If There is No Common and Unique European Identity, Should We Create One?

MULTICULTURALISM AND NATIONALISM IN A WORLD OF IMMIGRATION, K. Lippert-Rasmussen, N. Holtug, S. Laegaard, eds., pp. 194-227, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009

40 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2010 Last revised: 27 Sep 2010

Date Written: April 1, 2009

Abstract

Does immigration hinder the construction and maintenance of a common European identity, and therefore the project of European integration: prospects of peace and prosperity in Europe? The movement of people into and within Europe, and the turmoil in their wake, has forced such fundamental issues of public policy and political philosophy to the forefront of public debate. I shall argue that this perceived threat from immigration is overdrawn. The underlying concerns for the prerequisites and challenges to a stable and legitimate European political order are worthy of attention and reflection. In particular, some shared values, habits and beliefs – a European identity of sorts – need to be assured by various institutional arrangements. But the content and role of this identity, and how immigration impacts on it, merit scrutiny. Against these worries, I shall defend the view that stable European institutions aimed at peace and prosperity do not require a substantive, common and unique European identity – a requirement that never held true, even prior to large scale immigration and cross-European migration. The present chapter denies that Europeans need to share certain unique values, and that European integration would be much easier were such values and beliefs broadly shared. These claims are not based on an alleged inability of liberal theory to acknowledge and appreciate any special duties among compatriots – that is a misconception, or so I shall argue. Rather, firstly, the requisite shared norms and values are seldom uniquely European – that is, they often find broad support on other continents. And secondly, the uniquely European features that merit respect and to which Union citizens should be socialised are not common values, but rather knowledge about various cultures and historical experiences that affect the central expectations of Union citizens. So a shared and unique European-wide national identity need not be part of the solution to these challenges, and immigrants without such values and beliefs are not as much of a problem as might be thought.

Section 1 provides a brief historical backdrop. Section 2 offers a liberal defence of special duties of political allegiance among compatriots – and among Union citizens. Section 3 explores one important role for a ‘European identity’: the need for trustworthy citizens understood as ‘contingent compliers’ in a complex, multi-level political order that creates many assurances games. Institutions such as schools and political parties should socialise to such an identity, but other institutions are also required to monitor and sanction remaining non-compliance – among old and new inhabitants alike. Section 4 draws on that conception to provide a liberal account of European identity that gives institutions pride of place, to secure that all citizens should be socialised into three elements: normative principles, a thin political theory in their defence, and knowledge about local norms and history. Immigrants and migrants may miss the third of these elements. The remedies seems feasible, namely to provide them – and many citizens – educational opportunities sufficient to dispel any fears that they will not maintain the common institutions that promote peace and economic well being.

Keywords: immigration, European identity, European integration, norms, values

Suggested Citation

Follesdal, Andreas, If There is No Common and Unique European Identity, Should We Create One? (April 1, 2009). MULTICULTURALISM AND NATIONALISM IN A WORLD OF IMMIGRATION, K. Lippert-Rasmussen, N. Holtug, S. Laegaard, eds., pp. 194-227, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1654345

Andreas Follesdal (Contact Author)

Pluricourts ( email )

P.O. Box 6706
St. Olavs plass 5
0130 Oslo
Norway

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