The EU and the Multifaceted Nature of European Identity

This study seeks to contribute to the discussion on the multifaceted nature of European identity and culture and why the EU should engage in, rather than retreat from, having such discussions. It posits that Europe is a place where national identity can be affirmed, rather than rejected, since this in itself does not contradict or diminish the idea of a shared European identity. Rather, a European identity can complement and even strengthen national identity.

The complementarity of such identities is due to the uniqueness of the shared European space and of the sui generis nature of the EU itself. The conception of this shared space, however, is dependent on full respect for the principle of subsidiarity. The EU has registered some successes where subsidiarity has been maintained, but has struggled when it has attempted to emulate nation states in their creation of ‘imagined communities’.

The more difficult elements—such as some contentious shared history—should be acknowledged rather than ignored, no matter how difficult this may be. Similarly, the Judeo-Christian heritage of Europe can add value to the debate on culture, identity and values.

In addition, this study posits that there are other areas where a sense of European identity can grow, for example, through the strengthening of European citizenship and through extending opportunities for transnational contacts.

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