Observatory on European Cultural Identity

European Identity can be researched on an individual level, as identification with Europe or the European Union, or collectively explored as expression of affinity and support for European integration, as investigated by the EU’s survey instrumentEurobarometer. As a predominantly economic project at the outset in the 1950s, there were few indications that European identity could be strengthened by the institutions of the EU itself. But with increasing integration, and as a response to external pressures, the European Community in 1973 formulated a ‘Declaration on European Identity’. In 1993 then, the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty created for the first time a political Union complete with a foreign policy pillar, plans to create a common currency and a “European citizenship” designed to bring the Union closer to its citizens.  In addition, cultural symbols and programs were promoted (European Flag, Hymn, Capitals of Culture, etc.) by the EU in order to foster a stronger sense of pan-European identity. Simultaneously, scholarship in EU studies came to be aware of a potential European identity based on the convergence of politically different cultures. Yet the assumed convergence of cultures and national identities did not occur progressively as expected.  More and more Brussels-initiated integration policies have increasingly become contentious with citizens perceiving their own national culture under the threat of homogenization, and the Union’s recent enlargements in 2004/7 as well as the candidacy of a number of other South-Eastern European countries, including Turkey, are making the EU culturally less homogenous than ever before. This had obvious effects on immigrant incorporation and the socio-cultural construction of citizenship, and in the face of the Eurocrisis tensions over culture and solidarity only augmented such negative externalities. Opposition to European integration, called Euroscepticism, is on the rise. As a counterargument to these phenomena, it has been posited that the increased attention, positive or negative, that is called to EU governance is in fact evidence of the development of transnational cultures or at a minimum, aEuropean public sphere. Institutionally, the European Commission’s Directorates General (DGs) most connected to European identity are DG Education and Culture(for questions of cultural policies, multilingualism and education) and DG Justice(for questions of justice, citizenship and fundamental rights).


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Roy, Joaquín. “Reflections on the Treaty of Rome and today’s EU.” Special Paper. April 2007.

Ruiz Jiménez, Antonia María.  “Cultural, Instrumental, Civic and Symbolic Components of National and European Identities in Old and New European Union Member Status.” Working Paper. October 2004. 

Ruiz Jiménez, Antonia María.  “Representations of Europe and the Nation: How do Spaniards see themselves as Nationals and Europeans?” Working Paper: October 2004. 

Thiel, Markus. “Cultural identity and regional integration.” in Joaquín Roy and Roberto Domínguez (eds) The European Union, fifty years after the Treaty of Rome (March 25, 1957): The EU model in the Americas, Asia and Africa.Miami: European Union Center/Jean Monnet Chair, 2008, pp. 35-52. 

Thiel, Markus. “European Identity and the Challenge of Enlargement.” in Joaquín Roy and Roberto Domínguez (eds) Towards the Completion of Europe: Analysis and Perspectives of the New European Union Enlargement. Coral Gables, FL : European Union Center/Jean Monnet Chair, University of Miami , 2006, pp 67-76.

Thiel, Markus.  “Europe as a model for transnational peace?  Identity changes in the emerging regional blocs of the Global South.” Working Paper. June 2006.