Pan-European identity

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Pan-European identity is the sense of personal identification with Europe, in a cultural or political sense. The concept is discussed in the context of European integration, historically in connection with hypothetical proposals, but since the formation of the European Union (EU) in the 1990s increasingly with regard to the project of ever-increasing federalisation of the EU. The model of a "pan-European" union is the Carolingian Empire, which first defined "Europe" as a cultural entity as the areas ruled by the Roman Catholic Church, later known as "Medieval Western Christendom" (which extended its scope further eastwards to the shores of the Baltic Sea during the course of the Middle Ages). The original proposal for a Paneuropean Union was made in 1922 by Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, who defined the term "pan-European" as referring to this historical sense of the western and central parts of continental Europe encompassing the cultures that evolved from medieval Western Christendom (ie: Catholic and Protestant Europe, with the exception of the British Isles) instead of the modern geographic definition of the continent of Europe. Coudenhove-Kalergi saw the pan-European state as a future "fifth great power", in explicit opposition to the Soviet Union, "Asia", Great Britain and the United States (as such explicitly excluding both the British Isles and the areas that were influenced by Byzantine Christendom, which are usually considered a part of geographical Europe, from his notion of "pan-European").[1]

After 1945, an accelerating process of European integration culminated in the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993. In the period from 1995–2020, the EU has been enlarged from 12 to 27 member states, far beyond the area originally envisaged for the "pan-European" state by Coudenhove-Kalergi (with the exception of Switzerland), its member states accounting for a population of some 510 million, or two-thirds of the population of the entire continent. In the 1990s to 2000s, there was an active movement towards a federalisation of the European Union, with the introduction of symbols and institutions usually reserved for sovereign states, such as citizenship, a common currency (used by 19 out of 27 members), a flag, an anthem and a motto (In Varietate Concordia, "United in Diversity"). An attempt to introduce a European Constitution was made in 2004, but it failed to be ratified; instead, the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in 2007 in order to salvage some of the reforms that had been envisaged in the constitution.

A debate on the feasibility and desirability of a "pan-European identity" or "European identity" has taken place in parallel to this process of political integration. A possible future "European identity" is seen at best as one aspect of a "multifaceted identity" still involving national or regional loyalties. Two authors writing in 1998 concluded that "In the short term, it seems that the influence of this project [of European integration] will only influence European identity in certain limited niches and in a very modest way. It is doubtful if this will do to ensure a smooth process of ongoing European integration and successfully address the challenges of the multicultural European societies."[2] Even at that time, the development of a common European identity was viewed as rather a by-product than the main goal of the European integration process, even though it was actively promoted by both EU bodies and non-governmental initiatives, such as the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission.[2][3] With the rise of EU-scepticism and opposition to continued European integration by the early 2010s, the feasibility and desirability of such a "European identity" has been called into question.[4]

History of pan-Europeanism[edit]

Pan-Europeanism, as it emerged in the wake of World War I, derived a sense of European identity from the idea of a shared history, taken to be the source of a set of fundamental "European values".[clarification needed]

Typically[clarification needed] the 'common history' includes a combination of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, the feudalism of the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, 19th century liberalism and different forms of socialism, Christianity and secularism, colonialism and the World Wars.

The oldest European unification movement is the Paneuropean Union, founded in 1923 with the publishment of Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi's book Paneuropa, who also became its first president (1926–1972), followed by Otto von Habsburg (1973–2004) and Alain Terrenoire (from 2004). This movement initiated and supported the "integration process" pursued after World War II, which eventually led to the formation of the European Union. Notable "Paneuropeans" include Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi.

European values[edit]

Especially in France, "the European idea" (l'idée d'Europe) is associated with political values derived from the Age of Enlightenment and the Republicanism growing out of the French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848 rather than with personal or individual identity formed by culture or ethnicity (let alone a "pan-European" construct including those areas of the continent never affected by 18th-century rationalism or Republicanism).[5]

The phrase "European values" arises as a political neologism in the 1980s in the context of the project of European integration and the future formation of the European Union. The phrase was popularised by the European Values Study, a long-term research program started in 1981, aiming to document the outlook on "basic human values" in European populations. The project had grown out of a study group on "values and social change in Europe" initiated by Jan Kerkhofs, and Ruud de Moor (Catholic University in Tilburg).[6] The claim that the people of Europe have a distinctive set of political, economic and social norms and values that are gradually replacing national values has also been named "Europeanism" by McCormick (2010).[7]

"European values" were contrasted to non-European values in international relations, especially in the East–West dichotomy, "European values" encompassing individualism and the idea of human rights in contrast to Eastern tendencies of collectivism. However, "European values" were also viewed critically, their "darker" side not necessarily leading to more peaceful outcomes in international relations.[8]

The association of "European values" with European integration as pursued by the European Union came to the fore with the eastern enlargement of the EU in the aftermath of the Cold War. [9]

The Treaty of Lisbon (2007) in article 2 lists a number of "values of the Union", including "respect for freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights including the rights of persons belonging to minorities", invoking "a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail".[10]

The 2012 Eurobarometer survey reported that 49% of those surveyed described the EU member states as "close" in terms of "shared values" (down from 54% in 2008), 42% described them as "different" (up from 34% in 2008).[11]

Identity factors[edit]

It has been for long a matter of discussions[12][13][14] to know whether or not this feeling of belonging was shared by a majority of Europeans, geographically speaking, and the strength of this feeling.

There are discussions as well about the question of the objective factors or "Europeanness". An approach[15] underlines how, for being European, a person would at least have to:

  • be a citizen of a state, located by stipulation, to be geographically within Europe;
  • speak a language which is officially accepted as one of the official languages of that state;
  • share a historical destiny with other people, within that state, speaking the aforementioned language;
  • share a cultural pattern with other such people, where the cultural pattern is seen as consisting of similar cognitive, evaluative and emotional elements".

Usually, four steps are considered as conditions in the building of cultural and political identity:

  • The recognition of a "self" distinct from others, "them".
  • The recognition that this "self", this "identification" is in opposition to "them". In order for an identity to thrive, there must be a challenge, a competitive edge or conflicts of interests.
  • 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 establishment of common expected and desired goals. Such goals can be elaborated as utopian systems or models, like the federalist and confederalist conceptions of a new European order, or as partial working solutions to pragmatically felt needs, such as those postulated by neo-functionalists.

One of the clearly stated political objectives of the European Union is the deepening of the European identity feeling.[16]

Cultural and linguistic identity[edit]

Defining a European identity is a very complex process. From outside, "Europeanness" would be a thing for a Chinese or an American, but on the internal plan geography is not sufficient to define Europe in the eyes of Europeans. According to Jean-Baptiste Duroselle,[17] "there has been, since men think, an immense variety of Europes". Paul Valéry cites three major heritages to define the European identity : the Greek democracy, the Roman Law, and the Judeo-Christian tradition.[18] Yet Emmanuel Berl[19] criticizes this thesis as reductive, since it supposes a level of "Europeanness", decreasing for West to East. According to him, Europe is shape-shifting, and no culture historically prevails over another, and European Islam, which concerns around 8% of the population, is one of the many sides of European identity.

Eurobarometer surveys on identity[edit]

The Eurobarometer surveys show that European and national identities tend to add rather than rule themselves out. In 2009, 3 French out of 5 felt French and European, a feeling that dominated in every socio-political group except the National Front supporters. Yet this tendency is not geographically homogeneous: 63% of Britons favoured their sole nationalities (which has been one of the main explanations of the Brexit vote), against 27% Luxembourgian. During these surveys, the respondents are asked which notions they spontaneously associate with the EU. Democracy, Human Rights, Freedom of movement and the euro are the most cited. There are divergences between generations: those who knew war directly or through their parents' narrations mention peace, while the younger evoke market economy. The idea that identity is built through opposition to other groups is also confirmed since 60% of Europeans state they rather or fully agree with the idea that "compared with other continents, it is distinctly easier to see what Europeans have in common in terms of values"[20]

Linguistic diversity[edit]

Five languages have more than 50 million native speakers in Europe: Russian, German, French, Italian and English. While Russian has the largest number of native speakers (more than 100 million in Europe), English has the largest number of speakers in total, including some 200 million speakers of English as a second language.[21] There is no final account of all European languages, but the sole EU recognizes 24 official languages. For some, the linguistic diversity is constituent of European identity.[22]

In popular culture[edit]

Aspects of an emerging "European identity" in popular culture may be seen in the introduction of "pan-European" competitions such as the Eurovision Song Contest (since 1956), the UEFA European Championship (since 1958) or, more recently, the European Games (2015). In these competitions, it is still teams or representatives of the individual nations of Europe that are competing against one another, but a "European identity" many argued to arise from the definition the "European" participants (often loosely defined, e.g. including Morocco, Israel and Australia in the case of the Eurovision Song Contest), and the emergence of "cultural rites" associated with these events.[23] In the 1990s and 2000s, participation in the Eurovision Song Contest was to some extent perceived as a politically significant confirmation of nationhood and of "belonging to Europe" by the then-recently independent nations of Eastern Europe.[24]

Pan-European events not organised along national lines include the European Film Awards, presented annually since 1988 by the European Film Academy to recognize excellence in European cinematic achievements. The awards are given in over ten categories, of which the most important is the Film of the year. They are restricted to European cinema and European producers, directors, and actors.[25]

The Ryder Cup golf competition is a biennial event, originally between a British and an American team, but since 1979 admitting continental European players to form a "Team Europe". The flag of Europe was used to represent "Team Europe" since 1991, but reportedly most European participants preferred to use their own national flags.[26] There have also been attempts to use popular culture for the propagation of "identification with the EU" on the behalf of the EU itself. These attempts have proven controversial. In 1997, the European Commission distributed a comic strip titled The Raspberry Ice Cream War, aimed at children in schools. The EU office in London declined to distribute this in the UK, due to an expected unsympathetic reception for such views.[27][28] Captain Euro, a cartoon character superhero mascot of Europe, was developed in the 1990s by branding strategist Nicolas De Santis to support the launch of the Euro currency.[29][30][31]

In 2014, London branding think tank, Gold Mercury International, launched the Brand EU Centre, with the purpose of solving Europe's identity crisis and creating a strong brand of Europe.[32][33] There have been proposals[by whom?][year needed] to create a European Olympic Team, which would break with the existing organisation through National Olympic Committees.[34] In 2007, European Commission President Romano Prodi suggested that EU teams should carry the European flag, alongside the national flag, at the 2008 Summer Olympics – a proposal which angered eurosceptics.[35][36] According to Eurobarometer surveys, only 5% of respondents think that a European Olympic team would make them feel more of a 'European citizen'.[37]

Institutional actions to promote European identity[edit]

The European institutions made several concrete attempts to reinforce two things: identity contents (what is Europe in people's minds?) and identity formation (what makes people feel European?).[38] The .eu domain name extension was introduced in 2005 as a new symbol of European Union identity on the World Wide Web. The .eu domain's introduction campaign specifically uses the tagline "Your European Identity". Registrants must be located within the European Union.

Direct policies[edit]

On the cultural plan, the European Union began a policy in the 70s with the directive "Television without Frontiers", which allowed free trade of TV programs and guaranteed more than half of the air time to European operas.[39] The culture programme finances other cultural activities in order to strengthen the European common identity. The European Union also bet on symbols: the flag, the anthem ("Ode to Joy" from the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony), the motto "In varietate concordia", the two Europe days. Great cultural unifying events are organised, such as the European heritage days, or the election of the Capital of Culture. The youth mobility has been encouraged since the launching of the Erasmus programme in 1987, which has permitted students to go to 33 European countries.

The challenge of communication, to make the European project more understandable to the 500 million citizens, in 24 languages, has also been addressed: in 2004, the first Vice-President of the Commission has the Communication Strategy portfolio. The common values are reasserted through the judicial action of the European Court of Human Rights. Linked to this, the European Union funds many surveys (such as Eurobarometer) and scientific studies, to improve its identity-building policies. A collection of such studies is for example The development of European Identity/Identities : Unfinished Business[16]

The boundaries of European identity[edit]

Just as every sociological identity, the European identity is not as much defined by its contents as by its boundaries.[40] There are today heated political debates on whether to or not to allow immigrants coming to Europe, and on which criteria. The debate is also on whether to integrate or assimilate people that come from very different cultures, and how to do it. Many European right-wing politicians[41] are now advocating a vision of European identity (often seen as a White and Christian one) as a citadel being threaten by immigration, and thus needing to be defended by harsher policies on this matter. A new far right movement even baptized itself the Identitarians. Their adversaries often say that this vision of Europe is racist,[42] and that it symbolically excludes people who are already European by law.

The geographical definitions of Europe do not seem to be a matter of discussion any more,[citation needed] but the question of a European identity arises concerning countries that are geographically part of Asia as well, such as Russia or Turkey. The question also arises when it comes to European territories outside of (geographical) Europe, such as the French overseas departments. French Guianese, for example, are European citizens even though they are born and live in South America.


The risk, defining a European identity, is to close up from other cultures that would not correspond to pre-defined criteria. To face this difficulty, vagueness is necessary: the Treaty of Lisbon mentions, for example, "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance".[43] Moreover, it would be illusory to impose a principle of cultural homogeneity to states with various national identities. Jean-Marc Ferry considers[44] that the European construction developed new differentiation, between citizenship and nationality for example, with the birth of post national citizenship[45] in 1992. According to Raymond Aron,[46] the construction can predate the European sentiment, but the last is essential to avoid a fictional Europe, a Europe that would only be a meaningless word in which the people do not recognize themselves. This idea is backed by Jacques Delors, who wrote in 1992 that it is needed to "give Europe a soul, (...) a spirituality, a meaning" beyond the simple economic and administrative realities.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eine Wiederherstellung der europäischen Weltherrschaft ist unmöglich; wohl aber ist es noch möglich, durch Zusammenfassung der europäischen Staaten diesen Erdteil zu einer fünften Weltmacht zusammenzuschliessen und so den Frieden, die Freiheit und den Wohlstand der Europäer zu retten." Coudenhove-Kalergi, Paneuropäisches Manifest (1923).
  2. ^ a b Dirk Jacobs and Robert Maier, European identity: construct, fact and fiction Archived 19 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine in: A United Europe. The Quest for a Multifaceted Identity (1998) pp. 13–34.
  3. ^ Pinterič, Uroš (2005). "National and supranational identity in context of the European integration and globalization". Društvena Istraživanja. 14 (3): 401–402.
  4. ^ Kenneth Keulman, Agnes Katalin Koós, European Identity: Its Feasibility and Desirability (2014)
  5. ^ Marita Gilli, L'idée d'Europe, vecteur des aspirations démocratiques: les idéaux républicains depuis 1848 : actes du colloque international organisé à l'Université de Franche-Comté les 14, 15 et 16 mai 1992 (1994).
  6. ^ Serendipities 2.2017 (1): 50–68 | doi: 10.25364/11.2:2017.1.4 50ARTICLE Kristoffer Kropp, The cases of the European Values Study and the European Social Survey—European constellations of social science knowledge production, Serendipities 2.2017 (1): 50–68, doi: 10.25364/11.2:2017.1.4.
  7. ^ John McCormick, Europeanism (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  8. ^ Vilho Harle, European Values in International Relations , 1990, i–x (preface).
  9. ^ Adrian G. V. Hyde-Price, The International Politics of East Central Europe, Manchester University Press, 1996, p. 60. "The new nationalist myth in Eastern Europe thus attempts to define contemporary national identity in terms of European values and a European cultural heritage. The desire to return to Europe and embrace European values has led to a growing acceptance in much of East Central Europe of liberal democracy, human rights, multilateral cooperation and European integration."
  10. ^ Treaty on the European Union, Title I: Common Provisions.
  11. ^ LES VALEURS DES EUROPÉENS, Eurobaromètre Standard 77 (2012), p. 4.
  12. ^ Colliver, Chloe (2016). "European Identity : A Crisis of Construction in the 21st Century ?". huffpost.
  13. ^ Shqerra, Endri (2013). European Identity : The Death of National Era ?. LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing. ISBN 978-3659489242.
  14. ^ "Europe and Europeans – questions of identity".
  15. ^ Bryder, Tom (2005). "European political identity: an attempt at conceptual clarification" (PDF). Psicología Política (31): 37–50.
  16. ^ a b Directorate-General for Research and Innovation Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities (2012). The Development of European Identity/Identities: unfinished business: a policy review. Brussel: European Commission.
  17. ^ Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste (1965). L'Idée d'Europe dans l'Histoire. Paris: Denoël. p. 17.
  18. ^ Hewitson, Mark; D’Auria, Matthew (2012). Europe in Crisis: Intellectuals and the European Idea, 1917–1957. New York ; Oxford: Berghahn Books. ISBN 9780857457271.
  19. ^ Berl, Emmanuel; de Fallois, Bernard; Morlino, Bernard (1985). Essais, textes recueillis, choisis et présentés par Bernard Morlino, préface de Bernard de Fallois. Paris: Juillard.
  20. ^ "Standard Eurobarometer 77, Page 7" (PDF). Eurobarometer. Spring 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  21. ^ "Ethnologue: languages of the world: summury by country". Ethnologue. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  22. ^ "Directorate-General for Translation". European Commission. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  23. ^ ""Eurovision is something of a cultural rite in Europe."". Archived from the original on 10 April 2006.
  24. ^ "We are no longer knocking at Europe’s door," declared the Estonian Prime Minister after his country’s victory in 2001. "We are walking through it singing... The Turks saw their win in 2003 as a harbinger of entry into the EU, and after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, tonight’s competition is a powerful symbol of Viktor Yushchenko’s pro-European inclinations." Oj, oj, oj! It's Europe in harmony. The Times, 21 May 2005. ""This contest is a serious step for Ukraine towards the EU," Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko said at the official opening of the competition." BBC, Ukrainian hosts' high hopes for Eurovision [1]
  25. ^ "European Film Awards".
  26. ^ "While some fans of the European players in golf's Ryder Cup unfurl the flag of the European Union, many persist in waving their national flags despite the multinational composition of the European team." Alan Bairner, Sport, Nationalism, and Globalization: European and North American Perspectives (2001), p. 2.
  27. ^ "European Commission Propaganda Comic". Archived from the original on 11 February 2006.
  28. ^ "Captain Euro". The Yes Men. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  29. ^ Designweek, 19 February 1998. Holy Bureaucrat! It's Captain Euro! Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  30. ^ Wall Street Journal, 14 December 1998. Captain Euro will teach children about the Euro, but foes abound. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  31. ^ Kidscreen, 1 March 1999. New Euro hero available for hire. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  32. ^ Designweek, Angus Montgomery, 29 May 2014. Is it time to rebrand the EU? Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  33. ^ CNBC, Alice Tidey, 19 May 2014. The EU's main problem? Its brand! Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  34. ^ "European Olympic Team". Archived from the original on 31 March 2006. Retrieved 7 February 2006.
  35. ^ Cendrowicz, Leo (1 March 2007). "United in Europe" (PDF). European Voice: 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  36. ^ "Olympics: Prodi wants to see EU flag next to national flags". EurActiv. 31 August 2004. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  37. ^ Eurobarometer 251, p 45, [2].
  38. ^ Recchi, Ettore (2014). "Pathways to European identity formation: a tale of two models". Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. 27 (2): 119–133. doi:10.1080/13511610.2013.873709. ISSN 1351-1610. S2CID 144604917.
  39. ^ "Television broadcasting activities: "Television without Frontiers" (TVWF) Directive". Eur-lex. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  40. ^ Barth, Frederik (1969). Ethnic Groups and Boundaries : The social organization of culture difference. Bergen; Oslo; London: Universitetsforlaget; George Allen & Unwin.
  41. ^ Mandeville, Laure. "Sur les terres de Viktor Orban, l'homme qui défie l'UE avec son projet d'Europe chrétienne". Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  42. ^ Courtil, Elise (2017). "Anti-migrants, homophobes, masculinistes, néo-nazis, complotistes: les identitaires européens ratissent large". Bastamag. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  43. ^ "Treaty of Lisbon: Article 1: Preamble". Eur-Lex. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  44. ^ Ferry, Jean-Marc (2013). L'Idée d'Europe. Paris: Presses de l'université Paris-Sorbonne. ISBN 978-2840509127.
  45. ^ Margiotta, Costanza (2018). "I presupposti teorici della cittadinanza europea: originarie contraddizioni e nuovi limiti, in". Freedom, Security & Justice: European Legal Studies (1): 49–72.
  46. ^ Aron, Raymond (1977). Plaidoyer pour l'Europe décadente. Paris: Robert Laffont.
  47. ^ Delors, Jacques (1992). Le nouveau concert européen. Paris: Odile Jacob. p. 25. ISBN 2738101585.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dedman, Martin. The origins and development of the European Union 1945–1995: a history of European integration (Routledge, 2006).
  • De Vries, Catherine E. "Don't Mention the War! Second World War Remembrance and Support for European Cooperation." JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies (2019).
  • Dinan, Desmond. Europe recast: a history of European Union (2nd ed. Palgrave Macmillan), 2004 excerpt.
  • Gregorini, Giovanni. "A Value to Labour. The ILO and the Process of European Economic Integration During the 1950s." Journal of European Economic History 46.3 (2017): 51–91.
  • Heuser, Beatrice. Brexit in History: Sovereignty or a European Union? (2019) excerpt also see online review
  • Kaiser, Wolfram, and Antonio Varsori, eds. European Union history: themes and debates (Springer, 2010).
  • Patel, Kiran Klaus, and Wolfram Kaiser. "Continuity and change in European cooperation during the twentieth century." Contemporary European History 27.2 (2018): 165–182. online
  • Schmale, Wolfgang, Europe as a cultural reference and value system, EGO – European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2010, retrieved: March 4, 2020 (pdf).