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The European identity issue: what most determines the European "we feeling"?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Constitutional patriotism
    1. Literature
    2. Model
    3. Data
    4. Results
  3. Symbols and iconography
    1. Literature
    2. Model
    3. Data
    4. Results
  4. The constitutive other
    1. Literature
    2. Model
    3. Data
    4. Results
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

?You don't fall in love with a common market? (EU Commission President Jacques Delors in The European, 3 November 1994).
Here emerges one of today's most challenging issues for the European Union: the prevalence of market integration has created a political vacuum and so-called ?democratic deficit?, essentially for lack of a genuine identification from the European citizens with European stakes.
Indeed, it would be simplistic to consider that the EU project has failed in generating support from the peoples of the member states and, consequently, in establishing the democratic bases it lacks today. The reality is that the very project of the ?Founding Fathers?, as presented in the Schuman Declaration (9 May 1950) relied on a combination of functionalism and technocratism that largely explains the a-political trajectory of the European construction. Theses developed by E. Haas in The Uniting of Europe (1958) relied on the dynamic of sector-related integration that should be initiated by ?concrete achievements that first create a de facto solidarity?. So economic integration was supposed to create ?common fates? between the member-states and to trigger an ineluctable spiral of integration (?spill over?) from economic to political integration. But, the practical requirement of such a theory equated a rational long-term planning incompatible with the emotional short-term demands of member-states' publics. So the European project was deliberately placed in the hands of experts able to supervise a rationalized construction without letting any vested interest or passions interfering.
So the choice of technocratism entailed both a depoliticisation of the European construction and a founding contradiction: functionalism wanted economic integration to be a first step in European integration but technocratism prevented political integration from emerging.
But as the Union was moving from ?issues of instrumental problem-solving to fundamental questions about its nature as part-formed polity? (Cable, 1994; Garcia, 1993; BBV foundation, 1993. in Laffan, 1996:p 82), the absence of political spill over become all the more problematic since it began to damage the legitimacy of the overall European project. That is why in 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht tried not only to fill in the gap between economic and political integration, towards the key-project of single currency, but also to promote the idea that ?the maintenance of economic integration [rested] in some measure on political integration?, intrinsically linked with the emergence of a ?sense of community? (Laffan: 96). So the ?identity deficit? was officially presented as a fundamental barrier to the EU functioning insofar as the very European project relies on the presupposition of a ?European transcending community of fates, values, lives, socio-economic stakes and of responsibility? (European Identity Charter, 1995). So one thing was to presuppose the potentiality of a strong European identity; another was to stimulate it. In that perspective, analyses of 1992 Eurobarometer clearly revealed the weakness of the sentiment of identification to the EU: attachment to Europe (48% against 51% of people who ?never felt European) still appeared distanced by attachments to respectively the country (88%), the region (87%) and the village (85%) (Reif, 1993 in Laffan: 99).
Then, the new focus on ?we feeling? opted in favour of the transposition of the spill over logic in which citizenship would be used as a Trojan horse. By transforming the ?European worker? defined by the 1986 Single act into a ?European citizen?, the Treaty of Maastricht and the 1995 Schengen Agreements intended to raise of the ?We feel European? by implementing concrete European political rights. But the European citizenship remained determined by the centrality of national citizenships insofar as being a European citizen equals being a citizen of one of the EU member-states. Furthermore, citizenship is an imperfect tool in the sense that identity both precedes (what meaning for a citizenship without feeling part of an imagined community?) and prolongs citizenship (how to feel responsible without identifying with?). For all that, citizenship seems quite unlikely to generate a real ?sense of community? and a transcending European identity by itself. On the contrary, only a strong European identity could give a real signification to the European citizenship and could enable the EU to challenge the nation-state's political legitimacy monopoly.
As a consequence, two questions appear central in the identity deficit.
Firstly, how to articulate European identity and national, or even regional, local identities? Obviously, if a transcending European identity were to emerge, it would not be without (and even less against) national identities. So the sole credible basis on which to promote a European identity is member-states' themselves, and more precisely on identity policies that would emphasize what is commonly shared rather than what differentiates between them. So, to adapt the European recurrent motto ?unity in diversity?, the European identity has to be understood as an ?identity of identities?. Then the articulation issue is all the more complex since the EU has to deal with the very nature of the identity it wants to shape. In other word, whereas national identities emerged essentially through the influence of the myth of national sovereignty and a very close sense of patriotism, the European identity can only be imagined as open and outstripping particular and often dangerous nationalist myths.
So the second question concerns the appropriate levers that will help the European identity emerging. What are the components of the European identity? The determination of such levers is all the more difficult since contrarily to the sentiment towards integration that can be conditioned by ?materialistic? elements (sentiment of having benefited, sentiment of re-conquering power through the EU?), there is no such thing as an ?interest of feeling European?. So the European identity relies on symbolic, psychological, ideological (cosmopolitanism or nationalism?) or emotional elements rather than on rational balances.

So I will try to answer this very question of the most significant components of a European identity (or negatively what is the most detrimental to the consolidation of a European identity?) in the light of three major axes that corresponds to the three dimension of identity (political, emotional, differentiation): ?constitutional patriotism? (I), symbolic (II), and the ?constitutive Other? (III).

To examine the impact of those three components on the European identity, I chose to work on the question Q46 of the eb620 questionnaire: ?Would you say you are very proud, fairly proud, not very proud, not at all proud to be European?? as dependent variable (29334 respondents).

Such a question presents the great interest of being disconnected with comparisons between European identity and national identities and to consider the pride of being European as an overarching sentiment.

[...] Literature The most challenging requirement in building a genuine European identity is that it obviously cannot be founded on the traditional basis of the existence of a coherent, homogeneous national community because the EU is, by essence, what Kalypso Nicolaidis called a demoi-cracy , a political project relying on diversity and common to different peoples. So any attempt to consolidate European identity with an exclusive and nationalist conception of identity is condemned to fail. But historically, patriotism has appeared as a fundamental force of shaping political communities. [...]

[...] Paris, Clefs Politique, Montchrestien - European Identity Charter Press articles - L'Humanité February 2004: Etat-nation et citoyenneté européenne Jacques Brunhes. - Le Figaro littéraire March 2005: L'Europe cosmopolite s'avance Jacques de Saint-Victor. Web sites - : Au-delà de l'Etat-nation : quelle démocratie pour l'Europe Claire Demesnay - l'Europe, quels symboles ? Eric Dacheux, 27/10/2004. Etre Européen a-t-il un sens ? Dominique Reynie, 27/05/2004. Lectures - ?Histoire des Idées Politiques by lecturer Dominique COLAS ; II by Alain-Gerard Slama. [...]

[...] Furthermore, the respondents according to whom NATO should enforce this policy combine it with a fairly strong European identity ( are proud of being European vs very? or at all proud?). Finally, the most significant cleavage seems to correspond to the respondents who think that national governments should take those decisions ( of very? or at proud against for NATO and for the which can be analysed as a cleavage between sovereignist and unilateralist arguments and multilateral, concerted conceptions of such issues as security-defense. [...]

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