Mgr. Tatiana Diovčošová , Comenius University, Slovakia


  Budapest, July - August 2001



The incentive to the selection of this topic arose from the discussions, which takes place in every transitory country - about the enlargement of the European Union. The differences among member states and applying countries are gaping in almost every sphere of the life - ranging from structural issues connected with value orientations of the people and economy to the institutions. Even the relevant part of the society from this region understands the practical advantages of being a part of some more influential and economically stronger supranational unit, they are afraid of loosing their identities, something what make them unique and different. Nowadays the nations from Central and Eastern Europe pass the same fears as the nations from the West passed some years ago. This threat is now embodied for those who oppose the idea of joining the European Union in the institute of European citizenship. They try to enforce the idea that this kind of common citizenship is just the first step towards creation of uniform identity and therefore abolishment of national identities.

This research paper deals with two basic problems. The first one is the question of primacy - what is more important - identity or citizenship and if we can separate them. My answer to this question is no. We cannot separate them in the world of states but the process of the weakening of the state would be accompanied by weaker status of citizenship. However I consider identity more important because for me it is a source of legitimacy for citizenship. My second research problems arises from the first one - exists something like common European identity or can we somehow create something of this kind, would not it mean the disappearance of the particular national cultures? Hypothesis with which I enter this part of the research is that if we want the culture that will survive, it cannot be artificially created, it should evolve spontaneously in everyday contacts among the nations in this region. National cultures will not disappear - the argument we can use dates back to the time of the nation states formation - the regional differences in every state are still evident even if processes of unification are more strict in the unitary states than it is or would be in the case of the European Union.

What are the options for the construction of a European identity? We are faced with minimalist and maximalist options. The maximalist option is the attempt to think of European identity as being analogous to national identity. The identity could be then understood by its difference to neighboring cultures. A minimalist conception implies, first of all, that the prescriptive function of boundary marking is restricted to legal forms of exclusion and inclusion. However, the reality indicates that Europe should become first of all a legal community which defines who is to be included into the processes of communication of this society.





The aspirations for creating some kind of transnational citizenship in the context of the European Union is closely connected with the question of the identity. The question is whether any of these could be considered primary and indispensable for the spread of another. This project will try to find some explanation why it is or it not possible to set up collective feelings among the people from the different regions and countries that they share the same values, feelings and that the aims they want to achieve are the same.

A question about the limits of permissiveness in culture should be asked: should we let identity be spontaneously created or should we create a particular identity by implementing a plan. The unified Europe cannot be based just on the set of the rights and the duties but it should be rooted deep in the essential values practiced within the society. Accepting the primacy of the citizenship we would agree with the theory of the change from above - with the indoctrination of the values instead of socialization in the process of the change from below. This research will come out of the thesis that the values of tolerance, cohesion and solidarity shared within all the concerned countries for the successful culmination of the processes of the European integration. My first hypothesis therefore considers the values and therefore the identity as well as some safety catches for the survival of the institutions. There is another research question that arises from the first one. And it deals with the possibility of the existence of the phenomenon such as common European identity. My answer to this could be yes but it will take another one hundred or two hundred years.

Due to the unclear geographical borders and lack of political integrity, Europe used to be defined with cultural criteria and by assigning the main role in European identity to Christianity. However, many different descriptions of Europe existed in the past. The first one identified Europe with Roman Empire, the second with Christianity; the third recognized the division of Christianity and identified Europe with Catholicism. The other definition focuses Europe on Protestantism. The French definition equaled Europe with the influence of the Enlightenment. In the history territories of the great empires also defined continent. European history has been the history of a great division. Every attempt to unify the continent resulted in even greater division. The European Union in its current shape is reflection of all these definitions. In this research Europe should be understood in the terms of culture, namely the culture of cooperation despite previous very often violent conflicts.

The issue of European citizenship and identity reached the public attention by the process of the creating of a "new Europe" or simply by the enlargement of European union. European integration is no longer a matter of economic and political steering but has penetrated into the social itself with a legal concept of European citizenship. The scholars keep on discussing whether these kinds of debates are meaningful outside of the frame of the nation-states, if there could be something like European citizenship and identity. The question is if these two elements are natural or if they are just man-made creation for giving the economical and political processes more human face. Emile Durkheim wanted to know how was social order possible and what kind of cultural values made order reconcilable with the differentiaied nature of social reality. His answer was that a differentiated modern society requires generalized values and a form of solidarity based on cooperation between social groups, such as occupation and professional organizations and education. Such a generalized value system would not be based on the values of a particular social group but would be shared civic values. It is clear that Durkheim had in mind a republican conception of citizenship and believed the cohesion of a society rests on more than citizenship as a civic bond but also on identity. [Delanty, 2000:107-108]

Durkheim was one of the first thinkers to reflect on an idea of a European society as an emerging reality. While many intellectuals from Enlightment onwards wrote about the possibility of a European federal polityand of European culture as a spiritual mission, he actually considered the question of the “social” itself as a reality sui generis, to use Durkheim’s own phrase. His central ideas remain of great importance today as European integration takes on a new momentum , in particular the idea of how society represents itself and creates a cultural model which might be the “meeting ground” between two collective consciences.

There is no doubt that every stable institution in democracy needs a compatible cultural system that should guarantee its legitimacy. And the legitimacy should be the factor what would convert an impersonal amount of people into the community. Exactly this should be considered the source of the emerging problem of the Europe. If the unification would be done only on a formal level without having support on the level of the values of the people, without their identification with the created subject, the incumbency to obey its decisions would be weak. On this point I conclude that if there is some possibility for emergence of common feeling of belonging to the certain community; it will develop from the advantages offered by European citizenship.

Culture is needed in any society. How much is needed is an empirical question. Loosely integrated societies need less culture, strongly integrated societies need a great deal of culture. Put differentially: the more groups are socially linked, the more culture is necessary. Culture serves as a medium for knotting different groups together. This problem is especially virulent when societies reconstitute themselves.[Eder, 2001:225] Shared knowledge in this case is either inherited or fixed through imprinting, a case that we would probably not define as a form of culture. Culture is there when a shared consensus can be transformed into dissensus. Within such a cultural context the coordination of behavioral schemata requires specific rules.

To assess the extent of post-nationalizationit is useful to distinguish between four levels of community in order to discuss the different orders of governance that have implications for citizenship: political community, cultural community, civic community and cosmopolitan community. In this research we will focus only on the aspects of political community and cultural community for not to broaden the discussed topic too wide.

Political community is still almost entirely national. The Union has of course institutionalized a European citizenship, but this is derivative of national citizenship. While this is likely to increase in the future, the most striking feature of this kind of citizenship is that it is entirely codified in terms of highly formalistic rights. There is notable absence of a participatory dimension in the current form of the so-called European demos, which appears to have been based very much on the liberal-pluralistic understanding of citizenship as rights. This is, of course, always the case with citizenship beyond the state: the more expansive citizenship becomes, the more formalized it is and the less substantive it can be.

It has long been recognized that European integration lacks a cultural dimension comparable to that of nation states. Europe lacks the core components of national culture: language shared history, religion, and educational system. Language is the main stumbling block. With some few exceptions, language has been the key dimension to the formation of national culture from the late nineteenth century onwards.

An identity is a self-definition, the definition of moral horizons, and a place in a social structure, the definition of what is important and towards what one is aiming in life. For the creation of an identity two elements are necessary: a definition of what differs "us" from "them", and recognition of our identity by others. The question of identity is the most difficult for Europe. Europe with its not defined borders, open for new members. Europe that tries in vain to differentiate itself from the United States and heading towards the new uncertainties. Not only the geopolitical situation calls for the definition of identities. Self-reflection and self-definition are the key elements of modernism. As every part of reality can be questioned, everyone is allowed to choose own beliefs and lifestyle, move from one cultural circle to another and adopt any identity. (Nowicka, 2000:1)

There is a sense of a European ethnos emerging around an identity based on exclusion. There is a growing sense of need to express an identity of exclusion, supranationality, when the reference point is the non-European. Uncertain of any international commonalties and aware of the political vacuum in the institutions of the emerging polity, Europeans are inventing an ethnos of exclusion. In general, there is little to suggest that Europe is the basis of a substantive identity based on a sense of cultural community. However, one must also be mindful that all identities are based on some kind of exclusion, as the identity of the self can be defined only by reference to a non-self

The question is, whether even recognizing all the differences among the nations, we can claim that there is, or that there can be something like common European identity, on what should this identity be based and if it is really important to try to create it.

Western civilization recognizes the difference between cultural and state identity. Cultural identity is inherited and assigned to individuals and groups and is integral to the cultural heritage learned by every individual and because of this fact noticeable in everybody's behavior. It may be in a form of ethnicity, or in a form of lifestyles. Some other authors operate with the terms of civic and ethnic nationalism. Civic one is concerned with rational rule-governed community and ethnic with people in the sense of common language, descent and culture. Using the media terminology we could say that ethnic nationalism is the language of fantasy and escape, a route out of banal reality into a heroic situation and its rhetoric is inauthentic. It is important to decide if the European Union wants to base its identity on culture or state. We have to keep on mind that an attempt to bring culture to state level resulted in nationalism in Germany (Kissinger, 1997) and ethnic conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

No mass-aspiring-to-become-a-community can achieve its goal without realizing the legal equality of common rights and duties for each member, that is citizenship. Demotic movements in some parts of the world (f. e. pan-Turkism) turned towards a more territorial conception and a civic model and tried to build a territorial nation - with a compact territory, citizenship rights, and a common code of law and political culture. Even this cannot be considered the same model as in the case of Europe, there is definitely some parallel and therefore I would like to explain it in more detailed way.

In the process, the earlier dominant community tried to forge a wider political culture by extending, and perhaps attenuating, its own traditions, or by universalizing them to include the new ethnic migrants or the new incorporated ethnie. Typically, members of newly incorporated ethnie were offered citizenship which they accepted but retained a primordial ethnic attachment. In this way, there arose a familiar modern phenomenon: the sundering of citizenship from cohesion. (Smith: 151) What this means is a dual attachment: on one hand, loyalty to the political unit, expressed in the terms of citizenship rights and obligations, on the other hand, a sense of affiliation and solidarity with the ethnic community into which one's family was born and socialized. Many who argue against further integration in Europe do so on the basis that any attempt to foster a European identity among citizens of member-states will have negative implications for national identities. But there is no obvious reason why the question of identification should be conceived as a zero-sum game. In such a way Catalans can express their loyalty to the Spanish State of which they are citizens, while retaining their emotional bond of kinship with fellow-Catalans and their attachment to the culture and history of Catalonia.

In the situation two sets of allegiances - the so-called "dual loyalties" - operate: one public and political with its official symbolism and the semi-private and cultural for each ethnic community. This is the contrast, familiar to many minorities, between the "home" and the "world", between the enclosed, warm but narrow, networks of familiar ethnie and the broad, open but impersonal ties of citizenship in the state and its public community and the professional world of work. (Smith: 151) Generally speaking, citizenship and solidarity operate in separate spheres even they are undoubtedly connected because we cannot make a clear distinction of an individual being nothing but a public or a private person. In his personal or private capacity the person is seen as holding a conception of the good, a view about what a valuable life consists of. This is his non-institutional identity. But he also has a public, or institutional identity, or an identity as a matter of basic law. (Lehning, 2000)

This kind of "dual loyalty" is common in all complex societies with their many crosscutting ties and different objects of attachment. In fact, a political unit which is usually polyethnic must encourage such multiple loyalties, for this unit is a public, ultimately coercive institution, while the nation is a fundamentally social and cultural solidarity shot through with ambiguities. This dual orientation - to political future and cultural past - is the subject of any examination of the main features and trends in the creation of the feeling of communities in the modern world.

Habermas's answer to the conflict between the universalistic principles of constitutional democracies on the one hand, and the particularistic claims of commitments to preserve the integrity of habitual ways of life on the other, is constitutional patriotism: an idea that is neither individualist nor communitarian, neither liberal nor anti-liberal. It is based on the changed meaning of the term nation from designating pre-political community to something that was supposed to play a constitutive role in defining the political identity of the citizen within a democratic polity. A nation of citizens does not derive its identity from some ethnic and cultural properties, but rather from the praxis of citizens who actively exercise their civil rights. This republican strand of citizenship, completely parts company with the idea of belonging to a pre-political community integrated on the basis of descent, a shared tradition and a common language. (Lehning, 2000:4) It is the political culture that is shared and that is the common denominator in which the constitutional principles are rooted, and which is the base for constitutional patriotism. It also means that - although the political culture is shared - all citizens do not share the same language or the same ethnic and cultural origins. On the contrary, they are aware that they are a part of a multicultural society. (Putnam, 1993)

"Belonging" goes with a number of different levels social organizations - family, local community or supranational subjects. Instead of the view that individuals have one basic political identity from which all the others are derive, we might suppose, that individuals can have multiple identities ranging from within the nation, like neighborhood, town or city and region, to the nation itself, and on to social or political organizations that surpass the borders of nation-states, like the European Union. Each of these levels can provide opportunities for political cooperation. But the feeling of belonging itself cannot be the one and only condition for establishing the citizenship but it can assign its survival and development.

Drawing on Habermas, my argument is that European identity conceived of as an identity in itself, is not a concrete identity rooted in cultural traditions that much. It is more focused on a commitment to discursively mediated principles and is an expression of multi-identification: one can simultaneously be a European and member of a community or nation. If we see things in this light, there is no serious trade-off between national and European citizenship and identity.

The trust of the inhabitants of Europe in some institutions can decrease in some phases but does not mean that these persons have lost their confidence in the shared values or the rules of the game. The value orientations and the attitudes of the people provide some kind of frame for the operation of the institutions of the mentioned society. Perception of its own as a political actor generates the awareness of the political responsibility. Therefore the most urgent task for the elites in European context in near future is not only creating of the common legal frame that should ensure political and economical behavior of the new supranational subject. It is also the redirection of the attention of people from emphasizing the differences among the regions towards searching for similarities. At present the enduring cultural, institutional and economical differences strengthen in the consciousness of the inhabitants of concrete regions very high degree of localism. This changes largely among young people with university degree.

What are the options for the construction of a European identity? We are faced with minimalist and maximalist options. The maximalist option is the attempt to think of European identity as being analogous to national identity. The identity could be then understood by its difference to neighboring cultures. A minimalist conception implies, first of all, that the prescriptive function of boundary marking is restricted to legal forms of exclusion and inclusion. However, the reality indicates that Europe should become first of all a legal community which defines who is to be included into the processes of communication of this society.

European integration is the historically new phenomenon of permanent identity work and identity communication [Eder, 2001:238]. Identity in this postmodern sense is no longer diembedded from politics, no longer conceived as a higher order of reality than politics or something that underlies politics. Identity becomes politics. If politics, and that constitutes the specific modernity and historic peculiarity of Europe, becomes the politics of networks of professional collective actors, then the making of identity becomes daily political business.

Even we all agree that there is something what all the Europeans have in common, the history has made us very different. On a very small piece of a world meet many cultures, languages, lifestyles and value orientations. Coming out of this reflection we should conclude that we would never be able to use the word European in the same way as we use the word American. Concentrating on the statements of the politicians who pronounce their opinion on this topic we see that they only operate with some very general terms like freedom, equality, solidarity and rule of law. These of course could be considered the features of European community but it is not something what is unique, something what can only be found in Europe. The uniqueness of Europe is in its diversity, in its ability to cooperate despite sometimes very deep conflicts in the past. And this is perhaps what makes the difference. But it is still not enough to create common identity. If the issue of the creating really integrated Europe would only depend on establishing the citizenship; the world would be much nicer. European Union can step by step obtain the political loyalty of its inhabitants if its representatives will be able to show that it is really effective. However for wining cultural loyalty the idea of united Europe is too abstract and therefore it would be too difficult for people to identify with this notion.