely than others to the vital needs and circumstances of Europeans. The
differences between this European model and that of American society are
striking, not to mention the models which underlie the societies of certain
East and Southeast Asian industrialised market economies.
What are the main features of this European model of society ? Its central
feature is what in Germany is called the "Soziale Marktwirtschaft", i.e. a
"social market economy" which allows market forces full scope whilst subjecting
them to a framework of rules designed to prevent abuse, satisfy basic social
needs and provide a minimum of social security. The consequent solidarity and
stability also makes for greater freedom of the market ; the efficiency gained
as a result makes it possible to supply the necessary resources for social
welfare and security.
This model is being called into question and is now in jeopardy. More
precisely, the excessive growth of the social security system over the years
has disrupted the balance between individual responsibility for the whole and
society's responsibility for the individual. On the other hand, the pressure of
competition accompanying the globalisation of the economy and communication has
meant that to safeguard jobs in "Enterprise Europe" substantial cutbacks have
had to be made in the social security system together with radical reforms in
the way they operate. Ultimately, this twofold threat to the European model
represents a virulent attack on the philosophy which underlies it ; the motives
behind the attack are partly ideological, partly conditioned by interests and
its aim is to eliminate the social dimension.
The European Union would lose an essential component of its identity if it
failed to withstand this attack. The agreement on social policy between the
Member States (with the exception of the United Kingdom) appended to the
Maastricht Treaty was a first important step. The Commission White Paper
entitled "Growth, Competitiveness, Employment" endorsed by the Union in the
autumn of 1994 contains a programme for the safeguarding and reshaping of the
social and economic order of the Union.
The aims of this programme are likewise served by the proposal for an Economic
and Monetary Union, in particular its establishment in stages and the
definition of a sound financial situation as a preliminary requirement for the
introduction of a single currency and the consolidation of the single market in
the large frontier-free European economic area.
The reform programme which underlies the policy of the European Union is
sustained moreover by the confidence that the peoples of the old world who have
emerged from the tribulations of repeated fratricidal wars and the humiliation
of totalitarian repression have lost neither their capacity for innovation and
creativity nor their historical and cultural experience and therefore possess
all the assets needed to remain competitive in the global context.
The Development of a workable constitutional order
The identity of a political community finds its noblest expression in its
i.e. in its constitution. However, it is precisely in this respect that the
European Union is defective. The first item on the agenda for the years to come
is therefore the revision of the treaties in which the institutions, procedures
and rules of the Union are rooted. It is generally agreed that the
Intergovernmental Conference entrusted with the reform (of the treaties or
constitution) should serve to bring the European Union closer to the people by
making it operate more efficiently and openly. The Union should raise its
profile and its activities should become more understandable. It is clear that
the expectations placed in the Intergovernmental Conference, which must be
measured in terms of the major developments dependant upon its outcome
(enlargement, monetary union, etc.), can only be fulfilled if the conference
aims at the establishment of a federal and democratically legitimate structure.
Federation could give expression to what is inherent in the European Union :
namely unity in diversity. At the same time, as a prerequisite for the
definition of identity, this would answer the unresolved question of the
"finalité politique". Given the complex circumstances of the integration
process in the Union, only a democratic order offers the possibility of
tackling the pressing practical and political problems with any hope of success
on the one hand, and of giving meaning to what we call Union citizenship on the
The Enlargement of the European Union
The historical watershed of 1989 confronted the European Union with a new task
which will keep it occupied until well into the next millennium. After initial
reticence, attributable to widespread unease about the new uncertainties as
well as to misunderstandings and a resultant distrust between the partners,
there is a now a general consensus on the fact that every effort must be made
to incorporate the states and peoples of central and eastern Europe as Members
of the Union as soon as possible. There are many justifications for this,
historical, moral, social, and not least, the fact that this is the only way of
ensuring lasting economic and political stability and peace in this region.
The Union already treats the states of Central and Eastern Europe as future
members and more and more systematic efforts are being made to achieve what in
previous decades has been no more than a dream : namely the unification of all
of Europe in peace and freedom. Indeed, the establishment of the conditions for
the enlargement of the Union is in full swing, : in the individual applicant
countries as well as in the Union itself. A strategy of preparation for
membership has been drawn up in cooperation with the governments concerned.
Important stages on this road of standardisation and harmonisation are the
association agreements with the Central and Eastern European countries which,
through these agreements, have moved politically closer to the Union. The
economic and trade provisions and the connected assistance arrangements afford
them the material and practical wherewithal needed to prepare for membership.
If, however, the future members of the Union have to be capable of accession,
then the Union itself must become capable of enlargement. Thus, if it is to
remain open to all European nations which can claim a historical and cultural
right to belong to it, it must also solve the problems connected with a major
enlargement from 15 to foreseeably 27 and perhaps even 30 Member States : the
political and institutional problems, the economic and social problems and also
the financial problems, the solution of which will demand a substantial
additional solidarity on the part of the Union's present Members.
A considerable leap in self-awareness could be made if this process of
political deepening and geographical enlargement could be handled successfully,
also because the name "European Community/Union" has always suggested the
encompassing and representation of Europe in its entirety. The closer this
ideal comes to being achieved, the easier it will be to bridge the credibility
The Establishment of a New World Order
Lasting economic and social stability is also vitally important for the
European Union from the point of view of the Mediterranean area. It is
therefore in the Union's interest, indeed it is its duty, to help create the
conditions for peaceful development in this region. The Mediterranean
Conference of November 1995 provided the impetus for a new inter-relationship
based on partnership which not only satisfies the present requirements but
marks a fresh start compared with the centuries of cultural and religious
conflict which have characterised relations between Europe and the
Mediterranean region in the past.
The readiness of the European Union to face up to its responsibilities with
regard to the Mediterranean area and Central and Eastern Europe (moreover in
relation to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States) is substantiated
by large-scale development aid and development cooperation in the Third World.
It indicates a growing role for the Union as an actor in the international
order. It has the capacity to do this thanks to :
o its success in establishing its own order representing, historically and
structurally, an international order pacified in a lasting manner by democracy
and federalism ;
o the strength which it derives from the united action of its Members. More
unity, and above all more unity deriving from democratic decision-making
procedures, will lend the Union greater weight and greater credibility in this
role ; to achieve such unity, further advances need to be made in the
establishment of its internal order and the strengthening of its capacity for
The establishment of the European Community nearly fifty years ago was also a
contribution to the creation of a more just and peaceful world order. Its
with democratic institutions and instruments for the common definition and
implementation of policies in an increasing number of areas, but in particular
its development into a European Union with a common foreign and security policy
and a single currency, only becomes really meaningful if it is understood as a
structural component of a "world federation", i.e. of a process which leads,
via the organisation of large continental groups of states and a radical reform
of the United Nations, to a world order based on subsidiarity.
That does not mean to say that the integration of the European states and
societies is not in itself also a high-ranking objective for in the past it has
led to the pacification and reshaping of Europe, increased economic prosperity
and guaranteed social progress ; in the future, through the corresponding
effects of enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe, it will also develop in
those parts of Europe which have hitherto been unable to take part in this
development. At the same time European integration remains the basis for the
effective discharge of all the major cross-border tasks entrusted to Europe.
However, in the context of world history, the unification process in Europe is
aiming further than the construction of a Union.. More precisely, the stability
achieved through the process of building the Community, together with the
instruments of peace devised in this process and the prosperity existing here,
are all factors which oblige Europeans to assume responsibility in and for the
world. This involves more than development aid and active concern for human
rights or the protection of the global environment. It also involves the
shaping of an institutional and legal framework for world progress, a worldwide
economy, worldwide transport, worldwide communication, the ecology of the world
and worldwide politics in its various branches.
The European Union will be in a privileged situation in being able to submit
and implement proposals to this effect on the basis of its own experiences, if
in the years to come it succeeds in giving expression to its identity by
successfully defending its societal model through renewal, giving an effective
form to its political system and at the same time finding optimum solutions for
its geographical enlargement.
A contribution from political psychology
"Europeanisation", meaning the political unification or integration of Europe,
as we have recently come to think of it, is a relatively new phenomenon. More
precisely, it refers to attempts at creating a European federal union, a
distinct entity in relation to its surroundings.
To the surroundings, such as people in the former colonies, or in the United
States, "Europeanisation" has a different meaning from that revealed by the
integration perspective. Edgar Morin (1990, p. 20) says that "Il est difficile
de percevoir l'Europe depuis l'Europe." From the outside it is often associated
with expansive tendencies such as "European cultural imperialism" (in the
former colonies) or "Cultural snobbism" (in the United States), that is, a
colonialisation of the minds of people outside Europe, both in Africa, Asia,
Somewhat paradoxically, it is difficult to distinguish "Europeanisation" as
such from what we, in Europe, sometimes call "Americanisation" or "American
cultural imperialism." The difference for the political order, however, seems
to be a matter of quantity and authenticity. Critics of "Europeanisation" so
conceived, such as of the francophones and German visionary intellectuals like
T.W. Adorno, search for a European identity free of such connotations.
Apart from this ingroup-outgroup aspect of "Europeanisation", we must deal with
ongoing processes of how European identity evolves o if it exists, or whether
it is emerging. How is it created, sustained, and dispersed ?
To which extent and in what respect can we characterise the formation of a
European political identity as an outcome of learning, memorisation and
information retrieval processes ?
To some people, particularly the contributors to the French intellectual debate
on the future of Europe, the contradiction between technocracy and meritocracy
on the one hand, and democracy on the other ("Eurocrats" versus "Europe des
citoyens"), poses the major challenge to the process of a politically unified
Europe.29 It is, for example, presented as the end of minority rule in general
by Wolton, who says (1993, p. 95), "Le passage de l'Europe technocratique à
l'Europe démocratique signe la fin du règne de la minorité." It is an
expectation resembling the classless society expressed by Marxism.
Wolton (1993, p. 232) says that this debate is more widespread than claimed
here : "Le thème de la "technocratie européenne" est omniprésent dans tous les
Conceptualisations and definitions
Let me first mention some definitional issues that might be helpful in a search
for appropriate conceptualisations of identity. According to Webster's :
1a = sameness of essential or generic character in different instances, or
1b = sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing, or
2 = unity and persistence of personality, or
3 = the condition of being the same with something described or asserted.
Le Nouveau Petit Robert (1993, p. 1122) is somewhat more exhaustive :
1. Caractère de deux objets de pensée identiques, Identité qualitative ou
spécifique. similitude. L'identité d'une chose avec une autre, d'une chose et
d'une autre. Identité de vue. communauté.
2. Caractère de ce qui est un. unité.
3. PSYCHOL. Identité personnelle, caractère de ce qui demeure identique à
soi-même. Problème psychologique de l'identité du moi. Crise d'identité. o
Identité culturelle : ensemble de traits culturels propres à un groupe ethnique
(langue, religion, art, etc.) qui lui confèrent son individualité ; sentiment
d'appartenance d'un individu à ce groupe. acculturation, déculturation. PAR
Psychologists and psychoanalysts say that identity equals "The sense of one's
continued being an entity distinguishable from all others" (Rycroft, p. 68). As
Rycroft also says (ibid.) :
The sense of identity is lost in fugues and perverted in schizophrenic
delusions of identity in which, typically, an underlying sense of nonentity is
compensated for by delusions of grandeur.
A fugue designates a process by which an individual loses her or his sense of
destiny and location. In psychoanalysis, fugues are classified as instances of
hysterical behaviour and cited as examples of dissociation of consciousness.
They typically arise out of role confusion when an individual cannot
cognitively handle the information she or he faces.
A transposition of psychoanalytical concepts to a figurative political
language, I believe, may create some fruitful associations which can assist us
when we try to explain, for example, disintegrative processes in central and
south-eastern Europe, or integrative processes in Western Europe.
Taking a preliminary view of what identity is from the psychoanalytic
description, we may consequently look at "identification" as :
The process by which a person either (a) extends his identity into someone
else, (b) borrows his identity from someone else, or (c) fuses or confuses his
identity with someone else. In analytical writings, it never means establishing
the identity of oneself or someone else. (Rycroft p. 67)
The expression "to identify with" bridges an individual identity and a shared
identity ("I", "me" and "we", "us"), that is, some kind of "social" or
The place of identity in modern political research
In modern political science (Cf. Lasswell, 1965) identity is usually treated as
an element in a "political perspective," the other major components being
"demands" and "expectations."
Probably influenced by sociological role theory (which is wider in scope than
psychological identity theories, since it incorporates behaviour as well as
thought and emotional process), some authors seek a solution to identity
uncertainty in the concept of multiple identities. But who should determine
what these identities should be like ? The concept of identity cannot be
patented by any traditional political-sociological group. It is not part of the
traditional ideological quest for a distinct political vocabulary, as
revolutionary socialists tended to believe before World War I. As Wolton says
(1993, p. 48) :
L'identité, la nation, la tradition ne sont pas des valeurs de "droite", elles
appartiennent à toutes les familles politique et il y a un conformisme
eurocratique à diaboliser ces mots.
As a matter of fact, the dynamism of a pluralistic and democratic conception of
political identity presupposes that multiple identity pragmatism need not be
present at the individual level of analysis at all, but only at the social
level in the form of choice options. (Wildawsky, 1987).
From a theoretical point of view, the lack of hierarchical priorities of
identity objects may lead to the kind of psychological state called fugues,
previously described. Mixed or uncertain political role conceptions are not the
same as cultural pluralism and may eventually lead to hyper- vigilance
(psychological distress), decision evasion and paralysis.
Territory, language, ideas, culture, and history may all serve as objects with
which we wish to establish notions of political identity. But which objects are
of primary, of secondary or of lesser importance to the citizens of Europe ?
Which objects are necessary and which are sufficient for the establishment of a
notion of European identity ?
In the French debate, the opposition between objects of identity is basically
seen as a conflict between "modernism" and "voluntarism," not between social
classes or party
alignments. Modernism is seen to be creating a link between identity and
nationalism, and "voluntarism" is seen as creating a link between identity and
history. Moreover, the construction of the new Europe, according to the French
debate, does not simply mean a democratisation of the technocratic Europe which
has been the foundation of previous attempts to integrate Europe politically,
economically and culturally, but a radical break away from both the modernistic
and the voluntaristic "paradigms" (Wolton, 1993, p. 67). The cardinal issue
revolves around the opposition between democracy and totalitarianism. This
issue re-emerged when the Communist menace disappeared around 1990.
Which, then, are the attitudes of the general public towards the European
Common Market of yesterday, as it was usually referred to in the 1980s, and the
European Union of today and tomorrow ? Should decision making in Europe be
confined to the approximately 50.000 Eurocrats, or to the 343 million citizens
? If the Eurocrats, as a caste, are indispensable in the process of European
integration, how do we ensure that they are made accountable to democratic
institutions and that they take considerate attitudes to the citizens of Europe
? What should the role of national parliaments and the European parliament be
in the future ? With the present tendency to transfer power from government(s)
to markets, what will the scope, weight, and domain of political power in the
political system of Europe be in the future ? Let us first take a look at the
objects of identification, and see if they provide us with adequate criteria
for choice and commitment.
What first comes to our minds when trying to outline what it means to be a
European is, perhaps, Europe as a geographical unit. Political systems such the
Italian political system, the French political system or the Danish political
system all embrace a notion of territory. So important is this that Max Weber
made territory a major component of his definition of what a state is.
But how do we establish where the boundaries of Europe are ? Should Greenland
be included if we look at the map before it gained autonomy (Hjemmestyre) ? The
Faeroe Islands ? Madeira ? The Canary Islands ? Cyprus ? Malta ? Uzbekistan ?
In France it is sometimes maintained that (Wolton, 1993, p. 84), "Le
fractionnement linguistique est... constitutif de l'identité européenne." At
the same time, the practical problems of the language barriers are realised
(ibid.) : "Le principal problème de l'Europe est l'absence de langue commune
avec d'insolubles problèmes de communication, notamment à Bruxelles et au
Parlement. D'ailleurs sur 13.000 fonctionnaires à la Commission, il y a 1.700
traducteurs soit 2 traducteurs pour 13 fonctionnaires".
Many people see this lack of linguistic unity as an indication of how difficult
it is to unify Europe :
L'Europe est aussi un carrefour de langues, puisque quarante-trois langues y
sont parlées, à des degrés divers. (Wolton, 1993, p. 17)
What about English ? Many people in most European countries, however defined,
speak English. But so do many people in America and Australia, and as a native
language of a European state, English is not spoken by as many people as is,
for example, German. Moreover, French, Italian and Spanish are strong
competitors within the European context. So language cannot easily be used as a
common denominator for establishing a unified sense of European identity.
Still, as Edgar Morin points out, English may very well be used as a working
language without the creation of an Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony (1990, pp.
L'Europe ne court aucun risque culturel à ce que l'anglais y devienne langue
principale de communication. N'a-t-il pas constitué la langue de communication
entre les diverses cultures et ethnies indiennes sans les corrompre, sans
dévaluer les langues régionales, sans surimposer l'identité anglaise sur
l'identité indienne ? L'utilisation de l'anglais, accompagnée de la
connaissance de deux autres langues européennes, aurait en outre l'avantage de
faciliter les communications avec le reste de la planète.30
One can, of course, assume life styles, traditions and behavioural patterns
within some European territory, more or less arbitrarily defined, constitute a
"European culture." But even within nation states it is dubious to speak of
specific political cultures, since other criteria such as class, urban versus
rural, north versus south, and similar criteria tend to give more explanatory
power to the notion of "political culture." The political culture of the
British working class is definitely different from that of the middle class and
the gentry, the political outlook of farmers in rural Holland definitely
differs from that of city dwellers in The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and
northern Italian conceptions of politics are very different from those held by
the population of Sicily and Naples. And as the two World Wars in this century
have shown, Marx was definitely wrong in believing that the working classes of
the world had so much in common that they would prefer class to nation as a
chief object of identification.
30 Others like Wolton (1993, p. 162) are more cautious and less optimistic :
"L'identité postnationale est le moyen de construire cette identité, reposant
sur l'adhésion à des cultures politiques démocratiques, communicationelles, qui
attribuent une influence certaine à l'échange et font notamment l'impasse sur
le problème de la langue. Comment communiquer des expériences sans langage
If a political perspective reflects aspects of political cultures, and if
identity is a necessary element of a political perspective, then it follows
that we must give further consideration to political culture. At a somewhat
high level of analytical abstraction, Wolton argues that one can intuitively
speak of culture in three senses. In the first place, as an opposition to
nature, that is, as the results of human labour. In the second place, culture
can be seen as that which unifies a people or ethnic groups and which allows us
to distinguish cultures from each other. In the third place, finally, culture
can be seen as "high culture," as implied when we speak of being cultivated,
familiar with literary traditions and art, etc. In Europe, all three notions
have always co-exited at the same time. (Wolton, 1993, p. 312). Yet there were
dynamisms and developments as Laqueur has pointed out (1970, p. 344) :
With all its vitality, post-war European culture faced grave problems. The
stultifying effects of mass culture, the standardisation of the mass media, the
commercial production of cultural goods, constituted an insidious danger which
in this form had never existed before. At the other extreme there were the
futilities of an esoteric, precious, often sterile high culture', divorced
from real life and from people, a dead-end rather than a narrow pass on the
road to new cultural peaks. Culture had become less spontaneous and far more
Trying to relate these common sense notions to the debate on European political
culture, Wolton says that empirically there are three national approaches with
ingredients borrowed from these notions :
v Le premier sens, "français" insiste sur l'idée d'oeuvre, de création. Il
suppose une identification de ce qui est considéré comme culturel, en terme de
patrimoine et de création, de connaissance et de savoir.
v Le deuxième sens, "allemand", est proche de l'idée de civilisation. C'est
l'ensemble des oeuvres et des valeurs, des représentations et des symboles, du
patrimoine et de la mémoire tels qu'ils sont partagés par une communauté, à un
moment de son histoire.
v Le troisième sens, "anglo-saxon", est plus anthropologique au sens où il
insiste sur les modes de vie, les pratique quotidiennes, l'histoire au jour de
jour, les styles et les savoirs quotidiens, les images et les mythes. (Wolton,
1993, p. 312) Historical criteria
To the extent that we wish to speak of a common European historical destiny, we
would find that there are more competition, rivalry, strife, war and other
forms of nonco- operative behaviour than forms of co-operative behaviour. In an
summarise the results of a historical survey of Europe's origins, Morin (1990,
pp. 2223) says that :
L'Europe se dissout dès qu'on veut la penser de façon claire et distincte, elle
se morcelle dès qu'on veut reconnaître son unité. Lorsque nous voulons lui
trouver une origine fondatrice ou une originalité intransmissible, nous
découvrons qu'il n'y a rien lui soit propre aux origines, et rien dont elle ait
In this sense, it seems inappropriate to speak of the long-term historical
origins of a European identity, which o according to both Webster, Le Petit
Robert and the psychoanalytical definition o would have to denote a form of
In the period before World War II, the term Europeanisation tended to express
the effects on Australian, Asiatic, American and African cultures and
civilisations of the peculiar civilisation that grew up in modern Europe o
including what we today call Eastern and Central Europe o as a consequence of
the Renaissance, the Calvinist and Lutheran Reformation and, later on, the
As George Young wrote in the 1934 edition of The International Encyclopedia of
the Social Sciences (1937, p. 623) :
Europeanisation may be expressed politically by imposing the idea of democracy,
in the sense of parliamentary and party government, or of sovereignty, in the
sense of suppression or subordination of all government organs to the sovereign
state, or of nationality, by creating a semi-religious solidarity in support of
that sovereignty. It may be expressed economically by imposing ideas of
individualistic capitalism, competition and control on community enjoying more
elaborate and equitable, but less productive and progressive, collectivistic or
communal civilisations ; or industrially by substituting the factory and the
foundry for the hand loom and home craft.
Subjective versus objective criteria
Should we satisfy ourselves with just noting that "European" is what one is, if
one says so ? If we reason along this line, National Socialists and Arab
Socialists would be "socialists," National Democrats (that is, Neo-Nazis of the
1960s) and representatives of the former "People's Democracies" would be
Democrats. If political science equals the creation of political clarity rather
than confusion, a purely subjective approach seems inappropriate.
For reasons of expediency, I would suggest that we opt for something like a
minimalist objective approach. For a person to be "European" she or he would at
least have to :
o be a citizen of a state, located by stipulation, to be geographically within
a geographical entity called Europe ;
o speak a language which is officially accepted as one of the official
languages of that state ;
o share a historical destiny with other people, within that state, speaking the
aforementioned language ;
o share a cultural pattern with other such people, where the cultural pattern
is seen as consisting of similar cognitive, evaluative and emotional elements.
Citizenship is a legal criterion. An Australian citizen would not qualify even
if he had lived for a long time in a European state, neither would aspiring
immigrants or refugees. Language is somewhat weaker as a criterion variable, as
I have already mentioned. Shared history is also a weak criterion : What about
people living in territories that historically have been contested such as
South Tyrol, Alsace-Lorraine, Slesvig-Holstein, parts of the former Habsburg
empire, or the former USSR ? What about the Basque separatists and Catalonian
nationalists, not to forget the Balkan states ?
With respect to a notion of European identity, as opposed to the national
identities of Europe's constituent states, peripheral territories will
constitute problems since Europe is a peninsula, rather than a continent. Hence
we have had problematic notions such as the old "cordon sanitaire" which was
invented between the two World Wars to define a buffer zone between the Soviet
"dictatorship of the proletariat" and the rest of Europe, and the "Partnership
for Peace" within the new world security order.
Shared culture also seems insufficient when we wish to create a distinction
between European and non-European identities and, besides, cultural criteria
seem to overlap with the other criteria, as I have already mentioned. Since
culture can be based on any of the three previously mentioned elements of a
political perspective (identification, demands, and expectation), we run the
risk of exposing ourselves to definitional circularity if we use that as an
Three kinds of motives
Some people tend to perceive themselves ("to identify") on the basis of what
they think they are and have been, and draw their political conclusions on this
basis : "I am a Danish farmer or Danish farmer's son, so I must vote for the
agrarian party." They are characterised by their "because-of" motives. Other
people tend to conceive of themselves in terms of what they want : "In order to
promote a free society I will vote for the liberal party." These people are
characterised by their "in-order-to" motives. Still others perceive themselves
on the basis of what they expect : "Activism is required if I wish to gain what
I want or preserve what must be preserved ; in order to live a good life."
"Fatalism or free-riding will be better for me than activism." This third group
can be characterised by their "optional-choice" motives.
The first requirement for a political identification to occur is the
recognition of a "self" distinct from others, i.e. "them". This is
"identification" proper. What is distinctive about being European today, if we
compare it with being, say, Australian , Canadian, or Mexican ? What are the
significant characteristics of being European today in comparison to being,
say, European before and immediately after the Second World War ? The
accumulated efforts of Schumann, Adenauer, de Gaulle, Monet, and Delors have
all made a difference, but will it continue ?
In the second place, there must be a recognition that this "self," this
"identification" is in opposition to "them." This is regrettable for those who
advocate world federalism and continued responsibility toward the Third World.
In order for an identity to thrive there must be a challenge, a recognised
competitive edge or conflicts of interests. The political self-recognition and
the recognition of opposition between the "self" and "others" tend to reinforce
each other, as in Marxist theory which claims that the class in itself (Klasse
an sich) becomes more distinct as it fights for its interests against other
classes, so as to emerge as a class for itself (Klasse für sich). As the social
psychologists Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills say in Character and Social
Structure (1979, p. 288), "It is in controversies that symbol systems are
Although we may recognise a competitive edge and a conflict of interest with
"non- Europeans" with respect to, say, economic issues, Europe is still
integrated in a wider global community through GATT, the United Nations and
NATO, etc. So despite attempts by the European Union to create a separate
identity for Europeans, not unlike the Marxist notion of a "Klasse für sich,"
there are other centripetal and centrifugal forces at work to create wider as
well as more narrow political identities.
The third step in the establishment of a separate political identity involves a
cognitive simplification of the world, where most events are interpreted in
dual categories such as "European" versus "non-European." The cognitive
simplification process has two explanations, each of which is equally valid.
Man faces great and complex problems but has limited capabilities to process
information. In order to focus attention and regain perceptual control, aspects
have to be disregarded, otherwise chaos follows. Politically this is also
necessary, because the audience of the politically active must be influenced by
simplified images that reach down to everyone.
When it comes to speaking about the identification of Europeans, such a
simplified "black-and-white" perspective is probably (and hopefully) not an
enduring characteristic of the electorates of Europe. Black-and-white thinking
and stereotyping tendencies seem to have more in common with the kind of
totalitarianism propagated within the ranks of the German Republikaner, the
French Front National, Vlaamse Blok in Belgium and a few more marginal groups o
perhaps inadequately described as "totalitarian" o such as the Danish
Fremskridtspartiet and the Ulster nationalists. Not even the neo-fascist
Italian MSI (now calling itself "the National Alliance") and its
sub-organisations can be accused of such xenophobia and single-mindedness as
that which goes into simple cognitive dualisms.
Lowell Dittmer describes the process of identification when he says (1977, p.
573) that, "The process of political identification involves generalisation
from objective perception to subjective wish-fulfilment...".
However, Wolton (1993, p. 82) says that it is possible and even desirable to
accept the old distinction of out-groups versus in-groups, but that it must be
given a new content :
L'Europe se trouve donc aujourd'hui confrontée au même enjeu : retrouver une
figure contre-identitaire, ou inventer un nouveau mode de structuration
This new figure of contra-identification, according to the French
intellectuals, should be anti-democratic political tendencies and sentiments.
The fourth and final requirement concerns expected and desired goals. Such
goals can be elaborated as utopian systems or models, like the federalist and
confederalist conceptions of a new European political, economic or security
order, or as partial working solutions to pragmatically felt needs, such as
those postulated by neofunctionalists.
There are at least six, more or less overlapping, contradictory and/or
supportive models one can discern in the current debate on the integration of
Europe and the development of a European political identity :
v The great Europe model o a confederal model, with an emphasis on external
v The united nations of Europe o a federal model, with an emphasis on internal
v The community model o a model for inventories of what has already been
achieved as a result of so called neo-functionalist initiatives ;
v The Europe of the nations (de Gaulle) o a model which focuses on definitions
of what should be included and excluded, and which would not necessarily
include all European states in their geographical extensions ;
v The minimal Europe o a liberal model in which market forces are given
priority, but in which political and monetary issues are played down ;
v The Europe of "espace publique" o a democratic model for Europe to be shaped,
which ignores the traditional cultural cleavages and focuses on the democratic
versus totalitarian modes of identity. Dominique Wolton says that these models
have the quality of "ideal types" about them but that (p. 218) :
En fait, l'Europe n'est pour le moment, et sans doute pour longtemps encore, ni
une Europe des régions, ni une Europe des nations, mais une mosaïque de modèles
et de responsabilités gouvernementales : supranationales, nationales,
régionales, locales, municipales, où la souveraineté est partagée entre les
différents niveaux de gouvernement.
This is a reasonably pragmatic conclusion since it allows for the theoretical
debate about European political identity to continue, and this debate is in
itself a major source of political identification.
Conclusion and some practical proposals
It makes a difference whether we speak about plural identities or a plurality
of choices when we look at the fears and hopes for a new Europe to be built.
Plural identities are not necessarily "good" from the point of view of
psychology, since they may cause distress, paralysis and confusion. The French
intellectuals seem to believe that when using different criteria as identity
objects, one should not focus exclusively on geographical units, since the
national state is unlikely to be perishing anyway. When they advocate multiple
perspectives they say that political criteria must be used, and that way the
debate is being transformed into a debate about the future of European
democracy, a debate with firm roots in European federalism.
Since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community and the other
European Union "pillars" there has been a change in the extent to which people
regard themselves as European. This can be seen in the Eurobarometer surveys
which show that the sense of being European is greater among citizens of Member
States that have been members of the EEC from the beginning than among the
"newcomers". But even if this is so, it may be misleading, because such
"identification" may be based on parochial expectations of economic and other
gains for the national unit to which one belongs, as for example in the case of
Belgium, where European integration is demanded, but on the basis that the
European politicians will further Belgian interests in the first place, rather
than European common interests.
What, then, can be done to further the idea of a common European identity
tomorrow if the pace up till now has been slow and uncertain ? The answer to
this question will greatly affect the future of the European Union. Since it is
impossible to mention all possible projects that may contribute to a greater
inner strength of the European project, I will confine my attention to some
rather basic ideas which are within the scope of practical realisation.
It is now more than half a century since the end of the Second World War, and
we have now seen the downfall of totalitarian Communism. But we still have
traces of totalitarianism among us everywhere in the form of racism,
bureaucratic arrogance, and even leftover sentiments of Communism, Fascism and
even National Socialism in Europe. We have concerns about a sustainable
environmental development and corruption among politicians, irresponsible
bankers, and remote representatives in the Europe to which we belong. These are
just a few issues to which many young people
pay attention but it is far from all who actually pay attention. If we can
support those young people who feel concerned, and give them reasons to be
grateful for what the European Union does to combat totalitarianism, racism and
economic fraud, we may win over the next generation for the European project
and make them feel more European than the older generations have felt. As the
President of the European Union, Jacques Santer pointed out in his speech at a
previous carrefour arranged by the Cellule de Prospective at the University of
Lund in 1995, the great change in attitudes towards Europe will come with the
next generations, those who know foreign languages and those who have lived
This leads me to the practical conclusion that all of us who wish to strengthen
European identity should promote travelling in all its forms all over Europe,
especially by subsidising continued Inter-rail travelling among the young
during the summer holidays and whenever else it is possible. Since the birth of
the European Union, through the implementation of the Single European Act in
the early 1990s, many airlines have shown their good-will and launched cheap
travel programmes for both adults and young people. But more can be done in
this area. For example, arrangements can be made with the youth hostel
organisations in Europe so that travelling and accommodation will not be
confined to only those who are well off, have employment, and have received
grants from various study programmes. Efforts can be made to maintain and
enlarge already existing exchange programmes of students and teachers that are
already effective, and an effort can be made to establish summer camps, where
young people from all over Europe can come together for three to four weeks to
learn more and discuss problems of concern to them, including their immediate
concerns about youth unemployment. If possible, they could even work directly
in projects of common concern to us all, such as the rebuilding of roads and
villages in the former Yugoslavia, when it is safe to do so again.
The positive role of such initiatives for the strengthening of a European
identity will depend upon the role played by the European Union. This role need
not be too directly linked with our European institutions as they are today,
and the most important thing is not to pour a lot of money into such projects,
but let the beneficiaries know where the support comes from.
I envisage that the European Union could play the role of the empowering agent
to institutions which already exist. We could awaken an interest in a European
youth hostel movement, in a European Interrail Travel System, and in European
Summer Camps for young people. Such projects could send a positive signal to
all European adolescents, employed or unemployed, students, trainees and
working class youngsters, a signal which says : "If you wish to know more about
life in other European countries and if you wish to participate in furthering
the goals of the new Europe, we are there to support you." Through such
measures we can not only strengthen and build a future European identity, we
can also make sure that the achievements of the past are safeguarded.
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What is it ? Why do we need it ? Where do we find it ?
Edy Korthals Altes
Identity has to do with the individuality of a person or - in this case - of
the European Union. What are the specific characteristics ? In what ways does
the European Union discern itself from other international or national agents ?
Identity in the sense of being yourself' is closely connected with the
relation to others, seeing the other'. In this sense, Cardinal Lustiger could
state that ; solidarity with those who die for lack of bread is an essential
condition for Europe to stay alive'.31
The classic response to the question of European identity is : unity in
diversity. Ethnic background, culture, religion and history are certainly
important factors for the European identity.
Decisive at this stage of the European integration process is however the
question : what do we want to do together ? The answer depends on the
perception of the need for a common response to the challenges of today's
world. This is not an academic question but a matter of survival !
Identity is subject to change. It is not something static', given for all
time. It is something that grows or withers away. Just as with individuals
there is a process of development ( circumstances, events, inner growth).
The present identity of the European Union is not robust but rather confusing.
It resembles a Picasso portrait, conflicting lines, different levels not the
unity of a human face. Or if we want to put it in diplomatic language : "the
European Union is going through an identity crisis". It is still uncertain
about its place in the surrounding world.
Internal and external aspects of European identity
Structure (decision making process : efficient /democratic/ transparent) ;
Policies : (agricultural, regional, social ; just/unjust, greater inequality,
exclusion) ; Economy : what are its objectives ? To serve man and society, to
enable all people to live a decent existence. Or is it just the other way round
: man and society sewing economics ? Accepting the tyranny of the iron laws of
economics as an absolute, a given reality, something that cannot be changed.
Economy as a goal in itself growth, maximisation of profits and power, etc.).
Environment. Something to respect / to manage with great care and
responsibility, or something to exploit whenever we feel like it.
Jean-Marie Lustiger, Nous avons rendez-vous avec l'Europe, 1991, Paris, Mame.
If we consider the economic aspects, the European Union looks quite impressive
: large internal market, major trading partner on a world scale, strong
industrial base, great financial power, among highest GNP per capita, good
infrastructure, seat of multinationals, impressive number of cars and TVs, etc.
A realistic vision is however obscured because of the highly unreliable way of
assessing what is really going on (inadequate measuring instruments, poor
definition of GNP). Counting ourselves rich at the expense of well being. The
European Union is one of the greatest polluters in the world, among the
greatest consumers of energy and raw materials. About 20 million unemployed,
many poor. An increasing commercialisation of society, progressive
deterioration of social and medical care, a degradation of education and
universities (result-oriented, relevant for economy but at the detriment of
The opinion Europeans have of their own identity does not necessarily
correspond with the perception of non-Europeans. While we may be indulging in
the civilising role' of Europe in a largely underdeveloped world', other
nations, e.g. in the south of the Sahel or in the Pacific, may be inclined to
curse the European Union (or some of its member states) for its selfishness
(Common Agricultural Policy) or arrogance (nuclear tests).
For the perception of our identity, deeds (actions/policies) are more relevant
than words (declarations). African cattle-growers and local food producers
suffer more from the negative effects of dumping of the European Union's
agricultural surpluses than they benefit from fine words about the vocation of
the European Union in this world. The same applies to import restrictions,
policies on debts etc.
And what about the striking contrast between the commitments made in Rio and
Copenhagen and the slowness of action of the European Union ? It should be
clear by now that a drastic revision of extravagant production - and
consumption - levels in the highly industrialised nations is a prerequisite for
a sustainable world society. There will be no hope for an effective control of
the environmental crisis without far- reaching adjustments in the modern world.
The position of the European Union is here of particular relevance.
A common foreign and security policy : Picasso's portraits provide a good
illustration of the present chaotic state of affairs. The unity of a
well-integrated external policy is still a long way off. Several Commissioners
are responsible for different aspects. Efficient policy-making is not possible
with the present set-up under which the hands of External Affairs are strictly
tied by the Council members ! A common security policy is not just around the
corner ! And what will a common defence policy ultimately look like ? Will the
European Union adopt an offensive stance with a nuclear component and a large
military establishment or will it be content with a police function preferably
in the context of the UN ? In the latter case, much more emphasis than to be
found in the preparatory notes for the Intergovernmental Conference should be
given to conflict prevention also in the economic sphere. This would also lead
to a strict limitation of the production of and trade in arms and ensure
careful scrutiny of R&D activities in the military industry.
In search of the heart and soul' of Europe
Reflecting on the structure of the European Union, its capabilities and
policies, is certainly very important as a preparation for practical
propositions on how to express the European identity. But at this critical
moment of a deep existential crisis both in our nations and in the world, it
seems to me that serious attention should also be paid to the deepest
motivation of our acting. In other words, we should tackle the fundamental
spiritual crisis, so manifest in modern society. Jacques Delors' pertinent
question as to the heart and soul' of Europe has to be answered.
Indeed, what are we doing with this huge Brussels machinery wielding so much
power ? What are we heading for ? More power and material well being,
especially for the stronger elements ? Or do we have a vision of a sustainable
and just society ? A society in which all people, whatever background
(religious/cultural/national), have a right and the possibility to lead a
decent life ? A society in which people have respect for life in all its forms.
A European Union with a balanced relation between the individual and the
community, sustained by citizens who realise that each individual has a unique
value that may never be reduced to an object for exploitation. Man, freed from
the yoke of a one-sided fixation on economics, rediscovering that he is
infinitely more than the homo economicus to which he is now being reduced by
the apostles of greed in a materialistic culture.
Man, part of a greater whole, knowing that he does not live by bread alone !
Man, with a destiny, a meaning of life, sharing life and goods in a responsible
way with human beings in a global world.
Of crucial importance for identity is the spirit providing the deepest
motivation for action. One rightly stresses the importance of Christianity for
Europe. But what is this spirit now ? If we look at today's reality, it will be
difficult to maintain that we are living in a Christian Europe. Secularisation,
materialism, hedonism and individualism are dominating modern culture. For many
people, the sense for the transcendent has evaporated. (Many people have lost
the sense for the transcendent ?) The horizontal' approach with its emphasis
on a so-called autonomous "l " has taken its place.
This has far-reaching consequences for our relations with mankind (ourselves,
fellow- beings, the other and future generations) towards things and towards
In all three fields, man has lost his orientation, his bearings. Vaclàv Havel
has made some relevant observations on this loss of the sense of the
Transcendent (loss of spirituality ?) and the many problems of today as well as
the incapacity of politicians to solve these (to come up with solutions).
Spiritually, the European Union is in a rather poor (desolate) state.
Impressive technological and economic achievements abound, but a very meagre
spiritual basis. Crisis of meaning is widespread, psychological problems,
crime, drug abuse, lack of respect for life with an annual death toll of 50,000
in road accidents, although (this number could be drastically reduced through
the implementation of certain measures. Television programmes of a deplorable
We need a european identity
Only an effectively structured European Union (internally and externally) will
be a relevant factor on the international scene, where the final real decisions
affecting directly the life of all Europeans will be taken.
v No European State is any longer in a position to meet the challenges of the
modern world (ecological crisis, unemployment, poverty, rise of world
population, armed conflicts, the spectacular increase in the destructive power
of modern arms).
v The dynamics of power relationships (nations as well as multinational
companies). Affected are therefore not only countries like the USA, Japan,
Russia, China, East- Russia, etc. but also the major international players in
finance and business.
v The serious threat to a social market economy' caused by overwhelming global
forces call for a common ? Answer.32 We cannot go on with our present rate of
production / consumption/ destruction of the environment. If we want a
sustainable and just society, we must make progress in the direction of enough
is enough'. We need to accept an upper limit and pay much more attention to the
unsustainability of the present economy.
We know that our planet cannot cope with a similar rate of economic expansion
on the part of all other nations.
We know that 4/5 of mankind is in urgent need of development (aid ? ?) in order
to enjoy a decent standard of living and to escape from hunger and starvation.
We must therefore strive for a reduction of our impact on the environment if we
are serious about a basic sense of humanity. This cannot be achieved by
technological means, fiscal and other measures alone. A fundamental change in
mentality, in basic orientation, is needed.
The obvious response to the global challenge should be a worldwide decision to
set course towards a sustainable future. Heading off a collective disaster by
managing the planet's scarce resources and environment in a responsible way.
This will however take time - too much time. But why shouldn't the European
Union - with its considerable economic leverage - take the initiative with a
step-by-step approach, making it clear to the world that the one-sided emphasis
of unlimited material growth' at the expense of real well-being is a fatal
error ? Recognising that other areas may be in need for further economic
development but that we have reached the stage of enough is enough'. That we
are no longer victims of the false ideology that man has endless unlimited ?
material needs which have to be satisfied. After all, it is from Europe that
the industrial revolution and the expansion of our economic system started. A
convincing European Union signal, illustrating a decisive turn in our economic
approach might trigger off similar reactions in the US and Japan.
Politically speaking, this deliberate change of course will not be easy. It
could be greatly furthered if the European Commission entered into a creative
32 Michel Albert, Capitalisme contre capitalisme, 1991, Paris, Seuil.
those egos that promote a similar course of action. There may be a greater
concern among many people about the loss of qualify of life' than many
One of the challenges is, as we have seen before, the rediscovery of the great
spiritual resources that have been at the origin of the European civilisation.
There will be no renewal of the European society without a fundamental
reappraisal of man's place in the Universe. The relation with the Ultimate. As
we live in a multireligious Europe, this is a shared responsibility not only
for Christianity but also for other religions.
In the present situation of a morally disoriented Europe, a simple appeal for
norms and values' will not be enough. Much more is needed. Values without deep
spiritual roots will not stand up in the present harsh reality.
For example : the threat to the social model. It would be an illusion to think
that it will be possible to maintain the social market' - now under great
pressure - without a strong spiritual basis.
Europe urgently needs a radical change from its one-sided materialistic -
horizontal approach to an attitude towards life which opens up towards
transcendence. Christians throughout the ages have discovered in the cross of
Jesus Christ the ultimate symbol - and reality - for this meeting of the
horizontal and vertical lines. Jews and Muslims have other ways of expressing
the reality of the transcendental experience.
Where to find it ?
The great temptation is to look for identity' in the structure of the European
Union, its institutions, regulations, acts and policies. And may be even among
its declarations. Ultimately, the European Union identity depends on the
political will of member states and the way the European Union uses its
competencies. But political action of states is highly dependent on public
support. Whether there will be sufficient understanding for necessary painful
policies' depends on the motivation of citizens. It is thus a question of the
spirit. What moves (activates ?) people nowadays ? The spiritual desert in
which many people live is well illustrated by the statement of a Dutch cabinet
minister (environment) that the car cannot be touched because it is an
essential element of the identity of a person' ! I doubt whether the European
Union could ever develop its identity on the basis of this narrow materialistic
concept of human nature.
The European Union identity will not be found in wonderful words about our
common history and common sources of inspiration. Not in digging up long
forgotten treasures of the past but in acting together. On the basis of
adequate policies, meeting the present challenges.
Just three examples of missed opportunities - all in areas on our doorstep :
1. The end of the Cold War and breakdown of the communist system provided a
unique occasion for a visionary approach of the new reality : a large-scale
well-integrated economic co-operation programme addressing the actual needs.
2. The handling of the crisis in ex-Yugoslavia. 3. The creation of an
all-European security system in the spirit of the Paris Charter. On these
historic occasions, action would have given a greater impulse to the
development of a European Union identity than a thousand seminars and numerous
solemn declarations of politicians.
Unless the European Union develops an adequate structure enabling it to deal
effectively with the challenges of the modern world, we will not discover our
It is up to the member states to take a hard look at reality and decide to
break the impasse of the present "Impossible Status Quo" !33
Some practical and some more fundamental suggestions
v Continue and expand the excellent initiative on the Carrefours d'Europe. If
necessary even under more modest circumstances !
v Bring spiritual and cultural leaders together with politicians, managers,
journalists etc. Strive for an equilibrium between bureaucrats of institutions
and independent' Europeans.
v Consider the possibility of a substantial increase of inter-European exchange
programmes for students and scholars.
v Bring forcefully to the attention of Council members and public opinion that
the European Union has now really arrived at a crucial point which will be
decisive for its future : whether it will develop an identity or become a
non-entity. making clear that the latter option will inevitably also lead the
proud member states on the same road towards oblivion.
v Deepening of the European Union should have an absolute priority over
enlargement. The danger of further diluting the identity is great.
v Translating the recognition that the spiritual factor is crucial for the
European identity in an active support of all those religious and cultural
forces that can contribute to the spiritual revival in Europe.
A new spirituality will liberate us from the dominance of economics, breaking
the spell of the golden calf ! This would pave the way for a humane and just
society, offering the possibility to lead a full human life in which values
such as love, beauty, truth and goodness together with human rights, solidarity
and justice are guaranteed for us and coming generations !
33 Club de Florence, Europe: L'impossible Status Quo, 1996, Editions Stock.
European identity and political experience
Let me make two points clear to start with. Firstly, Europe is not just the
European Union ; secondly, I have no doubt that a European identity does exist.
When my country embarked on the process of joining the European Community it
did so for very specific reasons, namely to consolidate our newfound freedoms.
Portugal, like Spain, had just emerged from nearly half a century of
dictatorship, and it was essential to consolidate our democracy to prevent any
resurgence of military power. We could only counter this threat by turning to
This is not to say that we did not consider ourselves to be a European country
before. Let me remind you that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to
export the culture of our continent to the Indies, Japan and America. We were
also the first to bring back to Europe the riches of the civilisations and
cultures we discovered there, which were still completely unknown here. We have
always regarded ourselves as Europeans, even if our country is on the periphery
of the continent and faces the Atlantic and Africa.
I have mentioned the importance of sporting European colours to consolidate
democratic institutions that were still in their infancy. But there was another
reason for Portuguese membership : we were very late in embarking on
decolonisation. Having been the first colonial empire in the world, Portugal
was also the last. But once our colonial empire had finally disappeared,
fifteen years later than those of our neighbours and in difficult
circumstances, and we found ourselves face to face with new sovereign states
such as Cape Verde, Guinea, Angola and Mozambique, we felt that integration in
the European Community was the natural counterweight to this change.
We joined the European Community at the same time as Spain, in June 1985. At
that point, it was not yet the European Union. Since then, we have seen the
collapse of the Communist world and many profound changes. The European
Community had two objectives : the most obvious, founded on Franco-German
friendship, was to preserve peace on the continent. The second was to keep up
with the United States and the Soviet bloc. With the end of bi-polarism, the
Community found itself plunged into a completely new situation.
This was when Europe rediscovered its own values and escaped from the
geographical and historical confines imposed by the Cold War. We realised that
Europe was much larger and started to ask ourselves what we should do with the
"rest" of the continent. We realised that we had a duty to reintegrate this
"other Europe" into our Community onow a Union. But of course it is no easy
matter : what will become of a Europe that was difficult enough to run with
just 10 or 12 or 15 members when it expands to include 21 or 22 members in a
few years' time ? This is
a problem for the European institutions but it also touches on the very future
of the concept of the European Union.
Europe cannot just be the European Union within the frontiers as they stand
today. Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, have the right to join our Community : their
history and their contribution to the European identity fully entitle them to
membership. They have contributed as much to the European ideal as we have.
From these countries, I hear the same arguments that Spain and Portugal used
for joining the European Community : we have freed ourselves from dictatorship,
we have become a democratic country through our own efforts, without Europe's
We also had the right to democracy at the end of the Second World War, because
Great Britain and France had defeated the dictatorships and Germany counted for
nothing in the immediate post-war period. Who allowed the dictatorships to
reemerge in our country, if not "democratic Europe" ?
Though it pains me as a socialist, I have to say that if there was one champion
of the rehabilitation of the dictatorships at that time it was the British
Foreign Secretary. Driven by fear of Soviet pressure and fear of Communism in
Western Europe o in both France and Italy o the democratic states of Europe
took the view that it was more sensible and served their own interests better
to overlook the fact that there were two dictatorships on their doorsteps. From
1945 to 1974, we continued to live under a dictatorship because of this sort of
indulgence, because of the treachery of the democracies. They did everything to
perpetuate the dictatorship in our country. It was the easier option : it was
either that or risk letting Communism in through Spain or Portugal or somewhere
else. This was the main consideration.
Once we had rid ourselves of these dictatorships, our first concern was to
assert that we were democracies and that you bore a share of the responsibility
for our period of fascist or authoritarian rule. This gave us every right to
sit at the same table as you, particularly as our contribution to Europe has
been every bit as important as yours in the past.
This is what we said to the European states. It is what our friends in Central
Europe are saying to us today and it remains equally valid. They too can claim
the right to sit at the Europeans' table. Economic reasons cannot stand in the
way of this right. This is why it is our duty to find ways of dealing with the
current situation and welcoming these states into the Union.
The question of greater Europe is not confined to Central Europe alone : Europe
is also linked to the Mediterranean Sea and the Mediterranean basin. It is
linked to what happens in Eastern Europe. Where does Europe end ? On the
Russian steppes ? Is Turkey part of Europe ? I was in Turkey quite recently and
found that those who want to modernise the country proclaim their Europeanness.
And rightly so. They have reasons for doing so. Is the European Union to be a
club reserved exclusively for Christian countries o Protestant, Catholic and
Orthodox ? Are countries with a predominantly Muslim population not allowed to
join ? Is there some sort of religious bar to membership ? I do not think so.
But the problem of Turkey is a serious one for Europe.
How are we supposed to deal with an unprecedented situation like this on the
institutional level ? On this point, my mind is made up : I agree with
Chancellor Kohl that the construction of Europe is a vital matter for the next
century, a matter of war and peace. Even if we had no problems of identity, if
we fail to move towards a stronger European Union, if we fail to move rapidly
along that road, Europe will find itself without a voice and will lose the
importance it once had in the world. It is not just a matter of being heard
throughout the world, but of having the strength to impose certain models which
we believe encapsulate so many of the ideas which this ancient continent has
produced over the years. The European model reflects serious humanist concerns
based on fundamental human values : values of liberty and reason, solidarity
and social justice. They are values without which the human race cannot
successfully enter the XXIst century.
In other words, Europe's interests are not limited to Europe alone. It is not a
matter of simply asserting Europe's position in the world, but of going further
and making a contribution to the world as a whole. If we fail to make this
contribution, something will be missing, and we will fail to explore the paths
that are most rational and most conducive to human happiness.
This is how I see the situation and why I believe in Europe. I may sometimes
criticise Europe with other pro-Europeans, but I do so because of my love for
Europe. I do so because I am not afraid of the march of European progress,
quite the contrary. I do not think there can be a solution which would unite 20
or 30 European countries but leave these essential values as the individual
concern of each State. They must be pooled and managed collectively o and this
is true of security policy and foreign policy as much as anything else. But it
cannot be done without supranational European institutions. It cannot be done
unless we move towards a united Europe, towards a measure of European
federalism. I know that this word makes some people uneasy. But I have no
qualms about using it. Like the founding fathers of Europe, I favour a
structure which does not have to be identical to the one that already exists.
It should be a new and original design. Others have already said as much in
this seminar. It should evolve towards a United States of Europe, along more or
less federal lines, perhaps with its own original touches, but basically
federal, with a certain common direction. This requires the sacrifice of
certain elements of states' traditional sovereignty, the pooling of national
sovereignties. Without this, we cannot build Europe.
There may come a moment when we have to say to those Member States that do not
want to go all the way that they have no right to stop the others from going
further. This path offers the best solution available in the short term.
When I speak of Europe in such glowing terms, it should be clear that I do not
mean Europe to be simply Europe of the free market, the single market, economic
and monetary union and the single currency. Of course I support this, but only
if we build a genuinely political Europe as well. Because if it is to be only
an economic and monetary Europe I will withdraw my support. That is not the
sort of Europe I am interested in. I am in favour of an economic and monetary
Europe if it goes hand in hand with a political Europe and coordinated foreign
policy : a Europe which defines its own security collectively, a Europe that is
also a social union, a Europe of the people, a Europe with popular
participation. I want to talk about the participation of
Europe's regions, which is as important as that of the states. I want to talk
about the participation of the cities, the people, the NGOs, the general
This pluralism, this diversity, is the key to achieving a multi-faceted Europe
capable of fulfilling its role in the world. This role is essential for
maintaining equilibrium in the world and creating a new international order,
without which disaster beckons. We are concerned about human destiny, about the
environment, drug abuse, unemployment, the problems that preoccupy the younger
generation. These are very serious problems which also affect the United States
and, even more acutely, Japan, to mention just two important countries. But
when we look at the countries of Southeast Asia, it is clear that their
prosperity is based quite simply on slave labour. I was in China a few months
ago, where I had the opportunity to meet various leading Chinese figures. My
impression is that China is heading for an explosion that will be completely
out of control, an explosion even more dramatic than the one that tore apart
the Soviet Union, because things cannot go on as they are. You cannot maintain
such a level of capitalist exploitation ; you cannot have a city like Shanghai
with a very high level of development and staggering wealth and at the same
time have public officials earning a pittance. A street trader in Europe would
not accept such a meagre salary. Such inequality can only be sustained by high
levels of corruption or crazy distortions which I am convinced will lead to
As I see it, the world is completely deregulated at the moment. We are all well
aware of this. The United States cannot run the world on their own, even if
they want to. This is why it is important that Europe carries out its allotted
task. It is a major challenge for Europe and for us Europeans. We must be ready
to respond boldly. Unfortunately, we have not seen any great leaders stand up
to defend this sort of point of view loudly and clearly. For electoral reasons,
political leaders find themselves conditioned, tied by the rules of normal
democracy, the rules of parliamentary democracy. They want to please and
respond to the immediate present, with the result that they cannot rise to the
responses they are called on to make. They cannot provide answers to a much
more serious problem which touches on the deepest aspirations of the
individuals and societies of today. This is why we sometimes find ourselves
We can see that concern is becoming widespread in Europe : there is
disenchantment about Europe in the countries which joined the European Union
most recently. It is clearest in Sweden, but is not limited to Sweden. The same
disappointment is to be found in Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, not to
mention Great Britain. What is the cause ? There is a mistaken idea that the
European Union is a bureaucracy based in Brussels which concerns itself with
the details and tries to regulate the life of the ordinary citizen instead of
allowing him a voice and the chance to do something for himself. I believe this
to be completely false, but this is how things are perceived. Matters are made
worse by the fact that the situation for young people is very difficult :
unemployment, delinquency, drugs, social exclusion, AIDS are all problems which
particularly affect young people. The solutions proposed tend to have an
economic or technocratic slant : they are not the answer to these human
problems. This is what young people feel and this is why people are pessimistic
and suspicious about Europe.
Europe has to be relaunched. The European identity has been described as a
changing concept and this is true. It has to incorporate the great values and
aspirations of the
different nations. If we could do that, if we had the courage to do it and to
speak the truth when dealing with the big problems, if we were able to resolve
these problems by taking steps towards closer European integration, Europe
would begin to respond positively to the great challenges of the day.
These great challenges may be stated in very simple terms : either we are able
to understand and create a true political, economic, social and cultural union,
which, for all its diversity and pluralism, remains Union on a grand scale, or
we are unable to do this and we take a step backwards into the outdated
nationalism and disorder of the past. For me, this is one of the most worrying
prospects, not only for Europe, but for humanity as a whole.
How to define the European identitytoday and in the future?
The European identity is often described in a somewhat high-flown manner as
having its foundations in antiquity ; free thought, individualism, humanism and
democracy had their cradle in Athens and Rome. On the other hand, neither Greek
nor Roman civilisations can be described as European. Both were Mediterranean
cultures with centres of influence in Asia Minor, Africa and the Middle East.
When Alexander the Great set out to conquer the civilised world of his time,
Egypt, Persia and India, he had no idea that he was acting on behalf of Europe.
Christianity, with its roots in Judaism, was also a Mediterranean, non-European
religion. Byzantium was a Christian power which marked the limit to Roman
claims of sovereignty, as did a large part of post-Reformation Europe. The
result of the schism between Rome and Byzantium was the development of another
culture in Russia and south-eastern Europe. Following the Reformation, a large
part of continental Europe was preoccupied for several centuries with religious
wars and rivalry between Protestants and Catholics.
More recently, historians have played down our antique heritage. European
ideals are traced back to the Renaissance instead and the concept of the
individual as the smallest and inviolable element of society. The Enlightenment
and the French Revolution contributed to the demand for freedom, equality,
fraternity, democracy, self-determination, equal opportunities for all, clearly
defined government powers, separation between the powers of church and state,
freedom of the press and human rights.
The ideas that are triumphant in Europe today are those of market economy and
democracy. By definition, this also includes the USA, Canada, New Zealand and
Australia as European powers. However, Europe does not only represent modernity
and tolerance but religious persecution, not only democracy but fascist
dictatorship as well - Hitler was the first to use the idea of a European house
- for the collectivist ideals of Communism, colonialism and racism disguised in
In other words, European identity cannot be defined on grounds of cultural
heritage and history, and even less can it be used as the basis for European
domestic and foreign policies. The explanation is as simple as it is obvious.
Economic and political integration between European nation-states has not yet
progressed so far that it is possible to speak of coincidental interests. It is
possible that they have diminished somewhat with the collapse of communism and
disappearance of a common threat.
Instead, there is a growing need for a national identity and sovereignty in
proportion to the increased levelling of European politics and economy. The
greater the sense of diversity being under threat and that standardisation is
rising, the greater the antipathy
to projects that promote integration. The European Community is already a
reality as far as production and consumption is concerned, but there is popular
opposition to a culturally standardised community. The more blurred and
controversial the future of a common Europe appears to the common man, the more
the nations will mobilise themselves against Europe.
In the interests of not becoming counterproductive, a balance must be struck
between enthusiasm for the European project and awareness that European Union
legitimacy will be in short supply in the foreseeable future. This view need
not paralyse efforts towards integration, however. The phrase "an ever closer
union between the peoples of Europe" could instead be useful in its general
There may also be some validity for European integration in Edmund Burke's wise
words that political order cannot be created at a drawing board but has to
emerge gradually. This, in turn, means that politicians and bureaucrats must
concentrate on immediately essential and clear issues and on measures the
consequences of which can be judged by citizens themselves.
Every new European competence must therefore be explained in concrete terms in
order to achieve acceptance. Consequently, the issues should be carefully
examined that require a European solution and which withstand centralised
interference, particularly because an incorrect decision on, say, the
agricultural policy, can have far-reaching consequences and undermine the
credibility of Union projects.
A stable foundation of legitimacy for the European Union will only be achieved
when Europeans perceive a European political identity. This does not imply that
they would no longer feel themselves to be Swedes, Finns, Frenchmen or
Portuguese, but that the sense of a European common destiny was added to these
identities. Even after four decades of European integration, this development
is still in its infancy.
Nation-states evolved after a long period, often filled with conflict. They are
ideological constructions and a national identity is ultimately a political
standpoint. A prerequisite for a strong national identity is that citizens have
a sense of loyalty to the state because it redistributes social resources and
provides education, infrastructure, a legal system etc.
The same prerequisites hold true for the creators of Europe as well. As in the
process that led to the creation of European nation-states, the European Union
will also be an elite project for the foreseeable future and the European
identity an elite phenomenon. To be sure, the technocrats and bureaucrats in
Brussels are a new European elite but are they representatives of European
culture or merely an international "civil service" who, with the passing of
time, increasingly alienate themselves from the people whose interests it is
meant to serve ? Is there not a danger that institutional loyalty will become
stronger than "European awareness" which may spread among the elite of member
The problem becomes more aggravated when these people arouse negative
stereotype reactions among citizens. Eurocrats are not regarded as the first
among Europeans, but as overpaid bureaucrats interfering in matters that do not
The creation of national symbols and myths and the rewriting of history were
also part of the process by which European nations were formed. First came the
state, followed by the formation of a national community within the territorial
framework by means of gradual integration and cultural standardisation.
The architects of nations emerging in the XIXth century used such means as
national conscription, compulsory education and the supra-regional spread of
the growing mass media to create contact between the centre and periphery and
seemingly natural boundaries on the basis of geography, language, ethnicity or
religion. Above all, the arrival of national educational systems and mass media
contributed to the sense of belonging to a national community, expanded
cultural horizons and getting away from provincial narrow-mindedness.
Efforts to create a European identity
Brussels appears to have had this in mind when taking the decision in 1984 that
the EC would improve contact with its citizens and, so to speak, create a
European identity, centrally and from above.
At a summit meeting in Fontainebleau, the European Council found it "absolutely
essential that the Community fulfil the expectations of the European people and
take measures to strengthen and promote the identity and image of the Community
vis-àvis its citizens and the rest of the world".
The Adonnino Committee was set up for this purpose, with the task of starting a
campaign on the theme of "A people's Europe". This work would be based on a
quotation from the preamble to the Rome Treaty on "an ever closer union among
the peoples of Europe", and on the Tindemans Report of 1975 which recommended
that Europe must be close to its citizens and that a European Union could only
become reality if people supported the idea.
An outcome of the work of this committee was the decision that the EC should
have its own flag. When the flag was raised for the first time at Berlaymont on
29 May 1986, the EC hymn - the "Ode to Joy" from the fourth movement of
Beethoven's ninth symphony was played for the first time. Thus, by means of a
flag and European national hymn, the Union acquired the attributes of a
nation-state. A European Day was also established. The choice fell on 9 May,
the date on which Robert Schumann held a speech in 1950 that resulted in the
first community, the European Coal and Steel Community.
Consequently, the Adonnino Committee appears to have assumed that a European
identity could be created on the initiative of politicians and bureaucrats. In
1988, the European Council decided to introduce a European dimension into
school subjects such as literature, history, civics, geography, languages and
music. Legitimacy for future integration would be created by invoking a common
history and cultural heritage.
This has resulted in a book, "Europe - a history of its peoples", written by
the French history professor, Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, which, to quote the
author, covers a period from 5.000 years ago to tomorrow's news.
The European Union is thus attempting to create a European identity from above.
A common European frame of reference is being created by means of a
standardised set of symbols and myths. A European driving licence already
exists and an European Union passport, although it took ten years to agree on
its colour and appearance. The Maastricht Treaty introduced the new concept of
a citizen of the Union, although his/her rights and obligations have still to
be defined. These activities are incompatible with the often-recurring theme
that European integration must be a natural process and not imposed from above.
Every European people has its more or less genuine historical myths,
experiences and view of history. There is no European equivalent to the
Académie Française, Bastille, Escorial, La Scala, Brandenburger Tor or the
opening of Parliament at Westminster. There is no European Unknown Soldier.
Jean Monnet rests at the Panthéon in Paris. The fame of Robert Schumann's
resting place at Scy-Chazelles cannot compete with Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises,
where General de Gaulle lies buried.
Common history has been experienced by many as against and not with each other
in the great European wars. The main task of the "Europe-makers" cannot
therefore be to provide Europeans with a common identity originating in antique
or medieval times but to develop political self-confidence and ability to act
in line with the role of Europe in the XXIst century. This will not happen by
elevating the European Union to a free trade zone in accordance with British
ideas, or into some kind of American- style United States of Europe which is
imposed on people against their will.
Basis for European patriotism and identity
Only long-term, patient growing together will provide the basis for a
democratic Europe comprised of its citizens. For many decades, the EC was a
practical community. We are only now en route towards a community of destiny
and experience. If anything is be learnt from European history it is that
Europe as an entity can only be completed in agreement with and not against the
will of the nation- states and what they consider to be their legitimate
At present, regionalism and nationalism undoubtedly have another strength than
paneuropeanism. Perhaps Europe needs some multi-national shocks' in the form
of an aggressive Russia, a new Chernobyl catastrophe or Gulf crisis to show our
total dependency on the USA in conflicts that affect vital European interests.
Other problems will also arise that call for joint action and which in due
course will aid the establishment of an identity, such as for example :
o the necessity to use our common strength to meet the technological challenge
from Japan and the USA and, in the not too distant future, the "new tigers".
o common action to overcome environmental problems, pressure from immigration
and to handle international organised crime. A successful European policy in
these and other areas could help in the development of "constitutional European
patriotism" in the same way that "loyalty to the Constitution"
("Verfassungspatriotismus") became a reality in the Federal Republic of
Germany , replacing the nationalism that no German was able to feel after the
terrors of the Hitler period.
An absolute precondition for developing a common political culture and
constitutional patriotism in the European Union is that its citizens are
informed about and participate in the super-national decision-making process. A
European public opinion must emerge before there can be talk of a European
As stated above, the European identity has no historical reference. European
trade unions do not exist at present, nor other interest groups nor, above all,
trans-boundary European parties and a European general public.
The Maastricht Treaty brought this deficiency into focus, negotiated as it was
by experts in a European code incomprehensible to its citizens. As a result,
the reputation of the European Union was further diminished. A prerequisite for
a solid European identity is therefore the development of European parties, or
at least a party network, and political debate on trans-boundary issues. When
employer organisation and trade unions begin to meet at a European level to
look after their members' common interests, we will have taken the first steps
because politics will have reached beyond the national level.
The optimum we can achieve at the end of such a process would be a European
"constitutional state" and European Union citizenship that is felt to be
genuine and not an artificial construction.
The way is both difficult and long, however, and more likely to be curbed than
speeded on by enlargement eastwards. It has proved difficult enough to bridge
the cultural and linguistic differences between Catholics and Protestants,
Latins, Germans, Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians in Europe. The task of
integrating the Baltic, Slav and Orthodox Europeans will be infinitely more
difficult. The larger and more heterogeneous membership becomes, the greater
the need to differentiate between various member states and a Europe moving at
different speeds and where the political union, monetary union, common security
and defence policy and inner market will not extend over the same geographical
areas. A union of up to 30 members at varying stages of economic development
can only function if it is organised along multi-tracks and at different
Efforts to create a Europe around the hard core of a monetary union with the
Euro as a magnet could be counterproductive. Magnets work in two ways, either
drawing particles towards them or pushing them away. There is a clear risk that
a monetary union will not only have a magnetic effect but the reverse as well.
Cultural diversity o obstacle or prerequisite for a European identity ?
European political oratory often maintains that Europe can only be defined
through its unique heritage of diversity and lack of conformity and that,
paradoxically, its very diversity has been its unifying principle and strength.
However, European linguistic diversity is probably the greatest obstacle
standing in the way of the emergence of a European political identity and thus
the European democratic project. While multilingual European democracies
certainly exist, the prime example is Switzerland, which has elected to remain
outside the European Union.
A democracy is non-existent if most of its citizens cannot make themselves
understood to each other. Rhetoric apart, not even leading European politicians
are today able to socialise with each other without an interpreter, and very
few can make themselves understood to a majority of European voters in their
own language. Not one European newspaper exists, except elitist newspapers such
as "The European". There is no European television programme apart from
Eurosport, and most of its viewers watch matches between nations. In short,
there is no public European debate, no European political discourse because the
political process is still tied to language.
The question of language is basically one of democracy. Political discussion
would be divided between A and B teams with many excluded because of their lack
of linguistic knowledge if only English and French were the official European
Union languages. At the same time, the problem of interpreting is becoming
insurmountable. Over 40% of the European Union administrative budget is already
spent on language services. Eleven languages make 132 combinations possible in
the translator booths. The addition of another 10 Eastern and Central European
languages brings this figure to 420 and 462 if Maltese is added. Some form of
functional differentiation will therefore be necessary, making some languages
more equal than others. although this would have a negative effect on European
public opinion in the small member nations.
At present, an average 66% of European Union citizens are monolingual while 10%
speak at least two foreign languages. Ireland is at one extreme with 80 and 3 %
respectively, while only 1% of the population in Luxembourg is monolingual and
no less than 80% speak at least two foreign languages. In order to function as
Europeans and safeguard our interests, we Swedes must become tolerably fluent
in at least one other major European language apart from English. Swedish
remains the basis of our cultural heritage and domestic political discussions,
but in order to play a constructive part in Europe we must develop into
citizens of Luxembourg as far as language is concerned.
Consequently, Europe is neither a communication- nor an experience-based
community, to use German expressions. Both factors are indispensable in the
development of a collective political identity. This is created by sharing
experience, myths and memories, often in contradiction to those held in other
collective identities. They are, moreover, often strengthened by the comparison
with those that are distinctly different. Not just Robert Schumann, Alcide de
Gasper, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer should be counted among the fathers of
European integration, but Josef Stalin as well. The Cold War enabled a sense of
unity to be mobilised among Western Europeans, but who can play the role of
opposition now in order to provide Europeans with a common identity ? The USA
is part of the same circle of culture. Japan is of course a homogeneous and
different society but is too far away and does not constitute any political or
military threat. And its economic strength is directed primarily at the USA.
There is an inherent danger that Europe will choose to define itself vis-à-vis
its surrounding third world neighbours and that the Mediterranean will become
the moat around the European fort. The creation of a pan-European identity
risks being accompanied by a cultural exclusion mechanism. The search for a
European identity could easily take the form of demarcation against "the
others", a policy which leads to a racial cul-de-sac while at the same time the
mixing of races continues to rise in Europe.
A European identity must therefore be distinctive and all embracing,
differentiate and assimilate at the same time. It is a question of integrating
the nations of Europe, with their deeply rooted national and, often, regional
identities and to persuade citizens to feel part of a supra-national community
Can half a continent with 370 million citizens and 11 official languages really
be provided with a democratic constitution ? In the ideal scenario for the
emergence of a European political union, the European Parliament must first be
"de-nationalised" and this assumes a European party system. Secondly, it must
have the classic budgetary and legislative powers. The Council of Ministers
must be turned into a second chamber and the Commission should be led by a
"head of government" appointed by Parliament.
National parliaments would consequently lose their functions. They could be
transformed into federal parliaments in smaller states, as in Germany, and
would thus have the same position vis-à-vis Brussels that they have today. It
is easier said than done to abolish the democratic deficit by giving greater
powers to the parliament in Strasbourg, because the dilemma of representation
versus effectiveness would immediately come to a head. If every parliamentarian
represented about 25.000 citizens, as is the case in Sweden, the gathering at
Strasbourg with about 15 member nations would have to be increased to 15.000.
If in the name of effectiveness, the number was reduced to 500, with
constituencies of more than a million citizens and everyone was guaranteed an
equal European vote, Luxembourg would not be represented and Sweden would have
a maximum 13 representatives in the European Parliament. It might be capable of
functioning but could not by any means claim to represent a European
electorate. The democratic deficit would continue.
Europe as an entity can only be achieved with the help of and not against the
nations and their special characteristics. European integration will not be
completed because of some natural necessity but only if enough political energy
is brought to bear. The future of the European Union rests therefore in the
common interests of member states and not on the political will of a European
people for the simple reason that such a thing does not exist.
Regional and national identities will grow in importance in a world that is
becoming every more difficult to oversee and which is ever more rapidly
changing. Citizens will be living more and more in a state of tension between
several loyalties, their home district, state, nation, Europe and the
international community, increasingly required to think globally but act
locally. New ancient regimes and new regions are emerging everywhere in Europe.
By actively supporting the process of regionalisation, Brussels and individual
capital cities can show that European Union is taking its institutions closer
to its citizens and thereby creating greater scope for cultural and linguistic
diversity than the nation-states have been capable of doing. By
contributing to a new vision - the Europe of diversity and regional government
based on subsidiarity - the idea of Europe can be made more comprehensible and
In this way, the regional identity can strengthen the emergent European
identity. Now that regions are increasingly turning to the European Union in
their fight for resources for regional development and to attract investment,
Brussels and the European Union will be seen as the friends of the regions
rather than their national capitals.
The nation-state is thus being nibbled at from two directions. At the same
time, we will experience a renaissance for nation-states and regions and their
gradual merger in a transnational community. Those who support the region and
nation must not necessarily reject Europe, but the traditional nation-state
with community-based traditions, identity and loyalty will remain indispensable
as a strength and source of political stability. Nation-states are therefore
essential in order to legitimise a new European order but structural asymmetry,
conflicting interests and unexpected courses of development will lead to
relations between the nation-state and European integration that are difficult
to manage and oversee. Europe will continue therefore even in the future to be
squeezed between what the German philosopher Karl Jasper called "Balkan and
Helvetian tendencies", i.e., between Yugoslav and Swiss development models.
Nations are not great once and for all, but are created. They are what Benedict
Anderson called "imagined communities". The idea of a European community cannot
arise from the German concept of "Blut und Boden", or from the idea of a
European "Volk" or a European "cultural nation".
Nor can the European identity be created through central directives from
Brussels or member nations' capital cities, or by being conjured forth at
seminars and conferences but rather through the citizens of individual European
states knowing that they personally have something to gain from integration and
they hereby say yes to the European Union in their daily referendum.
As we have already experienced, a forced unifying process produces counter
reactions in all the member countries. A European identity is possible only
where there is a community of interests among the citizens. If this is missing
or not felt to be sufficiently strong, the European Union will have a
democratic deficit irrespective of what new competence is given to the European
The single market will bring about trans-boundary mobility and thereby albeit
slowly contribute to the emergence of a European identity but it will be one of
many relativised by different national and regional identities (such as, for
example, Benelux, Ibero-Europe, the Nordic countries). Immigration will
strengthen the multicultural component that is indispensable for a new sense of
identity. At the same time, it will nourish the social tensions and racist and
nationalist comments, but can also lead to political mobilisation and the
insight that these problems can only be solved at European level.
A European supra-nationality' will be accepted first in situations where there
is no hierarchy of national, regional and supra-region identities but when
every individual knows about them as self-evident and as part of their daily
life. A policy for preserving diversity will thus be a precondition for
creating a European identity that
neither should or would become a replacement for a national identity but which
can create support and strength for political institutions that are neither
national nor the framework of a European superstate.
Questions of cultural policy, education and a historically deep-rooted social
system and values must therefore remain the concern of nation-states. It is
thus a case of render unto the nation state that which belongs to it and to
European Union that which is the European Union's ; a security and foreign
policy structure, the single market, a common crime, asylum and immigration
The hitherto clear links between state and nation will thus grow looser.
European integration from this point of view will not mean that a new
superstate will appear but that power is spread out. Cultural identities will
remain rooted at national level but will spread further down to ever more
distinctive regional identities. We will have neither a new European superstate
or sovereign nation-states. Nations will not disappear but we will have nations
with less state and national cultures with softer outer casings.
Relations between European and national identities could take the shape of a
foreign and security policy in the wide sense as a fundament of a common
European political identity, a "nation" to which one feels a sense of political
belonging without the need to feel part of a European "Volk" or a European
The German concept of a nation would endure at national level although in its
original form as conceived by Johann Gottfried von Herder in which a nation
need not necessarily express itself as a state. By standing on secure and solid
cultural ground, every people with their own distinctive character and cultural
capacity achievements can contribute to an international community.
Cultural nations will thus become divorced from a territory. People will have a
sense of belonging to a special area and its cultural and political history but
this area need not necessarily be linked to a nation-state with defined
territorial boundaries. The European political identity could emerge in this
way while at the same time leaving the cultural national or regional identity
intact while European diversity will not only remain in place but grow as well.
The democratic deficit can never be abolished unless this kind of development
takes place, nor would the project of a European Union be realised.
European identity - A perspective from a Norwegian European, or a European
Norway is a part of Europe, but not a member of the European Union. We are
integrated in many ways, and for practical and economic purposes (EEA Treaty)
we are close to membership. The road to full and political membership is to be
found in our visions and roots, both part of our European identity. In this
respect, the Norwegian challenge is similar to that of all other Europeans.
Since Europe has many countries on its fringe, the approach towards European
identity could start from one of them.
Even the opponents in Norway said before the referendum in 1994 ; "YES to
Europe, but no to the Union"... Membership of the European Union can never be
more than the means to achieve other and higher goals. Integration as an
instrument of cooperation is necessary, yet not sufficient. Institutions should
reflect the dreams and needs of the population, and transform them into
practical solutions of which they can approve.
The forthcoming "Citizen First" campaign may succeed in reminding the people of
Europe of what has already been achieved during the four decades since the Rome
Treaty was signed. Still it seems to many people that politics on the European
level is something different and remote from national politics at home. And
worse, sometimes national voices blame "Brussels" for unpopular measures,
without giving credit for the positive impact of European decisions. Does the
European Union suffer from a scapegoat syndrome ?
There are at least two answers. It is necessary to normalise European politics.
To work for European solutions is a part of a general struggle for values and
visions on the individual, local, regional and global level. In this
perspective Europe is not something special, but the bridge between near and
far. Europe is the gate to the big unknown world and the port when coming back.
The second answer is to develop a consciousness of our own European identity
and the common ground of European values and history. The point is not to
cultivate something European which is different than national, local or global,
but to compose some ideas, sentiments and values as a platform, as an
inspiration, for taking part in facing common challenges. The Norwegian
"naysayers" cleverly connected their opposition against the European Union with
a combat for positive ideals. But the supporters also fight for higher values,
a better society and a sustainable development, however not yet communicating
this message with the same one-sided self-confidence and conviction. Maybe
because real Europeans have ambiguous minds ?
Belonging to the European Community is often said to be the major reason why
the supporters are in favour of membership. It has to do with a cultural and
geographical identity, also shared by many Norwegians. (Remember that rejection
may be an indirect affirmation ; as the 5-year-old boy asked his mother : "Do
you think God knows we don't believe in him".) Identity is not free from
contradictions. A lot of people are fond of their village or party without
accepting all aspects. The alternative to a poor marriage is not necessarily
divorce, but a better marriage. European identity does not exclude criticising
the European Union. The next question is always : what is your proposal or
alternative ? The dual critical and constructive approach represents the
dialectical dynamism of European history o compromise after crises.
Safety is related to belonging. It is a positive feeling of security in itself
and with others, in contrast to lacking individual faith and confidence in a
greater community. The security in NATO, which almost all Norwegians rely on,
is an example of a historical acknowledgement that no nation can or should
stand alone to protect peace and prevent war. Only a binding international
cooperation can offer the security of being treated equally in accordance with
common rules, to avoid occasional infringements. Security in Europe is an idea
which pervades our approach to political, economic, social, cultural,
environmental and other issues.
Solidarity is, according to André Malraux, an intelligent form of egoism. In a
European context this means it is in our own interest that outside countries,
groups, regions etc., should be helped to develop their human, social and
economic resources. We should have learned that too deep differences create
instability with the potential for upheaval, conflict and war. Solidarity in
Europe is about taking care of each other across national borders, demonstrated
in practice by supranational measures for cohesion. European solidarity
includes the rest of the world. The next debate in Norway may illustrate a
shift from the last campaign. A possible yes' to the European Union next time
can not mean better prospects for economic benefits for a prosperous nation in
a Europe enlarged with poorer countries. It would demand an obligation and
commitment to higher values, a safer society and a sustainable development in a
Then, as part of European identity, we find the classical political values.
Democracy was invented and developed in Europe, further developed in America
where the most democratic constitution at the time was established in 1776.
Thereafter, new democratic reforms emerged and the idea of government by and
for the people spread throughout the world and gradually, or after revolutions,
unfolded in a variety of forms, within the framework of the nation-state. But
democracy is still not fulfilled anywhere, due to the fact that the idea of
democracy is a relative concept, a complex concept and a political concept.
The relative concept of democracy implies that it is related to something
outside the reach of voters and their representatives. Those who oppose
federal, supranational democratic initiatives are without proper answers to the
challenges from transnational companies, international capital movements,
cross-border pollution and abuse of national sovereignty, for instance nuclear
tests, suppression of ethnic groups and aggression against neighbouring states.
From this, we realise that identity is closer to interdependence than
self-determination. Identity is more a social, less an individual,
phenomenon, but still both exist in Europe where the (im)balance between
collective and personal responsibility has been a driving force in society.
National independence does not have the same importance and impact as before.
Now and in the future, nation-states have to find democratic ways of
cooperation which preserve the positive dimensions of independence and limit
its negative elements. Paradoxically, the notion of supranationality was also
accepted by major parts of the opponent movement in Norway, in spite of their
exaggerated belief in national self-determination. They approved of
supranational regulation of national independence linked to peace, defence and
security matters in the UN and NATO, at the same time they refused
supranational regulation of national independence with almost the same
countries in the European Union on civilian and political issues !
The Union is not in opposition to the nation. Supranationality is the strife to
unfold the potential of the nations which they are unable to fulfil within
their borders. A strong Union can not depend on weak nations. A strong Union
strengthens its parts. Identity is not only unity in itself, but also a unity
of contradictions. A political Union is how to bridge contradictions and the
arena where different forces can do so.
Identity and democracy are both complex concepts, and consist of an inner power
balance between different components. Both include dynamic processes. Neither
identity nor democracy can stand still. It is a question of live or die. For a
European it is important that each political institution has limited power, and
nevertheless is capable of achieving political goals, while simultaneously
securing an appropriate balance among representatives from Member states and
the people of Europe. Democratic cooperation among many countries, some hundred
parties and 280 million voters is more complicated. However, democracy must not
only be dependent on small-size communities to function. Large-scale democracy
becomes increasingly important to avoid close political bodies becoming local
theatre. On the other hand, distant democracy presupposes information and
dialogue, transparency and control mechanisms in order to avoid the danger of
living its own life.
Nothing is more fitted to stimulate attention to a distant political structure
than conflicts stemming from disagreement on how to solve the real problems of
today and the future. From this fact follows a need to abolish unanimity and
expand QMV. This will not be in contradiction to the need for consensus and
respect for vital national interests. A European Union has in place of final
goals, some common visions of peace, prosperity, social cohesion and
partnership with nature. The Union is nurtured by the struggle between, and
from, various interest groups working for their visions.
Europe is indivisibly connected to its cultural, Christian, humanistic,
scientific, social and professional values, o the identity of Europe in our
heart and minds. Europe has a magnificent heritage of art and science,
architecture and philosophy, and a abundance of ideas and religious schools
within a system of tolerance and legal protection, which make our continent
attractive, exciting and challenging. Without expelling the tragedies and
catastrophes Europe has brought upon herself and other continents, it should be
permitted to remember that the cultural and political ideas have conquered, and
will continue to overcome, prejudices, xenophobia, racism and other
discriminating and suppressing powers.
And without degrading anyone, it is also convenient not to forget that the
Nordic and European model of cooperation and conflict solving in the labour
market, is advanced from a global point of view. Of course, there will always
be nuances between various interest groups concerning the balance between
politics and market, labour and capital, public and private sector, tradition
and modernisation, men and women etc. But nobody should claim their interests
to be superior to those of others or to suppress fundamental democratic and
A European House should be built on pluralism and equality, as the European
wants for him- or herself. And as we are changing and enlarging this house, we
strive for the good life today and tomorrow. European identity must be found in
something we already know. Identity is recognition. To be a European is coming
home to my own house.
European identity an anthropological approach
Questions about European identity and about the future symbolic and practical
content of Europe' are questions about the meaning of Europe : what does
Europe mean, and what could it mean, to those who are its citizens ?
Questions or worries of this kind were not paramount when the EEC began.
Between the late 1960s and the present day, however, questions of legitimacy'
and identity' have come increasingly to the fore.
There have been two principal periods during which questions of legitimacy have
First of all, concerns were voiced in the late 1960s o a period when it was
first noticed that the original, self-evident legitimacy of the Community,
defined against a past of war, was losing relevance to a new generation. Amidst
demographic changes, increased studentification, and the re-invention of the
category of youth', a new generation' was self-consciously establishing
itself in contra-distinction from its parents. Old certainties such as
modernisation, progress, reason and positivism, many of which had informed the
EEC project, were put in question. This was a time when cultural diversity was
invented, a time of civil rights marches in the US, a time of decolonisation
and counter-cultures, a time when the alternative worlds of regionalism,
particularism and relativism appealed.
The world was de-naturalised, and the West' was re-invented as a category that
the young might affect to despise. For this new generation. Europe', far from
being the triumph of civilisation over irrationality, tyranny and violence,
easily slipped into synonymy with this new West' to become another metaphor
for post-imperial castigation and self-castigation, or one from which the
authenticity and difference of alternative realities might be measured.
The response of the EEC at this time was to try to draw young people, against
the prevailing current, back into the European' fold through youth programmes,
largely exchange schemes, and then much later on through the active
conscientisation' programmes of the People's Europe' project. The structural
funds also developed, partly in response to the economism of the EEC.
The second period, which launched new worries about legitimacy, has come about
since the launch of the Internal Market. This unprecedented flurry of perceived
interference' from Brussels (however sound the original intention), with more
directives in a shorter time than ever before, was bolstered and coloured by
sets of events. On the one hand, the Berlin Wall fell, and many old certainties
fell afresh with it. On the other hand, the Maastricht Treaty was negotiated
and seemed to threaten national identities in a context in which, with the
Internal Market, Brussels interference' already appeared as established fact.
Going beyond, nationalism had once seemed morally right in the years after the
Second World War, but now this was widely perceived as a moral and political
threat. Not surprisingly, referenda results sent any certainties still
surviving in Brussels diving for cover.
The People's Europe' project of the 1980s enlisted the old package of XIXth
century nationalism to try to re-create Europe and European Identity o to make
people feel European. But this old package is heavy with problems :
Firstly, the package that nationalism used to invent nations, a package of
language- culture-history-people-territory, is not available in all its
elements to Europe. Europe cannot easily construct itself, or be imagined,
through this package, therefore, and be convincing. It will also seem to be
competing with nation-states.
Secondly, the time span for the construction of European identity has been
relatively short (mere decades where some nations have had two hundred years)
and the construction process highly visible. Where the nation may feel
natural', Europe is inevitably going to feel artificial'. And for those from
national backgrounds which lack a historiography of self-conscious construction
of the nation (such as Britain and Denmark, for example), some aspects of the
self-conscious construction of Europe easily appear to be little more than
Thirdly, the old package for identity construction was born of certainties that
no longer pertain in a world of diversity and relativism. Europe is now often
more easily identified with a capacity to question apparent certainties rather
than with the old certainties themselves.
Fourthly, the old package assumes identity to be monolithic and culture to be a
homogeneous, clearly bounded entity. However, identity is contextual and
o and self and other, or sameness and difference, are constructed relationally
in the context of daily imaginings and encounters. And fifthly, it is easy to
lapse back into the full racial force of this old package o with the boundaries
of Europe unrelativised and read as the boundaries of ethnic flesh. The freedom
of movement of persons' is then rightly confronted with more uneasy reflection
on the definition of a person'.
History was an important element in the nationalism package, and many histories
of Europe have been encouraged as part of the People's Europe' project o
apparently in the hope of appropriating the tool of history for the creation of
European identity. However, we might say that there could, within current
models of historiography, be two main ways of writing the history of Europe.
Firstly, there would be the old, historicist model, in which Europe might be
assumed to exist from Ancient Greece, say, up to contemporary European Union.
This is the historiography that nationalism used and that the histories of
Europe now tend to use also. All the ethnological bric-a-brac of the classical
world become virtual flag- wavers before the Berlaymont, and contemporary
ideals are read back into the classical world and onwards to the present day.
This historicism, which worked for nationalism, is the style of the vast
majority of officially sanctioned History of Europe' texts ( whether
sanctioned by the Council of Europe or by EC funding). In this history, a
continuous litany of features deemed to be inherent to Europe is paraded : this
would include Christianity, democracy, citizens' rights and the rule of law,
for example. This litany was especially important when it was first
constructed, after the Second World War and then during the Cold War, in
opposition to the East, but its appeal is not always self-evident now.
The second kind of history of Europe would involve a history of the category of
Europe. If we were to trace the history of the category of Europe' from, say,
Ancient Greece to the present, we would find Europe' travelling through
different conceptual systems, finding new meanings, becoming a different
reality as it did so. The geographical boundaries expand and contract, the
salient conceptual relations change, the moral and political frontiers and
content shift considerably, and Europe is invented and re-invented accordingly.
This is the kind of historiography that postmodernism would readily encourage,
and it is one in which o unlike in the historiography of nationalism o the
simple clarity of being on the right side of history is ideally and
deliberately lacking. Moreover, this historiography would not allow any simple
continuity to be read back into the past o whether of territory, culture or
ethnic flesh, for example.
The advent of postmodernism does not mean that we have to throw out the old
history altogether. We can put certain key aspects of these two kinds of
history together in a productive way. Elements from the old historiography
which gave Europe its moral and political content o such as democracy,
citizens' rights and the rule of law, for instance o can become important
elements in a new understanding of both Europe' and identity as relative or
relational. Without lapsing into any old historicism, such historical elements
o or any one of them o can simply be drawn on or cited as the occasion or
context demands. In other words, history becomes self-consciously part of the
present, and the history of Europe is no longer historicist litany but part of
our critical self-awareness. History is then an awareness of the changing and
discontinuous contexts in which Europe' has been created in the past, and
offers elements in the present that we might now choose to assume relationally
in order to assert things European'.
Europe in action
If identity is constructed relationally, the clearest identity is in conceptual
opposition. You know most clearly who you are through what you are not. It is
relatively easy to feel European' when visiting Japan, for example.
External relations might seem the obvious area in which a European identity can
be constructed and expressed. However, this is also an area in which national
identities are deeply embedded. Nation-states have in many ways been defined by
external relations, and Europe does not have the now dubious advantages of war
and empire, or of clear external threat, to help to define itself. It is
perhaps readily understood that international linking systems help to avoid old
fault-lines reappearing, but steps towards some notion of European
representation in this area, or of more fundamental institutional reform, have
to carry with them the same critical self- awareness that there is no better
way to re-create and re-invigorate national identities and differences
internally than to be seen to impose decisions from outside (Brussels').
For most purposes, we are now in a Europe that can, in an important sense, be
more relaxed about its identity. The stuff of a European identity is available
in the policies and issues which the EU (whether all of it or part of it)
creates : in environmental questions, in equal opportunities, in the market
(where it most obviously both follows and creates globalisation), in the social
arena, in Trans-European networks, in food and health, and so on. Many of these
areas have been re-thought (equal opportunities is no longer about the women's
rights' of the 1970s, for instance, but about issues such as gender and the new
family etc.) and others still await re-juggling and rethinking. Any one area of
policy can, for better or worse, contextually enlist people to a European'
self-consciousness (as we have seen recently in the BSE scare, with different
sections of the British population suddenly calling for European compensation
and solidarity). It is in its policies, in practice, that European
identification comes alive.
No one is European' all the time, just as no one is Spanish, Portuguese,
British or French, and so on, all the time. There are moments when being a
father, being a businesswoman, being a tennis-player, or being from Coimbra
(etc.) are the salient identifications, and these identities would normally
occupy much of one's waking life. The overarching ambitions of an older
European -identity-construction-kit do not take this into account. Just as the
certainties once inherent in the symbolism and narratives of large political
parties are having to change and even give way to single-issue politics, so a
post-federal Europe has to look for recruitment through the contexts of issues
So, Europe exists. Europe' and European' exist as categories and people are
contextually recruited into them, and there have been many successes of
identification. Europe exists in action o in the contextual identification of
people with specific policy-areas. Bargaining and compromise are acknowledged
as the means to achieve desired policies internally, and the achievement of
desired policies makes people feel better about being European, and more ready
to compromise elsewhere. And so on. Europe, for many, is not a project, and the
old narratives can be alienating. The future symbolic content of European
identity resides in practice and action o requiring carefully re-thought
policies, and the very European capacities for questioning and reflection, for
self-criticism, and now the acceptance o without any naive federal model of a
Europe des ethnies and without cultural fundamentalism o of diversity both at
home and elsewhere.
European identity and citizenship
Massimo La Torre
I do not intend here to deal, even tangentially, with the questions of God, the
meaning of human life, transcendence, or universalism. What we are concerned
with o if I am not wrong o is not "identity" in metaphysical terms, or either
in anthropological, or mere cultural terms. Nor o I must confess o do I think
that Europe without further qualifications is a useful category for political
thought. By the way, the question "what is European identity" is also a trifle
too broad and vague to find an appropriate answer. I assume that what interests
and intrigues us is that identity which is relevant and needed for the
construction of a political community at the European level. The identity to
which I shall refer will therefore be that which derives or which is equivalent
to membership to a polity.
It has been said that an identity can be built either from above or from below.
This is, I think, quite correct. But I have some problems if one starts
identifying top-down procedures with whatever legal measure, with law, and
democratic down-top mechanisms with historical processes. Now, I think that the
opposite is often the case,
i.e. that history has an authoritarian character and law, a libertarian one.
History, if seen as a collective process, something given by an intrinsic
immanent "telos" of human events, excludes the reflective intervention of
individuals on the direction of their social life. Destiny even if shared in a
community is never democratic. On the other side, law is not necessarily a sum
of authoritarian or repressive provisions. Law is conventional, whatever the
legal doctrine says or affirms about it ; it is made by reflective and more or
less explicit processes : as a matter of fact a custom becomes a legal practice
only when it is contested and is reaffirmed either by collective majoritarian
behaviour or by judicial decisions. Law should be contestable in order to
direct human conduct. But if the law is made, the real question will be whether
it is made by one, the few, or the many. We are then called to choose the
system of law we prefer. If we are liberal-minded, we would certainly have to
opt for the rule given by the many, in a way that the law will no longer be
authoritarian, that is, elitist, the artefact of the one or of the few, but
will become the solid pillar of a democratic polity. I therefore dare to
suggest that there is no political identity from below without democratic law.
Once the question of identity is reformulated in terms of political identity,
that is, in terms of membership to a European polity, the main problem for us
will be that of a European citizenship. In fact, it is citizenship what marks
the political belonging, the membership to a polity.
European citizenship and democracy
I would like to argue for a strong concept of European citizenship. This is
fully justified from an internal legal point of view, since article B of the
Maastricht holds as one of the main purposes of the Union "to strengthen the
protection of the rights and interests of the nationals of its member States
through the introduction of a citizenship of the Union". We may also recall a
decision taken by the European Court of Justice in Commission v. Council (May
30, 1989), confirming the full legality of the Erasmus Programme, which is then
justified with reference to the "objectifs générant de la Communauté, tels que
la réalisation d'une Europe des citoyens".
A strong concept of European citizenship, characterised by a wide and rich
range of rights ascribed through it and with independence from national
citizenships, could powerfully contribute to solve at least partly but
nevertheless effectively the democratic deficiencies of the European Union. A
democracy is not only a representative or parliamentary political regime, but
also and above all an association of equal citizens who are defined as such
directly, that is without referring to intermediate social and political groups
; democracy is not only or even mainly given by the majority rule applied to
political decisions, but eminently by the existence of a public domain of free
discussion. But in order to have this, some requirements have to be satisfied :
a feeling and a sphere of common concern, first of all.
One could and should decide on matters which can affect more or less directly
one's own life. Autonomy, which is an ideal principle presupposed by democracy,
and expanded by this into a collective practice, makes sense only if it is
exercised within the individual's scope of interests and action. Beyond this
scope there is no right of autonomy ; even worse autonomy, as individual
decision and action, can be transformed into its opposite : heteronomy,
disruption of others' private sphere and life plans. This holds a fortiori for
an extension of the principle to collective entities, that is, for democracy. A
democratic decision cannot go beyond the area of interests which are at stake
within a specific scope of (collective) action, that is, beyond the area
constituted by those individuals who are the holders of the right of democratic
decision. Now, citizenship as membership to a body politic, even if conceived
only in formal legal terms, can contribute to create the idea of a common
concern, the concern which is common to persons who bear a same legal and
To have a public sphere of discussion another requisite should be fulfilled :
that of having procedures which allow a fair discussion. But in order to have a
fair public discussion we need to assume that people when entering into that
discussion share at least a few and "thin" principles : contra negantem
principia non est disputandum.34 We need to assume that people recognise
reciprocally the autonomy (the possibility of a rational and independent
action, in this case discussion itself) and therefore, the sincerity and
dignity of their opponents or fellow discussants. We should thus assume that in
a public discussion discussants have equal rights.35 Citizenship (and European
citizenship is no exception) is just the sum of rights which allow subjects to
take part in a political deliberation and to discuss in order to arrive at a
reasonable and well pondered decision.
34 See A. SCHOPENHAUER, Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten. In achtunddreißig
Kunstgriffen dargestellt, ed. by F. Volpi, Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1995, p.
38. 35 See R. ALEXY, Theorie der juristischen Argumentation, 2nd ed., Suhrkamp,
Frankfurt am Main 1991, pp. 238 ss.
This can mean that in order to promote democratic progress in a society, we can
first create statuses granting common and equal rights among its members, and
then proceed to find out a viable institutional device to render visible and
effective the public discourse which has started with the ascription of those
statuses. In the terms of the present political and institutional situation in
the European Union we can therefore plausibly believe that we can have European
democratic citizens even before having at the supranational level institutions
endowed with effective powers of political direction governed by democratic
procedures. If we have a European citizenship as an independent status granting
rights such as political rights (rights to vote and to be elected) both at the
supranational and infranational level (see articles 8b and 8c of the Treaty of
the Union), or rights such as the right not to be discriminated as an alien
against a national (see article 6 of Maastricht Treaty), or rights such as
freedom of movement to and through any member State and freedom of residence in
them (see article 8a), then, even if the European parliament is not a fully
developed democratic institution (because of the limited range of its current
powers), we shall have a society of democratic citizens which will represent a
better condition for developing democratic decision making at the supranational
level. Of course, to this purpose the rights which we have mentioned should be
fully deployed in all their potentiality, and break the limitations which
articles 8a-8c still impose upon them.
When democratic institutions are deficient, democracy can also be developed
through democratic citizens. In particular, in the European Union whose member
States actually are all democratic regimes what is fundamental is not to
maintain a nationalist or ethnical view of democracy. We need a free sphere of
public concern and the sense of participating in a fair cooperative scheme. A
stronger and richer concept of European citizenship can be extremely helpful in
Citizenship and demos'
"Es gibt keine Demokratie ohne Demos" o says Josef Isensee, a well-known German
constitutional lawyer36 o, whereby he means that democracy is built upon a
collective subject pre-existing to it, endowed with a proper intense life, that
is, a people seen as a homogeneous cultural and ethnical body. Moving from this
premise the German lawyer then draws the conclusion that there is no possible
legitimisation basis for a European democracy (that is, for the European
Union), since there is no European "demos", that is, a European folk.
It may also be remembered that the same author has successfully fought against
the introduction, in the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, of an aliens' right to
vote for the election of district councils, endowed of indeed poor
competencies, with the argument that State officials and representative bodies
(at whatever level and of whatever size) enjoy of democratic legitimisation
only and only if they receive their mandate from
36 J. ISENSEE, Europa o die politische Erfindung eines Erdteils, in Europa als
politische Idee und als rechtliche Form, ed. by J. Isensee, Duncker & Humblot,
Berlin 1993, p. 133. For a more sophisticated but in its core quite similar
view, cf. D. GRIMM, Does Europe Need a Constitution ?, in "European Law
Journal", 1995, p. 295 : "Here, then, is the biggest obstacle to
Europeanisation of the political substructure, on which the functioning of a
democratic system and the performance of a parliament depends : language".
According to Grimm the European Parliament, even reformed and fully empowered
as a legislative assembly, could not be considered as a European popular
representative body, "since there is as yet no European people"(ibid., p. 293).
the "People" in its entirety, that is, from the "German People". The German
Federal Constitutional Court unfortunately accepted Isensee's argument,37 thus
reformulating the concept of "people" mentioned in article 20 of Grundgesetz
("Alle Staatsgewalt geht vom Volke aus") into that of German people38 and
twisting this into an ethnically defined community of fate39 which has
constitutional relevance even before the drafting of the constitution itself.
Democracy o says the German Court o should not be seen as "freie
Selbstbestimmung aller", free self-determination of all (as was formerly held
by the Court itself)40 but as a power which derives from a unique and unitary
entity whose individual members as such have no constitutional right of
participation to collective political decisions ; they can exercise democratic
self- determination only jointly, only if considered as indivisible group.41
The idea that democracy means the right for the people (in the plural)
concerned by the laws to contribute to their deliberation and enactment is
dismissed.42 Now, this is indeed a peculiar concept of democracy. It is based
on a romantic idea of "people" or "nation, which has represented a reaction
against the originally liberal concept of democracy, based on two basic pillars
: individuality and public reason.43
In the romantic protest against liberal democracy, the very concept of
political representation is deeply modified : representation is no longer
expression of the concrete will of concrete individuals, but is rather
expression of the existence of a community. In this second acceptation of
representation, connected with a people idealised as a compact, tight and
uniform ethnical entity, which has been cherished by "democrats" such as Carl
Schmitt,44 even a dictator can "represent" a community, and in the end even a
dictatorship may be legitimately be considered a... democracy. If, to have
democracy what is required is on the one side a folk and on the other a special
existential (ethnical) link between the folk and its leaders (this being the
proper Repräsentation of the folk), then it is not at all contradictory to have
an authoritarian and even a totalitarian leader and nevertheless "democracy".45
37 "Das Volk, welches das Grundgesetz als Legitimations- und Kreationssubjekt
der verfaßten Staatlichkeit bestimme, sei das deutsche Volk"(BVerfGE 83, 60
38 See also BVerfGE 83, 37 : "Das Staatsvolk, von dem die Staatsgewalt in der
Bundesrepublik Deutschland ausgeht, wird nach dem Grundgesetz von den
Deutschen, also den deutschen Staatsangehörigen und den ihnen nach Art. 116
ABS. 1 GG gleichgestellten Personen, gebildet".
39 Cf. BVerfGE 83, 37 : "Das Bild des Staatsvolkes, das dem
Staatsangehörigkeitsrecht zugrunde liege, sei die politische
Schicksalsgemeinschaft, in welche die einzelnen Bürger eingebunden seien. Ihre
Solidarhaftung und ihre Verstrickung in das Schicksal ihres Heimatstaates, der
sie nicht entrinnen könnten, seien auch Rechtfertigung dafür, das Wahlrecht den
Staatsangehörigen vorzubehalten"(italics mine).
40 See, for instance, BVerfGE 44, 125 .
41 "Das demokratische Prinzip läßt es nicht beliebig zu, anstelle des
Gesamtstaatsvolkes jeweils einer durch örtlichen Bezug verbundenen, gesetzlich
gebildeten kleineren Gesamtheit von Staatsbürgern Legitimationskraft
zuzuerkennen"(BVerfGE 83, 60).
42 See BVerfGE 83, 60 . See also BVerfGE 83, 37.
43 Cf. D. GAUTHIER, Public Reason, in "Social Philosophy and Policy", 1995, pp.
44 See C. SCHMITT, Verfassungslehre, 3rd ed., Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957,
p. 209 : "Repräsentation ist kein normativer Vorgang, kein Verfahren und keine
Prozedur, sondern etwas Existentielles. Repräsentation heißt, ein unsichtbares
Sein durch ein öffentlich anwesendes Sein sichtbar machen und vergegenwärtigen"
(emphasis in original).
45 "According to this view, democracy and dictatorship are not essentially
antagonistic ; rather, dictatorship is a kind of democracy if the dictator
successfully claims to incarnate the identity of people" (U. K. PREUSS,
Constitutional Powermaking for the New Polity : Some Deliberations on the
Relations Between Constituent Power and the Constitution, in Constitutionalism,
Indeed, in a democracy the people is not given by a "authentic" demos, but by
its citizens, that is, by those individuals who publicly share a common concern
and adhere to the fundamental principles by which the democracy defines and
builds itself. In a democratic perspective "people is rather only a summary
formula for human beings".46 As a matter of fact, there is no "demos" without
democracy, that is, without individuals who recognise each other rights and
duties. A people in political and legal terms (a "demos") is a normative
product : "populus dicitur a polis" o wrote Baldus de Ubaldis in the XIVth
century ; it is not there to be found before one starts the difficult
enterprise of building up a polity. A people in political and legal terms is
the outcome of political and legal institutions : it christalises around them
("civitas sibi faciat civem" o said Baldus' master, the great Bartolus de
Sassoferrato). A people in democratic terms, a demos, the people of a
democratic polity, makes thus itself in as far as it aggregates along the rules
of democracy. We can recall a famous phrase of Kant where he defines a
constitution as the act of general will whereby a multitude becomes a people
("den Akt des allgemeinen Willens, wodurch die Menge ein Volk wird").47
The story going on between people and democracy is more or less the same as the
one of the egg and the chicken. Which came first : the egg or the chicken,
demos or democracy ? Now, as far as the latter pair is concerned, we can
confidently solve the enigma : they were just born together ! In short, es gibt
kein Demos ohne Demokratie.
This is another reason, and a fundamental one, why European citizenship is so
important : because it is a stone, and a founding one, in the building of a
European democracy. Democracy needs at least two poles : decision-making
authorities and citizens towards whom those authorities are called to account
for their decisions and the corresponding behaviour. If we have democratic
citizens, persons endowed with a rich patrimony of rights, we should then have
democratic political authorities. If we have democratic citizens, we already
have a demos. And to have citizens in legal and political terms is only a
question of common rights and duties.
In the organic view of democracy, we are confronted with a dangerous confusion
of the notion of public opinion with that of ethnical and cultural homogeneity.
This confusion unfortunately seems to be perpetuated in the "Maastricht Urteil"
by the German Federal Constitutional Court. "Demokratie, soll sie nicht
lediglich formales Zurechnungsprinzip bleiben, ist vom Vorhandensein bestimmter
vorrechtlicher Voraussetzungen abhängig, wie einer ständigen freien
Auseinandersetzung zwischen sich begegnenden sozialen Kräften, Interessen und
Ideen, in der sich auch politische Ziele klären und wandeln und aus der heraus
eine öffentliche Meinung den politischen Willen verformt. Dazu gehört auch, daß
die Entscheidungsverfahren der Hoheitsgewalt ausübenden Organe und die jeweils
verfolgten politischen Zielvorstellungen allgemein sichtbar und verstehbar
sind, und ebenso daß der and Legitimacy. Theoretical Perspectives, ed. by M.
Rosenfeld, Duke University Press, Durham and London 1994, p. 155).
46 B.O. BRYDE, Die bundesrepublikanische Volksdemokratie als Irrweg der
Demokratietheorie, in "Staatswissenschaften und Staatspraxis", 1994, p. 322.
47 I. KANT, Zum Ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf, in ID., Kleinere
Schriften zur Geschichtsphilosophie, Ethik und Politik, ed. by K. Vorländer,
Meiner, Hamburg 1959, p. 128.
wahlberechtigste Bürger mit der Hoheitsgewalt, der er unterworfen ist, in
seiner Sprache kommunizieren kann".48
I find it correct to affirm that democracy, in the sense of majority rule,
presupposes some fundamental pre-legal conditions as much as some fundamental
normative (moral and political) principles, a vigorous and open public
discussion and an influential public opinion. Democracy as a political
institution needs, in other words, a civil society. But first, a civil society
does not necessarily need to coincide with some Schicksalgemeinschaft, a
homogeneous ethnical and linguistic community. (Suggestively enough when the
German Court tries to establish a clear-cut separation between national
citizenship and European citizenship does not find anything better than making
recourse to their different level of existential tightness : "Mit der durch den
Vertrag von Maastricht begründeten Unionsbürgerschaft wird zwischen den
Staatsangehörigen der Mitgliedstaaten ein auf Dauer angelegtes rechtliches Band
geknüpft, das zwar nicht eine der gemeinsamen Zugehörigkeit zu einem Staat
vergleichbare Dichte besitzt").49 And, second, a civil society becomes a
"people", in the sense of the sum of a polity citizens, only by interacting
with constitutional rules and institutions. This point is clearly expressed in
the following statement by Ulrich Preuss : "Neither pre-political feelings of
commonness o like descent, ethnicity, language, race o nor representative
institutions as such are able to a create a polity, be it a nation-state, a
multinational state or a supranational entity. Rather, what is required is a
dynamic process in which the will to form a polity is shaped and supported
through institutions which in their turn symbolise and foster the idea of such
Sure, a common language among citizens and between civil society and political
institutions is needed in order to have public discussion and thus public
reason. However, a common language can be a conventional or an artificial one.
To be citizens, individuals should be able to communicate with political
authorities : they should be able to understand each other. But this does not
imply at all that to this purpose individuals should use their own mother
tongue. Any other language will do, provided it is common to the parties.
It may be the case that in the European Union, we do not still have such a
common language. Nonetheless, such a language can be found. We can think of a
lingua franca emerging in the ongoing process of European integration or of a
net of various national or regional languages employed each at a different
level and for a certain occasion but allowing a continuous flux of
information.51 Moreover, the common language does not need to be in any
occasion the same. We could perhaps apply a kind of subsidiarity principle to
the use of the different languages, choosing the one or the other according to
the context and the dimensions of the issue at stake and the
48 BVerfGE 89, 155 , italics mine. For a powerful criticism of the
constitutional Weltanschauung of the German court as expressed in this
decision, see J. H. H. WEILER, Does Europe Need a Constitution ? Reflections on
Demos, Telos, and the German Maastricht Decision, in "European Law Journal",
1995, pp. 219 ff.
49 BVerfGE 89, 155 . Italics mine.
50 U.K. PREUSS, Problems of a Concept of European Citizenship, in "European Law
Journal", 1995, pp. 277-278. Italics in the text.
51 See what Jürgen Habermas opposes to Dieter Grimm's defence of cultural
homogeneity as legitimation for democracy (J. HABERMAS, Comment on the paper by
Dieter Grimm : 'Does Europe Need a Constitution ?', in "European Law Journal",
1995, pp. 303 ff.).
people (and the languages) concerned. "Zweitens o as was pointed out by Edmund
Bernatzik, a leading public lawyer of Austria Felix o kann man ja eine fremde
Sprache lernen".52 In any case successful European experiences such as for
instance the Erasmus Programme or the European University Institute in Florence
(a university is an institution for which communication is of utmost relevance)
show that it is possible at least to have a European university even without a
Europe admittedly is not a nation, European citizens as such either. It is high
time perhaps that the one (Europe) and the others (European citizens) combine
their plans, leaving the nation to its old-fashioned nightmares of blood and
Belonging to a European polity
I am not so much concerned about the sociological evidence supporting the
romantic thesis according to which peoples and nations are homogeneous ethnical
and cultural entities. My stance towards this thesis is quite radical. Should
it be true, should nations be Volksgemeinschaften, that would not still be a
legitimisation ground for a genuine democratic polity. Since democracy is based
on intersubjective discourses and representation, any process which would work
without an explicit reference to individual and interindividual will formation,
would not be appropriate to offer any democratic legitimisation to a polity.
The demos of democracy certainly is not ethnos.
Yet, in order to defeat the foolish resistance, we might recall a historical
fact : that in most cases the so-called Schicksalgemeinschaft is the outcome,
an artificial product, of the State or of other reflective political
processes.53 This was recognised in 1933 by Hermann Heller, he himself a strong
defendant of nations as Schicksalgemeinschaften (and therefore quoted in the
"Maastricht Urteil"),54 when he is confronted with the rise of the Nazi regime.
"Weder das Volk noch die Nation dürfen als die gleichsam natürliche Einheit
angesehen werden, die der staatlichen Einheit vorgegeben wäre und sie
selbsttätig konstituierte. Oft genug war es [...] umgekehrt die staatliche
Einheit, welche die "natürliche" Einheit des Volkes und der Nation erst
gezüchtet hat. Der Staat ist mit seinen Machtmitteln durchaus im Stande selbst
aus sprachlich und anthropologisch verschiedenen Völkern ein einziges zu
machen."55 Peoples in the cultural sense, in some cases at least, are not prior
but posterior to the State's (sometimes brutal) intervention. The "ethnical"
52 E. BERNATZIK, Die Ausgestaltung des Nationalgefühls im 19. Jahrhundert, in
ID., Die Ausgestaltung des Nationalgefühls im 19. Jahrhundert o Rechtsstaat und
Kulturstaat. Zwei Vorträge gehalten in der Vereinigung für
staatswissenschaftliche Fortbildung in Köln im April 1912, Helwingsche
Verlagsbuchhandlung, Hanover 1912, p. 27.
53 Cf. what is said by Oswald Spengler, an author certainly not to be suspected
of any "abstract", "formal", "thin", universalist liberal political views : «
Die "Muttersprache" ist bereits ein Produkt dynastischer Geschichte. Ohne die
Capetinger würde es keine französische Sprache geben[...] ; die italienische
Schriftsprache ist ein Verdienst der deutschen Kaiser, vor allem Friedrichs II.
Die modernen Nationen sind zunächst die Bevölkerungen alter dynastischer
Gebiete » (O. SPENGLER, Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Umrisse einer
Morphologie der Weltgeschichte, DTV, München 1986, p. 779).
54 See BVerfGE 89, 155 . Cf. the sharp critical comments by Brun-Otto
Bryde (B.O. BRYDE, op. cit., p. 326, note 37).
55 H. HELLER, Staatslehre, 6th, rev. ed., ed. by G. Niemeyer, Mohr, Tübingen
1983, p. 186.
of Pale in Bosnia could never be claimed as the outcome of an organic process
of communitarian growth.
On the other side, as far as a European "demos" is concerned, we might affirm
that, in spite of the lack of one (and only one) common language, there is
something like a common European cultural identity. A common history, common
tragedies and sufferance, common values, common "myths"o if you like56o have
made of the French, the Italian, the German, etc., a common "people". Though a
Sicilian can manifest some perplexity in front of a guy dressed in leather
pants and a feathery hat drinking litres of beer, she will still identify him
as a European like her, with more things uniting than dividing them.
In a democracy to be a citizen, to develop a sense of belonging to a democratic
polity, one should overcome one's own rooting in unreflective communities, and
be for a moment naked, a mere human being. Moving from this nakedness, one can
then freely decide whether and how one wishes to cooperate. Only from this
nowhere will persons be able to build up fair terms of co-operation, since in
that hypothetical condition there will be no room for discriminatory grounds.
Democracy as a polity of equals, should presuppose a kind of "transcendental"
nakedness : "Democracy is a system of government according to which every
member of society is considered as a man, and nothing more".57
The European identity meant as membership to a European polity can only be the
outcome of a reflective adhesion to an institutional body ruled by democratic
rules and offering a rich comprehensive set of rights. Thus, the European
identity we are in search for passes through the consolidation of a meaningful
56 Cf. F. CHABOD, Storia dell'idea d'Europa, Laterza, Bari 1995.
57 W. GODWIN, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Moral
and Happiness, ed. by I. Kramnick, Penguin, Harmondsworth 1976, p. 486.
From poetic citizenshipto European citizenship
If I dwell from the outset on the fact that is in this reflection a matter of
motives peculiar to a woman, a poet moreover, it is precisely because the
citizenship of women and that of poets has been, at the very least since Plato,
an object of exclusion. This is to say that both have on European culture and
identity, or simply on identity, the other view, a different discourse which
has difficulty in making itself heard in public debates. And yet, without it,
there is no possible democratic dialogue.
Should we not begin by calling into question the very sense of the word
"culture" ? The globalisation of the market economy has made culture a
commodity, an object of production and consumption. To revitalise it is to give
it back its function of well- thought-out action. In the situation of rupture
that we are living at the end of the XXth century, cultivating one's mind means
not only enriching one's knowledge of the heritage (patrimony) to be able to
enjoy it and be able to transmit enjoyment of it, but chiefly becoming capable
of generating a societal project of giving birth to the future ; literally,
delivering our mentality of the XXIst century that it bears so painfully but
which it is, however, alone in bearing. I am not of those who believe that
"History has more imagination than men" : to trust history to invent the future
is necessarily to go in its direction, let oneself go from upstream to
downstream, in other words, leave it to its fatality, its determinism, whereas
any creation supposes that thought resists the force of the mainstream, that it
climbs back against the tide of the course of History, that it thinks about
itself from downstream to upstream, that it returns to the sources of
patriarchal History, not nostalgically to re-immerse itself in it, to find in
it the ideal original purity, but with the ethical intention of bringing to
light the foundations of this fratricidal civilisation the endless agony of
which we are living through.
A desire for Europe
All those, men and women, who are set asking about the future of the planet
through the collapse of the socio-political systems, the sudden growth of
fundamentalist and nationalistic perils, agree that it will not happen without
our mentality and behaviour undergoing genuine transformations. We know that
the only power capable of undermining and undoing o from the inside o the
supreme reign of money can only be born from the intensive development of
conscience lagging frightfully behind that of science and techniques, in other
words making each citizen aware of his/her responsibilities. That said, what is
left is to put this awareness in hand, create and organise this network of
resistance to generalised mercantilism, which culture will necessarily have to
be in the XXIst century.
European citizenship does not exist when it is legitimised by a Treaty only ;
when it has no other body than the lifeless body of law. For it to become
lively and active it must be desired, it must be rooted in memory's emotional
depths where desire reigns.
Creative citizenship cannot do without the order that comes from law any more
than without the energy that comes from desire : it becomes of our daily
aptitude to embody dynamically the conflictual relationship that the logic of
reason and that of passion keep alive in us. From the beginning of our
reflection lucidity obliges us to recognise that if Europe does not lack a body
that makes law, it generally lacks the desire that makes sense, in other words
passion, the emotional motivation that it needs to build itself. Without
wanting to psychoanalyse our relationship with Europe, we shall have, for it to
come to life, to feel it, to think it out in terms of feeling, and this feeling
will have to find the words to spread. Between the murderous hatred of Europe
that nationalism and the platonic love which inspires its bigots testify to, it
is a matter for qualifying, embodying, humanising this European citizenship
which is yet only an indispensable fiction.
The question is that of the existence in us o real or virtual, latent or
revealed o of a "desire for Europe" (I say "a desire for Europe" as one would
say "a desire for a child") with which the legislator has hardly been concerned
up to now. If this desire exists, what does it correspond to in our imagination
? Does there exist between the strata of the individual unconscious a European
unconscious as one says that there exists an African unconscious ? Does an
initiation into European citizenship necessarily come through discovering the
places of this unconscious, through a recalling of the European mythological
sources (Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, Celtic, Germanic) ? We know today that
myths are, in the memory, where high human energy is focused, the complex and
very real places of a violence capable of both destruction and creation.
Knowing the deep psychic manipulations that fundamentalism and nationalism,
religious and political totalitarianism operate through the unequivocal and
dogmatic interpretation of myths and symbols, what work of searching and
critical analysis must be undertake, to become aware of these occult sources of
history ? What work of deciphering and enlightenment to turn them into sources
of creative energy for a transnational, transpolitical, transcultural Europe ?
How shall we go about it so that traditions cease to be the prisons of thought
? How to open them ? What must we do for them to become the very sources of
freedom, of the fertility of thought, i.e. of something truly new ?
Everything leads us to believe that it is to the deep level of myths and
symbols that we must go back, with open eyes, to free European imagination o
the entire imagination o from its historical conditioning, to put it in a
position to desire both the diversity and community of its destiny, in other
words to motivate conscience to invest its high energies into the construction
of a decompartmentalized society. It is clear that if this work of
deconditioning, of genuine secularisation of mentalities, is not done,
planetary solidarity is doomed to remain a utopia. Humanisation is not
self-evident : it is the fruit of working continually on oneself, in other
words a culture in depth, in the most down-to-earth sense of the term. No doubt
even, it could be said that one is not born human, but that one becomes so. It
is of this work without respite of thought on the contents of memory that a
society of persons with unlimited responsibility can become.
At the time when women allow themselves o how painfully o to speak on the scene
of political disaster, one must know that this speech is new, that its forms of
legitimacy are still to be invented. A woman's citizenship does not have to
recreate a political- cultural space, but quite simply to create it for itself,
for the first time, from the ruins of a History where she ever had only the
right to speak in the name of the Father and of the Son, in the name of a sex
which is not hers. What seems vital to me today is to rethink the very concept
of identity, to understand that the identity principle is also the principle of
third-party exclusion. The identity logic is that which invalidates any truth
stemming from the crossing of the thought of I and that of the other. It is on
the rejection of disturbing strangeness, of impurity, of all that is not white
or black, masculine or feminine, dominating subject or dominated object, that
the xenophobic History of Nation-States was based. To want to rebuild on the
same foundations would be wholly irresponsible.
The human resources that the history to come can rely on are those which were
inhibited, doomed, sacrificed by patriarchal History to ensure the stability of
its Order. If life on the planet stands a chance of saving itself, of
over-arising, it is in the repressed part of patriarchal History that it is
buried. What twenty-first century thought is going to have to set off, i.e.
cultivate to re-generate oneself, is precisely what Patriarcate has excluded,
gagged, burnt to ensure the continuity of its domination. This treasure of the
possible is buried in our memory. It is up to each of us (woman or man) to work
on their own mental field, to cultivate it for it to become an oasis of true
life, a space of creation o both of projection and reflection o in the
pervading cultural wilderness.
To sex the question of identity
Faced with the ravages of the evil of exclusion, the most universally
prescribed remedy in this fin de siècle is, of course, communication between
people, sexes, ethnic groups, and cultures. The term "communication" enjoys a
theoretical fortune without precedent and, on the other hand, the technical
means that are available to us to attempt to communicate are today fabulous.
But never, no doubt, has the hiatus between the virtual and the actual of
communication been more gaping than today. It is in the daily passage to the
act of communicating that communication breakdowns are the most flagrant, that
powerlessness is the most tangible, the most dramatic. But it is nevertheless
there where we strongly experience the difficulty of communicating, where we
suffer from it personally in our flesh and in our heart, that desire lies, i.e.
the chance of delimiting and overcoming it.
If communication is overabundantly provided with theory and technology, we are
obliged to note that its ordinary practice is still in its infancy, that its
language is still to be invented. The logos of communication are not the
mono-logos, they are the dialogos, i.e. the language that is conceived and
developed from the interactive knowledge of I and of the other. Dialogue is the
communicating language, the interacting language, that which foils the
principle of exclusion towards the impure third party. Now, dialogue o the
dia-logic of included third parties o forms the subject of no initiation, no
learning at school. It is increasingly manifest that a male or female citizen's
dialogic capacity o his/her capacity of opening to the other o is the bête
noire of all forms of religious and political fundamentalism since the latter
can only reign through exclusion, through division, to begin with, between the
sexes. To create spaces where this aptitude to opening, exchange, dialogue
which is responsible citizenship is to create conditions indispensable to the
advent of a real democracy.
It is no longer defensible today not to sex the identity question, to stay deaf
to the nascent speech of the other subject who is the I of feminine gender. In
the light of the recrudescent fundamentalism it becomes impossible to ignore
that the very matrix of any xenophobia is gyno-phobia, and not the reverse.
Now, gyno-phobia is not only the work of men. We have to note that women
themselves can be the patriarcate's worst accomplices. The fear- alas
understandable o that they have of being themselves, i.e. different ; to dare
think, say and act otherwise than men is still far from overcome ! If the
common stake is the advent of a society of persons with unlimited
responsibility, this supposes that an end be put to the childish moral codes
based on making one another guilty. An adult feminism can only be a matter of
solidarity not only of women among themselves, but between lucid women and men,
in search of a happy outcome from the patriarchal impasse.
It has not been well enough seen how much the health of the political depends
on abolishing the rule of linguistic clichés, in other words, on the male and
female citizen's aptitude to form one body, sexed body with his/her language.
Everyone agrees that the great remedy to the ravages of hatred and indifference
is love. Yes, but how can love be reinvented ? How to free Eros from the
murderous empire of Thanatos ? It must first be understood that the
eroticisation of the social body necessarily passes through the eroticisation
of the body of the language and that the eroticisation of the body of the
language necessarily passes through its sexuation...
In the architecture of a construction there is always o more or less conscious
o a logic at work : a logic of closing or a logic of opening. A socio-cultural
space is built according to the identity principle (xenophobic exclusion of the
impure third party) or according to the solidarity principle (logic of
inclusion of the impure third party). According to "eliquishness" or "workshop
spirit". This is to say that an effective democracy can only come from an
alliance without precedent of consciences where the humanity of the solidarity
principle has prevailed over the inhumanity of the identity logic. It is at the
level of the founding principles that the true political cleavage lies. We
shall come alive out of this societal crisis, which most agree to qualify as
structural, only if thought of the political becomes deeper o not without
vertigo o till it gets right to the bottom of its rational and irrational
foundations. A cultural act, if ever there is one !
In the current debates on the European Union's political structure, attention
is often focused around the word nation. How can we revive a form of nation
which is not a people's defensive withdrawal into itself, which is not in
advance undermined by the demon nationalism ? The rights and duties of the
European Union citizen will not be those defined by the Nation-States
patriarchal History. The idea of a European fatherland must be given up. Europe
will be a brotherland or will not be. To pass from a closed nation to an open
one, of the fatherland-nation to the brotherland-nation will only be done
through recognising the effective existence of two equal and different human
genders, irreducible to each other. We no longer ignore that we are all
bisexual, all impure, all half-castes. A woman's femininity is not a man's as a
man's virility is not a woman's, which means that in the relationship between a
man and a woman, there are four sexes in continuous interaction. If women's
thought proves other than men's it is due not only to the cultural memory
feminine has not crossed history as dominating subject but as dominated object)
but also to the difference in body memory. While a man keeps indelible the
physical and emotional memory of having had a mother, he is deprived of having
been the belly required by the generation of the other, this place not only of
conception and gestation, but of expulsion of another. The link to otherness
fostered by feminine identity is undeniably different from that fostered by
masculine identity. To recognise this difference in natural and cultural memory
between men and women, find words and images to make it noticeable and
intelligible instead of continuing to ignore it does not go without giving
thought what it needs to regenerate itself.
In deciding to develop as a postscript to my introductory text the words that I
spoke during the "Carrefour" I want to testify to that wave which passed among
the participants and which Marcelino Oreja called : "the Coimbra spirit". For
the European that I am, clearly there will henceforth be a pre-Coimbra and a
In the reflection document that Thomas Jansen has drafted, we are reminded that
determining the "political finality" of the European Union must be done on in
the perspective of a project of "world federation". I feel my European
citizenship as an interface, as the indispensable mediator between my awareness
of belonging to a local, regional community and that of belonging to the world
community. European identity can make sense for an individual who wonders about
what it means only in relation to a project of planetary citizenship. Even then
this individual must of course be motivated to do so, which first assumes that
he is wondering about the meaning of his own existence, in other words that he
has reached a certain degree of maturity.
The concrete forms of the we can only be implemented if desired, imagined,
thought up and meant by a multiplicity of I. A pluralistic world can only be
built by communities of responsible singulars. Real inter-nationality, and
inter-culturality can only be conceived and expanded on the basis of a
well-thought-out and theorised practice of intersubjectivity which would be at
the very basis of education.
The mental revolution which can be expected to lead to the advent of a world
democracy is occurring at this moment within the family, school and university.
The numerous signs given by the current mutations are still being perceived and
interpreted as negative signs of disarray, signs of the monological order of
the patriarchate collapsing. The high psychic energies o repressed by history o
which these mutations are delivering will be translated by acts of destructive
violence as long as they do not have available the tools of thought which
enable them to transmute into creative power, as long as they have not found
the language that actualises the strangeness of each man and each woman (the
real object of xenophobia) as the very essence of their universality. Over a
century ago, Arthur Rimbaud wrote in : La Lettre du voyant : "to find a
language ; o besides, every word being an idea, the time of a universal
language will come ! /.../ This language will be soul for the soul, epitomising
everything, scents, sounds, colours, thought catching thought and pulling. The
poet would define the amount of unknown waking up in its time in the universal
soul : he would give more o than the formula of his thought, than the
annotation of his march to Progress ! Enormity becoming norm, absorbed by
everyone, he would truly be a multiplier of Progress."
The first condition of the advent of an adult Europe, responsible both for her
own future and that of the planet, is that she worries not only about informing
but about forming her citizens, not only about their access to the multiplicity
of knowledge, but about their initiation into the act of thinking for oneself.
Finding a language to express the strangeness, the continual newness of this
self-generating thought, necessarily passes through the capacity of imagining,
the development of the resources of the personal field and the collective field
of our imagination. One is not born a creator, one becomes one. Even then one
must discover the logics, the dialogics of creation and communication, the
tools of interactive thought and learn to use them. Only a culture of
intersubjectity will enable us to overcome the spiritual and affective handicap
of modern mentality distorted by the exclusive reign of scientific objectivity.
What the thought of our times most evidently lacks is neither faith nor reason,
it is vision. But visionary speech is the fruit of that logic of creation o
logic of the included third o which poïetics is (poïein : to make).
To Hölderlin's question : "Why poets in times of distress?" I would answer
first : because the poets who think the world pre-see how a utopia destroys
itself, an "ideal City" which excludes them, and how a "real City" which
integrates their turbulent presence can be built. "Poetry will be in front",
and "the poet will be a citizen", writes Rimbaud when prophesying the real
democracy he longs for.
Blind faith in a "lendemain qui chante", without that visionary lucidity of
which René Char tells us that it is "the wound closest to the sun", can never
lead humanity to anything other than a utopia doomed sooner or later to
I hasten to say with Lautréamont, another prophet of real democracy, that
"poetry will be made by all", which means that everyone will have to awaken in
themselves the poet that western civilisation has excluded to found its order.
There is only one vision of the future which can pull us out of the belly of
the past, project us ahead of ourselves. We must be able to imagine the future
; see it revealing itself (in the photographic sense of the word) on our inner
screens ; we must be able to give birth to a picture of the common future which
is specific to us, which is particular to us for it to mobilise our deepest
Re-enchanting the world at which a pedagogy of creation and communication aims
o a pedagogy of the inter-and of the trans-passes through questioning thought
about its tools.
What makes the difference between the logic of the divisional (of excluded
third) and that of a visionary thought (of included third) is the coordinating
conjunction of opposites. For the logic of knowledge and power I can be only I
or the other (the inter is interdicted, i.e. unsaid) ; but when I enter the
field of creation and communication, I
am both I and the other, co-existing in an analogical relation which underlies
their dialogical link : I am to you as you are to me. According to the
principle of pure reason, A is A and B is B : I cannot be another. Between
identity and alterity, all impurity, all ambiguity, all common ownership o all
strangeness o has to be deprived of active citizenship.
Europe, said Husserl, cannot forget her spiritual foundation which takes root
on the Greek soil of philosophy. I believe that the very notion of "poetic
citizenship" cannot be grasped and shared but by the double reference to Plato
who excludes it and to Rimbaud who predicts its resurgence. Let us first
remember that Plato, in the name of the principle of reason, sees it as his
duty to put the poet out of his republic. Like women, children and lunatics,
the poet is excluded from taking part in the business of the "ideal City" ; his
(magical) thought is deprived of legitimacy, i.e. of citizenship. This is what
Plato writes in The Republic :
That was, I went on to say, what I meant, returning to poetry, to justify
myself for previously banning from our republic so frivolous an art : reason
made it a duty for us to do so. Let us also say to it, so that it may not
accuse us of harshness and rusticity, that the dispute between philosophy and
poetry does not date from today. Notwithstanding, let us protest strongly that
if imitative poetry which has pleasure as its object can prove for some reason
that it must have its place in a well-ordered society, we will bring it back
into it wholeheartedly.
As to Rimbaud, he predicts the return of the poet in that prophetic letter
which was called la Lettre du voyant :
Eternal art would have its functions, as poets are citizens. Poetry will no
longer punctuate action ; it will be ahead. These poets will be ! When the
infinite bondage of woman is broken, when she lives by her and for her, man o
so far abominable -, having given her the sack, she too will be a poet ! Woman
will find things unknown ! Will her worlds of ideas differ from ours ? o She
will find strange, unsoundable, repulsive, delicious things ; we will take
them, we will understand them.
Cross-checking these two texts, twenty-three centuries apart from one another,
the one the founder of our civilisation, the other predicting its end, is, in
the current sociopolitical context, prodigiously enlightening.
That you invited me to speak among you, I, poet and woman, both delights me and
makes me feel hugely responsible. I must find the images and words capable of
expressing my own vision of the world being born, knowing that this risks
disturbing yours, but at this cost only does it have a chance of acting, of
inciting you to find whatever words and images will express yours and contest
or meet mine. He who comes into the world to trouble nothing, says René Char
also, deserves neither consideration nor patience.
For a real dialogue, an effective democratic game, to occur there have to be at
play two different speeches and two different listeners, who affect, respect,
greet one another, who cease being indifferent to one another. A conflictual
relation can start generating a trans-personal, trans-cultural, trans-national,
trans-political thought only by means of this quadrivocal dialectic which
prevents communication from getting bogged down in the rut of consensus, from
being trapped in the homogenisation where what it is to-day agreed to call "la
pensée unique" thrives.
Perception of oneself (conceiving of oneself)
I attempted to make you see in my speeches how links between my poetic
citizenship and my European citizenship are woven ; so, these speeches are of
the order of the testimony.
Thirty-five years ago occurred in me the illumination o the poetic experience o
where I was initiated into my own existence and into the vital need to find a
language to express that disturbing strangeness which suddenly served me as
identity in a basically xenophobic and misogynous society.
The instant before this literally apocalyptic instant (of revelation), I was
present neither to myself nor to the world. The instant after my patriarchal
imagination was in ruins, I had, on pain of death or madness, to build another
one, a dynamic, self- generating imagination. Starting from the desire to
become who I really am, I had to re-create for me a love imagination, a family
imagination, and a social imagination. To put it in other words, I had, by
means of visionary thought and of the work of writing, to save myself from
chaos : no saviour would do it in my place. Let us say, briefly, that my
spiritual dimension o verticality made up of height and depth o was born of
this wild initiation into the genesis of consciousness. Conceiving oneself is
experiencing the primeval consubstantiality of space and time, of I and the
other, of both the woman and the man that I am ; it is reaching the lightning
nucleus of SELF of which André Breton said that it is : the POINT of the mind
from where life and death, the real and the imaginary, past and future, what
can and cannot be communicated, top and bottom, cease being perceived
contradictorily. He added: the point in question is a fortiori the one where
construction and destruction can no longer be brandished one against the other.
I understand that the Europe of today too is seeking to know herself, to know
her soul, to become aware of who she really is in relation to the world and to
put in a token appearance in it ; to express her project of post-modern future.
In other words, Europe is more or less confusedly seeking to become an adult
we, i.e. a community of persons and nations with full and entire
It is indispensable for us to produce symbols, images, metaphors, said Jérôme
Vignon. We must give tools of communication other than conceptual but which can
be linked to the conceptual to revive it, to re-nature it, to re-humanise it.
We must bring into the world o beyond the great hardships of History o a new
understanding of the real.
Of this post-modern thought born of the reconciliation of poetry and
philosophy, I like to say to myself that it is post-socratic, in the sense that
it recalls that prodigious presocratic thought which was current before they
Thinking as a poet is being able to put oneself into the other's place, being
SELF (consubstantially I and the other), but also being able at the same time
to embody, from the smallest to the largest, all the circles of collectivity I
belong to. What would
be the soul of a people other than the one their poets gave them ? If I think
Europe as a poet, I identify with her, I espouse her cause, I form one body
with her present, I lend her the strength of my visceral resistance to all
forms of totalitarianism ; thus I commit myself personally in her quest for a
non-fatal outcome to the unprecedented impasse where she is at the end of this
century. Let us say that I see my own experience of emancipation as an
illuminating metaphor of the trying search for herself which Europe is pursuing
today. I draw from this analogy not only my motivation but the daily energy
that is needed to provide this project of a transnational, trans-cultural
Europe with a body of writing radically other than her "body of laws" which
will never have anything but a set language ; that is to say, with a poetic
existence without which it will stay a dead letter. Only the influence of an
adult poetry o in the sense that it has freed itself from the condition of
minor thought where western philosophy confined it -, irresistibly confident in
its real power to change life, could truly re-enchant the world.
If, like Ariadne, I undertake to pursue the metaphor to better understand all
that was exchanged thanks to the Coimbra forum, I say to myself that Europe
will get out of her crisis of growth, will become a big adult woman only if she
dares to call into question the dogma of economism which threatens any moment
to "topple her over from the market economy to the market society" : a striking
formula which Zaki Laïdi gave us of the peril which is threatening us. Put
differently, Europe will not recover from her disaster unless she appropriates
the freedom of self-determination, the freedom to choose the model of
globalisation to which she wishes to belong. We heard Mario Soares tell us
forcefully that he "does not want a Europe exclusively determined by economic
and monetary demands but a political, social Europe, a Europe of citizens, a
Europe of participation" ; not a Europe that we would have to suffer, but a
Europe that we have to make happen. From the moment that the European Union
knows not only what she does not want, but what she wants to be, she must
change her history, i.e. her relational logic ; she must pass from the identity
principle based on the exclusion of the third's strangeness which determined
the building of xenophobic Europe, to an interactive dia-logic based on the
integration of this strangeness, on the actualisation of all mediation between
identity and alterity. Only the development of a such a citizenship in the
process of building the Union can save Europe from the twofold peril which
threatens her : homogenisation or atomisation.
It is urgent to understand that a democratic space can only be built from a
mentality structured by the "solidarity principle", a principle of the
interactivity of opposites. Subject A is to object B what subject B is to
object A : I am to you what you are to me; logical translation of the principle
of Christian charity : love (respect) the other as you love (respect) yourself
: a universal formula of a laity to which any religion of love can rally
without betraying itself.
The game of interactivity
As soon as we understand that there are really at play in any human
relationship at least two subjectivities and two objectivities, two identities
and two alterities, i.e. four elementary truths, the problem of thought is
completely transformed. "Telling the truth" supposes from that moment that our
four truths recognise one another, interfere, interact, that a dialogical
language is invented able to translate not now the duplicity but the
quadruplicity of the real. In this great dynamic game of interactivity, all
horizontal, vertical, diagonal relations are authorised. What disappears in the
dynamic structure of real democracy is the inevitability of exclusion. All
aesthetic, ethical and political revival, all possible regeneration of the
social body, will proceed from this metamorphosis of the structures of our
The identity of the European Union should appear as that of a societal model
which not only succeeds in safeguarding entitlements, but in integrating the
great historical, political, economic, technological and ethical upheavals.
Which supposes the conception and the implementation of a logic of construction
which is a logic of integration of differences.
The image that I have of the Europe to come is less that of a continent in
search of an intellectual leadership able to face up to the rise of the
(economic, political and religious) fundamentalisms than that of a living and
thinking organism, capable of metabolising what has happened to it and what
continues to happen to it for better of worse ; so as to be able to build for
itself a great contagious health the influence of which works not only to
relieve but to heal the extreme misery from which the world is suffering.
I see the European building site as the main, if not the only, chance our
planet currently has of saving itself from the perils which threaten it, of
building with new tools of thought its first "real City", its first adult
democracy, its first trans-national phratry on the ruins of xenophobic
L'identité européenne comme engagementtransnational dans la société
European identity as a transnational commitment in society
A terminology debate is of no value in the face of the real challenge. The term
"identity" is merely a starting point. Psychologists would say that it covers
both continuous identification with oneself and permanent adherence to certain
traits of character which are specific to a group. On the one hand, identity
appears as a criterion for acts intended to provide a synthesis of the self,
while on the other hand it signifies a feeling of solidarity with a group.
Thus, there are two aspects :
o identity is linked to the individual, the person ;
o identity reflects a state of existence, an outcome, the end of a path.
On this basis, what is the answer to the original question, how can we express
this identity which must take on a European dimension ? First of all, it is the
individual, the European citizen, who must both give and receive the reply, in
the context of his relationship with himself and his environment. The citizen
should be able to express this identity, which in turn must be developed
together with the citizen. Furthermore, if the identity of the individual is a
fulfilment, the sum of a personal history, then European identity is made up of
a huge and varied heritage. European identity appears here as being linked to
the past, and the future is not a factor. To express European identity through
heritage only, however rich this may be, would be to limit oneself to
conservatism without a future.
Europe needs visions which relate to the future. The development of a European
identity can play no part other than through a European consciousness, bringing
in itself movement and evolution, a European consciousness which captures the
national identities in their diversity and conceives them as having a common
future. Expressing this identity o a forward-looking European consciousness o
implies the abolition of antagonism between national and European identities.
European identity- consciousness is founded on national identities, and finds
its expression in cooperation and interaction. We need this European
identity-consciousness in order to avoid wars among ourselves or with others,
to pool our resources, and to join forces in the face of the challenges of our
time, which transcend national and continental boundaries. We draw this
identity-consciousness from a heritage which expresses what is common to us, or
what we recognise as being common to us. We draw it from history, the common
European traits of which we are rediscovering, after two centuries of
nationalism and nationalist interpretation. We draw it from the memory of the
past, our memory banks o what are our European memory banks ? We draw it from
the symbols which we have succeeded in creating and which we shall be capable
of creating in the future. We find it in the democratic institutions and rules
which structure and define life within our societies, the relationships of the
individual and society, and the rights and duties of the citizen.
The European Union has neither a political nor a social structure which would
give it an "identity" and allow it to develop a citizen's European
consciousness, or which would allow the citizen to develop a European
consciousness. The Council of Ministers is not European, but
inter-governmental. The European Commission acts as if it were
inter-governmental. In order to have our voice heard, we must use the channels
of the national representations or even national bodies. The European
Parliament, the political representation of the citizen, is not truly
recognised as such, because its powers, responsibilities and image do not
correspond to what the European citizen, accustomed to the role of his national
parliament, can or wants to expect from it. Nevertheless, it is the European
institution with which the citizen can identify most easily, because it is
supranational, or European, and because Parliament fights to give legitimacy to
Europe, which also gives it symbolic value. However, there are forces within
society which are not representative of national interests and are
non-governmental, non-State and transnational by nature. First of all, there is
the economic sector, or at least the bulk of it. Industrialists spend all day
telling us that their vision is no longer national or even European, but
global. The economy creates its own identities o corporate identities, which
are neither national nor European. This is what is called the "IBM identity".
The question remains as to whether, with the single currency, the economic
sector can also help boost European identity.
There is, however, another sector of society which is developing rapidly. It is
known as the "Third Sector", a term which is both vague (in that it takes in
the most diverse forms of organisation) and precise (in the sense that it
refers to non-governmental organisations). Civil society translates the will
and aspirations of the citizen and quite naturally goes beyond the national
context o in fact increasingly so. As every domain of society is affected by,
or is open to, international pressures , these organisations nowadays all
engage in activities which to a greater or lesser extent go beyond national
This "Third Sector" o the expression has come to represent organisation,
solidarity and community o represents the commitment of the citizen within
society and through society. The Third Sector is not a third country, but a
sector of present-day society which should become an increasingly important
communication partner, a forum for proposals and for implementing new solutions
needed to resolve the major problems facing us today. If we wish to develop
European identity-consciousness, this movement towards more Europe, in and with
the citizen, if we wish to organise participation and interaction, we must
find, or in my view create, a way of organising relations between the Third
Sector and the European institutions.
As the social and cultural organisations of the Third Sector reflect this
commitment on the part of the citizen to non-State and non-public forms of
organisation and institution, it is necessary to create a space in society
giving the citizen a voice outside the national framework, a European space in
which the citizen's commitment to society can be expressed. This societal space
should be able to communicate regularly with the European Parliament, whose
powers would have to be extended, and with the European Commission.
Participation and interaction could be expressed and organised around major
subjects of civilisation, such as work and integration into society, national
and European memory banks, European citizenship training for the younger
generation, and the development of a European language policy.
Security and a common area
One way of analysing comparable transitions from unity among nations to a
united Europe is to see it in peaceful terms as the setting of a boundary
against a hostile power which threatens freedom and integrity.
Let us say that as a general rule the fact of being subjected to the same
climate of aggression generates a common defence system and the emergence of an
identity through the feeling of security experienced in relation to the threat.
Although Toynbee regards the West as the present-day aggressors, identified as
such from outside by the peoples of the former colonial territories, the fact
of being surrounded by a common threat has more than once united Europe.
This was the situation in Western Europe for more than half of a century
dominated by the military pacts (NATO and the Warsaw Pact), until it came to an
end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and yet Western Europe was
involved in defending a plan to unite the area from the Atlantic to the Urals.
It thus firmly refused to be "le petit cap au bout de l'Asie", as Valéry used
to put it.
A political era
Identity implies a common area which has a geographical form, but this will
only have a border if, for unambiguous reasons of security, solidarity among
the peoples involved and well-established sociological proximity, that identity
is assumed. Article 0 of the Maastricht Treaty lays down that any European
State may become a member, but it does not attempt to define a European State.
In fact the supposed common area is divided by various formal frontiers which
do not coincide but were laid down for pragmatic reasons with a view to
achieving the overriding objective. The European Union has 15 members since
1995 (when Austria, Sweden and Finland joined) and is considering admitting
another 12 at the beginning of the next century, which is nearly upon us. The
Council of Europe has 39, including Russia since 1996, which should make us
wonder whether the area is broadening out or joining up. Meanwhile the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has 54, which raises
the very same question in a more complicated form.
The sea frontier is extremely long, from the North Sea down the Atlantic
seaboard to the Mediterranean, a fact which raises the opposite question to the
one about the Council of Europe, i.e. whether the European identity has the
effect of fragmenting the Atlantic identity which is still best expressed
This multiplicity of formal frontiers, outlining areas which do not coincide,
points towards a definition of a political area demarcated by a series of
common threats facing
it and a common determination to confront them. In Europe's experience,
historical internal conflicts are identifiable as such and are not to be
confused with external threats.
Title V of the Treaty of Maastricht defines as one pillar of the European Union
a common foreign and security policy, leading eventually to a common defence
policy, but does not make a distinction between the internal frontier formed by
the threat of the recent past and the external panorama constituted by a world
context in flux.
It should be remembered that the founding fathers of the new Europe, Jean
Monnet, Adenauer and Schuman, had in mind to free Europe forever from the
spectre of civil war, with Germany and France in the leading roles, and in the
area of security it is WEU which reflects that rivalry most clearly : the
United States came over to Europe to fight twice in the same generation because
of that historical conflict, and the object of WEU was to define a restrictive
arrangement for the entry of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO.
The external threat is a different issue, and that was reflected in the
Atlantic Alliance for the half-century when the world was divided into two
Europe and the Atlantic Alliance
At the present time, when diplomacy conducted as a Nixon-style strategy, with
the three pillars formed by the United States, Russia and China, seems once
more to be to the fore, the question of a European identity in the political
field of security and defence, which will be responsible for defining whatever
geographical frontier is eventually adopted, seems to be couched in the
following terms :
o a return by Russia to the historical nation-based strategic concept, with the
idea of a "near-abroad" (the former satellite countries), and an attempt to
reconstitute the geographical borders prior to 1989, in response to the
creation by the Atlantic Alliance and Europe of "near friends" from the Baltic
to the Mediterranean, a development made very clear by the Barcelona Conference
this year ;
o the Western security organisation, to which the former Eastern European bloc
is applying, and NATO, a group of countries which all aspire to be admitted to
the European Union as well, thereby showing that they treat the two frontiers,
the economic and political frontier on the one hand and the security frontier
on the other, as autonomous ;
o in the Mediterranean region, NATO is also being pressed to provide a security
frontier by the countries in the North African corridor, while it is from the
EU that they also seek support for their political, economic and social
o NATO is consequently being forced to give thought to adopting a new profile :
-in addition to the collective defence objective, it now provides logistical
and military support for the peace-keeping operations flowing from the UN's
Agenda for Peace of 31 January 1992 ;
-it has laid bridges for cooperation with the East such as the North Atlantic
Cooperation Council of 1991 and the Partnership for Peace of 1994 ;
-against this background, WEU has once again been brought into action as a
point of reference for the Europeanisation of defence.
Here it seems that the ongoing overhaul of the United States' strategic concept
and the process of formulating a European strategic concept which is now under
way are bound to acknowledge that the European security frontier and the NATO
security frontier are still tending to coincide. In that case, the common
defence policy, or any common defence system for the European Union which
emerges, is clearly first and foremost an internal question for the Atlantic
Alliance, following half a century of solidarity.
Neither Reich nor Nation another future for the european union
Roger De Weck
What is it that keeps us Europeans together ? What is it that links the
British, who so love to rage against the Continent, to the Poles or the
Portuguese ? What do we have in common ? What are the differences, which not
only divide but also unite us ? Is there a European identity ? The very fact
that we raise the question of identity betrays the European in us.
The French philosopher, Edgar Morin, speaks of Europe's "manifold unity" or
"unitas multiplex". For all the variety of North America, its binding forces
are obvious to the observer. The most striking feature of our continent is its
Certainly, the whole of Europe shares the inheritance of Christianity ; indeed
for centuries awareness of "Christendom" was much stronger than the notion of
"Europe". But as Europeans desert the Christian churches in their droves, this
last vestige of the Western heritage loses its relevance. Christianity no
longer unites Europeans, but nor does it divide them.
As time goes by, our other great legacy o the Enlightenment o becomes less and
less specifically European. Other regions of the world have long drawn on this
inheritance (just as other continents have become more Christian than our own).
But more importantly, if the spirit of the Enlightenment forms part of European
identity, then this particular part has been damaged since the Holocaust. The
interplay of nationalism, imperialism and totalitarianism, which, sad to say,
is all too European, brought disaster. Europe proved incapable of saving itself
by its own efforts. We had to be liberated. Our fate hung on the United States,
and that has undermined our self- confidence. In a century that has seen the
most terrible of wars, the North Americans too have often gone astray. But they
have always rejected totalitarianism. The United States is not only stronger as
a result, but also more decisive. There was no American Voltaire, but nor was
there an American Hitler.
What is not European
All of us in Europe have at least one identity, which we experience again and
again and which can sometimes break right through to the surface o I'm talking
here of a "negative identity". We may not know exactly what it is to be
European, but we are quite sure of what is not European. We Europeans have
never had hard and fast criteria for determining what counts as Europe. Our
continent is ill defined both politically and culturally. Not even geography
can help us o does our Eastern border really run along the Urals ?
During the Cold War, many Westerners forgot that the "far-off" countries of
Central and Eastern Europe were utterly European in character. Despite all the
anti-American feeling prevailing at that time, they felt much closer to America
and still do. Even so, seldom do we feel as European as when we watch an
American television series, which may explain why they are so successful. They
are foreign to us and yet familiar.
According to one of the classic interpretative models used by psychologists,
identity stems from negation. Europeans are hardly ever as united as in their
determination to marginalize others. But there must be more to Europe than
that, for in the long run negation is not enough : it offers a weak identity in
which we protect our own egos by demonising others. For example, the British
make a habit of "splendid isolation" and the Swiss nurture their "hedgehog"
mentality. It is as if the Confederation would collapse were it not surrounded
by enemies : the rabble-rousers on the Swiss right brand the EU as the "Fourth
Reich" and one Green politician has waffled on about the "Empire of Evil".
Expressing a common sense of purpose
Europe is in fact made up of former enemies. When British Prime Minister John
Major picks a fight with the European Union, his crisis team in London is
immediately dubbed the "war cabinet", proving that the past is still close at
hand. And yet wherever Europeans have finally come together, they now live in
peace. New wars in Western Europe are virtually unthinkable and the Cold War is
history. However, war and civil wars will remain a distinct possibility in
Eastern Europe until its countries are able to join the European Union.
The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was right when he observed that ultimately
the European question is still a question of war and peace. And just as
Switzerland sees itself as a nation created by an act of will, there is in
Europe a growing identity, both in the literal and in the figurative sense,
that is also based on an effort of will. The vast majority of Europeans share
an "identical" and hence "identity-forming" will to establish a peaceful,
united Europe. What is at work here is a positive identity : the twin concepts
of will and reason are very much European. No doubt, the European Union will
face many setbacks in future, but it will hardly sink to a point so low that
disintegration could mean destabilisation and even lead to war.
This is because of the workings of what the French call "le sens de l'histoire"
o in both senses of the term : Europe is moving in a certain "direction" and in
so doing is giving itself a "purpose".
Individuals object to having an identity foisted on them. Identity cannot be
decreed from above by nation states or by the European Union, for it is
something organic, which develops from small beginnings and either thrives or
withers away. The EU is simply a powerful expression of a common sense of
purpose shared by many Europeans, who, after centuries of war, have finally
become aware of their responsibility for their own continent. A Europe of the
nations may be the rallying- cry for some, but Europe is first and foremost a
warning against the hubris of these same nations.
"Verfassungspatriotismus" o or loyalty to the constitution o is a familiar
concept in Germany. Underpinning the European idea is a kind of "loyalty to
peace", which, however, is now fading away fifty years after the end of the
Second World War. As time goes by, the younger generation which was spared
those horrors has less and less sense of purpose and, in this respect,
resembles the directionless and disoriented Swiss, since they too escaped the
heavy toll in human lives.
The EU Member States were not far enough down the road to a common security
policy to prevent the carnage following the break-up of Yugoslavia. If Europe
had been up to the task, the question of identity would hardly be raised any
more. Identity is also a matter of success.
Competition between world regions
Is success at all possible in an era of mass unemployment where the virus of
social disintegration infects everything which is not already geared to
out-and-out economic warfare ? Globalisation (internationalisation) threatens
both national and European identities o as if one day the only remaining form
of identification will be that of the worker with the mega-firm that employs
Yet the EU is not perceived as a force for order and moderation which is
striving (for example through monetary union) to control the forces of
globalisation and, logically, to steer in the opposite direction, something the
nation states have long been incapable of. On the contrary, the EU is seen o
albeit unjustifiably in many cases o as one of the mainsprings of the
globalisation process which is oppressing countless individuals. This provokes
national resentment. National politicians heighten the mistrust by claiming for
themselves the credit for all political successes and laying the blame for
failures at the EU's door.
However, Europe is not merely a scapegoat, but at the same time the exact
opposite : the hopelessly overburdened standard-bearer of hope, which is bound
to disappoint, because so many people would like it to disappoint. Europe acts
as a blank screen on to which the Frenchman can project his yearning for
"grandeur", the German his deep-seated need to belong, the Briton his
uncompromising cries of "I want my money back", and the Eastern European his
desire for stability and a guarantee of democracy, the rule of law and human
While we are on the subject of human rights, in the vast globalisation process
now under way, the old European claim to universal values is rebounding on
Europe itself. Now that our continent is no longer at the centre of world
events, Europeans must face up to the competition of values and identities.
Just as the Swiss always feel the urge to retreat into their little corner,
many Europeans also tend to withdraw into themselves in order to protect their
Yet if there is one single characteristic that defines Europe, it is that
curious capacity for openness, which our continent displays time and again and
has contributed to the "infinite richness in a little room" that so delighted
Marlowe. Europe has left its mark over the whole globe, but it has also proved
to have a voracious appetite itself, being perfectly capable of absorbing
influences from all over the world and positively devouring foreign ideas,
without surrendering any of its own identity.
However, globalisation unleashes the forces of homogenisation. It also throws
open the question of the balance of power between continents. Must o indeed can
o Europe summon up the will to compete as a united force against other regions
of world ?
Since the passing of Charlemagne, the diversity of Europe has been ranged
against the concept of a single European power. Our instinct is not to
concentrate, but to divide, spread out and split up. Our logic is not that of a
single centre, but of multiple centres. The concept of a "European nation",
which is ultimately bound up with power politics, is a contradiction in terms.
Balkanisation is the real danger. The European Union lies somewhere in between.
For far too long, Europe has swung between Scylla and Charybdis, between the
Reich and the nation. The EU does not fit into this pattern ; it breaks the
vicious circle. It is neither Reich nor nation and hence truly modern. Perhaps
European identity is actually to be found in the new and lasting phenomenon of
networks, which was first developed by the generation of '68 and took off with
the electronic revolution. In many ways the European Union is o and is at its
best as o a network. What the Swiss fail to understand, as outsiders with
little first-hand experience, is that the EU has something more important than
its institutions : the network of connections, the day- to-day working
relationships remote from diplomatic channels, the exchanges. And these
exchanges give rise to the "manifold unity", which according to Edgar Morin is
the life-blood of Europe.
Identity is a process
Our generation has experienced both the integration of Western Europe and the
disintegration of Eastern Europe. In the West the decades-long enthusiasm for
the unification process o identification with the EU o has been somewhat
dampened, particularly where closer union has degenerated into homogenisation.
In the East, many people see Europe as providing an ersatz identity. This is
just one of many examples that identity is not something static and does not
always remain what it was.
Identity is more of a process, and processes have driving forces, restraining
forces and opposing forces. Identity always springs from contradictions and
never becomes fully
o and inhumanly o coherent. On the contrary, identity contains within it crisis
in the original Greek sense of "krisis" o decision. That is one of the reasons
why the European Union often cuts a poor figure, just as the Swiss
Confederation presented an unflattering picture for most of the 550 years
before the founding of the Federal State
o civil war, treachery, pacts with foreign powers, intrigue and ineffective
It is actually growth which prompts the outbreak of identity crises. In a
brilliant essay for the literary supplement of the "Weltwoche", Adolf Muschg
recently asked « How much identity does Switzerland need ? ». Similar questions
on the quantity and in particular the quality of identity could be asked about
Europe. However, Muschg also went on to ask, « What is it that Switzerland
still has to protect from Europe ? » Perhaps the difference is that Europe is
looking for a new identity, while Switzerland is trying not to lose its old
What does it mean to be a European ? Preliminary conclusions Jérôme Vignon
From the very outset, at the preparatory meeting for the Coimbra Seminar, the
historian Gilbert Trausch warned us that the task we faced was one fraught with
difficulties and risks. "Though the search for a European identity is a classic
exercise, indeed almost a commonplace for the social science disciplines, the
quest for an identity specific to that very new arrival among the ranks of
political animals, the European Union, is a much tougher proposition." In other
words, to the historian's mind, the shaping of a collective identity is a long
process, in contrast to the brief span of time occupied by the integration of
Europe so far. Let there be no misunderstandings on that score.
With this caveat ringing in its ears, the Coimbra Seminar proceeded to
business. Advancing in stages, it started with what it means to be European as
a general concept, then moved on to the challenges raised by political
unification of the European continent in the here and now. The discussion
progressed by way of the idea of a "European project" which arose spontaneously
as participants made their contributions. Alongside the centrality of the
political necessity of 'the European project', four other main categories
emerge : legitimacy, necessity, the project and interactivity.
Was it proper, for the proponents of an integrated Europe, to seek to mobilise
the many facets of a European identity o history, culture, values and so on o
to their own advantage, so as to construct some kind of political legitimacy
for themselves ? In so doing, were they not falling into a double trap ?
o A collective identity was the outcome of an approach which needed to be seen
in context and in proportion. If it was supposed to appeal to "ordinary
people", then it could only be from the standpoint of their particular
perceptions and experiences where we stand now at the end of the XXth century.
o To seek to exploit the material traditionally used to forge national
identities was to ignore the special qualities of openness and
multiculturalism, which were the marks of a truly European identity.
Jose Vidal Beneyto disposed elegantly of these two posers. Reminding his
listeners of the academic achievements chalked up by the sociology of
knowledge, he stressed that there was no going back on what the experts now
agreed on : "Like individual identities, collective identities exist de facto.
It is not improper to refer to them,
provided we recognise that the European identity evolves in step with whatever
age we live in : it is a moving thing, not a thing established once and for
all. And it goes much further than that : a collective European identity is
bound to encompass not just variations but o especially o contradictions,
contradictions which must be managed, and that is the job of politics. The
purpose of a 'project' is just that, to reconcile contradictions, at the same
time using the lessons we have learnt from the past and from a shared culture."
The bond between the identity of the European Union and a common project is not
something which has come about in a void, simply through the inspiration of a
few founding fathers, or a historical accident. It also owes its being to
necessity, and to the will to which it gives rise.
Here, the Coimbra Seminar brought out a telling parallel between the 1950s and
We are, in a sense, entitled to say that there was more to the setting up of
community of countries belonging to the Western European camp from the time of
the Hague Conference onwards than a deliberate plan by the Fathers of Europe.
This community of belonging also sprang up and developed under pressure from a
political necessity, the necessity created by the East-West dispute. An
economic integration process, one might say, was a way of responding to a
geopolitical necessity, in which case the brainwave of the pioneers of European
integration was to harness this economic vehicle up to a prior objective which
went much deeper, a plan for solidarity and reconciliation which went beyond
the immediate geopolitical challenges. This was the sense in which Filippo
Pandolfi was able to say that "it was only after 1989 that the full scope of
the European project could be seen, its raison d'être, if you like."
Marcelino Oreja reminded us that today, it was economic constraints, bringing
with them the nagging challenges of competitiveness, which were the driving
forces in integration. The progress made from 1985 to 1991 led to a political
leap, the Economic and Monetary Union, which was itself reinforced by the
geopolitical demands of enlargement. The Intergovernmental Conference now under
way ought to graft a collective project adapted to meet the challenges of the
To put it another way, in the 1990s as in the 1950s, pressure of necessity
created an opportunity for a new collective departure. If there was a secret
behind the identity of a Political Union, it was that it should be capable of
giving a generally accepted sense to the sweeping changes occurring in the
European continent, over and above the geopolitical momentum behind them.
What should such a project consist of, "now and for the future", if that shared
sense was to unfold ? What, in other words, was to be the telos, the ultimate
objective ? Are we not entitled to expect an answer to this question from those
responsible for European integration, from those who govern, but also from the
intellectual elite ?
o Some speakers stressed the importance of overhauling the European social
model, threatened as it now was by its inability to reconcile opening out to
the world with maintaining social cohesion (José Vidal Beneyto). Bonaventura
Sousa Santos, in fact, proposed focusing our efforts back on restoring the
State and the community once the other pillar of the European social model, the
market, had outgrown itself.
o Others wanted to go still further along the path of reshaping the model.
Defining their stance in relation to the global challenges of the environment
and population growth, they saw a contemporary European identity as an
awareness of the urgent need for changes in lifestyles and patterns of
consumption. Edy Korthals Altes, for example, saw it as a moral awareness with
the capacity to answer the questions about the meaning of life. The same global
view of developments in Europe today would, in the eyes of Zaki Laïdi, seek to
identify Europe with efforts to act as an effective mediator for the world.
President Mario Soares went so far as to say that the world needed a Europe
capable of translating the spirit of democracy which was the only foundation it
had at the present time into acts of international solidarity.
o Those who identified the European Union with a way of giving a deeper
dimension to democracy alluded to a project which was as much a cultural as a
political exercise. In the words of Massimo La Torre, it was a matter of
establishing, by law, a genuine European citizenship. Freed of any ties to the
prior possession of a particular nationality, it would be the seedbed of an
identity linked directly to democratic ideals, a sort of constitutional
patriotism in the pure state. For Claire Lejeune, the Political Union should be
one where the implicit subjection of men to women would have been overthrown.
While invoking the urgent need for the European project to have a telos, those
attending the Seminar stressed that the demos must be involved in the work of
putting such a project together. In other words, to give expression to a
European identity today meant embarking on a process of exchange, of listening
and of interaction.
Warnings against the risk of overintellectualising came from intellectuals
themselves. Heinrich Schneider pointed to the risk of totalitarianism lurking
behind the concept of an avant-garde, if it were one enlightened not by reason
but by a moral consciousness. Truls Frogner spoke of what the most deprived
groups in Europe really expected in terms of jobs and unemployment. Maryon
McDonald insisted on what made sense to people. This brought the meeting back,
when it came to what it meant to be a European, to the sphere of
"communicating", to "how to share, listen and receive", to "how to inspire and
deserve trust". This was the point in the Seminar at which speakers'
contributions became more specific and closer to the work being done by the
European institutions. Under the subject heading of an interactive identity,
four aspects were discussed : the institutions in the strict sense of the word
; communication ; new forms of mediation ; and, lastly, the need to foster
interaction between the Member States and the Union.
1. Heinrich Schneider, a veteran of the battle for federalism, thought it was
time to build something new out of the old federal mould. The institutions
should be judged less against the yardstick of unity than on the basis of new
criteria : whether the executive inspired confidence, whether joint action was
effective, whether someone was visibly answerable for the exercise of power. It
would have been hard to find a better definition of some of the challenges
facing the IGC.
2. In the view of Elemer Hankiss, who was Head of Hungarian Television from
1991 to 1992, what the European Commission needed to overhaul was not so much
its messages (though these, he said, were still not getting across strongly
enough in his country) as its methods. Opportunities for working out what
European integration meant in the present day needed to be provided in the
shape of hundreds of forums like the Coimbra Seminar, where intellectuals,
people from cultural and scientific backgrounds and journalists would debate
the underlying issue, the raison d'être which Filippo Pandolfi had referred to.
One was reminded of Denis de Rougemont saying that the search for Europe was
3. Many participants felt that the Commission did not allow enough space for
mediation by associations acting as relays to develop, meaning the many
hundreds of NGOs already structured into European networks which were capable
of expressing the European sense of an operation carried out at local level,
not to mention acting as the expression of a moral consciousness. Edy Korthals
Altes spoke for them when he spoke of the practice of dialogue between
religions at the European and Mediterranean levels.
4. We should stop acting and talking as if the Union and the nations in it were
in competition. Nations were part of what it meant to be European, Maryon
McDonald maintained. Bearing in mind the immense symbolic challenges posed by a
single currency, we should leave it up to the national apparatuses, with their
huge capacity to influence and respond, to talk to European people about
Europe. Nor should we forget that farmers, students, textile workers, bosses of
small businesses, doctors and trade unionists, in the publishing business,
experienced Europe in the first instance through their day-to-day occupations.
When the debates were over, some self-criticism emerged. Perhaps our group had
taken too much of a consensus view. Had it allowed enough space for the anti-
Maastricht protest voice to be heard ? Did it reflect the doubts and
bewilderment in the minds of some grassroots voters ? The unconscious
temptation to preach to the converted was certainly there, and we should bear
it in mind when later Seminars came up. But a Seminar on Science and Culture
was not there to do the work of a parliament : what it aspired to do was to
think matters through and go back over the experience of the past. In that
sense, Coimbra was a great help to us.
A dialogue on unemploymentbetween Truls Frogner and his Neighbour
You have not yet heard the trade union voice.
Some people think that trade unions are fading away. Well, in Europe we have
the ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation, with member organisations
from 33 countries, after the enlargement eastwards last December. Now, some 55
national organisations, representing more than 50 million members, come
together in the ETUC to discuss and decide on common matters and then take care
of our joint interests in the European Union and the European Economic Area
Do you know any other and more representative non-governmental European
In the European Union's search for its identity, a trade union has a relevant
message. In my context, to be in a union means to take care of each other,
knowing that acting together may give better results for all than acting
Let me also add that in Norway, community has a more positive connotation than
union, since my country, for many years, was the weaker part in unions with
other countries. A union in Norway is also associated with foreign rule.
In our discussions today, I have heard that the magic words "European identity"
contain the concepts of diversity, legitimacy and transcendence. My neighbour
in Norway does not understand this and seldom speaks of identity. But he lost
his job some months ago, and I can see this is doing something to his identity.
I told my neighbour last week that I was going to Coimbra to discuss the
-What is that ?, he said.
-Well, we are supposed to find out, I replied.
-Do you have to go to Coimbra to find that out ? Why not here ?
-No, it is easier to see what you are from the outside. In Sweden, I feel
In Brussels, I feel Scandinavian and in Tokyo, I feel European. When I'm in a
pub in Boston, I'm still in Europe.
-I understand. As an unemployed person, I feel the importance of a job...
-So, my friend, what is the European identity to you ?
-Nothing ! Does it create jobs ?
-What do you mean ? Does it or does it not ?
-It creates peace. What kind of employment policy is possible in Bosnia ?
-Stop ! The European Union did not prevent war in ex-Yugoslavia.
-Agreed, but in the old days, local war spread through all of Europe. The
Union, together with NATO, made this impossible.
-OK, peace is a natural thing now. War will not happen in Europe again.
-Are you sure ?
-To be honest, no. I'm not sure of anything. Without a job, I don't know where
belong. How could I identify with the European Union if it does not create jobs
-European Union made a report on "Growth, competitiveness and employment"...
-Reports are not reality. The European Union is a marketplace. Growth and
competitiveness yes, jobs no !
-With 20 million unemployed in Europe, it seems you are right. On the other
hand, the European Union may change its treaty and enshrine employment in it.
-Interesting, but paragraphs don't create jobs. Moreover, national governments
don't follow up.
-Should the European Union be the scapegoat if national governments fail in
their economic policy ?
-I admit you have a point. Moreover, unemployment is high outside the European
Union, too. Except in Norway where it is 4% and the inflation rate is below 1%.
But still, these positive figures don't help me.
-We take you seriously. Within a short time, you will be offered a job, a
labour market (professional training ?) course or another active alternative.
And this is not mainly thanks to oil and gas, but to our social model and
cooperation for employment.
-Why can't the European Union do the same ? Isn't cooperation a part of what
you call the European identity ?
-Good question. Maybe because... eh... maybe...
-Well, Truls, come on !
-I'm not really sure why the European Union has not used its potential.
-Can't you ask them in Coimbra ?
-Do you know what I think ? I think the European Union pays too little
attention to the social dimension and too much to economic matters, or they
have too narrow a concept of economy.
-Yes and no. Where else in the world will you find such close relations between
the social partners and politicians ?
-Now you're talking me around again. It doesn't help me if you, on the one
hand, speak of a fine European social model in a global context, and on the
other hand, you have welfare cutbacks and rising unemployment.
-It is a part of the European political identity to say one thing and do
-Ah ! Now I know what the European identity is : contradiction over unity.
-It's true, but it could also be unity over contradiction.
-Please tell me, Truls, why should I o being unemployed o identify with the
European Union ?
-The answer is both simple and complicated ; at one and the same time, the
European Union identifies with you and with 20 million more people without
-In that case, I will wait and see.
-Oh no, this time I will challenge you. Why should you wait to see what the
community can do for you ? Shouldn't you also ask yourself what you can do for
the community ?
-Hmm... let's make a deal. I will, in spite of unemployment and a poor private
economy, keep my trade union membership and join the European Movement. But you
should take an initiative to strengthen the European Union with what is
important to my identity o employment. In practice ! Not only in fine words.
-Agreed. You have a deal.
-Not quite. Only a temporary deal.
-Of course. Europe is not finished yet. Identity is something moving and
o an Unidentified Flying Object !
List of contributors
Tom Bryder, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Political Science, University
Truls Forgner, Director of Political Affairs, Federation of Professional
Associations in Norway, Oslo
Thomas Jansen, Adviser, Forward Studies Unit, European Commission, Brussels
Ingmar Karlsson, Ambassador and Head of Policy Planning Unit, Swedish Ministry
for Foreign Affais, Stockholm
Edy Korthals Altes, former Ambassador of the Netherlands; President, World
Conference on Religion and Peace (WCPR), New York
Claire Lejeune, Poet; Secretary General of the Interdisciplinary Centre for
Philosophical Studies at the University of Mons-Hainaut, Cléphum, Belgique
Maryon McDonald, Appointed Senior Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology,
Cambridge University, Cambridge.
Adriano Moreira, former Minister, Professor, Technical University of Lisbon
Heinrich Schneider, Professor Emeritus, University of Vienna
Mario Soares, former President of Portugal Rüdiger Stephan, Secretary General
of the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam
Massimo La Torre, Professor, Department of Law, European University Institute,
Gilbert Trausch, Professor Emeritus, University of Liège
Jérôme Vignon, former Director of the Forward Studies Unit, European
Brussels (1989-1998). Director for the Strategy, Délégation à l'Aménagement du
Territoire et à l'Action Régionale (DATAR), Paris
Roger de Weck, Editor of "Tages-Anzeiger", Zürich
More information about the paleopsych