A Locus for European Identity? Understanding the Role of Historical Memory in Attitudes of the MEPs towards the House of European History

  • Abstract:

    European versatile and complex history touches the questions “where do we come from” and “where do we want to go from here” making these questions crucial and potent tools in legitimizing the present and shaping the future of the European Union. Since collective memory itself, in the broader sense of the word, is an expression of collective identity we must assume that there is a positive correlation between historical memory and identity building. The never-ending dilemma: Who are Europeans (what demos?) and what makes them European (what Europeanness?), thus, may seek its answers in historical past of the Europe while projects as the House of European History (HEH) are perceived as an active contribution in constructing and modelling not only European identity but a collective, pan-European history.
    This paper explores perceptions of the MEPs towards the HEH, trough lenses of their own ‘European identities’ understanding to what extent is historical memory important for the construction of European identity.
    The analysis is based on a distinction between civic, cultural and instrumental components of identity, based on previous works of academics on European identity (Bruter, Jimenez et al.) enabling testing of the model via semi-structured interviews on a sample of the MEPs. The findings show that European historical memory have negative effects on standpoints of the MEPs towards the HEH. While many respondents identify with Europe and the EU, acknowledging their own European identity existent mostly in cultural terms, only acceptance of European Collective historical memories based on European integrations creates positive relationship between (Instrumental) European identity and MEPs’ attitudes towards the HEH. The results have important implications for our understanding of European integration, shift in political discourse, and the role of history in European identity formation.