Module II. The European Multinational and Multicultural Identity: assets and tensions, immigration and integration policies

2.4. Models of looking at Europe?

As mentioned above, relatively low political participation and weak attachment pose a legitimacy problem to the EU. However, there is little agreement on how identification can be strengthened. In the following, different models are put forward:

Europe of culture or "family of nations"

Communitarians believe that a polity can only be stable if anchored in a common history and culture. They emphasise that European identity has emerged from common movements in religion and philosophy, politics, science and the arts. Therefore, they tend to exclude Turkey from the ranks of possible future member states and argue a stronger awareness of the Christian (or Judeo-Christian) tradition. “United in diversity” is taken to refer to Europe as a “family of nations”. On this basis, it is high time to define EU borders.

Main problems: Opponents argue that this view is a form of “Euro-nationalism” that leads to exclusionary policies within European societies (as regards non-European immigrants) and the polarisation of global politics, with the “clash of civilisations” prophesied by the scholar Samuel P. Huntington as its worst possible outcome.

Europe of citizens or "constitutional patriotism"

Liberals and republicans, on the other hand, argue for a common political culture, or civic identity, based on universal principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law etc. expressed in the framework of a common public sphere and political participation (or “constitutional patriotism”, a term coined by the German scholar Jürgen Habermas). They believe that cultural identities, religious beliefs etc. should be confined to the private sphere. For them, European identity will emerge from common political and civic practices, civil society organisations and strong EU institutions. “United in diversity”, according to this view, means that the citizens share the same political and civic values, while at the same time adhering to different cultural practices. The limits of the community should be a question of politics, not culture.

Main problems: The liberal-republican stance is often criticised for what is seen as the artificial distinction between the private and the public, the subjective and the universal. Democracy and human rights, according to critics, are not universal values, but spring themselves from specific cultural traditions. Problems related to cultural differences are ignored, rather than dealt with. Furthermore, solidarity and emotional bonds in societies can only result from cultural feelings of belonging together, never from purely abstract principles. 

Europe as space of encounters

Constructivists believe that a “European identity” could emerge as a consequence of intensified civic, political and cultural exchanges and cooperation. As identities undergo constant change, “European identity” would be encompassing multiple meanings and identifications and would be constantly redefined through relationships with others. “United in Diversity” would mean the participation in collective political and cultural practices. It would be wrong and impossible to fix EU borders. 

Main problems: This view, according to critics, overemphasises the ability of people to adapt to a world in flux und underestimates their need for stability. Too much diversity can eventually lead to the loss of identity, orientation and coherence, and therefore undermine democracy and established communities.

However, despite fundamental differences there are a number of factors that are seen by most as preconditions for the emergence of a European identity:

  • politics: the strengthening of democratic participation at all levels and more democracy at EU level
  • education and culture: strengthening of the European dimension in certain subjects (especially history), more focus on language learning, more exchanges etc. 
  • Social and economic cohesion: counteracting social and economic differences

Activity 6

  • Read the charta on European Identity:  

    In a speech to the European Parliament on March 8th, 1994, the poet Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, indicated the need for a Charter of European Identity. The idea was taken up by Europa-Union Deutschland which, at its 40th Congress held in Bremen on 5.11.94, decided to undertake the work of producing such a Charter. A first draft was debated at the 41st Congress of Europa-Union Deutschland in Lübeck. October 27-28th, 1995, and passed on October 28th, 1995, with only two votes against.

    This Charter - which discusses Europe under the headings of its destiny, values, living standards, economic and social policies, and responsibilities - aims to stimulate a wide-ranging debate of these issues in order that we may achieve a Union which is closer to its citizens, committed to common policies " based on solidarity, credible, anid capable of making its citizens proud to be Europeans".

    What do you think about the conclusions made there? How can these conclusions support the preconditions mentioned above?

< previus | index | next >