european-identityIn an earlier post, Michael, one of our commenters, suggested that many of Europe’s current woes stem from a simple lack of common identity:

[It] is obvious (to me at least) that Europe has to reform its identity… Europe has culture, Europe has civilization, Europe has history and finally Europe has what it takes to create the ideal social structure…

Nikolai, another commenter, agreed about the importance of identity, but was highly sceptical that such a thing was possible:

Indeed identity is an absolute and critical issue… [but the EU is a] geographical supra-structural blob on the map with no clear ideology amongst its populous, despite what the elected and non-elected leaders may otherwise state.

Nikolai makes a good point. When in post-war Europe has “European solidarity” appeared quite so fleeting? With the British and French at each others’ throats and the Greeks making Nazi jokes at the Germans whilst the Germans suggest the Greeks mortgage off the Parthenon, never before has “European identity” seemed like such a bad joke. Was the idea doomed from the start? It doesn’t seem possible to create a sense of common identity and solidarity out of such a bitter stew of squabbling populism.

Language, in particular, is often cited as the basis of a common identity; Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities – his much-cited book on the construction of nationalism – argues that all national identities form around a common vernacular. Yet Europe has no common language. Will, then, all efforts at forging a common identity be in vain?

We spoke with Leonard Orban, former Romanian Minister of European Affairs and European Commissioner for Multilingualism, and asked him if he thought a common “European identity” was possible – especially given the huge diversity of languages spoken in Europe.

I think yes, it is possible. I don’t think that the variety of languages in Europe creates division. The divisions are sometimes created by different stakeholders trying to promote their own agenda; an agenda which is not similar to the agenda of the European Union. I do think it’s important to consolidate a kind of European citizenship, but let’s be very clear (and this was also my main message when I was a Commissioner): only by respecting the diversity of languages in Europe can we ensure a feeling of common identity. It looks a little strange that, on the one hand we are supporting diversity but on the other we want to create such a feeling of European citizenship, but by defending the language of different people living in the European Union, we may offer this feeling of being really a European.

But can we have a common identity without a common language? In a long-running thread on Debating Europe about using Esperanto in the EU, it was argued that over 50% of people in the Union speak English as either a first or second language. Could English be promoted as a common second language?

It is not our role to propose which languages should be learned by different people. Of course, it is clear that there is a tendency to learn certain languages over others and, day by day, we see that more and more people are learning English. English is an excellent language, and it helps one have a direct dialogue with people from different member-states. However, we should also encourage people to learn other languages. Ultimately, it’s a question of defending the cultural diversity of Europe. One of the mottos of the Union, after all, is “Unity in Diversity”.

How do you answer those people who have argued on Debating Europe that Esperanto or some other artificial language might be a solution?

I answer very simply: we have many languages spoken in the European Union, including hundreds of minority languages. Why should we invent a new language? Even within Esperanto, there are different versions; Esperanto spoken in South America is different from that from spoken in Europe, for example. I don’t think we should push for an artificial language as a common European lingua franca. And, ultimately, every language in Europe represents a people and a culture, and we cannot simply invent a new language without having a culture behind it. I said very clearly when I was Commissioner for Multilingualism, we have many languages spoken in Europe, why invent a new one?

Do you share Nikolai’s pessimism about the possibility of a common European identity?

In spite of the many difficulties, in spite of the huge challenges, I’m still optimistic for the future. It’s time to have a vision of a United States of Europe – different, perhaps, from a United States of America – but we nevertheless need a consolidation of Europe. We need to be more united than we are today, to face the challenges ahead.

What do YOU think? Is a European identity impossible? Are there too many diverse languages and cultures in Europe? Or is that very diversity the basis of a common identity? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

151 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. Katerina Kyriazi

    Languagecis irrelative to common identity, there are many examples that prove this is the case e.g. India. Europe’s common identity is forged by shared values of democracy, freedom, human rights and thousands of years of interacting with each other.

  2. Samo Košmrlj

    Building common identity based on the diversity is … well … bound to be unsuccesful im afraid. It certainly is better to base the identity on the things we have in common, like respect for every human life, love for objectivity and logic, and as katerina pointed out, democracy, freedom and human rights. Common scientific and engineering projects, etc. I am just afraid that lately we have been building the european identity on xenophoby and reducing of our freedom (with the excuse of terrorism and similar nonsense).

    But this is a long term project, we will have to see the change of generations i am afraid. Anyway we need to put european identity into the minds of the coming generations, as they are the ones that can truly share the common european identity.

    • Theophilus Ghoststone

      Why can’t the E.U. use Latin as a Common language? It was once shared by most of Europe and it is a proven strong language.

  3. Alexandru Voicu

    Language could be a good basis for an identity but in the case of Europe I think it is utopian. In the present and I think in my life time I will not see a German or an Italian that would put on first place his identity as an European rather than his nationality. However identity change is a long process that takes time if not decades maybe centuries. Let?s not forget that almost the entire history of Europe had been divided in state, empires that forged their own identity and this history was mainly antagonistic rather than peaceful. Although I may look pessimistic I believe that interaction between societies (not states) of Europe could have as a result a quasi European identity.

  4. Alex Kassios

    Europe’s identity should be pluralism of culture, imagination in arts, excel in technology with foundation in philosophy and humanism.
    That is the ideal Europe to me.

  5. Mário Santos

    Very soon the imposed an common language in EU will the german. EU seems, right now, a new Reich in the works. Heil Merkel! Sad EU that allowed things ti come this way. But we will resist to Merkel. She won’t win! Europe is from all of us, not hers!!!

    • Oliver

      Apparently it is not for all of us, since you obsiously believe it’s perfectly ok to slander a whole nation in the most deplorable and offensive way possible because you don’t like what its head of government says or does.

      I doubt you understand that your behaviour amounts to no less than a trivialisation of Nazi atrocities?

    • Dave Ratters

      Very silly – Germany is not the master of Europe – it is the paymaster of europe. Many should be very thankful that Germany is willing to tolerate such ingratitude to its efforts to keep the system afloat.

      Of all the countries of the EU, I rate it as the last land likely to invade another any time soon. The German people are today a peaceloving and hard working people. They should be applauded in their accomplishments – especially in their re-unification of Germany – no other country could have achieved this with so little relative pain.

  6. Andreas Agathokleous

    Yes it is impossible. This could mean the beginning of the end of a country’s culture and civilization. Well, actually this is happening already with Germany restricting other states’ sovereignty pretending to be the ‘leader’ of the whole of the EU. This is terribly sad and outside the initial scope of the European Community.

  7. Matteo Laruffa

    I think a common European identity is possible if we consider my generation(I’m 21) as the 1st generation of European citizens.
    Most of us speak more than 3 languages and we know well the European countries. We are aware the role of European laws and we have already grew up with the EU as the most important political and institutional landmark of our society.

  8. Oliver

    Yes, we have many different languages, but many of them are highly interrelated. So I don’t quite see how this should be an argument.

    If we look at the early days of this community, it should be clear that common language can be secondary to common experiences. And all in Europe shared the experience of the devastation of WWII. Some on one side, some on the other. Many shared the experience of foreign occupation – some far longer than the end of the war. The Schuman declaration was born from that experience, and that of many wars before – the realisation that the vicious cycle of violence had to be broken.
    Perhaps Europe was too successful in preventing internal violence so that we feel too comfortable to heed the lessons of the past. Though the example of Yugoslavia right at our doorstep should have taught us differently.

    As for a cultural identity, well, there might not be a single one, but in the end, we still have widespread cultural intermingling throughout history, whether it is through the Roman Empire, the migrations e.g. of the Goths who traveled all the way from Scandinavia to the southernmost parts of Europe, as was the case with the Normans later on. None of this may have covered all of Europe, but repeated stirring still makes for a lot of common ground. We need but look at such cultural tropes as fairy tales to see how common certain key images are.

    The question is not whether we have a single cultural identity – the question is whether in dealing with each other, we focus on what we have in common, or if we focus entirely of what distinguishes us from each other.

  9. ido

    What we do need, following the thoughts of Mr. Lars Cederman, is “bounded integration”, through language, education and mass media. But, unfortunately, we are still very far away from that objective and nationalities is gaining more ground and jeopardizing our cherished common project…

  10. Radoslav S. Bozov (@Radobozov)

    The AGENDA of EU must be towards establishing, maintaining and developing true Green Societies and Communities capable of self sustainability. The language of modern science is LIFE itself that integrates purpose of action of communities with meaning of life – sustainable growth of a healthy society free of negative drugs, cultural division based on ethical constrains and religion, segregation based on false teaching, strong education on modern toxicity, and understanding of life consequences based on behavioral science as a function of life equations delivering reality towards mutual love and respect. Europe should have unified ideology of reasons towards proper life. Unified language is not a language itself, it is rather a mind set developed through proper education using simple tools of science languages – physics and chemistry. Then it is all about identifying the true meaning of Biology and the way Green Chemistry works. At last politicians must be true life understanding “units” free of corruption and falsely imposed ideas on social development and progress.

  11. Peter

    I very much support what ido says. Building up of a common identity is – in my view – very much influenced by national media, and of course by history and native language teaching at school.
    Why can’t we publically finance one or two european broadcasting channels (I do not mean just News) like the national ones? Why are there no european newspapers or magazines? I’m sure one could make some money with that. I’m waiting for something like that for a while.
    School teaching could be reduced of nation founding myths and concentrate more on our common european values.

  12. Graziella (Grace) Stincheddu

    I don’t think we need to make up one and only language for the EU. In my opinion the working languages in the EU should be English/French and then let people speak whatever language they like. However, I am for ONE Europe united but to do this the big “bosses” of the EU must immediately stop exports coming from China and other far away countries. If entrepreneurs want to dislocate let them but refuse entrance of their goods into the EU. Exports from China and other countries ex EU should not be to the detriment of the members of the EU.

    • Bill Chapman

      “I don’t think we need to make up one and only language for the EU.” Agreed. That’s why I would like to see Esperanto as a common language for us all. Its speakers aspire to see Esperanto more widely used as an auxiliary language – not one to replace our native tongues.

  13. Matteo Laruffa

    Peter’s porposal is very interesting. But there isn’t only a problem of communication, we need the courage to realize a political union. Because it is essential to give a strong signal to our expectations and to all foreign investitors.

    • Peter

      Debating a constitution for Europe as in the early 2000’s did not get to the people, except in the countries who could vote. So voting does seem to interest and mobilize people. Every discussion on how to organize european future (even the right-wing british one ;-)) is better than the anxious consensus of our politicians of leaving Europe’s future to the elites. I think, benefits from integration are that obvious, and outnumber single cases of public money wasting, corruption or overregulation, that nothing has to be feared from a new discussion, and referendum, over a common constitution of a European state.

    • Oliver

      At the same time, in some cases the vote seemed to be more about local politics than the actual issue at hand. In any case, the problem with voting is that we still have many politicians that will blame everything that goes wrong on the EU and take credit for everything that works out, even if they opposed it in the EU. This will taint any vote because it will influence people against the EU.

    • Peter

      True. But for many people, the EU is way above their heads, and it would be a major birth defect if people (or a majority of people) would not stand behind the project, because they have the feeling of not beeing aksed – meaning not beeing part of it. I cannot seeto how avoid local politicians misusing the debate, anyway.

    • Oliver

      I think some networks as you suggested would be very good, though of course it would be suggested that they are tainted. So I’d start with a “Parliament TV” style network which broadcasts sessions of the EP. This would have two-fold effect: First, people would see that their representatives in parliament are working for them. Second, it would put pressure on the MEPs to actually be there… To this, there could be broadcasts of press conferences by the comission or other institutions. Broadcasting these without a lot of comment would simply make the information available and show people that something is being done for them.

    • Silviu Novac

      The political union is kind of a cameleon… when EU needed a 27 milions consumers market it was ok to accept romanians and bulgarians but when talking about access to labour market… hmmm, we don’t need you as competitors but for the low-value work, agriculture, construction and old-aged care. Same with the Schengen matter.

      In 2010 Romania bought european goods of more than 41 bilions euro (88% of its imports). What if Romanian Parliament would decide to “temporary” tax imports by 10-20% as they compete romanian products the same way romanian workers compete europeans? Not fair!

  14. Marcel

    A common identity cannot be imposed from above. And all EU attempts to do so have been a spectacular failure, usually even backfiring.

    Ever since 2005, when France and Netherlands voted ‘no’, the politicians have been seen to go out of their way to avoid referendums at all and any price. And where they cannot be avoided, they are to be re-run until the ‘desired’ answer is produced. How is this different from the old Soviet mentality?

    The Soviet Union was an attempt to impose from above a ‘common identity’ upon peoples who largely had no desire for such a thing. They more or less tolerated it until the first real opportunity to break away (1989-1991) and break away they did. It’s 15 countries now, and quite a few more nations (Abchazia, Ossetia etc…). In the EU the leaders try to do the same thing, and with similar results, while many on the surface seem to ‘tolerate’ the common identity, at the first sign of trouble many put their own nation first.

    And how about for example pensions. You have a situation where for example my country Netherlands has pension fund assets totalling 130% of GDP, for the rest of the Eurozone on average this is 20-25%. Can you see why fiscal union would be a catastrophe for us?
    I don’t think you’ll find more than 1% be willing to ‘share’ around, and those are the ones who can afford it. The lower middle class and lower incomes, who did not profit from the Euro at all, you will find no such ‘European’ solidarity. It simply does not exist.

    And of course, wealth cannot be aggregated at the highest level, and the more you ‘integrate’, the more wealth in the long run will become a weighted average. In other words, you are asking Germany and Netherlands to structurally surrender 20% of our wealth, and then you are amazed that ordinary people here are opposed to that. Yes you hear a lot from certain countries that they’d be in favor of it, but of course those tend to be the countries that stand to profit. I’d say that when it comes to budget, net recipients should have the weight of their votes reduced so they cannot outvote the net contributors.

    And there is another problem. In order to have ‘democracy’ you need a ‘demos’, the very definition of democracy requires it. And like in the old Soviet Union, in the EU such a thing does not exist. The ‘demos’ are on the national level. And where there is no ‘demos’, by definition there is not nor can there be democracy. This is exactly why the socalled ‘democratic’ deficit has actually gotten worse ever since elections were introduced for the EP Parliament. Now the EP is neither a real parliament nor actually democratic since it does not represent a single ‘demos’. No amount of grand pre-ambles in treaties can cover that fact up that it is not democratic that one nation can have laws and rules imposed upon itself where its populace might well be unanimously opposed to.

    And for those who believe that its the older generations who tend to oppose it more, they could not be more wrong. Back in 2005 in our ‘no’ referendum here in Netherlands, the 55+ age group was the only one that voted in favor, the 18-29 group was the most overwhelmingly opposed. Same was true in France, and later for ‘Lisbon’ in Ireland. My generation does not have the war trauma, nor do we see the need to slowly abolish democracy in order to have cooperation. Whatever was wrong with the EEC anyway?

    • Matteo Laruffa

      Sorry Marcel,

      I think it’s impossible to compare the EU and the URSS. You don’t consider the enormous results we have realized since 1951 and the EU is the only possibility for our future to continue to grow and make better the current living standards.

      Thank you

    • Graziella (Grace) Stincheddu

      I agree that USSR should not be compared to EU and I hope that they will never EVER join the EU.

    • Marcel

      The political comparison USSR-EU (Eurosoviet Union) is far more applicable than the EU-crowd would like to admit. In both cases, the utter lack of a ‘demos’ means that neither is/was in any sense democratic, no matter how you try to dress it up.

      So when Matteo speaks of ‘enormous results’, what exactly are you referring to? The destruction of national parliamentary democracy and its replacement with supranational Soviet style rule by committee? And let’s not forget the Politburo (aka Commission). It has no mandate whatsoever, no democratic legitimacy, in fact no legitimacy at all except amongst Eurocrats.

      I do not want a bunch of unelected undemocratic Soviet style kommissars led by premier Barroso to be able to overrule the elected government here in my country. Because that would be undemocratic. It cannot be that foreign politicians can vote their countries money at my country’s expense. That is not, nor will it ever be democratic.

    • Matteo Laruffa

      Dear Marcel,

      The EU works also thanks to the European Parliament and other institutions consist of people appointed or elected by our national representatives. So where is the democratic deficit?

      I think you are obsessed by the bad mamories of soviet history(but all that world has finished in 1989), but you can think people behind this integration process were completely different from those of soviet history. Do you know the continuous improvement of our living standards? Or the enormous chance that the EU is giving us? Could you tell me if you believe that just one of our nation-states’ll participate to G8 in the future without the EU?

    • Larry D.

      Marcel, i forgot. Could you remind me the date when the Baltic states decided to apply to enter the USSR ? Was there a referendum for people to decide whether on the whole joining the USSR was good for them ? Comparing EU and the USSR makes no sense whatsoever.

    • Larry D.

      Frankly, have a chat with a random Latvian or Estonian citizen and tell them that the USSR who invaded them and took their riches is just the same as the EU to which they applied to enter and which gives them money to develop their economy.

      People who compare the EU and the USSR generally don’t have a clue about what the USSR was and what the EU is.

  15. Christos Mouzeviris

    Of course it is possible and necessary… But we have to start promoting European arts and festivals among our people..European movies, not bombarding them with American ones…We are the largest market in the world, and our market is dominated with American movies…We are learning their way of thinking and culture, instead of promoting our own..
    Our music..another language that can be “common”…Art, cartoons, TV programs…A common TV channel or even radio/other media that will promote and inform all EU citizens about what is happening in the other parts of the Continent , either be a cultural festival, a national holiday, a celebration…I have written in my blog lots of articles like the above, and I will keep saying those things…we are trying to Americanize our people, when in fact we should be making them Europeans…I will attach links from my blog that i mention all the above….hope that helps…

  16. Zlatko Tisljar

    1. A human being is a social being (a society is 2 people minimum, if they develop mutual trust and a common belief system)
    2. A human being satisfies his or her social desire in many societies simultaneously (groups), like families , circles of friends, interest associations, local communities, the village or town, the region, the nation, religion etc.
    Each of the groups develops a social (group) identity (shared purposes, elements of typical behaviour, shared ceremonies, artifacts from folklore and culture, komunajn celojn, elementojn de samtipa konduto, komunajn ceremoniojn, folkloraĵojn kaj kulturon, they elect their leaders…)
    3. An individual in his or her life leaves old groups and joins new ones (people leave the family they were born into and forms their own or several of their own, people leave one town and move to another and they change the locality to which they belong, or even their religion or country – sometimes because we move, sometimes because it is taken from us (for example after wars …)
    4. People don’t lose the characteristics of the group which they left (after founding one’s own family one doesn’t lose membership of the family of one’s birth, after leaving one’s homeland and a gradual acceptance of the new country one doesn’t forget the old country…) although the degree of belonging gets somewhat weaker.
    5. From this it follows that it is normal to add new identities to those already existing, as is for example European identity. When one takes a new identity one doesn’t wipe out the old ones (e.g. The identity of one’s homeland, or region, or religion etc)
    6. The main sign of one’s identity is language (if we accept that each variation of a language or dialect is a separate linguistic system). For example in a public place we would speak the national language, in our village we speak the regional or local dialect, in a street gang we speak the gang’s slang, in the family we speak the family’s variety of the local dialect, with a small child we speak a variety of a child’s language, with a handicapped child we speak a language adapted to the child’s ability to understand etc)
    7. A language has two equally important basic roles: that of communication and that of giving identity. When these two functions are in conflict, the role of identity is the more important (we often intentionally speak our minority language, even though we know that we are not understood, because the aim isn’t to communicate but to display our alligiance.
    8. A new identity inevitably makes an identifying language necessary, a language which is different from all other languages because it must be neutral. This language is the sign of belonging to the new (European) identity. This language must accept emotionally (not only rationally) those who belong to the new community as its own; they must have and emotional relationship with it. And that is possible only if for all members of the new community it is the same, but different from all other communities. In regard to the European langugage English cannot become the language of identity, even though works as a language of communication, and it cannot contribute to the development of a European identity, because the European identity language must be neutral in relation to all members (the English AND THE SCOTS AND THE WELSH and the Irish have no right of priviledge) and it must necessarily be different from the indentifying language of the USA, so that Europeans may be proud of their values, and that they can show their pride in their membership by speaking their own and not an American language. Of course, the language of identity will take on the job of the communication language.
    9. A neutral language can be acquired in three possible ways:
    a) choosing a national language which belongs to none of the peoples who have joined the new community, e.g. Arabic. This solution was chosen in ex-colonial countries, like English in India or Nigeria, French in some African countries etc.
    b) choosing one of the dead languages, which could be revived and on whose base European culture grew historically, like Latin or Ancient Greek. This solution was chosen by the Israelis when they renewed and “revived” the dead Hebrew language.
    c) choosing one of the new romance languages which were initiated by linguists or by Movements like Esperanto, (which has developed a unique culture and linguistic treasury during its history of over 120 years). This type of solution was chosen in Indonesia and in several other polynesian countries (Bahasa Indonesian is a language based on a Malaysian langiage whose grammar linguists developed in the middle of the 1950’s in a regular and planned way, and is now used by more than 200 million people ).
    The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were unaware of the role of language in identity, and they tried to develop a Soviet Yugoslavian language using the language of the largest population; it did work as a language of communication but could not be accepted as a language of communal identity, because it wasn’t neutral. For this reason they failed to develop a communal identity. In a time of crisis this was decisive and fundamentally influenced the collapse of these multi-ethnic states. Without a solution to this problem the European Union will fall apart whenever the first large scale economic or political crisis occurs.
    Zlatko Tišljar

    • Penelope Vos

      I just re-read this and must say that this is an unusually excellent presentation of the main ideas, Zlatko. Thank you.

  17. Penelope Vos

    As an Australian who has conversed in Esperanto from both South America and Europe, I can attest that Nikolai’s objections to Esperanto are not well-based. Esperanto is remarkably homogeneous worldwide, whatever that has to do with the discussion.

    He says “I answer very simply” and he does. Simplistically, actually. (This distinction is one example of English being too complex to be a fair imposition on speakers of other languages.)

    He continues, “We have many languages spoken in the European Union, including hundreds of minority languages.”
    Yes, indeed. But how is that relevant, unless he thinks that there is any chance that those minority languages could be used to form a common identity?

    Nikolai again “Why should we invent a new language?”
    Since Esperanto was invented 125 years ago, no reason at all.

    If he means “Why use Esperanto?”, the answer is because it is only by using a language which is non-specific to any group that it is possible to show equal respect to all, including the speakers of those “minority languages”.

    The reason Nikolai doesn’t want it is because he speaks English, it took him a lot of time and trouble and now puts him in a privileged position compared to others and he would like to keep it that way. Fair enough, but his self-interest is not necessarily what this is all about.

    If you consider all Europeans as equally important and add up the effort that will be necessary for them to participate fully in European life in a common language, the total will be least if you choose Esperanto.

    It is hard to quantify this exactly but I would estimate that for most Europeans who speak neither Esperanto nor English, that English would take between 10 and 100 times as long to learn.

    This is because English spelling is so idiosyncratic, the word-building is so irregular and the vocabulary is so excessive due to importation of synonyms. These are not crimes in themselves – I list them only to explain some of the reasons why English is a much heavier burden to add to a European who already has and wants to maintain at least one other language, than Esperanto is.

    Nikolai’s objections continue, ” Ultimately, every (natural) language in Europe represents a people and a culture” Yes, it does, which is why it is hardly appropriate to elevate one above all others if the goal is a harmonious European identity.

    He continues “….and we cannot simply invent a new language without having a culture behind it.” Isn’t the point of this discussion the creation of a uniquely European identity and culture? In that case, a language with scant cultural baggage except for a broad “Goodwill to all ” sounds like the perfect platform.

    Nikolai concludes, ” I said very clearly when I was Commissioner for Multilingualism, we have many languages spoken in Europe, why invent a new one?” which shows that he confuses the clarity of his enunciation, with having rigorously developed thoughts worth enunciating.

    Nikolai’s dismissal is no dismissal at all.

    The question is, will Europe’s identity be chosen to maintain the status quo, or to create something democratically newer and stronger?

    • Larry D.

      You are absolutely right about Nicolai’s absurd reasoning. I sometimes think that when you are forced to think in a complex language (like English) which is not your native language, you often make logical errors. And often you misunderstands the question and answer something which is not relevant to the question. But let’s be honest, this also happens a lot amongst people talking in their native language.

  18. Silviu Novac

    European identity is a fact, think about! When you think of Africa, America’s or Asia you have in mind their cultural characteristic, you don’t mind the languages people talk.

    So, we all are europeans no matter the language we talk, except one people that doesn’t belong here… the gipsies. That’s one problem that EU authorities will have to deal with as they have a different culture and a way of life that doesn’t match ours. I’m not a rasiast, it is a fact that the gipsies refuse education and work, even their leaders agree.

  19. Leo De Cooman

    Is this forum “only English”? Or can I discuss my ideas with Europe’s leaders in my own language?

  20. Nikolai Holmov

    Having been quoted so heavily in the featured article I feel obliged to respond to Mr Orban.
    I must also take the opportunity to correct Penelope Vos who seems to be attributing words to Nikolai (which I assume is me) that I have never said over issues over language I have never mentioned let alone inferred.
    The issue of a common language is no more likely to provide a European identity than the single market, Euro currency or EU Membership has.
    I live in Ukraine where Russian and Ukrainian are spoken equally (not to mention Moldavian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Crimean Tartar etc in much smaller numbers) however when Ukraine is doing something as Ukraine, Euro 2012 football for example, regardless of language spoken the population become 100% Ukrainian.
    The Swiss have no problem identifying themselves as Swiss regardless of whether they speak German, French, Italian or Romansh.
    Identity revolves around a single issue of the “self” and “other” and language is but one thread in an identity. Culture, history et al all have equal parts to play in forming an identity.
    Broad statements about human rights, democracy, rule of law etc do not distinguish a European identity from the same broad statements made by Americans, Australians, those from New Zealand and countless other nations far from Europe.
    The issue is that the EU is a supra-structure and not a sovereign nation. The default position for the majority of the EU’s population is a sovereign national identity. People will say they are German or French or Polish or Latvian but will very rarely say they are “European” instead when talking to those who are not from Europe.
    To look at the USSR which was another supra structure, and I live in a former Soviet state and have done so for a very long time, if you ask the majority of people here what their identity was during the times of the USSR, it was still Russian, Ukrainian or Belorussian. They hardly ever called themselves a citizen of the USSR. The default position was that of nationality and not all encompassing supra structure that sat above.
    After 70 years of Soviet citizenship, people still identified with their sovereign state and not the USSR. Only those from outside used such a collective label.
    We see this now in the US press where “the Europeans” are commented upon frequently and yet “the Europeans” do not identify with that label. They identify with Germany or France or Italy when you speak with them.
    It is an incredibly difficult thing to impose an identity for a population that has any form of legitimacy. Imposing a collective label for the “others” does not give an automatic legitimate identity for the “self”.
    The question of a European identity is a matter of legitimacy amongst the population regardless upon what foundation you want to give it, be it language, principles, morals and dogma, common policy, currency or a single market.
    A label is not enough.
    Unfortunately it is my view that no such common identity will be easily found that has the required legitimacy by the public and this is in no small way due to the ever more complex structures that the EU is itself becoming.
    Without simple structures, common purpose, common policy (which is not reduced to the lowest common denominator to keep all 27 talking heads and component parts reasonably happy), accountability, transparency and a far greater effort to engage directly in dialogue with the hundreds of millions of people who live beneath the supra structure, then a legitimate European identity is a long way away.
    It is not an impossibility and a wise man will never say never, however in the foreseeable future it is not likely to become a reality.
    Whilst we may celebrate our diversity and the fact we have not resorted to blowing each other up recently (a major accomplishment all too often overlooked) we also have numerous national leaders acknowledging that multiculturalism has also failed within their sovereign nations. (Their words not mine).
    If you cannot generate an identity within the strong ideological and geographical boundaries of a sovereign nation with a small number of “others”, then it becomes an incredibly difficult thing to do under the huge geographical and culturally diverse umbrella of a supra structure.

  21. David Curtis

    In Nikolai Holmov’s opinion, a common identity for Europeans will not be easily found. He is absolutely right, for highly-educated people like himself make striving to find it extremely difficult. The European Commission does not want there to be any other agreed common language than English, and this is because members of it have achieved their positions because of learning that language (which is my mother-tongue, by the way). They hide behind the regulation that they are not allowed to interfere in the education systems of member-states. Appeals to them to encourage the teaching of Esperanto in all European schools fall on stony ground. Thus there is no country in the EU that supports Esperanto, yet all of such countries spend enormous sums of money in ensuring that as many of their children as possible learn English – a language which millions of children even in the United Kingdom find difficult to learn, because of its complexity. Nikolai Holmov would change his opinion if he had some experience of children who have learnt Esperanto and exchanged visits with their contemporaries in European countries other than their own. Anyone with that experience becomes convinced that the way for Europeans to develop a common identity is to learn Esperanto as a second language held in common. It enables them to retain their loyalty to their mother countries and their mother-tongues, yet feel that they are also Europeans – just as Texans feel loyal to bothTexas and the United States of America, and just as Yorkshiremen feel loyal to both Yorkshire and the United Kingdom. But with the European Commission still consisting of people who have got where they are by learning my language, a common identity for Europeans will not be easily found.

  22. Nikolai Holmov

    Mr Curtis, I am not sure whether it is the layout of the article that both you and Penelope Vos are struggling with but until the above comment to which you reply I have never once mentioned the subject of langauge in this discussion or this forum.
    All comments relating to language in the main article are made by Mr Orman the Romanian politician and not me.
    I have never once mentioned Esperanto on this forum.
    There is only one quotation from me in the above feature and that is “Indeed identity is an absolute and critical issue… [but the EU is a] geographical supra-structural blob on the map with no clear ideology amongst its populous, despite what the elected and non-elected leaders may otherwise state.”
    No other words are mine other than my reply to Mr Orman which sits above your comment.
    To make it clear, I must also state I have never worked for any EU organ and have never been asked to do so. My comments do not represent in any shape or form any opinion from within the EU structure officially or unofficially and are purely my own thoughts.

  23. Nikolai Holmov


    Where I write “All comments relating to language in the main article are made by Mr Orman the Romanian politician and not me” it should read Mr Orban.

  24. Penelope Vos

    Dear Nikolai, I am sorry to have used your name if the arguments I refuted were not yours in the first place.
    As you noticed, the layout of the introduction suggested that they were.
    With regard to language and identity, Reader’s Digest reported on a large-scale international poll which asked people what they thought contributed most to their national identity. Australians most often answer “shared values” apparently (my mind boggles at what those might be) as did several other countries, the other leading answer was “language”. I can’t remember all on the list but Germany was certainly on it. Religion was not the first choice of any country.
    So, while it is quite true, as you say, that Switzerland and other countries can have a strong national identity without a common language, that does not mean that a common language, when you have one, would not be a valued unifier.
    In fact, I think it would be fair to say that Switzerland has so many other reasons to know what it is to be Swiss (neutrality, banks, mountains, national service, chocolate, even it’s 4-way language policy) that it does not need the unifying effect of a common language. Europe does. Because its cultures are so diverse and because of it’s history of wars and resentments (see comments about gypsies above), Europe is unlikely to develop a strong identity without a clear symbolic act like the adoption of an “equally everyone’s” language to level the playing field and herald a new era.
    Maybe that’s unlikely, and maybe it doesn’t matter whether Europe does, or doesn’t have a common identity. As an Australian, I don’t really care but I would love to see Europe show the World that it can make a choice that is fair for all it’s people.

  25. Nikolai Holmov

    Do not worry about it Penelope. I am quite sure than Mr Orban notes your points are directed at him rather than me.
    The point I make about a supra structure having no legitimate identity with the sovereign nations that are the the parts within I felt was made by my comparison to the USSR and Soviet citizens throughout the 70 years of the USSR still identifying themselves as Russian, Ukrainian or Belorussian.
    The USSR indeed imposed a standard language. It was Russian. That still did not provide legitimacy to the population to identify themselves as USSR citizens.
    Those outside the USSR placed a label on the Sovet citizens as just that. Internally of the USSR national identity was still the identity claimed by the individual in conversation.
    The USSR is really the only fairly contemporary example of a supra structure with attempts at a single market, common policy, common administration, common language, common currency, and central decision making and law making core which covered several sovereign nations.
    None of those things can be claimed to have kept the USSR as a functioning supra structure or indeed to have been the identity legitimately recognized when it came to the people who lived in Russia, Ukraine or Belorussia’s. All defaulted to national identity as do the citizens in nations of the EU.
    I do not mean to compare the USSR with the EU in some disparaging way. The EU is not the EUSSR. The comparison is used for the similarities for supra structural reasons alone and not ideological.
    To impose a common language would probably not sit well with many citizens in many sovereign states. French is still the language of diplomacy world wide. English is still the international language of business. (That has as much to do with the US if not more so than the UK these days.)
    If the EU decided to choose a single language in an attempt to find some form of identity there are major practical obstacles to it, regardless of which language was chosen.
    I witness this issue every day when Ukrainians who through no fault of their own, are confronted with State documentation written in Ukrainian but were born and raised in the USSR and know no other language than Russian. A large percentage of patriotic Ukrainians born pre-independence need State documents translated into Russian so they can understand them. (I am no exception. Whilst my Russian is acceptable, my Ukrainian is very poor.)
    Can you imagine this problems of a single language across 27 (and growing) EU Member States?
    It maybe possible to phase it in through education in schools for children but it would be 100 years before all EU citizens then alive would have a good and working knowledge of a single language.
    Will the EU still exist in 100 years? Maybe, maybe not, but it is not realistic to expect the current hundreds of millions in the EU to learn a new language at whatever stage they are currently at in their lives.
    From memory, and I maybe wrong, all EU documents disseminated to Member States arrive in their native language which means approximately 22 accurate translations. (After all politics and policy revolve around and are debated over specific wording before any actions take place.)
    There is then the matter of adding every Member State’s national language to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages as every current national language would de facto become “regional”.
    The EU already has enough difficulty encouraging Member State’s to abide by this Charter without adding further languages to the list recognized by each specific nation as per their specific minority groups.
    Now I am not saying that this is impossible to implement if there is a willingness by sovereign governments and society to do so. However the EU is a far more complicated structure than it ever needed to be when we reflect on the core overarching principles upon which it was originally conceived.
    Those core principles were admirable, clear and simple. I am still a stalwart supporter of those core principles. Unfortunately the EU machinery and wheels within wheels, not to mention far larger numbers of Member States, has morphed the EU into something quite unwieldy, far more removed from the population it claims to represent than it cares to acknowledge, and now far too complicated for many of its own citizens to understand.
    It is rather difficult to identify with an entity that has multiple personalities (27 of them to be exact, soon 28) particularly when any democratic legitimacy is channeled through national governments and national MEPs who have very little influence individually on any other Member State.
    As we have recently witnessed, 26 Member States have failed to change the UK position over the Eurozone. Recently, Poland was unmoved over carbon emissions. France will never abandon nuclear power despite Germany and Italy doing so. These are but a very small example of internal difficulties without considering external actors and bilateral relations exclusive of the EU.
    Mr Orban orates a similar structure to the USA. A federal Europe if you will. Anybody who monitors US politics will see just how dysfunctional federalism is. Some States have sales taxes, other do not. Some States you can drink at 18 and others it is 21. This list of differences is endless. States regularly challenge federal laws and the federation individual State laws.
    Federal planning of the new oil line from Canada through the US to Texas is likely to be derailed by any number of individual States banning the pipeline going through their territory.
    In many ways it is as dysfunctional as the EU machinery currently is. What the US does have is identity but that identity comes the same way as that of Switzerland, the UK, France et al – sovereign identity.
    How much sovereignty would need to be surrendered by the EU Member States to create a federal Europe and how many citizens would support and thus legitimize such a structure before the far right “nationalist sentiment” became a far greater issues than it currently is in every single Member State?
    A move to federalism as opined by Mr Orban is very complex and fraught with dangerous issues if it happens without the vast majority of public support across the EU.
    I suspect that eventually we will be left with the same undercurrent policy of MTS (Muddle Through Somehow) which goes no way towards promoting a European identity.

  26. Christos Mouzeviris

    English is a very easy language to learn..I had no difficulties whatsoever…And Italian…so if we are looking for an “easy” language, them will do…

    • Leo De Cooman

      I have learned eight languages​​, including Esperanto. I can assure you that I learned Esperanto in much less time than the 1/6 the time it takes for any national or classical language mentioned by Penny Vos. And there is more: in Esperanto I can write and speak to say all I like to say, in all the other languages, that costed me thousands of hours, inclusive the language of my wife and my family in law (since more than 50 years) I can only write a bit, often with help of a dictionnary and much time, or stutter something and make myself ridiculous.
      Do not believe me! Just try it yourself as I did because I could not believe it myself.
      Do you know what Lev Tolstoy said about Esperanto?

    • Christos Mouzeviris

      Leo, I had enough of this esperanto thing..I do not support it, and the more people like you push for it in every blog, every forum and website, the more i will oppose looks to me as if some academics or fanatics are convinced that this is the solution for a better Europe or World and they are vigorously try to push it like any other fundamentals around the globe…just like the jehovah’s witness movement..that is what you remind me of..

      it does not work this way…the best advertisement would be to make our schools and governments support the idea or at least experiment with it…most people i know do not know even that such language exists…and you suddenly want them to accept it, just because YOU folk say that it is easier or cheaper to learn? so once they are given the option by our governments to learn it, only if they are interested in it, then we will see how it goes, and then we can invest into what you are trying to achieve…

      but this debate exists for too long is not something new…and still our governments and academics do not agree or support your views, or have the slightest interest in this language..just because some dreamer spent his life creating a new language and he managed to gain a few supporters all over the world, it does not mean that this is the best solution..if it was, our governments and universities would have used it by now as an alternative…but they did not…doesn’t this ring any bells at all to you?

      what next? shall we all start learning the language of the Lord of the rings, or the Navi language from the Avatar movie..?? there are some nutters who would support that you know…there are people who are learning those “languages” too…

      that is the last thing i will say on this matter..i am out..i am not interested..i still prefer english..most of europeans speak will not take too much money or effort to establish it…sorry to disappoint you…but i am not buying..

    • David Curtis

      Thank you, Christos Mouzeviris, for arguing that Esperanto should be taught in schools. That is all that is necessary for it to become widely spoken. Unfortunately, the generality of teachers of foreign languages are too snobbish to teach it. Invariably, when a student asks for their expert opinion as to whether to learn Esperanto, they dismiss it as merely a constructed language, with no culture. They could learn it far more easily than any other kind of teacher, because of their knowledge of foreign languages, and if they were to do so, they would become involved in its rich culture, and marvel at the ingenious way in which difficulties of irregular grammar, spelling, pronunciation and word-building have all been avoided, making it possible for ordinary people to have a second language, not just those of us who have a talent for language-learning. Teachers of foreign languages owe it to the world to embrace Esperanto, not jeer at it.

    • Leo De Cooman

      Sorry, Mr Christos, sorry to disappoint you…but I am not selling anything.
      I was just informing about my own experience, not about rumours or hearsay.

  27. Penelope Vos

    Thank you, Nikolai. I can see that the comparisons with both the US and USSR are valid and instructive in many ways.
    The trouble with MTS is that it is so undemocratic, which leads to resentment rather than unity.
    I wonder if the members of the former USSR had been consulted about the language challenge and even the Russians agreed to use Esperanto, if that would have made them feel a little less annexed, a little more like valued partners?
    You ask:
    “Can you imagine this problems of a single language across 27 (and growing) EU Member States?”
    Yes, I can actually, and I agree with you that…
    “It maybe possible to phase it in through education in schools for children” but disagree that it would “be 100 years before all EU citizens then alive would have a good and working knowledge of a single language”. Esperanto takes about 10-12 hours of instruction and about 80-100 hours of practice to master. With perfect coordination, all teachers and schoolkids could have it in a year, everyone else in the next. Of course perfect coordination does not happen in free democracies but 100 years is still overgenerous.
    Is it realistic to expect the current hundreds of millions in the EU to learn a new language at whatever stage they are currently at in their lives?
    Again, yes, people spend 100 hours on plenty of things if they think it will help them get ahead and it would be the shortest route to equal participation for each of them (of course English-speakers already have better-than-equality so don’t expect them to be fans). 100 hours places everyone on an equal footing linguistically with all other Europeans, to the greatest extent possible.
    Learning any other language, or becoming sufficiently over-qualified that your language disadvantage does not disqualify your contribution, is a much bigger thing to ask than 100 hours.

    Have you heard of Duolingo? It could well make learning any language free on the internet very soon, but it will not change the fact that Esperanto takes less than one sixth as much effort to learn as any other European language requires.

    Thank you for your perspective, Nikolai, I enjoyed and learned from it.

  28. Nikolai Holmov

    The reason I said 100 years to allow for all living EU citizens to speak language “x” is that there will be vast numbers who will not learn another language simply because the EU adopts it as the language of the EU.
    People cannot be forced to learn a new language (and in Ukraine many people my age will not even learn their own language and stick to Russian).
    My estimate of 100 years allowed for all those who refused to learn an EU adopted language to literally die off, leaving only those who learned it from introduction into education systems.
    The speed at which a language is learned has no baring on the willingness of people to learn it or indeed use it.
    If we assume 20% of Europeans decided they were not going to bother learning language “x” just because the EU (with whom they don’t identify or we would not be having this discussion) says so then it doesn’t provide identity.
    How many Europeans between the ages of 40 and 80 would bother? What percentage of the EU population falls into that age band? It will be large enough that they cannot be ignored as the are all of voting age.
    How do you decide what language it will be? EU wide referendum? How do you sell the benefits of that to the 27 national populations simply for the ideological reason of identity? Is it imposed Soviet style to avoid what is guaranteed to show a massive split via national referendums?
    How will the EU deal with the inevitable rise of the “far right nationalists” that will become more prominent in every single EU nation when national identity and national language is demoted to a second identity subordinate to being an EU citizen?
    Main stream politics across Europe already fails miserably at tackling the far right head on in the public domain preferring to nibble away at some of its ideology and adopt it (for reasons of voter appeasement) resulting in a right-sliding EU, albeit at glacial speed.
    I have sat and thought about a supra-structure that was given genuine legitimacy by the populous it presided over ahead of their individual national sovereignty when it comes to identity. I cannot find one.
    Language will not overcome the power of national identity in favor of a supra-structural identity. Identity is personal to the “self” and made up of more than language. The history of the EU is simply too short to allow the “self” to identify with it ahead of national sovereignty. It cannot compete with the glorious ancient histories of Greece, or Rome. It is truly bland in comparison with the richness of historical empires such as France, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland, Austro/Hungarian, Prussian etc. Here too is identity found.
    It is a huge task to ask for identity legitimacy from the EU citizens when the EU is but a blip in history thus far regardless of any successes it may have had. Given its current situation and the disenfranchisement with politics generally in many nations that task becomes still harder. Compound that by the EU’s complex structure truly understood by so few of its citizenry and we begin to ask too much too soon.

  29. Leo De Cooman

    Nikolaj Holmov skribis: … The USSR indeed imposed a standard language. It was Russian. …

    So Russian, a NATIONAL language for international use…
    I can imagine that there were Soviet councils, in which there were representatives of all the Soviet countries.
    I am interested to know if this people could use their native language if they wanted to intervene in discussions? Or were they required to use the Russian language?
    Were documents (eg identity documents) to the citizens of different countries in their national languages ​​or only in Russian?

  30. Marcel

    And if my country Netherlands does not want to admit Romanians or Bulgarians because unemployment here is going up, then we have the right to. In almost every ‘poor’ area of major cities, crime is way up since waves of Eastern Europeans started to arrive. We are tired of being preached to by elitists who all live in their rich neighbourhoods where they get none of the problems we do in poorer neighbourhoods where all these immigrants come. And they are a drain on our welfare and health care system.

    We want referendum on this question, and my country should withdraw from Schengen. No more eastern European criminals please.

  31. Christos Mouzeviris

    And why Marcel unemployment is going up over there Marcel…? If there are no opportunities in their countries and your country or pats of it absorb a huge part of any industrial or economic development in the continent, of course these people will come over and look for a better life in your country…The solution? you allow other regions of Europe to prosper and develop, so these people stay at home….Become poorer but free of immigrants..If that is what you like…

  32. Nikolai Holmov

    To answer your questions Mr Cooman, yes all official documents were in Russian regardless of whether they were issued in Ukraine of not. From Birth Certificate to Death Certificate and everything in between.
    Schooling was in Russian and the Ukrainian language was taught twice a week as a foreign language in effect.
    What happened behind the closed doors of regional Soviets I do not know but all speeches, television, newspapers and radio was also only in Russian.
    None of that made a Ukrainian think of themselves as anything other than Ukrainian however and as I say, many Ukrainians still use Russian as a first language.

    • Leo De Cooman

      Thank you for your answer, Mr Holmov.

  33. W. Alex Sanchez

    I’ve read most of the comments here and I doubt there’s much I can add to the discussion… I did find raising the point of Esperanto as a common language that can help promote a regional identity as pretty interesting, as I’ve had similar thoughts before.

    I remember attending a speech by in 2008 at the Brookings institution by Jim Murphy MP, Great Britain’s Minister for Europe, called “The Evolving Transatlantic Agenda.” It was a fun one and he spoke a lot of European integration. He took some questions but I didn’t have time to ask him mine, which was going to be: when you see yourself in the mirror in the morning, do you see yourself as a Scotsman (I believe he’s from Scotland), a British or a European?

    One issue that hasn’t been raised is simply how the passing of time and new generations can adopt a new identity organically. The TEU was passed two decades ago, now we have the Schengen area, Erasmus, a single currency… I see young Europeans travelling across borders for holidays and vacation more than ever. Maybe in thirty years, Europeans who are teens today, will see themselves first and Europeans and then as Germans, Belgians, Danish etc.

    Of course, this will depend on the country, some have a stronger sense of nationalism (i.e. the UK today) as others (from my personal experience, I’d say Belgians and Dutch but feel free to give other examples). I also have several friends in countries like Bulgaria who want to be seen by the West as European.

    Anyways, those are my 2 cents for now.

  34. Penelope Vos

    Hi Nikolai,

    “The reason I said 100 years to allow for all living EU citizens to speak language “x” is that there will be vast numbers who will not learn another language simply because the EU adopts it as the language of the EU.”

    Certainly that is true but I think you set the bar too high. An accessible common language can serve the whole even if not every member chooses to speak it.

    “People cannot be forced to learn a new language”. History shows that they can, I believe, though I do not recommend it.

    “My estimate of 100 years allowed for all those who refused to learn an EU adopted language to literally die off, leaving only those who learned it from introduction into education systems.”

    I don’t see how such deaths have any bearing on the question really. I think that the difference in our views is in what constitutes “identity” for an individual or a group. My identity is Penelope Vos. That name (shared with a dutch actress famous for her role in “Cats”) embraces all of the other things that make up my personal identity, my children, my mission, my career, education, experience, nationality, languages, home, religion, interests etc. “Australian” is one aspect of my identity which I started to develop at age 3 when my parents migrated from the UK and formalized with a ceremony in my teens. (I still retain British citizenship as well.) Most of the time I don’t feel Australian because I am in Australia surrounded by Australians- it is assumed and ignored. But when I travel, or participate in a forum like this, then there it is. Identity can be meaningful without being exclusive, and without being always conscious.
    A German person would be more likely to feel like a representative of Europe, when in an international setting involving Chinese, Australian, Brazilian, Indian and US members, and even more so if he normally used Esperanto in his work outside Germany but within the EU, don’t you think?
    He would not stop being German, but his being European could be, at that time, the more salient aspect of his identity.

    You say, “The speed at which a language is learned has no bearing on the willingness of people to learn it or indeed use it.” Is language learning an exception to the general law of supply and demand? Cost usually does have a bearing on demand and few people will tell you that they have a thousand hours or so lying around that they’d be glad to off-load for free.
    Time is money so rational folk would choose to invest less hours in the same effect if offered the choice. Of course, the key to getting the same effect is effective leadership, because without it, learning Esperanto does not give the same effect as learning a fraction of English. Does the EU have what it takes to provide effective leadership? I doubt it, but it is possible. Israel speaks Hebrew, Europe uses Euros and most of the world uses the metric system, so maybe.

    “If we assume 20% of Europeans decided they were not going to bother learning language “x” just because the EU (with whom they don’t identify or we would not be having this discussion) says so then it doesn’t provide identity.
    Not at all, I know who call themselves Bikers. It is a very meaningful identity for them, in spite of being shared not even by all who ride motorbikes. In a democracy, change has to be allowed to grow. Identity can grow at different rates for different people. Perhaps the failure of the USSR was expecting too much too soon in that way, to use your words.

    “How many Europeans between the ages of 40 and 80 would bother?”
    Well, if I was a teacher asked to learn as I taught Esperanto because it is the ideal first foreign language for my class, I would. It doesn’t take any of my personal time and it serves my students so I would. Other professional people would probably have a similarly pragmatic view if it were put to them in similar terms.
    “What percentage of the EU population falls into that age band? It will be large enough that they cannot be ignored as the are all of voting age.
    True, they have votes. Whether they would use them for the good of the whole would depend on whether the options were honestly presented. Even if they did not personally want to learn any other language, they could vote to allow Esperanto to be taught in schools on the grounds that it makes the learning of other languages both easier and more attractive, which is true. They could vote to include Esperanto translations in various contexts. They could vote to not invest money in pushing their people towards English, but to creating an at-least-bilingual populace with a good grasp of the home language and Esperanto, in primary school, and to add English or Chinese or Spanish or Idaacha as a third.

    “How do you decide what language it will be?”
    I would recommend a giant and public Wiki on which could be collected facts for an against the various options. That was the process that brought me into Esperanto. We had 300 hours to get the students of my school multi-culturally bilingual and interested in the world beyond Australia. Only Esperanto made it possible.

    There may be a place for a EU wide referendum, does that sound practical to you?

    “How do you sell the benefits of that to the 27 national populations simply for the ideological reason of identity?”
    I wouldn’t. I doubt that individual Europeans really crave a European identity. It is the EU as a whole which stands to gain from that. I would let the people know that their childrens brains will function better all their life if they are bilingual early and Esperanto is the easiest language and therefore achievable early even in a monolingual home. I would let them know that English and other languages are easier and quicker to learn if you have learned Esperanto first, and that Esperanto allows them to make contact with the widest variety of cultures from an early age. I would be honest with them about how long English takes to learn and how, after decades, second language speakers are still at a disadvantage. I would point out how unfairly profitable the present situation is to the country of my birth, at their expense. I would find the fine minds of your country who are barely known in the world because they have been busy doing other things besides learning English….

    How will the EU deal with the inevitable rise of the “far right nationalists” that will become more prominent in every single EU nation when national identity and national language is demoted to a second identity subordinate to being an EU citizen?

    I would say, “I am a woman and a human”. At the same time. At the same level. There is no choice involved. I could add “Australian” and “Global Citizen” and it would change nothing.

    “I have sat and thought about a supra-structure that was given genuine legitimacy by the populous it presided over ahead of their individual national sovereignty when it comes to identity. I cannot find one.”

    I can think of examples which tend in that direction but do not match exactly. Can you think of anything which has happened which did not have a precedent? If so, a precedent is not a necessary condition.

    Nikolai, even the mighty Roman empire was nothing much at the outset. To hold off committing to Europe on the grounds that it is not yet inspiring does not make all that much sense. Of course it will start as less than it will be. Big things take time. This forum is not “Is a common European identity possible next week?”

    I’ve taken up far too much of your time. Thanks, and Merry Christmas.

  35. Nikolai Holmov

    Penelope you say “Big things take time. This forum is not “Is a common European identity possible next week?”

    Is that not the whole foundation of my comment which begins with “100 years”?

    Anyway, it is the season of goodwill and all that, so I will not debate you last post any further, not because I do not have a response or indeed because I do not feel it is worthy of response, but I shall debate it no further as I have yet to do any preparation for Christmas and should I reply it will probably force a reply from you when you also have better things to do.

    Fortunately Christmas in Ukraine falls on 7th January, so I am not as disorganized it is sounds!

  36. Andrew Paul

    There is no common European culture or identity and the more you seek to impose it the more people will resist and rightly so…..

    • David Curtis

      A common Europan identity could easily develop if Europe’s primary-school,secondary-school teachers, and university teachers would drop their traditional snobbery, and teach Esperanto. Europeans would then have a second language in common, and a common identity would develop, without being imposed upon them. A rich Esperanto culture already exists, but it would be both undesirable and unrealistic to cause that to be Europe’s culture, for the simple reason that every European country has been developing its own culture for thousands of years. Europe could remain an extremely interesting place, full of variety of cultures, but with citizens able to communicate with one another much more easily than at present, because of being able to express themselves, if they want to, in a neutral, common language. Every year there is a demonstration of what this could be like, in the form of the World Esperanto Congress, held in a different country annually. There is always a great emphasis upon the culture of the host country, but the thousands of congress-members are able to share their wide variety of interests with one another, on a basis of equality, because of having a common language. That is the sort of future for Europe that would be easily and fairly quickly achieved by the simple means of teaching Esperanto in all spheres of education. The present system of teaching national languages would continue and even be improved, for the regularity of Esperanto encourages people of all ages to learn foreign languages. Present teachers of national languages fear that they will be displaced (which is why they jeer at Eperanto) but in fact their departments would naturally grow larger, making their positions more secure. Everyone will thus be happier, and there would be fewer snobs.

  37. Leo De Cooman

    The one who said “Even within Esperanto, there are different versions; Esperanto spoken in South America is different from that from spoken in Europe, for example.” has to inform himself aboutby Esperanto, I fear.
    Esperanto has only 5 vowels. For example English has at least 22 vowels (as told to me an English Esperantist). So, ther is a large tolerance for the pronounciation of Esperanto vowels.
    Of course South American people pronounce the vowels not the same way as for example a Chinese. You can immediatly know from wich country the speaker comes… as you can hear the difference between English and American and Australian English… but in Esperanto it is perfectly understandable because there are only 5 vowels.

    Jes, it is true, that the famous joke as writing ‘ghoti’ and pronounce this like ‘fish’ (I hope you know it) is not possible in Esperanto.

    My best wishes for Europe and all Europeans in 2012

  38. Mikko Karjalainen

    I am happy with this topic. We should discuss it more, especially with anti-European camp. Finnish language has nothing to do with Indo-European family. Our language should be declared on EU-level as “endangered” infact. :) Yet, I am definitely pro-European. I can see the goal and purpose of EU. The rest of the world will follow. Because we are have to. And because they’are have to. This tiny planet can’t afford WW3. Not even India-Pakistan nuclear war. It is THAT SIMPLE.

  39. Mikko Karjalainen

    What I meant… our technology is evolving faster than our sosiology or culture. A single generation is barely able to keep up with the change. Some people just learned about VHS, now it is all about DVD and Blue-ray. CD replaced a cassette, soon after the CD became obsolete. How about computers or internet? Internet (or WWW to be exact) has evolved dramatically. How about computers… ? Do you still think that C64 is all, there ever will be?

    Unless we are ready to surrender or give up our centuries-old distrust and jealousy… mankind is doomed.

  40. Carlota Macià Fontanals

    I agree with Orban. We should belive in a european identity for the future viability of Europe. More minority languages must be ‘oficial’, such us catalan (my language) and more people could feel confortable in EU. Respecting cultures and identitys among europe is the way to promote a sustainable situation where everybody feels like if they’ll be at home.

    Congrats to debating europe, you’re doing a really good work, i really enjoy the website.

    • David Curtis

      I respect your point of view, Carlota Macià Fontanals, but Europe needs not to consist of people who are European-English, European-French, European-Germann, etc., for it needs to consist of Europeans who speak the same language. That language needs to be without a country, so it should not be English. Please campaign for Esperanto to be taught at all levels of education, so that a second language can be held in common by millions of Europeans. This won’t happen unless people successfully campaign for it, as Esperanto has no country.

  41. Paul Odtaa

    There is a European Way – good local food, regionalism, an hour and a half lunch and all of August off for holiday. :<) If you compare Europe with America the European ideal is a good work/life balance. A decent wage for a set number of hours worked and no enforced unpaid overtime. Affordable housing, the country, the region or the town providing a reasonable infrastructure, reasonably priced public transport and a good health service affordable to all. Business, government and the public sectors work together. This is mostly achieved in some countries, eg Holland, Germany and Denmark and is the goal of countries, such as Bulgaria. There are problems with politicians, the payment of tax, lack of productivity, the euro and the inflexibility of Chancellor Merkel, who lacks the vision and leadership of her predecessor Kohl. But in two, three, five, or maybe seven years most of these problems will be resolved. An American I met said Europe sucks. I asked him why? He told me he could drive his camper van from one side of Europe to another in 24 hours and then you were out of it. He had just the need to drive and to make his own coffee on his trip. I tried to point out that every few hours you would be in a different country or culture, but that didn't interest him. But that's the big difference - in America you can drive from one identical town to another and there is little difference. 1. Europe is a unified diversity. Through the centuries through trade and unfortunately conflict we have gained a set of similar values, but the implementation is different - in different areas. So in France there is a Frenchness where ever you go - but the habits, the attitudes, the culture is different in each region and often in each town. 2. The problem with England I live in London. I have family connections with Latvia. My local cafe is run by a Turkish man brought up in Germany. My cleaner is Hungarian. My builders are Greek, Bulgarian and Polish. All have a similar set of values that is identifiable as European. The problem is with the English - which is not totally true - it is with those in London where the culture is, unfortunately, Americanised combined with some of the problems of London and England. As we speak English we are bombarded with American culture films, TV, products and advertisements. The city of London has absorbed American culture - short term, quick profit over everything combined with work until your drop. Our politics is centralised, very short term and in fact we have a system designed to run the Empire, when Britain ruled around 25% of the world's real estate, which now micro-manages the country. Our towns and regions have their budgets controlled by people in central London and even decisions, such as my doctor's appointment system or whether I should get my garbage collected once a week or once a fortnight are decided by people in the Houses of Parliament. However, if you visit Wales, Scotland, the north, the Midlands you will find the majority of people have very similar views to those of Europe, except so much of our press is anti-Europe and so many of our politicians have blamed Europe for their mistakes, that many seem to have the view that there is a small group of Europeans sitting in a bar in Brussels thinking what directive shall we make today that will annoy the English. So I have to apologise in that many of my countrymen have lost much of the consensus values that they had after the war when we re-built the country, built up our health service, built housing for the poor etc. But in Scotland you will find a similar set of views to most of Europe. 3. Language While I like the idea of Esperanto it will never become the dominant official language in Europe. English, and there is the beginnings of a clear, distinct Euro-English developing will be the most significant language in the EU. A Latvian visiting Estonia will order his coffee in English. A Swedish business doing business in Spain will use English. A Greek waiter chatting up a Danish girl will use English. And this doesn't include the fact that to deal with the rest of the world you need English. The attempt to make Hindi the official language in India failed and English is mostly used. The Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the South Americans all have English as a second language. When I visited the USA the natives there spoke a strange dialect of the language. So Europe is stuck with English as its prime communication tool to try and impose another will start up another round of anti-EU protests and grumbles. 4. To conclude There is a European Way. There is a respect for education and a respect for those in society. The state and business usually co-operate leading to a mostly stable social structure with reasonable housing, life style, medical services etc. There is less inequality than in most other parts of the world. But there has to be a recognition of difference in regions, in countries, in groups. I don't see people saying 'I am European' like the Americans say 'I am American'. I see us thinking 'I am a German', 'I am a Scot' and part of that definition of the country is that 'I am a German, whose world in Europe. I can travel to, live, work, buy a house, start a business anywhere in the EU'. Interestingly some areas, such as Scotland, that could become an independent county - the strength of being part of the EU is becoming stronger. I suspect this is true of other regions as well. I sign off as Paul Odtaa, Anglo-Englishman

    • David Curtis

      I wonder if it has occurred to Paul Odtaa that the people he has listed had to learn taught English as a second language? If Esperanto had been taught to them as a second language, they would have used it just as well, and there would have been no injustice. It cost me nothing to learn English as my first language, as I was born and raised in England, but those people he has listed must have paid a lot in terms of money, time and energy, in order to make English their second language. Judging by what he has written, English is not his first language, for he has not been able to express himself quite correctly. Esperanto is about ten times easier to learn, and one can rely upon the regularity of its rules of grammar, spelling and pronunciation. Not so with English, which is so irregular in its grammar, spelling and pronunciation that even millions of English people never speak or write it correctly in the whole of their lives. It should not be the international language, and Europe should not be identified by it. Esperanto should be taught at all levels of education, as a second language, to produce a truly European identity. But teachers of modern languages will not agree, for they have a vested interest in teaching national languages. They think their lives depend on it, but in fact, if they were to teach Esperanto, their employment would become more secure, as the number of their pupils would increase.

    • Henry

      Paul, find your observations very interesting. Well here is another look at it from the East.

      “My builders are Greek, Bulgarian and Polish. ”
      I gather you think this is good and an indicator that the idea “Europe” moving to a better world. Well have you considered how much good there is in a father or a mother to be gone for months if not years away from where the family is, the home country? I see the consequences of this and it is in grade schools and gimnazjums.

      I have been in Poland for 5 years and my observation leads me to the conclusion that entry of Poland into the EU was a one way deal. Not for Poland though. There is absolutely no serious industrial development here at all. The shipbuilding industry has been destroyed. Steel industry is in foreign hands and not much to talk about. Agriculture will slowly be strangled as subsides paid to farmers continue to be far far from even between Poland and the original EU-7. Then the inflow of capital is mostly in the form of opening huge supermarkets and providing services to building projects here. Most electrical utilities are in foreign hands and rates are going up ALL the time.

      Now that does not look to me like a formula for success. Well it may be depending on which side of the table you sit.

      Let me end with this which leaves me in no doubt that EU is a pipe dream.

      It is an engine to let the few make HUGE profits and the rest will be sent back to Middle Ages to take care of the debt payments.

  42. George Topouria

    Depends on what we imply under a common European ‘identity’; while we may agree that through centuries of inter-state trade and conflicts the continent’s people have acquired a common set of values, the applicability differs as each nation has its own unique cultural background. Even with the ever closer Union and the gradual enlargement of the EU banner, the intermittent disagreements between the EU Member States and the obvious leadership of several powerhouse countries with a bigger say in EU matters won’t, in my view, allow the people of Europe to identify themselves as a single cohesive unit.

  43. penelope vos

    Hi George,

    Why would it be harder for Europeans to feel European despite diversity than it is for US citizens or Australians to feel “American” or “Australian”? We are spread over similar areas, we also have very diverse lifestyles, values, genetic and cultural backgrounds, and various rivalries and jealousies amongst ourselves, yet the labels do mean something. I guess we are subject to the same laws and the same set of general entitlements and protections (Australians anyway), maybe that is the necessary condition?

  44. George Topouria

    Hey Penelope,
    Maybe it would be safe to assume that the U.S. was founded as a single nation from the very start, and its people of diverse background can trace a common background of building the state while in Europe there were intermittent inter-state conflicts and some sort of political unification kicked off only recently? Moreover, even in some parts of the South, people fly the star spangled banner and insist on their Southern identity due to the intricate differences between the South and North at one point in their history. I thus think it’s vital to look at the starting point, and in this case U.S and Europe are really, really different.

  45. penelope vos

    It’s possible that a common origin is important, George, but I think not essential. Australia started off as separate tribes and then separate states which federated. A common purpose can make a meaningful group, as in “the allies” in a war situation. So the question may be whether Europeans believe that they stand to benefit from a common identity. If at least some do, adopting Esperanto as the first foreign language for children both facilitates later language learning, and provides a common ground for sharing experiences among present and future neighbours.

  46. Teresa Bonarrio

    I would love to say one thing:
    the problem of “identity” in not something just linked to language used and money and so on.. Identity means something that society creates inside people minds. If the new society will be able to create “good relationships” and good “ways to interface” among european people, that will make the seeds grow up and the European Identity to appear on them. I think diversity is not a fail, but a resource to use to cooperate together to prepare programs of interaction among different people, to make them experience how diverisity can be useful and how many things you can get from someone that is different from you, but who share same feelings, problems, desire of happyness and aims for life. So definitely, yeah it’s possibile to make this european feelings grow on people Of EU, just they need someone to teach how to do that. thank you

  47. Alice

    I think that, no matter which language Europe will choose to use as lingua franca, every possible solution will be ok as long as we use it to be inclusive and not exclusive. Despite many people think that by using english language, we are promoting english predominance on other cultures, comunication is easier now than it was in the past. The point is not how we are confronted, but about what we are confronted. As long as discussion can include as many interlocutors as possible any languages will be ok for me. Moreover, the language Europe “talks” is not proper english but it is english we need in different contexts. In most occasions people need it to be functional, rather than standard or correct. In a way we have borrowed english and we are converted it in our Esperanto!

  48. Emiljan Dyrmishi

    About issue of a common language for Europe I think that this idea it is not convenient, because Europe it is not like USA that it is built from the beginning by states belonging, but it is different : Europe was built ‘step by step’ considering all the differences from all the nations that are on it. Following this way of thinking, I think that in the EU all the languages should be equal to each other and peoples can choose to speak one or more of them freely. The selection of language they want to use for communication with others should be a natural process that comes as result of good understanding with each other , tolerance and the acceptance of differences between them. Languages should not serve like boundaries between peoples but they should inspire them to know better each other, to accept differences and to find by themselves the common thing, the common characteristics ,etc. So, europe’s identity should be pluralism of cultures.
    The Europeans, mostly politicians, (because peoples themselves are doing this thing continuously) need to be more united, to unify their attitudes about important common issues of our coexistence, for example the issue of now days economic crisis . It is needed that they should plant the spirit of cooperation between peoples and nations too.

  49. David Curtis

    Alice has the wrong idea about the word “Esperanto”, for it is not a synonym for “lingua franca”. It is an extremely well-designed language, which she should take the trouble to learn. When I did so, in 1974, I was soon full of admiration for it, and greatly regretted that I had not been taught it in school, instead of spending two hours on French every week, for five years, and still not being able to master its grammar and vocabulary. Esperanto should be everyone’s second language.

  50. Tanita Huskovic

    I agree with many points in the article. But I think Europe will never be like USA. English is the main language spoken in the US, all people have developed the identity and love for that particular country, and Europe is completely different. Still I think there is no need for new language, since everyone could use world recognized language (English) and be able to understand each other. Also sense for EU and respect for everyone’s cultures should be developed in the early days (childhood), and people should still be encouraged to learn many new languages, but especially English. For me there is one important issue of someone’s identity and that is religion. It is sad to see that since main part of someone’s identity is religion, they tend to use that as a divider and disrespect for other religions. I believe religion should be a connecting point, and we shouldn’t look people through their religion or nationality. We believe in what we believe, but we should spread our horizons and work on mutuality and respect of all nationalities living around us.
    Therefore I think European identity is possible if all countries work on spreading appreciation of other cultures, religions, languages and learning universal language. Because European identity can’t mean losing yours and accepting someone else’s, but appreciating all, losing prejudices and living together.

  51. Alena Lugovtsova

    For me European identity is a question without the concrete answer at the moment. But i don’t think it should be build on the language ground. It’s artificial, because there is no one language, there are group of languages that are similar to each other, as, for example, languages of Eastern-European countries. But this is not enough and can’t be regarded as the main or only one bases.
    I also think it’s not right to equate Europe with European Union. EU is economical and political unity, but not all European countries are members of EU (and half European country by origin, as Turkey, for example, is a candidate for the Union ). Those nations that are regarded European now have an ancient history of cooperation and living on the same territory, which is not limited by modern EU territory or economic and political situation of the present days.
    Unfortunately, recently I often face the situation when in a mind of people from EU not a member country is automatically not European.
    I also doubt about democracy, freedom and human rights as a base for identity, because they are universal values all the countries aspire to, not regarding European context.
    While i was reading responses I thought that maybe we already have an identity, because we already recognize ourselves as Europeans. And for most of the people it is important to say “I’m European”. So why? And what do we mean when say it? When I say “I’m European” i mean I differ from non Europeans. In what?
    And for me now there is a question – maybe a right expression is not “building identity” but “understanding or recognizing identity” that already exists…

  52. David Curtis

    A European identity depends upon a common language, and it is unjust and inefficient for that to be the national language of one of the members of the European Union, namely, the United Kingdom, all of whose citizens get frequent practice every day in mastering the intricacies of their language, accumulated over many centuries. Even so, many of them make mistakes because the intricacies are too numerous. English grammar, pronunciation and orthography are all highly irregular, and many foreigners are unaware of mistakes they make and yet believe that English is a reliable common language. As an Englishman, I am convinced that if Esperanto could become Europe’s common language through being taught in all European schools as everyone’s second language, Europeans would, within two or three generations, develop a European identity.

  53. Dan

    I think the common language of the EU should be some kind of simplified English derivation. It would be a constructed language based on English but different enough to be politically neutral and easy to learn. It would be fairly easy to implement such a language and also very practical since English is already widespread.

  54. Dan

    I think the best solution is a constructed language based on English. It would be neutral, easy to learn/implement and practical since English is already widespread.

    • Leo De Cooman

      Hoe kan een plantaal gebaseerd op het ENGELS neutraal zijn? Leg me dat maar eens uit?

  55. Dan

    @Leo, I don’t understand your language but I guess you’re asking me how can a constructed language based on English be neutral? Obviously, it isn’t completely neutral… but it solves the most important issues. To me neutrality means that everybody has the same oportunity to learn the language well and that nobody sounds stupid when they use it ( because there are no native speakers). To achieve this it has to be constructed and grammatically quite different from standard English. Making a language from scratch and implementing it isn’t practical. That is why Esperanto and similar languages will never be accepted.

    • Leo De Cooman

      @Dan, ik versta met enige inspanning uw taal, maar wens me niet belachelijk maken door ze te gebruiken.
      U schreef: “Making a language from scratch and implementing it isn’t practical. That is why Esperanto and similar languages will never be accepted.”
      Beste Dan,
      ik kan enkel vaststellen dat u volstrekt niet weet wat Esperanto is. ALLE stammen van de taal Esperanto zijn genomen uit bestaande talen (niet allemaal uit het ENGELS. Er zijn nog 5999 ANDERE talen dan het Engels in de wereld, weet u wel?)
      Esperanto is dus absoluut niet “from scratch” gemaakt, zoals u beweert. Kijk maar eens naar
      Hier een uittreksel uit die webstek in uw eigen taal:
      “Since then many words have been borrowed from other languages, primarily, but not solely, from western European languages.[citation needed] In recent decades, most of the new borrowings or coinages have been technical or scientific terms; terms in everyday use are more likely to be derived from existing words (for example komputilo [a computer], from komputi [to compute]), or extending them to cover new meanings (for example muso [a mouse], now also signifies a computer input device, as in English). “

  56. Dan

    @Leo, I’m aware of that. But far more people understand English than Esperanto, especially in Europe. Also consider how many English resources and teachers exist at this moment. It would be foolish to ignore these facts. BTW English is not my mother tongue and I do not like it more than you do. In fact, my language (Croatian) is much more different from English than yours (Dutch?).

  57. Leo De Cooman

    @Dan, “But far more people understand English than Esperanto”
    … verstaan het Engels een beetje, na lange studie van het Engels. Een hoger niveau van verstaan en spreken in Esperanto wordt bereikt met substantieel minder inspanning na 1/20 of 1/10 van de tijd, die men voor het Engels nodig heeft, zonder het Engels ooit volledig te kunnen beheersen.
    Esperanto is immers speciaal ontworpen om als internationale taal te dienen, met zo weinig mogelijk energieverspilling van de leerling.
    En denk maar niet dat er weinig Esperantosprekers zijn: kijk eens naar
    en weet, dat deze webstek begonnen is met 150000 zinnen voorsprong door het publiceren van de Japanse en Engelse zinnen uit het boek van prof. Tanaka.
    En bedenk daarbij dat Esperanto maar zelden in scholen onderwezen wordt of door staten gesteund, terwijl het Engels praktisch overal opgedrongen wordt.

  58. David Curtis

    Reading through the adverse comments made about Esperanto has convinced me that those who made such comments have not learnt the language. If they would only do so, they would admire it, then test it abroad, by enrolling in one of the many holiday-courses advertised annually by Esperanto organisations. This would place them among people from various countries who wish to use Esperanto as a means of friendship. For example, from 1978 to 1980 I studied it by correspondence and gained the British Esperanto Association’s Diploma, then spent three weeks in an Esperanto Summer Camp, in what is now the Czech Republic. Immediately I was able to converse with Czechs, Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Latvians, Italians, Spaniards, French, Germans, Estonians, Bulgarians and Rumanians without obliging them to speak English and appear ridiculous because of making mistakes. That was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Another was to take part in the 1989 World Esperanto Congress, held in my own country, for it was attended by people from over 70 countries and I could converse with any of them, to my delight. Another wonderful experience was to take part in the First Asian Esperanto Congress, held in Shanghai in 1996, for there I was able to converse with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and various other Asians. Yet at school I had never even heard of Esperanto, but had to learn French twice weekly for five years, after which I was unable to master its grammar, and barely able to string sentences together in order to converse with French people. Because of the relative simplicity of Esperanto grammar, I was able to master it, not just tinker with it. My point is that I had to make an effort to learn Esperanto and meet Esperanto-speakers, and could not rely upon chance encounters. I would have been in a far better position if I had been taught Esperanto at school and taken to Esperanto gatherings abroad, but, as I have already said, my language teachers did not even mention it. If Esperanto had been taught in European schools, I would have been able to converse with not only French people, but citizens from any part of Europe, and none of them would have had to suffer the indignity of having to speak Engish and unwittingly make fools of themselves. I don’t believe that a European identity will develop, but the widespread use of Esperanto would certainly enable most Europeans to communicate with one another. I have proved that by making the effort to learn Esperanto.

  59. Leo De Cooman

    @ David Curtis
    ” the widespread use of Esperanto would certainly enable most Europeans to communicate with one another.”

    PRAVE! (mi konjektas, ke nia kroata amiko komprenas min :-)

  60. Stuart Mack

    I think Esperanto could become the language of Europe if there was an agreement between all the countries in the EU to start teaching it in schools. It may have to be a 15 year plan. I think it may then become easy to work towards a fully democratic federal Europe in which he European parliament tells the commission what to do, rather than the present situation!

  61. JWS

    Worldwide common language and identity versus European or National language by JWS

    1. European identity is better than national identity but Worldwide identity (citizen of the world or universe) is even more appealing.
    2. One of the elements (and not one only) defining identity of a person is a language spoken/written.
    3. Undoubtedly a national language (mother tongue) is the first language we learn and we usually love it. It would be not human to promote a foreign or artificial language as a first language of a human being. But if we consider a worldwide identity as important a second artificial language helping in unification of all people can be of strong interest to anybody.
    4. United Nations Organization (UNO) should promote a development of such a common artificial language based on equal contributions from all adhering countries (languages) in the world. Let’s call here, for example, WWC L (World Wide Common Language).
    5. One developed, let’s say in a 10 years time period, such WWC L could be taught in all schools on the Earth in all freely adhering nations as a second language.
    6. After the introduction to elementary schools of the WWCL, we can think that the first generation of young people in all of the world cold be able to make translations of their first (mother language) literature into the WWCL and put it on Internet for wide and beneficial spread of books and multimedia information.
    7. It is reasonable to think that in a couple of generations (25 years/generation) most of the terrestrial literature could be made available in WWCL to all people on the Earth (and maybe even outside the Earth by transmitting this content to the space).
    8. The WWL could give the humanity the opportunity to understand more easily the culture of others and:
    – diminish the probability of wars and conflicts between nations
    – ease the exchange of human, religious, cultural, economic, etc values
    – help to spread the independent information worldwide without favouring any current language
    – eliminate most of the translation costs for literature, information, documentation, etc (see for example European Community documents translations costs official website: )
    – help to avoid the time and effort in learning of more than one foreign languages as it is currently practiced. It is easy to calculate that learning an artificial language at school level requires same effort as learning ANY current foreign language.



    And where average yearly precipitation is low not only is it possible but it is very important to do so.
    When the ‘counter-culture’ movement was in full swing in the United States in the late
    1960s, many younger people began a ‘back to the
    earth’ movement in an attempt to draw a closer connection the land that they instinctively knew sustained them.
    For example, a very simple permaculture farm uses its animal waste to
    feed its crops, which in turn are used to feed the animals.

  63. Ivan Horvat

    English is too hard to learn for people who do not speak Germanic language. That’s why I’m very sceptical of it as a lingua franca.

  64. veronica

    just to reply to Mr. Novac, when Romania did agree with the rules of the single market, it should have known it cannot tax the imports, this is against the single market purpose

  65. Collin Merenoff

    Europe should not have a common identity. As long as Europe is anything more than the business alliance necessary to maintain a common currency (assuming that’s even a good idea anymore), the world will have an excuse to speak of “European science” as a way of discouraging public education.

  66. Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Doubt it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Learn to live with our differences, rather than trying to impose a common identity which will only spark rebellion and resent.

    • Mino Álvarez

      Artificial? You should leave your country and know better Europe

  67. Oli Lau

    yes…But there isn’t just a single identity, that’s always been the dream of any government.

    You are from a country, a city, a neighborhood, a family…respect the differences.

  68. Heba Elshazly

    One of what’s special about European identity , that every one can keep hishers unique identity! In a way that could add to the European community . ;)

  69. Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    Why we should impose something like this? I’m a Greek and I like to stay Greek i don’t see a reason why i should loose my ethnic identity.if we wanted to be part of an foreign empire we could just be converted to Islam and become part of the Ottoman empire what’s the difference between a Ottoman and a German emperor? They are both foreign

  70. Joel Dominic Rodrigues

    Of course! If you can belong to your neighbourhood, village, town, state, province, region & country, you an belong to Europe and to the world. However, it could be difficult if you’re a nationalist, racist, or isolationist. Diversity makes our collective culture richer and our individual cultures stronger.

  71. Bobi Dochev

    Why you need common identity?! What is wrong with the diversity?!
    If you get in a gallery would you like to see 28 copies of one painting or 28 different variety of one theme?!

  72. Rock The Revolutionary

    How Democratic it is to belong to a secret society? How Democratic it is for civil servants to belong to a secret society? So now can you see where is THE problem? RESTORE DEMOCRACY NOW! Decisions are taken in broad day light and not in the dark behind closed doors.

  73. Erik Jakub Citterberg

    Yop. Do not push it, let it develop itself and sudenly… Everybody see themself as part of bigger european community and xenophobes and racist wont know what it them. Yeay.

    • Stephen Pockley

      That makes absolutely no sense at all.

  74. Emilio Cosentino

    Christian identity. In all Europe peaple have party in little city for saints and in all the Europe Christmas and Easter are very important. Most of our name come from the name of the saints and before all together we were the Holy Roman Empire.

  75. David Duarte

    A common European identity isn’t imposed by no Institution nor person. It’s history itself who forged it.

    YES, there is a common European identity that each regional and national community adapted to its own particularities. And that common identity is the European tendency to universality.

    Ancient Greece with science and philosophy; Rome with Caracalla Edict; Medieval Times and Christianity telling us that all human beings are members of a same universal community beyond their particularities; Modern times with modern science and the Great Discoveries that transformed the world into a single home for humanity; the Declaration of 1789 and Enlightenment which told us that we are all equals as rational beings.

    All this and much more is Europe and Europeans. Nothing needs to be forged, there is nothing artificial in the concrete existence of a European identity. And there is nothing contradictory about the existence of a European identity and of several regional and national identities.

    On the contrary: each regional and national identity is a single instrument playing in the same European concert.

  76. Konstantinos Sfoungaris

    it’s funny how everyone argues there is no such thing as a common European identity (and will never be). If you travel to another western country, i.e. US and to another European country, you will be able to notice subtle yet substantial cultural differences

  77. Nando Aidos

    What is a common identity?
    Common in what? In moral and ethical values? Yes, we should build one!
    Why is a common identity needed? Dependes on the answer to the above.

    • David Duarte

      I don’t think we need to build a European identity… or better said, we should build a European narrative with those existing common values. The reason why we should build that narrative is in Europe’s and World’s current situation, with old demons reappearing and announcing a troubled future.

  78. nando

    What is a common identity? Common in what?
    In moral and ethical values? In respect for human dignity? Yes, we should build one!
    Why is a common identity needed? Dependes on the answer to the above being yes.

  79. Călin

    A common identity it’s a very lax term. It may be related to religion, language, history, economic interest, the way of living or a common threat. From all these above I think that what defines most the European identity is the way of life, the values that rule a secular, equitable, solidary, progressist and effective society. Time has proved that these days there are more private relationships and business relations than anytime in history on this continent, proving that the boundaries that used to keep us apart weren’t ment from the beginning and that we are perfectly compatible as long we try to understand, value and cherish each others rights, culture, language or the right to not be taken responsible of its own nation history in any way.

  80. Natalie Fouka

    Ελλάς Ελλήνων χριστιανών και πάει λέγοντας. Νισάφι με την παγκοσμιοποίησή σας. Δεν τραβάει, δεν το βλέπετε;;;;;

  81. Andrew Potts

    Everybody should have an idea where they come from its natural for humans to want that. For most people in Europe it’s town, region, country European. For most Europeans we are very happy with that as we want our, Fins, Germans, French, Czechs, Poles and 25 odd etc etc then the European umbrella. What we don’t want is globalist pretending we have no differences or trying to deconstruct our identities saying they don’t matter or it’s changeable or you can buy it or build it etc.
    We all know where we come from and that will not change because we feel it .
    It’s difficult for the designer left to understand this usually because they don’t want to as they see it as a threat to their idea of the World and their poor understanding of people. They think tags are interchangeable labels.
    Europeans know in their hearts what it is because we feel it and enjoy the variety of being European you cant build it you just know it.

  82. Enric Mestres Girbal

    Not because every country is proud of its roots and History but don’t worry…in 50 years time there will be only one identity: muslims.

  83. Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Yes, when we are socially equal. Equal benefits, equal pensions, equal wages, free healthcare & free education.

  84. Faddi Zsolt

    Yes! The western (European) civilisation is based on ancient Greek and Roman civilisations, cultures, sciences. There is already a common European identity!

  85. Marco Peel

    Unity in Diversity only requires a shared ideal of mutual respect. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité is understood in any language. Those three basic principles form the basis of both democracy and sustainable development, are universal and interdependent, and belong to neither left nor right, east nor west, north nor south. They are also the founding principles of the EU, something our current European leaders seem to have forgotten…

  86. Kimmo Linkama

    I don’t see why not. If you travel in America or Asia, the defining factor is that “Oh, you’re European” – despite some people’s insistence on a more narrowly defined “national identity”. Being Greek, German, Portuguese or Finnish doesn’t exclude our being European as well. National pride and Europeanism are in no way mutually exclusive.

  87. Mitsos Daniel

    Yes! I don’t see why not. On the other hand I see a lot of reasons why it’s possible and why we should

  88. Patricia Smith

    Depends if they mean European or subjects to the rule of law of the EU over and above that and one’s own country and its priorities. Yes to the first and no to the second

  89. Viorika Motoi

    La masificacion y la globalizacion no es buena para nadie esta demonstrado que no ayuda en nada!

  90. Marcel

    To stop the “us” and “them” in the EU, a common language and common passport will unite the common European. If cultural identity is so important, leave it to the families to teach it to their own children.

  91. Dino Boy Mican

    Already there is a sense of european identity shared by all Europeans, but it ‘s still weak (ie it doesn’t constitute a conscience), weaker than each person’s loyalty to his nation

  92. Stefania Portici

    l’Unione europea non è stata creata con lo scopo di unire i popoli europei è questo il punto e il grande sbaglio VOLUTO dalle elite che volevano tutt’altro . La cultura è un bene internazionale l’economia no, ciò che va bene economicamente per la Germania non va bene per la Spagna ad esempio . Si è un solo popolo quando alla base ci sta il rispetto del popolo

    the European Union was not created with the aim of uniting the peoples of Europe that is the point and the great accidentally WANTED by elites who wanted anything. Culture is an international the economy no good, what is good economically for Germany is not good for example Spain. It is only when the people at the base there is the respect of the people

  93. Stefania Portici

    io non ho niente contro la lingua inglese , secondo me è meglio la lingua latina o greca perchè è l’origine delle lingue e della cultura europea , studiandola capiamo le nostre radici fa parte di noi , aiuta l’integrazione. Chi ha voluto l’inglese doveva dare il tempo ai popoli europei di impararlo non puoi fare documenti importanti in una lingua che nessuno capisce . Non importa la percentuale di quanti conoscono l’inglese devono saperla tutti altrimenti è una fregatura e infatti l’Unione europea è una fregatura apposta lo hanno fatto .

    I have nothing against the English, I think it is better to Latin or Greek because it is the origin of languages and European culture, studying understand our roots is part of us, it helps integration. Those who wanted the English had to give time to learn the European peoples can not do important documents in a language that no one understands. No matter the percentage of those who know English have to know how everyone else is a rip off and in fact the European Union is a rip off they did it on purpose.

  94. Carmelo A. Costanza

    The European Identity is not homogeneous but a collective characterization of cultures due to its diverse demographics, economics and social values. European values, though, tend to portray commonsensical values. As a result of Europe’s unique and diverse character, it is Europe’s diversity which makes such character unique, distinct and stronger. As such, Europa is United in Diversity akin to the European Union’s motto.

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