Milosh and Francesca are in Strasbourg. He is Polish, she is Italian. During weekends they travel to the German city Kehl for their favourite cup of afternoon coffee on the central square. We met them on the bus and started a vivid conversation in English evolving all the aspects of the shared Erasmus lifestyle. Just like them, we were experiencing the destiny of the multi-culti diving so it was easy to think of our own premier steps in the Belgium campus. As we were enjoying the exchange of stories and a delightful crunchy baguette, we realized that we had crossed both borders without any passport control. This was the trigger for our flow of thoughts to explode. We were wondering whether we keep all the advantages we benefit today as citizens of the European Union consciously in mind.

We consider that the idea behind the slogan “United in diversity” is much broader than the intention of a profitable union. Although it is based on the main principle of free movement of people, products, capitals and ideas, is it only the common economic interest that pushes us forward?

Is there something more powerful that keeps us united, such as a common identity?

May it be a myth or a truth, the European Identity is a new concept for the world and for the history too! The historical perspective of a national identity was built around the idea that the cultural similarities and common language should define a national identity and serve as a grounded reason to unite territories and countries. What the European Union does is uniting in a bold initiative a continent by definition diverse. And what’s most impressive is that the EU doesn’t suppress the cultural diversity of its member states. On the contrary, it encourages the freedom to express ourselves, as persons and nations. Thus, citizens that associate themselves with the European Identity are free citizens. The fact of being free and enjoying our freedom is our common value that unites us more than any other empire or organizational initiative has ever succeeded to.

What’s European Identity in theory?

A thorough research on the formation of the European Identity has been conducted since the ignition of the European Union idea. Nowadays, top European institutions invest in projects and research to explore the European Identity concept. Visionaries and highly-regarded intellectuals introduce their stances on the challenges of a European Identity. Sources vary on how we should define European Identity, how it is formed and what should be done in order to educate a European identity. Yet, most of these agree upon the fact that there is little effort put in supporting the cultural dimension related to identity. The following infographic presents the analyses conducted by the European Parliament and the European Commission research teams.

 

Next up you can see the ideas of the acclaimed political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, on the European Identity:

 

 

What do the representatives of top European organizations think about the European Identity?

The real policy makers, on behalf of the institutions they represent, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and to broaden the general perspective, also an expert from the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, give their own perspective on the existence of the European Identity, tracing its roots to the history, traditions and diversity of our continent. Their opinions can be heard below:

Does the young generation feel connected?

The younger generation is the one EU is devoted most to, as we are the heirs of the European Union project. How connected do European students feel towards the European Identity concept and what should be done in order to foster and promote this concept further? Let us see what they have to say!

European Identity – a post-nation Identity?

European Identity is a concept as broad as the European Union project. But behind its simple and attractive “visual”, a true agitation happens, marked by its complexity. As Edgar Morin, French philosopher and sociologist, would state: “European identity is complex and multiple. In order to define it, one has to take into account all the uncertainties, ambiguities and contradictions.”
Nevertheless, the joyful celebration of the “united in diversity” is gradually replaced nowadays by the emergence of new economies and “strong, distinct” cultures. These challenges bring the need to stay united under a strong and secure identity into the spotlight – a supranational identity that could be promoted on the global arena. Therefore, consistency of the image, actions and decisions should be looked for when investing in the European identity, covering political, economic and socio-cultural aspects, in particular by investing in youth. The European Identity model exceeds the traditional perspective and considers diversity and the association with liberal democrat values, open-mindedness, tolerance and freedom cherishing, as essential reasons to proceed to a post-national identity.
Still, the greatest realization is that a European Identity is a mix of all of its national components, where the difference between you and “the others” fades away, where communities continually grow and change, intertwining and lifting each other.

We, the students of Europe, believe there is a European Identity and it needs support and promotion to be stronger and visible, to be looked upon from the top of Europe’s main institution and receive investments in the cultural and social spheres.

We, the students of Europe, want more than European passports – we want our souls to be European!

Two students looking at the flag of the European Union.

This is a project by Hristiana Argirova, Lorenzo Chiarigarcia, Claudia Riobó, Margarida de Paula, Velina Filipova, Sergio Fraile, Sabrina Höbel, Carolina Leitão, Andres Odijk, Gesa Schnieder and Vladlena Subernitchi.
Sources:
Kishore Mahboubani Has the West Lost it? (2018)
Francis Fukuyama Identity. The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (2018)
Prutsch 2017, Research for CULT Committee – European Identity, European Parliament, Policy
Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities – THE DEVELOPMENT OF EUROPEAN IDENTITY/IDENTITIES: UNFINISHED BUSINESS (2012)