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Sunday, 16 September 2012 08:56

European identity is a sandwich

European identity is a sandwich. That was one of the conclusions from the "Does Europe lack cohesion?" event organised by the Körber Foundation, Eurozine, Europa neuer Ideen e.V. and E&M as part of the series Europe@Debate. A sandwich because you can add different layers - such as local, regional, national or European identities - and because adding one doesn't mean you need to take out another. That is, European identity is diverse and not exclusive.

The metaphor was created by Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulić when Matthias Naß, International Correspondent for Die ZEIT and the panel moderator, asked the participants how they would describe the European identity they define themselves with. Drakulić brought up the sandwich, E&M's Julia Schulte mentioned politics as in the achievement of democracy and freedom of movement, and Saila Huusko, from FutureLabEurope, explained it was something she first felt when she was studying abroad in the US. The truth is, it is the eternal question in Europe, and the answers always seem to be highly dependant on metaphorical references like that of Drakulić's sandwich.

Philosophical symbols vs tangible experiences

In a previous article, Mourad Mahidi came up with the idea that European identity is a rooftop built upon national identities gathering the values they have in common. "It is more like a philosophical concept," he said. And looking at Hamburg's event, European identity was indeed seen as a set of values rather than tangible common experiences.

Drakulić and Schulte both agreed that all national identities are an artificial construction, and that what Europe needs is a leadership that takes those values and convinces the citizens to adopt the construction. "If big parties don't address this, nationalists or extremists will take their place," warned Drakulić.

Published in Imagine Europe
Monday, 20 August 2012 09:30

European identity is in its childhood

Imagine Europe in ten, thirty, fifty years. Will we ever be able to build a European identity or will Europe turn into one large museum? Leire Ariz investigates what young Europeans in Brussels have to say about Slavenka Drakulić’s predictions for the old continent.

Carmen Păun is a volunteer for the European Youth Press in Brussels. Like many of the young people in the bubble, she came from Romania to study in a masters programme, and after several internships, settled for a job. She has a German friend of Chinese origin who once told her jokingly: "China can turn Europe into a parking lot." 

Museums are for the past

It is a similar statement to that made by journalist Slavenka Drakulić, who was interviewed in E&M's latest issue. Her vision of Europe's future suited that of a theme park. "The continent will be flooded with tourists, mostly from the east, who look at the Old Continent as we now look at Babylon."

Păun is sceptical about the EU's future the way we know it, but doesn't believe Europe will be reduced to a tourist attraction. "Did Russia become an iconic park for communism? Not really," she says.

In general, people in Brussels tend to disagree with pessimistic views about Europe's coming years. It may be because people who come here usually do so because they are convinced Europeanists, or because many have academic backgrounds related to the EU, or simply because their work future is often closely related to that of the continent.

Carmen, Jeremy, Francesco, Mourad and Kaltrina - all five of the bubble-inhabitants I spoke to had amendments to make to Drakulić's prediction. Jeremy, a Belgian journalist, put it in a way that summed it up: "museums are for the past! European identity is in its childhood."

Published in Brussels Bubble
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