Identity in Europe: Editors’ Note and Contents

Vol 3, No 1 (2012): Identity in Europe

The term “European identity” is in everyone’s mouths. The European Commission – in addition to other public bodies and universities – has invested millions of euros to detect, define and create a European identity, while also funding a host of social scientists and civil-society actors dedicated to these tasks. To this end, it would seem that the commission is trying to reproduce the rise of Western European nation-states and their attending democracies, this time on the European level. To be sure, the rise of nation-states required that people living within the demarcated borders inside Europe share common national identities. However, the establishment of a European Union-level democracy based on the nation-state blueprint is doomed to fail. There are at least three reasons. First, people will not accept European identity if it’s forced on them. Second, the nature of the European Union is not compatible with that of nation-states. Third, it has become evident (especially in the last decade) that Europe’s national democracies have reached their limit of functionality, and that more-participatory models of democracy are needed.

How does the European Commission’s aim to scale up the nation-state blueprint impact civil society actors such as Citizens for Europe and its work in the field of European integration? For us at “Open Citizenship”, it is evident that any kind of polity depends on a deep and sustainable feeling of belonging among its people. This is especially true for a participatory democracy at the European level – which necessitates the active political participation of citizens across national, cultural and ethnic lines. Belonging is even more important in times of crisis, when solidarity is needed to shift huge resources from one sub-community to another for the sake of the entire community. What kind of identity should we as civil society actors aim for if we favour a participatory, inclusive and multi-cultural European community?

That question and others like it compelled us to focus on identity in this issue. The publication originally was supposed to be about “European identity”, but after reading your submissions and following some reflection, we changed the theme to “identity in Europe” – which is not to be confused with European identity. The distinction is important, because as the pieces in this issue show, people in Europe identity themselves with multiple categories, often simultaneously. These categories may be local (“I feel attached to this neighbourhood.”) or cosmopolitan (“I’m a global citizen dedicated to solving global problems like climate change.”). That said, identity categories are not necessarily wedded to geography. Some people primarily associate themselves with particular classes, ethnicities or religions – categories not necessarily confined by nation-state borders.

The pieces in this issue also suggest that identity in Europe causes diverse outcomes. For instance, the role of identity in political outcomes is different in the Netherlands, Latvia and Germany. Ultimately, European identity may simply be a fluid hodgepodge of subsumed identities that play out differently depending on where you are and which issue area you’re talking about – be it politics, culture or even sport.

The extent to which identity can affect political outcomes is addressed in the first of two articles in the academic section of the present issue. In it, Johan van Gorp argues that to understand recent party system change in the Netherlands, one should consider the positioning of parties on a socio-cultural cleavage. This cleavage – which encompasses non-material issues such as immigration, immigrant integration and European integration – has become increasingly salient throughout Western Europe and revolves around issues associated with identity. In the second academic article, Ilze Levina explores the relationship between European belonging and ethnicity in Latvia by comparing the views of ethnic Latvians and ethnic Russians.

The issue’s “Open Mic” section has three commentaries. In one, Roderick Parkes writes that while the euros in your pocket may look bland, they express a distinct philosophy about the personal empowerment that comes from loosening one’s national attachment. Next, Henriette Rytz argues that while in the United States “hyphenated identities” such as Cuban-American will not exclude you from the foreign-policymaking process, in Germany  immigrants are far-less visible in foreign-policymaking because such identities still lack acceptance. Finally, Christoph Müller-Hofstede draws attention to the interplay of Islamophobic and identity discourses in Europe. He suggests striving for a republican model of identity in Europe that embraces different ethnicities, religions and cultures.

In the “Tea Time” section, we hear three distinct perspectives on identity in Europe. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, talks to “Open Citizenship” about the future of European identity and how to bring back enthusiasm for the European project. Marion Döring, director of the European Film Academy, defines European film and talks about its role in building Europe. Finally, Karen Fricker and Milija Gluhovic discuss their ongoing research project about Eurovision Song Contest. The contest has forged cultural interconnections that cut across political divisions between nations and shape a cosmopolitan European identity.

In the “Movement Watch” section, two projects and one organisation are featured. FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research project that seeks to understand the impact of football on identity dynamics, perception patterns and cultural change in Europe. United State of Europe is a travelling exhibition about European identity and today’s Europe. The Federation of Young European Greens, a federation of Green youth organisations from across Europe, is sceptical of European identity.

In the “Critics Corner” section, Uli Brückner reviews the newest book by Jürgen Habermas, “The Crisis of the European Union – A Response”. After that, Armine Ishkanian reviews “Citizens’ Initiatives in Europe: Procedures and Consequences of Agenda-Setting by Citizens”, an edited volume by Maija Setälä and Theo Schiller.

Many thanks to you our readers. We welcome your thoughts about this issue as well as contributions to future ones. For suggestions on issue themes or for any other questions, concerns or recommendations, feel free to email us at

Your CFE Team

Table of Contents


  • Discussing Immigrants, Identity and Europe: Implications for the Dutch Party System, Johannes A.A.M. van Gorp
  • United in Diversity? European Identity and Ethnicity in Latvia, Ilze Ievina


  • What the Euro in Your Pocket Means, Roderick Parkes
  • The Integration of Immigrants into German and US Foreign Policy Making: An Identity Question, Henriette Rytz
  • European Identity Vis-à-Vis the Challenge of Islam and Immigration, Christoph Müller-Hofstede


  • No Man Is an Island, Entire of Itself, Martin Schulz
  • The Eurovision Song Contest and the “New” Europe, Karen Fricker, Milija Gluhivic
  • Film Should Concentrate on the Emotional Side of Europe, Marion Döring

Movement Watch

  • Football Research-Are You Serious?, Football Research in an Enlarged Europe, FREE
  • We Believe in European Solidarity!, Federation of Young European Greens
  • Innovation Culture Europe, United States of Europe A Travelling Exhibition


  • Jürgen Habermas: The Crisis of the European Union -A Response-, Uli Brückner
  • Maija Setälä and Theo Schiller: Citizens’ Initiatives in Europe: Procedures an Consequences of Agenda-Setting by Citizens, Armine Ishkanian