European Identity: The Newly Born European Demos?

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The book examines identity and its potential. The book examines identity and its nature through analyzing different theories which help to define in which theories European identity can be ascribed to. The chapter also offers scholars' reflection over European identity and makes a definition of European identity. In the second chapter, it explains the role of European identity on the constitutional ratification (2004) as well as demonstrates the contribution of the Constitutional Treaty (2004) on the consolidation of European identity. The relationship between the Constitution, representing a higher stage of EU integration, and European identity is mutual. They both affect the further evolution of each other. The chapter also draws conclusions over the European constitution and its future. The third chapter confronts European identity with national identities of the EU’s member states and draws conclusions about whether European identity will supersede national identities of Europe, as well as demonstrates the erosion of national identities in Europe; conclusions are supported by statistical data published in several Eurobarometers. The data published in the form of a table in this chapter trace the consolidation degree of Eur

Endri Shqerra
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Chapter 1


In a solemn address to the opening ceremony of the “International Peace Conference” held in Paris in August 1849, Viktor Hugo prophesized the dawn of a European Union in this spirit:

“…A day shall come when you will no longer make wars..... And in that day you will all have one common thought, common interest, a common destiny; you will embrace each other and recognize each other as children of the same blood, and of the same race; that day you will no longer be hostile tribes, - you will be a people… A day will come when you…[will]…be blended into a superior unity, and constitute an European fraternity, just as Normandy, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, have been blended into France…. A day will come when bullets and bomb-shells will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of nations, by the venerable arbitration of a great Sovereign Senate, which will be to Europe what the Parliament is to England, what the Diet is to Germany, what the Legislative Assembly is to France. ….A day will come when these two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe shall be seen placed in presence of each other…” [Hugo, 1849, 11].

Justifiably classified amongst the visionary fathers of EU, Hugo firmly believed that it would not be “necessary that four hundred years should pass away for that day to come” [Hugo 1849, 12]. Today, much less than four hundred years from Hugo’s statement, Europe has reached this day in the form of the European Union. On the way, the European Union was successful in crafting a common identity of the peoples of its member states primarily based on common beliefs and by way of votes, and neither bullets nor bomb-shells, in establishing a Parliament. In full vindication of Victor Hugo’s vision, the EU and the U.S.A. are now two leading world powers.

Through single market, political unity, and common history post-national theory argues, European funds and activities aiming at promoting cultural exchanges are further targeting at the construction of a common European cultural community.

Even at the time of the Maastricht Treaty (1993), itself viewed as the treaty which “established the European Union (EU)” [Maastricht Treaty. 2012], and, by inference, the political unity of Europe, Bakke [1993, 2] recognized that the quintessence of European solidarity (European identity) relies on what comes beyond a political and economic union: “A sense of European solidarity becomes even more vital if the integration is to proceed past the political and economic union envisaged in the Maastricht treaty.” The establishment of a European Constitution, which in itself would represent the federal stage of Europe, shall result in a stronger European solidarity and in a more consolidated European identity. This view, as I shall demonstrate, is also advocated by the ‘constitutional patriotism’ theory.

In addition to the establishment of the constitution, the further evolution of European identity is also related with the erosion of national identities. Interesting is the fact that, as Herman [2004, 41] argues “Modern nationalism was born in Europe, and it is there where some scholars and politicians are mounting a death watch” of nationalism. The decline of nationalism as a general statement is somehow accepted by other scholars like Delanty, Sindic and Smith but, the controversy between them, as we will demonstrate in chapter 3, lies to what degree will the decline of nationalism in Europe leads to the replacement of national identities by European identity. Delanty [2005, 2] maintains that European identity will stand above national identities of Europe as British identity stands beyond Irish, Wales, Scottish and English identities. Smith [1991, 170], on the other hand, maintains that European identity will not even resemble the British models. In spite of their different views, their common conclusion is that European identity will not replace or supersede national identities in the foreseeable future. Quoting Delanty and Smith, Rambour [2005, 3] argues that Delanty does not conceive Europe as a political community because he conceives national identities as strong. He [2005, 3] further calls Smith too as a strong supporter of nationalism who argues that European identity is not able to elicit the loyalty and mobilization that nationalism is able to do.

Similar to the Delanty’s [2005, 2] concept of the pyramid of identities, One’s [2004, 34] approach this matter not as a competition but rather as a co-existence of European and national identities in the form of multiple identities: “there is not necessarily a zero-sum struggle between a national and a European identity. People have always had multiple identities”. Because of the increasing globalization and cosmopolitanism people nowadays are having dual and even multiple identities, which enable the co-existence of national and European identity [Delanty 1996, 2].

In 2005, EU failed in the ratification of its important document - the constitution. The failure of the Constitutional Treaty (2005) seemed to convey the idea that the process of the European integration had reached its highest limits and could not go much further as to establish its constitution. Hence, a stronger European identity which represents the sense of community and the sense of belonging was necessary in order to inspire people to follow their elites and even to affect EU policies through public spheres. The failure of the European Constitutional Treaty and the subsequent stagnation of deeper EU integration were conditioned, as we shall demonstrate in chapter 2, by the low degree of consolidation of the European identity.

Four years before the Constitutional Treaty (2005), Habermas [2001, 15] wondered whether Europe was ready to establish a constitution, representing a higher integrated Europe and the federal stage of EU. Eurosceptics claimed that there is no European demos and as such EU should not have a constitution. Their skeptic position was evident in their No Demos thesis, a decision held by the German Federal Constitutional Court. Habermas [2001, 15] criticizes their conceptualization of demos based on national theories and argues about the existence of a European civic demos.

The main question this book tries to answer is whether European identity will replace or supersede national identities of Europe; a question related with the nature of European and national identities, with possible evolution of European identity (assisted by the establishment of the constitution) as well as with the erosion of national identities in Europe. The principal argument there is that: different from national identities, the European identity develops in the fashion analyzed by post-national theory, through civic rights, “constitutional patriotism”, and through its developing common culture. It is the post-national nature of European identity which enables it to develop alongside national identities, even if national identities are strong and cannot be replaced by European identity.

The evolution of European identity is related with the establishment of the constitution. In this thesis I shall demonstrate the mutual relationship between European identity and the constitution. As it shall be argued, the existences of a Constitution, or similar institutions in the form of treaties, further the degree of consolidation of a European identity and of European integration. This view is hold and by ‘constitutional patriotism’ theory. Said differently, it is the consolidation degree of European identity which affects the success of constitutional ratification and, vice-versa, the failure of the constitution implies a low degree of consolidation of European identity.

Chapter 1 delves into matters centered around the definition of “identity”, its derivatives (identification, multiple identities, identity shifts, national and post-national identity, constitutional patriotism) and their relations. Approaching these terms from a variety of theoretical perspectives (primordial, constructivist, post-national, cosmopolitanism and globalization), the chapter, utilizing secondary and primary evidence extrapolated from Pan-European surveys, ultimately constructs a definition of the European identity: a western European continental sense of belonging to a European community comprising primarily post-national, but also national, elements, not least based on Europe’s perceived common history.

Chapter 2 deals with the failure of Constitutional Treaty. The failure of the European Constitutional Treaty’s ratification in France and the Netherlands was primarily owed to the predominance of domestic politics over the matter at vote resulting in an identity shift of loyalty from EU to the national state. This failure, however, enhanced European public spheres, thereby enforcing the collective identity of the European political community. The further consolidation of the European identity shall contribute to the success of the constitutional ratification in the EU, since, as the Swiss paradigm demonstrates, both of these need to develop simultaneously.

Chapter 3 deals with the erosion of national identities in Europe and their strengths. The question dealt in this chapter is whether European identity will be able to replace or supersede national identities of Europe. The main finding of this chapter is that national identities have not declined. They continue to comprise 91% of Europeans. On the other hand, as I shall demonstrate in chapter 3, more people are identifying themselves as Europeans, which means a multiple identity for Europeans. This suggests that national identities have lost their role as the only or the dominant mean of identification.

The post-national character of the European identity alongside cosmopolitanism and globalization are gradually eroding national identities of EU member states. Notwithstanding, national identities in the EU are still strong, as the European identity shall not supersede them, since their compatibility enables their symbiosis and parallel development.

Subsequently, there exists a civic European demos in political/legal terms, which, alike the European identity, is complementary to the national demos of EU member states. Alongside these points presented in chapter 4, we shall continue and with some scholarly criticisms about the ‘No Demos Thesis’ and the ethno/cultural approach.

The method that I will widely use mostly is the case study method coupled with analysis. In chapter 2 I will use the analogical reasoning by comparing the EU case with the establishment of the constitution in Switzerland. In my research, I will use top-bottom approach as well as the bottom-up approaches, with the later as the principal approach. Top-bottom approach of studying the European identity is to analyze the degree of consolidation of the European identity induced by policies of EU. The bottom-up approach of studying European identity is by studying individuals, the way and the degree they feel Europeans.

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