Saturday 8 August 2009

Being European, or becoming European?

European identity is a complex one with many debates surrounding it (European nationalisms and identities is a particular interest of Josef's over at the Citizen-Europe blog), and identity, politics and culture fascinate me in how they interact at times. Still, on the question of European identity, I can only give a personal response.

So am I European, becoming European or is there any "European" for me to be anyway?

"European" to me is a lot of things. First, there's the mix of values that always gets mentioned when European identity is brought up; which is shown in a certain balance between individualism and the community and the welfare state. It's also a shared cultural and historical legacy that has shaped the continent and its nations, though sometimes in different ways.

Mostly, for me, being - or becoming - European is aspirational. When I think of Europe, I think of its diversity and its languages and its traditions, and I want to travel, explore and experience all of the little differences, while I still feel at home. To me it's not rootless cosmopolitanism, but a deep appreciation for many roots and a desire to feel a part of the different places and people that I meet.

Being European seems to be a process; of traveling, learning, meeting and experiencing, in places that feel to be familiar, but with added flavour. It's not something that I can really claim to be very good at - I have no natural gift at languages, though I try in my own way to learn more and practice (see my on-again-off-again German blog), and in many ways I'm very rooted locally: with my friends and family, and with my degree (and presumably career) path anchoring me home. I'm also a creature of habit. Though some factors mean that I cannot move as freely as some, I have met several people who I have found inspirational in their attitude.

For me, the European Ideal is in discovering and enjoying all that Europe has to offer. I doubt that many people could ever really "be" European - at least in the fullest sense of what I have in my head - but I think that the process of becoming is perhaps the major part of the thing itself. It's certainly one of the most enjoyable parts.

So am I European? Can you ever really say for yourself? Blogging has made me feel more European, and more connected, and has moved me to become a part of things like Th!nk2. If nothing else, I certainly want to be European - I've seen it, and I want to be part of it.

Do you think that a European identity could ever be inspirational (or aspirational)?


  1. interesting question that last one.
    I think that the idea of a European identity can be inspirational and additional to your passport nationality (a chance to be just a tiny bit associated with the positive qualities of 27 different nations and numerous cultures).
    The concept of countries voluntarily working together and agreeing to be bound to the result together for the greater good should also be inspiring- while inevitably the reality doesn't always live up to the ideal, it probably says something about the mentality that I don't want to be part of in my own country that this is reported in the press as a negative or an unacceptable compromise.
    Aspirational? Certainly.
    My European identity is not directly linked to the powers of the EU institutions - they don't have to have more for me to feel "European".
    But then I'm a former student of European politics who's worked in and around the technical legislative sides of the EU for a decade. I ought to know and care. So the aspirational bit I guess is that others should know and care too, see the benefits (even those we just bank as if they were already there such as freedom of movement) and enjoy it as an added extra rather than a threat.

  2. It is hard for the kind of conceptual and impersonal aspirations that the EU stands for to be personalised for individuals. I don't think that European identity should be linked too much with the power of the EU and its institutions - part of my musings was the question if there could be a European story or identity that could speak to people at a personal level, and if what I feel to be a European identity could/would/does fit thatin any way.

    If there could be any idea of "the European way of life" (though I don't really like the expression) or if there is an abstract idea of "the European". How such an identity forms would be very interesting on and political and cultural level, simply because of the cultural battles there'd be in deciding how a "European" identity will turn out.

  3. The "European way of life" is more like the European ways of life: we can claim both the meditarranean cafe culture with moderate alcohol intake over a long evening, and the binge drinking northern European style of alcohol intake are traditional European ways of drinking, for example.
    But I think you are right that it's more complicated than that - for an example try backpacking round Australia. My little bro informs me that on his trip he initially found himself grouping with Americans and Canadians on language grounds but found their way of travelling embarassing somehow (he didn't give details). It was when he joined up with Germans, Swedes, Norwegians and Dutch backpackers that had somehow drifted together that he felt 2at home".
    I'd love to be able to claim some link to the history of Rome or Florence, the effortless chic of my French contemporaries, the amazing drama of the Scottish highlands and the Greek islands...

  4. And healthcare in EU ?

    Here is a story that has been quiet down in sweden and their Media is involved too.

    In July 2009 took Sweden over the chairmanship of the European Union, and in September 2009 a large
    conference is planned in Kronoberg and Växjö with over 500 delegates representing most of the member states.

    With regard to the fact that the “investigation” was instigated in Växjö and the whole story revolving around authorities in Kronoberg it would be inappropriate that this horrible and shameful account should be drawn to the attention of the Public in all of the EU member states, and especially embarrassing for The Swedish State, Kronoberg, Växjö Council and others directly involved.
    Here is the shameful story: