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

2. European identity

  • 18-19 September 2006 in Brussels: Conference organized by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on "European identity" 
  • On 25 March 2007, the Berlin Declaration, marking the EU’s 50th anniversary underlined its “common ideals”: the individual, human dignity and equality of men and women. Other values stressed by the declaration are peace and freedom, democracy and the rule of law, as well as tolerance and solidarity. However, the celebratory text did not include any reference to god or the EU's Christian roots.

With the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the founding of the “European Union” in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty, endowing the European Community with new and stronger competences in a wide range of areas (e. g. in the field of foreign affairs, security and defense), two questions gained renewed urgency: the definition of EU borders and that of the political legitimacy of the Union in the eyes of its citizens - the ‘glue’ that unites all Europeans and keeps the Community together.

Debates about European identity have intensified in the context of EU enlargement and the EU Constitutional Treaty. Although the motto "unity in diversity" is generally seen as best describing the aim of the EU, opinions differ widely as to how it should be understood.  How to delineate the idea Europe (geographically, historically, culturally, politically…)? Does a European identity exist?

Surveys show that EU citizens continue to identify first of all with their own country. According to a Eurobarometer survey at the end of 2004, only 47 % of EU citizens saw themselves as citizens of both their country and Europe, 41 % as citizens of their country only. 86 % of the interviewees felt pride in their country, while 68 % were proud of being European. In general, people feel more attached to their country (92 %), region (88 %), city (87 %) than to Europe (67 %). Low voter turnout at the European Parliament elections in 2004 (54 %) and the 2007 results regarding the acceptance of the Nice Treaty seems to be an indicator hereof.

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.

Activity 1

  • Surf to the Eurobarometer site and check how  Europeans today feel about the Union:
  • How closely do people in your homecountry feel attached to their nation/region? How has this evolved over time?
  • Look at the cartoon below. What does it tell you about how people in different member states view the European union?


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