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European Identity: Concept and Description Essay

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2020

Abstract

This essay explains the concept of European identity. It provides a brief description of the European identity, its origin, and insightful facts concerning the concept. It defines the concept and provides strategies and causes of the European identity. The essay further dwells on the debate surrounding whether or not to embrace the identity, including its benefits and consequences. The body of the discussion ends with requisite conditions that should be met by the European Union members in order to realize the dream of European identity. At the end of the essay is a brief conclusion.

Introduction

Formulating the European identity is a very difficult task; it can only be achieved by putting into considerations all the uncertainties, ambiguities, and contradictions, which may include such aspects as law, oppression, spirituality, and materialism. The identity can be conceived in two main dimensions: a political form of identity and a geographical dimension. The prospect of the identity is founded on three projects, which are often conflicting: some commentators argue that there is need for Europe to establish itself as a world power; others advocate Europe with strong social underpinnings like democracy and human rights while the third category proposes the strengthening of individual states. The first project of building a politically powerful European identity was taking root and was actualized by the ratification of the Rome treaty, followed by Maastricht and later Amsterdam treaties (Niels 1).

Definition

Defining European identity involves answering the question of what I want to be. This question may result in assessing all the conditions, means, and contractions. Identity can be used in reference to individuals, and since individuals do not exist in isolation but in groups, and it is these associations that impact on their identities. There is no form of identity that is stable since they exist in dynamic communities. Identity refers to the process of self-identification. European identity, therefore, is the process where citizens of the European community identify with European culture (Jacobs and Maier 1).

Main analysis

The European identity was made possible through three main strategies: first was the construction of a common culture that is defined along with the culture of the European identity, just like how the national identities are founded. This can be achieved through the development of Euro-symbolism like a common flag, anthem, and passport format, which have the tendency of promoting uniform cultural identity. The European identity has been actualized by the use of developing a common system of education (Jacobs and Maier 1).

Another strategy of fostering the identity was through having a supra-national legal system because “it guarantees European inhabitants the same basic rights and European workers specific rights and this was made possible through the treaty of Rome” (Cerutti and Lucarelli 3). This also encompassed the ability of all Europeans to travel freely within the European territory.

The last strategy of enforcing the identity is universal citizenship. This common citizenship affirmed the right of every European citizen to free movement within the territory of member states; consequently, the right of every citizen to obtain diplomatic services outside the European Union just like one was a citizen of that country was granted to all citizens (Cerutti and Lucarelli 3).

This issue of European identity has some consequences; these are: it has led to a surge in the number of students who have taken the opportunity to receive part of their education and studies in other European countries. Several European citizens identify with their countries first and then EU second. Despite political union that exists in the EU, there is limited or low political participation due to the weak attachment towards the EU, and this poses problems of legitimacy. There has been no unanimity on how the identity can be strengthened. Among the areas that cause the disagreements on this matter of identity are discussed below.

First, there is a dilemma as to whether to pursue an identity based on the political or cultural realm. Currently, the European Union has been defined along political lines. This is evidenced from the treaties that founded the European Union and specifically the Rome treaty that argued for principles of liberty, democracy and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The European identity has been elusive in recent times and actualizing it has been a mirage. This was evidenced by the failure of some states to ratify the Lisbon treaty. In this respect, for example, Ireland voted “No” in a bid to ratify the treaty, there was also strong British opposition to the charter, and it argued that the treaty would not be binding to Britain. Poland has also joined the UK in requesting to opt-out of the treaty a choice that has been backed up by Ireland. This displays the emergence of cracks in the European Union. Berlin declaration that was adopted in 2007 spells out the common ideals that are universal and binding to all EU countries; these common ideals are individual and human dignity and equality of men and women (Jacobs and Maier 1).

Matters of the boundary have also been sensitive to the European identity. The treaties holding EU together do not define boundaries and any member considered to fall within the European boundaries can apply for accession only that they should fulfil basic minimum demands like having stable and democratic institutions, governance based on the rule of law and tolerance and solidarity. This has been considered to be weak to justify the presence of European identity. The identity debate has been fueled by issues of globalization and immigration (Cerutti and Lucarelli 23).

It is argued that a strong identity can be anchored in common history and culture; these two features will guarantee a stable European identity. The argument that the European identity developed from common religion, politics, philosophy, culture and art is not conclusive since it seeks to exclude Turkey from its member states. This is a problem emerging from the failure to define borders. The three factors that are considered to be necessary for the European identity to be real and practical are politic; this can be achieved through strengthening of democratic institutions and participation, second is education and culture; this can be actualized by strengthening of European understanding and dimension in certain subject which includes language learning and a lot of cultural exchange, third is social and economic cohesion; this will be aimed at counteracting social and economic differences (Niels 1).

Conclusion

The European identity remains a difficult dream that will be hard to realize; this is primarily due to several factors which include: lack of objectives for pursuing the project, second is that there exists a conflict of interest and culture by member states of European Union as witnessed in the exclusion of Turkey. There still exists a dilemma as to what should be prioritized in pursuing the European identity, which is whether it should begin politically or culturally or both.

Works Cited

Cerutti, Furio and Lucarelli, Sonia. The search for a European identity: values, policies and legitimacy of the European Union. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2008. Print.

Jacobs, Dirk and Maier, Robert. European identity: construct, fact and fiction in Gastelaars, M and de Ruijter. A united Europe, the quest for a multifaceted identity, n.d. Web.

Niels, Hojlund. What is European Identity? Media, n.d. Web.

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