The European Union

For Europe, like any other nation, to be successful it must possess an identity of its own. Not just to differentiate itself from other continents and regions, but to create a European political culture that will ensure patriotism from both its member states and the citizenry. Europe has constantly been at war, regions and states against one another, division of East and West and even internal revolutions portraying disorder caused by discontent of the political and/ or economic situation. Furthermore, without some kind of allegiance to the European Union how can the community make decisions for the common good of all its peoples?

States continue to assert their national interests and veto discussions that may not fall into a category that will benefit them. Although a European identity has been little considered as yet, it appears that in order for the enlarged European Union to become a powerful international actor it must come together, nation-states must be transcended, if not dissolved, and rather than being a community of states heckling over their own interests, evolve into a federation of different regions seeking the good of the community.

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Europe is a continent made up of such diverse states, each with their own history and culture, these things need not be forgotten and most definitely should not be ignored, rather they need to be embraced and somehow included in what it means to be European. There needs to be established a ‘transnational nationalism’1 that incorporates all those nation-state histories to create a new European identity, resulting in an allegiance between states and promote peace. Without this ‘transnational nationalism’ there remains possibility for conflicts to arise between states as nation-state nationalism is increasingly embraced by the people of Europe.

Germany, for instance, a founding member of the EEC, one that contributed to the formation of the political institutions within the EU, and remains one of the most economically powerful member states, appears to be shying away from its strong connection with the EU. The people of Germany are reasserting their nationalism, looking beyond their Nazi past and rediscovering themselves. Germany as a state are attempting to reduce their economic responsibility to the EU and the Franco-German relationship appears to be breaking down over political differences2. Without some change this may be the first sign of EU disintegration.

Similarly Poland continues to force its national interests on the EC and has had some difficulty in accepting its new responsibility in acting beyond the realm of the nation-state and working toward a stronger, more stable integrated Europe. Without some identity, common political culture, without a feeling of being European, it appears the EU will fall back upon its history and never accomplish the great cosmopolitan ideal. The technocratic foundations of the European Union are evolving with enlargement; it is now a community of political, social and economic institutions3.

A transnational confederation, the European Union has been proportionately successful in establishing itself as a new actor in the international system. However for it to continue its path along expansion and integration, it first needs to resolve certain issues that have been neglected or overlooked in its past. One increasingly important aspect of the European Union that has been little focused upon is the identity of Europe, the idea of solidarity transcending states, the emotive connection of peoples across boarders and sensing necessary patriotism to the EU.

If the need for identity is ignored it is likely the European Union will experience further complications in its political and social realms, such as the referendum on the European Constitution. The people of Europe are yet to feel ‘European’ above their national identities, in some cases those national identities are becoming stronger in opposition to the over-arching European Commission. The structure of the EU is little understood among member state citizens, they ask ‘why should we give up our sovereignty?

‘ and ‘why are we responsible for less stable member states? ‘ The problem is easy enough to discern, the real concern however is how a European identity can be constructed? The union is simply an agglomeration of various entirely diverse states, each with different histories and cultures4. Although the Maastricht Treaty states that he EU will find ‘Unity in Diversity’, how is this possible without some social link between states? One cannot unite with what one cannot relate to, or even associate with?

The question of identity becomes even more apparent with resent proposals toward a European Federation, which would possibly mean the end of the traditional ‘nation-state’, and embrace a new United States of Europe5. Without solidarity transcending national identities this is an unlikely outcome. Even today it appears that the lack of identification with the EU and reassertion of national interests in the various political and economic institutes, is already leading to member states distancing themselves from the European Commission.

Germany in particular is attempting to reduce their economic responsibility within the European Union, and on a social level there appears an increasing sense of ‘Germaness’. Poland, on the other hand, has experienced some difficulty in its accession to the EU, fearing its newly founded democratic state being under threat of European dominance. Since 1989 this member state finally claimed its independence and reconstructed a strong and influential national identity, that for the first time in centuries, it had been denied.

For every member state there are issues of state sovereignty, conflicting interests, a lack of a common goal for Europe – these issues cannot be resolved without some form of European identity that will bring the Union together, that they may finally work together to accomplish the common good. Cosmopolitanists have approached the question and make various suggestions that would lead to a transnational European nationalism and eventually result in the envisioned ‘European Federation’.

The time has come for the European Union to consider aspects of itself that have long been ignored in order for it to reach its full potential as an international actor and even sustain peace and security within its own boarders. With the increased complexity of the European Union due to its recent (and approaching) expansion there is a need to consider the European identity on a deeper level, how to create a ‘dynamic’ solidarity that is ‘related to the process of growth and development’6. Originally the European Union was a community based on common economic interests and was created to promote stability and security in the post war region.

France and Germany came together to construct a union that would prevent similar nationalistic conflicts as WWII, at the same time trying to rebuild their economies and re-establish their international political position. Today, that founding creation appears but a sapling of the modern European Union, one that attempts to embody concepts of unity, humanism and democracy7. Yet regardless of its expansion and increased responsibilities and institutions, the EU has little altered its technocratic foundation.

On January 29, 2003 during the summit in Brussels various representatives of EU member states came together to discuss the problem of European identity and common culture. The general conclusion was that the EU could not possess a traditional identity, and if it does construct an identity it cannot be realised on the basis of political and social institutions. The EU must look beyond the traditional identity and even beyond the idea of nation-state in order to resolve the issue considering that it has no common history, culture or language. Ferrari suggested that ‘one should try to elicit the core values underlying {European solidarity}8.

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