The EU and Collective Identities: What Use For A EUropean Identity?

  • Abstract:

    The advance and transfiguration of the initial project of an ‘ever closer union’ brought about and intensified the searches and disputes on and around the idea of an emergent European identity. However the search for the substance, determinants, manifestations or specific features of such an identity opened the way for the image of an ‘identitarian Babel’ as a proxy for the degree of unity and consensus or articulate dialogical contestation within the processes of tracing or creating a EU collective identity. The search for a European identity is nowadays mostly a disciplinary debate within the frame of European studies in search of legitimacy for the EU institutions or an elite narrative that is compelled to confront its own fictive design when facing the ‘failed Europeanization of the masses’. Moreover, any discussion of the European identity maximizes the degree and the level of its conceptually contested nature: identity is a contested concept, collective identity is an even more contested one, the idea of Europe is the playground of contestation itself while EU’s nature of being an Unidentified Political Object does not make things any easier. Dealing with the European identity means to integrate contestation into contestation until potentially an n degree of contestation. Due to the confusion between identities and identifications, that is particularly emphatic within the EU studies, some scholars demanded that the concept of identity shall be abandoned.

    This paper looks at the EUropean identity as an intentional concept that doesn’t say anything about its sphere but rather defining its sphere explicitates the aim of its usage. Without enrolling to any school of suspicion, there are no innocent uses of such an idea since any conception of a EU identity in use can include and exclude by dissecting at free will and by pursuing predetermined political purposes who is inside and who is outside, who is in the core and who is in the periphery. European processes of identity construction are looked at as purposeful political engineering derived from circumstantial political choices. This paper seeks to bring into debate once more what European identity is all about. It looks at methodological challenges facing the understandings of European identity as well as critically unveiling the available choices for bringing European attributes in defining a collective identity.