What is a common European identity

More than 50 years have passed since the Treaty of Rome was signed. The united Europe has changed a lot since then. The European Economic Community has become the European Union, and the economic unification has also become a political one. New member states have been added, the European Union now comprises 27 states.

The more countries were involved in the European integration process and the closer not only economic but also political cooperation became, the more the question of what constitutes Europe and the European Union in terms of content and values ​​was discussed. The project of a pan-European history book is one of the attempts to determine the European identity, as is the search for metaphors that describe the united Europe: From the "common house" to the "construction site Europe" an attempt is made in pictorial form to the European project describe.

Since the 1970s, the catchphrase of European identity, which needs to be created and strengthened, has become an integral part of the debates about Europe. At their summit in Copenhagen in 1973, the heads of state and government spoke of European identity for the first time in an official EC document. As a result of the events of 1989 and the enlargement round of 2004, the question of European identity has intensified. Historical-political debates sparked here, especially when it came to dealing with the common past. A return of history to public space can be seen across Europe. Negotiations were held between Austria and the Czech Republic about how to deal with the Benes decrees, and a debate ensued between Germany and Poland about a center for displaced persons in Berlin. Different cultures of remembrance collided and showed the historical-political challenges for a European identity. As a result of these debates - despite partly controversial convictions and sometimes fierce exchanges - a culture of discussion that transcended EU national borders and a new form of European public sphere emerged.

→ Knowledge station on the Benes decrees

In particular, the start of EU accession negotiations with Turkey has fueled the European identity debate. Back in 2002, the President of the EU Convention, Valerie Giscard D’Estaing, said about Turkey that it had "a different culture, a different approach, a different way of life". Since the 9/11 attacks, the debate about Europe and Islam has also reignited. In connection with a possible EU accession of Turkey, there is a discussion about whether the European Union is a Christian community of values.

→ Topic module: clash of civilizations

Further to:
Perspectives in 2017 - How will European unification continue?
Home: 1989 and the aftermath
1989 - the year of upheavals
On the history of the European integration project