Euromyths (9/10): National identity just hasn’t been eroded
2 August 2012
De Groene Amsterdammer
Eurosceptics argue that EU integration undermines national identities and cultures. But is there such thing as a common “European identity”? In its continuing series on euromyths, De Groene Amsterdammer tries to sound out what Europeans think.
The more European integration there is, the more national culture and identity suffer. This is, in short, the fear of eurocritics. At the same time, it is implicitly the hope of federalists: the stronger citizens’ European identity, the better.
But it is not true that more European cooperation leads to loss of national identity. Study after study shows that citizens associate themselves in the first instance with their own country and to a far lesser degree with Europe – whatever the case may be.
Naturally, it differs per country and depends on precisely what you ask, but the feeling of connection is always clear. Country first, Europe second. The Eurobarometer 2010: “Almost all respondents feel most attached to their own country (…) This is the case in every EU Member State.”
The idea that politics (more democratic participation, a stronger European Parliament), education (exchange programmes, European history lessons in schools) or social cohesion (increasing the sense of cohesion between the European countries) could make a contribution to a European identity has in fact been proven to be untrue in the past decade. No matter how much some EU technocrats might like things to be different, the tendency is in fact the reverse.
No “hotchpotch identity”
As the Eurobarometer states, “The determining factors for national identity seem to have changed since 2009. The emphasis on the most elusive, subjective concepts (feeling, sharing, believing) is diminshing, while there is a growing emphasis on the most objective, concrete concepts (places of birth of respondents and their parents, place of upbringing, language skills and civil rights).”
Two comments. In the first place, one does not exclude the other. A strong national identity can coincide with a European identity. This is certainly the case in many East European countries. A majority in these countries feel themselves European at the same time. The same applies in Italy and Belgium.
Secondly: due to the crisis the feeling of being connected has probably increased, although that is probably more a sense of communal fate than identity. But “hotchpotch identity” does not exist.
Translated from the Dutch by Kelly Boom