Exploring an analogical citizenship for Europe

Academic Article

Abstract: The cultural, economic and political crisis affecting the European Union (EU) today is manifested in the political community’s lack of enthusiasm and cohesion. An effort to reverse this situation – foster ‘EU identity’ – was the creation of EU citizenship. Citizenship implies a people and a polity. But EU citizens already belong to national polities. Should EU citizenship override national citizenship or coexist with it? Postnationalists like Habermas have suggested EU citizenship can overcome nationalisms, grounding political belonging on the body of laws that members of the post-national polity generate in the public sphere. Cosmopolitan communitarianists like Bellamy, by contrast, think that EU citizens should form a mixed commonwealth, with political belonging based on national citizenship. I will argue in favour of the second option, and submit an analogical reading of the ensuing ideas of citizenship, identity and polity. Cosmopolitan communitarianist EU citizenship promises to better foster the great richness of European national cultural, religious, historical, political, legal and linguistic diversity in a ‘mixed’ polity. Its main challenge is how to keep the diverse, mixed polity together.

Lack of EU identity in the context of Europe’s existential crisis

The European motto, established in year 2000 is ‘[Europe] united in diversity’. In political terms, this means that Europe – or more precisely, the European Union (EU) – wishes to be one polity while maintaining and respecting the rich diversity of its members (states and citizens). Diversity is evident in aspects like culture, language, history, religion, geography, political traditions and so forth. But what can give the EU[2] unity?

The European Political Community failed in 1954. In 1970 European Political Cooperation was introduced. In 1992 the European Community became part of the European Union. Still, enthusiasm for political integration among the population of the nascent EU was not great. Europe as a political project seemed to be ‘in crisis’ (Weiler 1999; Cerutti 2005). Some argued then and argue today that the crisis was not only political, but existential as well – threatening the very foundations of Europe (Weiler 1999:238-263; 2003; Weigel 2005a; Ratzinger & Pera 2006; Ratzinger 2007). These discussions posed questions such as ‘What is Europe?’, ‘Where does Europe end?’, ‘Who can be considered a European?’, ‘What do Europeans have in common?’: questions of ‘European identity’.

For Ratzinger (2007), the work of European integration had two goals. The first one was to overcome the divisive nationalistic movements and hegemonic ideologies that had precipitated the Second World War (35-46). The second was to present a unified front that served as a political counterbalance to the two great powers of the Cold War.

The way of peace (the first goal of integration) as the common identity of Europeans and the common path towards the future was grounded on the common cultural, moral and religious heritage of Europe (Ratzinger 2007:35). The founding fathers were seeking an EU identity that would link national identities to higher level of unity, into a ‘community of peoples’ (Ratzinger 2007:36). Central to that cultural, moral and religious heritage were Judeo-Christianity and the Enlightenment, and it was perceived so by the founding fathers of EU integration (Ratzinger 2007:36). The role that concretely Christianity played as part of this unifying force had a non-denominational form. Casanova (2004:3) claims that the European projects reconciled Protestants and Catholics (within Christian Democracy). But even more, the religious component of Europe’s historical identity (the Biblical tradition) was perceived as compatible with the moral ideals of the Enlightenment since they shared a common rationality (Ratzinger 2007:36).

The creation of a political counterbalance to other powers in the world stage (second goal of integration) demanded that Europeans became a prominent economic player. This was where the common identity – founded on the moral background that all Europeans shared – met with an affirmation of common interests as well (not only). However it seems that the first goal (peace) has received less attention and that progressively the second goal (prosperity) has become dominant in the last 50 years (Ratzinger 2007:37).

The crisis in European integration under Ratzinger’s reading could be traced back, therefore, to two imbalances: firstly, the importance that has been given to only one of the two core elements of Europe’s culture (the Enlightenment over Judeo-Christianity); secondly, the attention that has been paid to only one of the two goals of integration (economic prosperity over peace and reconciliation).

That historical reading of the crisis is only one of at least three alternative readings. One of great relevance is the economic perspective: the Greek crisis, the amounts of debt in ‘Southern’ European countries as well in others like the UK and Belgium, the pressures over the Euro, are all elements that make the crisis sharper, especially for those who see the EU mainly as an economic club. A second reading is the perspective of those (Caldwell 2009; Weigel 2005b; Ferguson 2004; Glenn 2008) who see in Europe a continent in cultural decadence, bound for eventual disappearance, stressing, among other phenomena that of birth rates below replacement level.[3] A third reading is political, and sees the crisis in Europe as the lack of legitimacy caused by a democratic deficit that must be addressed (Eriksen 2005; Ruzza & Della Sala 2007; Eriksen 2009).

Under this third reading[4], EU identity has been approached in at least two senses. One, as the problem of defining the political form of the EU: some consider it an intergovernmental organisation, others a future federation and others a new kind of polity altogether[5]. Second, as the problem of finding the polity’s source of cohesion: what makes – or can make – it a ‘union’ from the political point of view? A search for commonalities (‘Europeanness’) has grasped the attention not only of academics, but also of politicians in individual countries and EU-wide. EU identity in either of those senses was investigated officially or semi-officially in, for example, the ‘Document on European identity’ (1973), the ‘Reflections on European Identity’ (Jansen 1999), or the ‘Laeken Declaration on the future of the European Union’ (2001).

Efforts to foster an EU identity have included the creation of symbols such as a European Flag, a European Anthem, a Europe Day, a European currency (the Euro), a European motto and a European citizenship (Jacobs & Maier 1998). In this paper I will focus on the latter.

EU citizenship & political identity: the demos & telos problems

Citizenship is the cornerstone of a democratic polity (Weiler 1999:332). It provides a sense of belonging in a political community, rights derived from membership, and duties of participation (Leydet 2006). It has thus three dimensions: identitarian, a sense of belonging; legal rights and duties; and political participation (Leydet 2006; Bellamy 2008b:599).

Citizens constitute the polity’s demos, its ‘people’, which often coincides with a nation (Weiler 1999:337). Now while EU citizenship was introduced with the purpose of enhancing ‘European identity’ (Treaty on European Union 1992), understood as the Europeans’ sense of belonging to their political community (Weiler 1999:333), such citizenship created at least two problems.

The first problem was: What demos is EU citizenship based on? Is there a European demos, a ‘People’? Where does the new situation leave the nations – peoples, demoi – of the Member States? Has not the plan of an ‘ever closer union’ not been one thought for ‘the peoples of Europe’ (Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union [2000])?

Membership in a polity confers rights, implies duties of participation and makes citizens ‘part of the club’. Citizenship creates a bond of unity between the members of the political community: all of them possess equal rights, are ruled and rule through political participation, and can develop a sense of belonging among strangers without threat to what makes each of them different…

The second problem was this: If citizens are by definition members of a political community, to what kind of polity do the EU citizens belong? And how does that polity relate to the existing Member States? Does it substitute them or assume them as in a federation? Is it a new kind of polity? Some have called this the telos problem[6].

In the beginning: national identity and citizenship

There were voices of concern about the creation of a European citizenship (Miller 1998; Smith 1992; Kymlicka 2001; Offe 2006; Grimm 2005) pointing out that citizenship had its place in nation-states, which were about the largest communities within which the identitarian aspect of citizenship (membership, belongingness) still makes sense. EU citizenship implied the creation of another demos whose telos (a super-nation) either threatened European nation-states or simply was not going to work (Miller 1998:49). This position is insightful of the way in which citizenship has been devised and has worked in contemporary democracies (Miscevic 2005). There is a strong link between national identity and citizenship.

Membership in a polity confers rights, implies duties of participation and makes citizens ‘part of the club’. Citizenship creates a bond of unity between the members of the political community: all of them possess equal rights, are ruled and rule through political participation, and can develop a sense of belonging among strangers without threat to what makes each of them different (Leydet 2006). In other words, citizenship successfully allows the fulfilment of unity in diversity. Yet there are certain elements that contribute to the political community’s shared identity: a language that everybody speaks, a common history, a landscape, perhaps a religious tradition and others.

But the EU is too big and its Member States (and peoples) are too diverse to make citizenship workable. For people across Europe ‘the nation remains [the] primary focus of political identity and allegiance’ (Miller 1998:49). Democracy will only be possible where all members of society have a voice in public discussion. This is very difficult without a common language (English is spoken as a second language by the elites, but not by all Europeans).

Besides, democracy works when each participating group moderates its demands in order to reach a compromise that everyone will accept. Every participant must be willing to comply with the outcome even when they are not on the winning side, knowing that their voice has been taken seriously. In other words a successful democracy presupposes trust and confidence from each member of the political community in the rest of the participants, something more likely to happen among people who share a common national identity, speak the same language and possess broadly similar cultural values (Miller 1998:48).

Social justice too, requires people to restrain their own demands, be fair in their dealings with, and make sacrifices for, other members of the political community. For Miller (1998) there is abundant evidence that citizens will be more willing to support redistribution and afford equal treatment to others if they perceive them to share the same values and identity, as happens in nations (48).

From this perspective, EU citizenship presents poor prospects. But these reflections deserve attention since they are based on what has been the experience of citizenship so far, much more successful in national polities than in multinational ones.

Two approaches argue for citizenship beyond the nation-state. They involve different ideas about the demos and the telos questions. We will look first at the one that seems to have more adherents in the academic literature.

Postnational citizenship

Postnationalists, or procedural cosmopolitans (Habermas; Fossum 2003; Delanty 1997; Longo 2008) see EU citizenship as a new, cosmopolitan form of belonging, which protects Europe from the dark risks of nationalism – all too evident in its recent history – and sets the conditions for ‘the people of Europe’ – its demos – to build a post-national polity (telos) through deliberation and attachment to civic values. EU citizenship ought to be enhanced from its present form into a fully-fledged postnational citizenship (Habermas 2001a, 2001b, 2006).

For Habermas (2001b) the emergence of a ‘Federal States of Europe’ (89) – a postnational polity on the way to global governance – is possible only if political communities can form a collective identity beyond national borders, thus grounding the conditions of legitimacy for a ‘postnational democracy’ (90). European citizens will have to learn ‘to mutually recognize one another as members of a common political existence beyond national borders’ (Habermas 2001b:98) in such a way that ‘Swedes and Portuguese are prepared to stand up for each other’, exercising a ‘civil solidarity that leads to the setting of – for example – roughly equivalent minimum wages’ (Habermas 2003:97).

Against sceptics signalling to impossibility of a ‘European people’ being created, Habermas (2001b) points out that such an enterprise is difficult only if ‘people’ depends on a ‘pre-political community of fate’ (a nation), who are solidary to each other because a state authority imposes on them that duty which they place above their own preferences (101). But the normative self-understanding of the modern constitutional state is that of ‘an uncoerced association of legal consociates’, in such a way that

The citizens of a democratic legal state understand themselves as the authors of the law, which compels them to obedience as its addressees. Unlike morality, positive law construes duties as something secondary; they arise only from the compatibility of the rights of each other with the equal rights of all (Habermas 2001b:101).

Habermas (2001b) recognises the nation as ‘the first modern form of collective identity’ (101); yet the different paths that the emergence of nation-states took in Europe – from state to nation (for example France) or from nation to state (for example Germany) – attest ‘to the constructed character of this new identity formation’ (102). Civic solidarity among strangers was generated thanks to ‘a highly abstractive leap from the local and dynastic to national and then to democratic consciousness’, and there is no reason why this learning process should not continue supported by the European party system that departing from the national arenas develops ‘a debate on the future of Europe and in the process articulates interests that cross national borders’ (Habermas 2001b:102-103) and finds resonance

…in a pan-European political public sphere that presupposes a European civil society complete with interest groups, non-governmental organizations, citizens’ movements, and so forth… The normative impulses that first set these different processes in motion from their scattered national sites will themselves only come about through overlapping projects for a common political culture… in the common historical horizon that the citizens of Europe already find themselves in (Habermas 2001b:103).

Habermas (2001b) sees in the experiences of overcoming particularisms and conflicts among Europeans, successful forms of social integration that have shaped ‘the normative self-understanding of European modernity into an egalitarian universalism’ and can ease the transition to postnational democracy for ‘all of us – we, the sons, daughters, and grand-children of a barbaric nationalism’ (103).

Cosmopolitan communitarianist citizenship

Cosmopolitan communitarianists, such as Bellamy[7], Castiglione and Walreigh, take a middle position between nationalism and postnationalism. To them EU citizenship should be perfected in its present form but not substantially changed. Existing alongside the national kind, EU citizenship allows citizens to maintain their main source of political identification – belonging to their respective nations – and at the same time opens for them the benefits of a supranational atmosphere.

If Europe is to maintain the richness of its diversity it should continue on the path of a ‘mixed commonwealth’ (Bellamy & Castiglione 2003) – neither an intergovernmental organisation, like in the past, nor a federation, as some envisage its future (Bellamy & Walreigh 1998b:447) – with several demoi, drawing from the different cultural, linguistic and legal traditions of the Member States and, at the same time, keeping each other in check as a way to avoid the dangers of nationalism. EU citizenship should be kept and perfected in its present form (Bellamy 2008b).

Bellamy & Warleigh (1998b) argue that the EU’s ‘hybridity can be sustained and developed by supplementing the elite-driven process and granting a greater political role to EU citizens’ (447). As the normative foundation of this multilevel polity they propose an ‘ethics of participation… [n]either supranationally cosmopolitan nor communitarianly state-centric’: a ‘cosmopolitan communitarianism’ (Bellamy & Walreigh 1998b:448), attending to the original inspiration contained in the Preamble of the Treaty of Rome (1957), that of ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’ (emphasis mine). Accordingly, Bellamy (2006) proposes ‘to leave the distinct peoplehood of the various Member States intact’ (118).

He was against the drafting of a constitution in 2003, since a sort of constitution already existed in the acquis communautaire, which combines ‘a neo-republican form of governance with the evolution of a European common law,…better suited to the EU’s character as an evolving polity’ that ‘ought to be improved and enhanced, not replaced’ (Bellamy 2006:118).

For Bellamy (2008b) the degree of belonging necessary to create an EU-wide demos is lacking, and rights cannot fill this gap, for democratic participation on EU matters will be meaningful to EU citizens if they are regarded as part of a ‘poly-centric polity and multi-levelled regime’, as a demoi-cracy in which EU policies are debated at the national and even sub-national realms, so that EU politics ‘be brought down to the levels that make sense for people’ (608). He points out that this is the way EU politics currently works, with EU issues being framed by national debates rather than as the focus of transnational movements (Bellamy 2008b:608).

Political participation of EU citizens should be seen as ‘nested in, rather than autonomous from, national citizenship’, since ‘democratic legitimacy is largely lent to the EU through the old forms of democratic citizenship that prevail in the Member States’ rather than due to mechanisms of its own,

(…) European citizenship must continue to be but an adjunct to national citizenship. Bringing the one more firmly under the scrutiny of the other, particularly with regard to decisions by the Court and other unelected bodies, and to some degree limiting the scope for European integration itself, provides the only viable way to enhance democracy within the EU (Bellamy 2008b:609).

A truly common dimension will grow only if the EU respects and works with nations, not if it tries to overcome them: citizens are more likely to treat seriously European matters if they perceive them as an intrinsic part of domestic politics and not belonging to an altogether separate polity different from theirs (Bellamy 2006:128).

In clear disagreement with Habermas regarding the demos question, Bellamy (2006) points out that there is no common European language and hence no pan-European media. Partially because of this, there is no shared political culture: in fact concepts such as ‘democracy’, ‘liberty’, ‘equality’, and others are understood differently in each Member State (123). Finally, within a vast electorate, ‘in the absence of a common language and culture of politics and hence of any meaningful European public sphere’, citizens feel disempowered to affect the EU: the size of a political community, if citizens are to play a significant role in it, matters (Bellamy 2006:123-124).

The ‘EU quasi-polity’ characterised as a ‘mixed-commonwealth’ means for Bellamy (2006) the ongoing interaction between the polities and regimes of the Member States reflected in an EU that is, at the same time, national, supranational and transnational (126). For him ‘the post-national’ position

…is of itself too thin to generate allegiance to any polity in particular and, hence, once it moves beyond a general humanitarianism most communitarians would accept, it will always have a tendency to merge into supranationalism (…) this is what happens in Habermas’ case. In seeking to flesh out his argument as a distinctively ‘European’ [one]…his thesis loses certain of its postnational [cosmopolitan] credentials… (Belllamy & Castiglione 2004:189).

This is because Habermas has overestimated ‘the degree of system and value convergence’ within the EU and also ‘the extent to which “political” and “national” values can be separated’ (Belllamy & Castiglione 2004:190). Whatever the concept used to talk about citizenship and the related polity, Bellamy abides always in the realm of the ‘national’ (e.g. ‘supra-national’, ‘trans-national’), whereas Habermas shifts attention towards a ‘post-national’ kind of citizenship and polity.

Now given that a European citizenship and a polity of sorts already exist, what colour ought they to take, cosmopolitan communitarianist or postnational? I explore this in the following section.

EU citizenship: an analogical reading

The criterion I suggest for assessing the normative value of the two contending proposals is the desire of the great majority of Europeans – synthesised in the EU motto – of having a ‘Europe united in diversity’[8]. But how should this motto be interpreted? Is it different, for instance, from the United States’ e pluribus unum? I would like to suggest an interpretation of the EU’s motto – and consequently also its citizenship, identity and polity – that is ‘analogical’, (Beuchot 2004; 2005a).

Beuchot has applied analogy to the interpretation of linguistic or non-linguistic (Ramberg & Gjesdal 2005) expressions. Based among others on certain classical and contemporary thinkers (Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Heidegger, Pierce, Wittgenstein, Paz, Gadamer, Eco, Ricoeur), Beuchot has sought to offer a middle ground between two opposing theories of interpretation: ‘univocism’ and ‘equivocism’ (Beuchot 2005a:21).

For the nearly 500 million EU citizens today, their national cultures, languages, history, and political, religious and legal traditions are a treasure that the European project ought to cherish and respect.

Univocist interpretation would have been used in classical positivism (Mill), neo-positivism (Carnap) and logical positivism (Quine, Putnam). Equivocist interpretation would be found in romanticism – Schleiermacher – and relativism –Nietzsche, Foucault, Rorty, and Derrida (Beuchot 2004:63; 2005a:22-25, 97; 2005b:243-247; 2006:22-24). Beuchot’s position lies in between. Against univocism, he denies that there is a unique and absolute interpretation of ‘the text’. But against equivocism, he does not concede that all interpretations are incommensurable and equally valid. He claims that certain interpretations are closer to the true meaning of the text than others, and that such interpretations can be ordered accordingly in a hierarchy – by analogy (Beuchot 2006:15-17).

For the nearly 500 million EU citizens today, their national cultures, languages, history, and political, religious and legal traditions are a treasure that the European project ought to cherish and respect. From the outset they joined the common enterprise on this assumption. The overwhelming majority of them identify first with their own nations and only secondarily – if at all – with Europe or (even less) the EU (Berglund, Duvold, Ekman & Schymick 2009:1-35; Petithomme 2008). Most of them are happy with an EU which enhances –but does not substitute – their national spheres. The EU motto, if it is to mean anything to EU citizens, ought to reflect this fact and therefore should not be read as proposing to make ‘one out of many’ – a melting pot – with the stress on the side of unity; but rather to create a weaker unity, one come about ‘in diversity’.

Borrowing from Beuchot’s insights I would like to submit that EU unity, identity, citizenship and polity should be regarded as ‘analogical’. Analogical to what? To the national referents. In other words, the unity of the EU polity should be analogical to the one of the nations, though weaker. EU citizenship should provide a collective identity, a sense of belonging, but subordinated or added to national citizenships. The EU polity should be less defined, centralised and important than the national polities. A model of citizenship and political unity for Europe ought to have – in this sense – an analogical character.

Having this in mind, what kind of EU citizenship (and associated concept of polity) ought to be promoted, postnational or cosmopolitan communitarianist? In the next section I will argue in favour o the latter.

Cosmopolitan communitarianist citizenship: the lesser evil?

Postnational citizenship seeks to free Europe from nationalism – often root of bloody conflicts – by creating a common demos with the related postnational polity. Under a cosmopolitan communitarianist citizenship, nationalism is allowed to continue existing, while its excesses are kept in check through a balance between the different demoi of the mixed polity.

Departing from the premise that Europe cherishes its diversity and that national traditions and values ought to be preserved as elements not only of cultural richness, but also as the main source of the citizens’ political identity, the cosmopolitan communitarianist option seems more desirable and feasible. It does not destroy or ‘overcome’ national identities – Europe’s diversity – in the name of a postnational situation which not only does not correspond with the reality of the EU, but promises very weak allegiances – if any – from ordinary citizens.

If nationalism means the pretence that people from a certain nation are not only particular (‘different’) but superior to others, ought of course to be rejected. But does that render nations – and nation-states – a thing of the past? Not necessarily. Nationality – let us distinguish it from ‘nationalism’, its excess – carries with itself a great richness expressed in language, legal and religious traditions, history, political systems, and so on. Furthermore, nation-states have proved to be an effective form of political organisation.

Postnationalists run the risk of pursuing unity by cancelling diversity. Because nationality has had excesses, they purport to uproot it altogether. Cosmopolitan communitarianism proceeds from the fact that the EU is formed of nations. Most Europeans (except maybe for small elites) draw their collective identity (political and otherwise) much more from their nation and region than from the EU. A project that understands diversity and looks for ways to coordinate it politically promises to be hard and messy, but so has European integration been from its beginnings. That is the price of preserving diversity.

True, the kind of unity that derived from postnationalism could be thought of as stronger and clearer than the one coming from cosmopolitan communitarianism: ‘postnational federation’ – even if grounded on an identity perceived as thin – sounds more defined than ‘mixed-commonwealth’ or – still worse – ‘quasi-polity’. Yet the latter corresponds better with the reality of the European project as it has unfolded and – more importantly – with the great richness of the European nations – ‘the peoples of Europe’.

However if collective identity is a problem in the case of postnationalism, which proposes to create a postnational demos, it becomes an even more acute difficulty in the case of cosmopolitan communitarianism. How can unity exist among different peoples without them fusing into a single people? How can the national citizen remain such and still have some allegiance to a larger political community? How can a mixed commonwealth that encompasses several peoples still be one? And what kind of identity would it have? This problem is considered in the next and last section.

Challenges: unity, identity and the common language

The cosmopolitan communitarianist option, as we have seen, is messy and imperfect. It does not create a clear-cut polity with a proper name (‘federation’ for example). It is not ‘univocal’ – extrapolating Beuchot’s terms. Neither does it, however, renounce to some kind of unity, to a possible commonality among diverse members. It is not completely ‘equivocal’. Bellamy’s ‘cosmopolitan communitarianism’ respects diversity, but it still proposes some kind of unity. Neither an overriding (‘univocal’) unity nor a completely relativised and dissolved (‘equivocal’) one; but an analogical unity, with an analogical citizenship and identity (not strong but still existent) and an analogical polity (polycentric and multilevelled, but still a polity – or at least a ‘quasi-polity’).

One of the challenges to Bellamy’s position is to specify how unity can be created and maintained, and if the cohesion of the mixed commonwealth requires some shared values or culture, even if in very basic terms. The implied sacrifices of sovereignty in this mixed polity presuppose a certain degree of unity, a supposition that others will do the same: that ‘we’ (each EU Member State) can trust ‘them’ (the rest of Member States). Can such trust be grounded only on a body of treaties (the ‘mobile constitution’ of the EU) or do they rely on deeper, pre-political moral suppositions? Friese & Wagner (2002) wonder if Bellamy ‘and others’ are not taking agreement about Europeanness for granted, disregarding thus the question of any substantive orientation of the polity: if that is true, ‘…they may indeed join Habermas’ (335). This could be one of the strongest objections to cosmopolitan communitarianism: if a demos is not created, if the demoi are maintained in their valuable diversity, what can unite the polity? What will make EU citizens trust each other for the necessary arrangements and sacrifices of sovereignty that even this mixed-commonwealth implies?

As we have seen the emergence of the most basic collective identity and unity in contemporary democratic polities is aided by the presence of a common language. But by definition the EU cannot have a common language because national languages are part of the diversity its citizens want to maintain. Here Beuchot’s insight might prove especially useful. Maybe the common language could be ‘analogical’: a medium for mutual understanding which performs a service similar to (but less strong than) national languages.

The implied sacrifices of sovereignty in this mixed polity presuppose a certain degree of unity, a supposition that others will do the same: that ‘we’ (each EU Member State) can trust ‘them’ (the rest of Member States).

Although this idea is too complex to fully explain here, I would like to offer a speculative example on how an analogical language could be conceived . At the beginning of this paper reference was made to Ratzinger’s idea of the Biblical tradition (which is shared by all of the Member States) as a possible source of common moral principles. This could be an analogical ‘language’ since it is already there, embedded in the national mentalities. Atheist philosopher Marcello Pera sees in the Judeo-Christian tradition a potential ‘civil religion’ for the EU, a general conceptual framework of values, principles and institutions with ‘a common feeling that gives them breathing room, cultural weight, and the force of custom’ (Ratzinger & Pera 2007:94-96).

Pera (& Ratzinger 2007) suggests that the work of making that common language more evident should be done ‘by Christians and secularists together’ from individuals to families, groups, associations and civil society but staying apart from political parties and government programs (97). This ‘non-denominational…religion’ is natural to the Western polity, prone to care for the citizen from cradle to grave and therefore to adopt and safeguard within its own public sphere values from the private spheres of individuals and groups; and would be both private and public: ‘private, because of the faith of the individuals who profess it’ and ‘public, because it is the common spirit and feeling of the civil society that sustains it (Ratzinger & Pera 2007:97). Pera recalls John Adams’ words about the American constitution having been ‘made only for a moral and religious people’, and Ratzinger quotes Tocqueville as saying ‘Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot’ (Ratzinger & Pera 2007:109). The United States has been able to build unity upon a basic, non-denominational religious and moral consensus based on Judeo-Christian principles (Ratzinger & Pera 2007:109). This avenue could be explored for the EU as well.

For Jewish professor of Law Joseph Weiler, the role and possible usefulness of Christianity in the construction of ‘Europe’ has received surprisingly little attention in the academic literature about European integration (Weiler 2003:47-48). The European project has never been one concerned simply with the creation of a free-market region, but possesses the aspiration to build an ‘ethical community’. The Preamble of the Constitutional Treaty declared the desire to continue a path of civility, progress and prosperity for all its inhabitants (Weiler 2003:45). Europe’s memory, its history, that provides it with an identity, the basis for the union of its demoi upon an ethos and a telos, has always had the presence of Christianity (Weiler 2003:45). Christianity cannot be erased even from Europe’s contemporary history (Weiler 2003:46). It has influenced Europe’s political culture, ideas, values and morality (Weiler 2003:44).

The concept of a ‘civil religion’ is complex and I do not intend to explain it or even less to assess it here. I just mention it as one among many possible answers[9] to a problem that needs to be addressed by the cosmopolitan communitarianist perspective, namely the lack of a common language to unify the polity.


It is clear that EU citizenship presents features and challenges that go beyond ordinary forms of citizenship. At the same time EU citizenship is not totally foreign to them since it is embedded in national citizenships. This fact makes EU citizenship and the EU polity more difficult to grasp, because in part they are different to the national counterparts, but in part they are similar to them. This situation presents the alternatives of renouncing to EU citizenship; or translating it into a postnational citizenship that overrides nationalities; or conceiving of it in a cosmopolitan communitarianist way. I have suggested that this latter alternative is both more desirable and feasible.

Further, I have attempted to show how that conception of EU citizenship can be understood more deeply through analogical hermeneutics: EU citizenship and the related notions of identity and polity are in part similar and in part different to national citizenship. Their interplay is analogical and allows for an idea of a polity formed of peoples and polities diverse from each other but still united – though not in a strong sense as in the case of the Member States.

To say that the unity of this analogical polity can be weaker than that of the national polities, however, does not solve the problem of finding its source of unity and cohesion: its identity. I have submitted that such identity should be also analogical, something in part similar and in part different to the role that languages perform in national polities. More than a decade ago Weiler (1999) called for a renewed discussion about the ends (not only about the means) of integration: the ideals (peace, prosperity, supranationalism) and the ethos (Christianity, social responsibility, the Enlightenment) that set in motion the European project (238-263). I have advanced an example on how, perhaps the analogical language for the EU polity and its citizens could be thence drawn.


‘Declaration on the Future of the European Union’ (2001) Laeken, 15 December. Accessed August 2010: http://www.ena.lu/laeken_declaration_future_european_union_15_december_2001-2-17540

‘Document on European Identity’ (1973) published by the Nine Foreign Ministers, 14 December, Copenhagen. Accessed August 2010: http://www.ena.lu/declaration_european_identity_copenhagen_14_december_1973-2-6180

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[1]               Centre for European Studies & Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Australian National University

[2]               Often term ‘Europe’ is used as short for ‘European Union’ as if they were interchangeable. I do not endorse this confusion. Some authors and even official documents use it. The European Union certainly encompasses more than half of the European countries, but still ‘European Union’ is not a synonym of ‘Europe’. Ukraine, Iceland and Croatia are as European as any Member State of the EU.

[3]               According to the United Nations (2010), Europe had in 1970-5 an average birth rate of 2.5 children per woman. For the period 2005-10 the figure has fallen to 1.5. No other continent in the world has natality rates below replacement level.

[4]               Though the cultural, economic and social perspectives are also relevant if citizenship means not only a source of rights and duties but also participation in the polity’s affairs and a shared sense of belonging – or identity.

[5]               Chryssoochoou (2009:6-14) calls it a ‘social scientific puzzle’. Former president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, once called it an ‘unidentified political object’ (Müller 2004).

[6]               As we shall see towards the end of the paper, Weiler (1999:238-263) has in mind a third and no less important problem, that of the ethos of integration.

[7]               Bellamy’s position is inspired on Pettit’s neorepublicanism, different from Habermasian proceduralism and Rawlsian contractarianism.

[8]               For the historical account on how it was created, see Curti Gialdino (2005).

[9]               Elsewhere (Jiménez 2010) I have investigated other possible sources of European identity, for instance economic prosperity (the ‘European Way of Life’), the international image of the EU (as a ‘normative power’) or civic solidarity (through citizens participation in the political life of the EU).