european-heritageSummer is almost here (though you wouldn’t believe it by the weather), and the vacation season will again be upon us. “Vacations”, however, do not mean time spent in another European country; a Eurostat survey shows that Europeans spend 77% of their holidays in their own countries. On average, more than 3 out of 4 holiday trips made by EU citizens included a destination within their own country, and for nearly all Member States over half of all holiday trips were spent entirely within that country’s borders. The tourism sector, both domestic and abroad, is surely an important part of the economy, but could it also help build a sense of European identity?

Back in 2006, the European Commission launched the European Heritage Label, a scheme to “highlight heritage sites that celebrate and symbolise European integration, ideals and history”. The program, which is due to be further developed next year, aims at improving knowledge of European history and promoting shared European values, and in this way strengthening Europeans’ mutual understanding and sense of belonging. But is it doomed to failure? Or is this something that should be encouraged? Can we really call ourselves “Europeans” when we spend most of our time in our own countries?

What do YOU think? Should European cultural tourism be better promoted? Should Europeans be encouraged to discover other European countries? And could all this really strengthen European identity?


27 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Tamás Sófalvi

    Europe’s identity is strengthened when you go outside Europe as a tourist and you recognise how similar the Europeans are compered to other people on other continents.

    • Richard van Kooten

      Absolutely Tamás, I became a huge fan of the Union when I went to live in the States for 6 months. Currently I’m living in Australia and my European identity is only getting stronger because of it.

      It’s easy to think all western societies are similar but only outside of Europe you notice that a lot of aspects in our national cultures are shared by all European member states!

  2. Sam-uel Sam Ndungula

    i thnk europeans tourism sector should stop concentrating on other toarist destinations besides europe,,what i am saying is that invest heavily in upgrading that sector cuz it is one of the sectors abandoned in europe and for me it will be a bail out for the euro zone crisis

  3. Virág Gulyás

    Is there such as European identity? :) I believe we have our national identity that is lived in Europe – that is a wider concept.

  4. Gjoza Briseida

    Which European identity?!
    Europeans should be encouraged to discover western Balkans in order to understand the other side of Europe, its differences and similarities, and maybe get to value what they already have!

  5. Christos Mouzeviris

    Absolutely….!! And we should encourage it! I am different person since I left my home country and migrated to another, but it did not stop there. I have traveled to 19 European countries plus one African. It have opened my eyes, and getting to know another country, its food, people, drinks, music, heritage, history, architecture, everyday life really makes you see one nationality of people differently and you can re-evaluate your opinion of them. But also, find common elements in your own heritage, culture and everyday life. It is one of the main ways, together with education, art, music, television or theater to bring Europeans together and let them get to know each other. A person who has traveled a lot, has gotten rid of the hard shell of his/her way of thinking and has been “educated” by his/her own experiences… He/she has acquired a broadened point of view and knowledge.. So instead of putting restrictions on Schengen, let it be and make it easier for people to travel….

    • Sofia Trindade

      I agree with Tamás. The European sense of belonging is masked in our routines our stereotypes of what Europe is or should be, especially in economic and political crisis periods -with the revival of nationalism.
      I’m developing an audiovisual project about the European Capital of Culture and my major goal is to be able to understand if such a geographically limited event, however a very attractive for tourists, can promote somehow the European sense of belonging in the nationals and foreigners that visit the city this year.

  6. Mattijs Van Miert

    Virág Gulyás, since you are living in Belgium, you should know that people can have more identities. For example: someone from Hassalt can identify him/herself with Hassalt, Limburg, the flemish region and Belgium at the same time, so why not also with Europe. It’s not because you are belgian, that you can’t be european at the same time.

  7. Nikolai Holmov

    Oh dear. We have returned to the illusive identity theme.
    Does inter-EU tourism promote “European Identity”? – Why would it?

    I am from the UK. In the late 1980′s I lived in Lippstadt, Germany for 2 years. A beautiful and wonderful small town and a place I could have stayed for many more years had work not dictated the need to move on. My German was pretty good at the time, the German lifestyle was different but not so removed from the UK lifestyle that it wasn’t difficult to adapt to at all. In many ways it was far better than the UK lifestyle where those differences occurred.

    I was though a Brit in Germany and felt that way, just as the German’s saw me as a Brit in Germany.

    In early 2000′s I lived in Moscow for a few years. An incredibly interesting, exciting and sometimes frustrating city. Moscow though does lay within the continent of Europe. The differences were greater than my experience of being a Brit in Germany, but it was still a city with a very European feel about it. I was though still a Brit in Russia.

    Just as the Orange Revolution took place I moved to Odessa, Ukraine where I still live. It also has a very European feel to it. The city centre is full of Italian and French architecture from centuries past and in general it is extremely cosmopolitan. Fortunately despite not being able to speak Ukrainian well, I revert to Russian and nobody has a problem with that. In fact most people speak Russian rather than Ukrainian by choice.

    There are 1 million and more European tourists visiting Odessa each year. You can hear every language in Europe as you walk down the main city centre streets in peak tourist season or when the cruise ships are in port.

    In short it has a very European feel and provenance, however, even after all the years here and the large number of close friends made, (be they Ukrainian, Russia, Georgian, Turkish, Armenian etc) in Odessa – I remain to them a Brit in Ukraine.

    Odessa and Ukraine are very much European, geographically and historically, however, it is a very generalised identity just as with any other nation of Europe be they within or without of the EU.

    Identity starts with the self, then the immediate family, then the immediate locality, then the nationality and then, eventually, we may get to “European” before moving on to “global citizen”.

    Are the Swiss or Norwegians any less “European” than the French or Germans because they are not under the direct control of the EU and Brussels?

    Are the Ukrainians?

    As the EU currently does not consist of all “Europeans” or European nations, without that all encompassing inclusiveness of all things “Europe”, how, effectively, can it even begin to comprehend an all encompassing European identity?

    I continue to be a Brit in Europe but not within the EU. I have never lived in a European nation that used the Euro (as Germany was still using the Mark when I lived there), the UK has never used it and Ukraine will be held at arms length regardless of who is in government for the next 20 years.

    Where do I get my “European Identity” from other than it being somewhere way down the geographical list of identifiers relating to a ovarian lottery for an accidental birthplace?

    My identity doesn’t come from “shared values” as almost all EU values are shared by Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Canada etc.

    My identity doesn’t come from a single currency as I have never lived anywhere that used the Euro.

    My identity doesn’t come from the same governance as I live in a European nation outside the EU.

    Is there any difference between Odessa and Budapest (a place I go regularly and really like)? No – Both feel the same – And in both places the locals treat me as the “other” (from a different country) and not the “self” (the same as them).

    Who is pushing the idea of a “European Identity”?

    More than half the EU politicians are regularly quoted as championing the “diversity” of Europe and celebrating the differences of culture, language and history.

    To champion these differences is not really conducive to a “European Identity” prima facie unless the “European Identity” is a very loose fitting identity. That being the case, what is the point of internal EU holiday making when it comes to forming this “European Identity”?

    I can look at a map and see which nations are situated on the same continent and therefore fit this “loose” and “diverse” “European Identity” without having to go to Greece or Italy or France to know they are on the same continent and are thus “European”.

    As and when those who want a definitive “European Identity” that means anything more than the location on a map, come up with something that I can identify with and includes ALL Europeans and European nations and will actually mean something to me, then it will stop being a hollow concept.

  8. Christos Mouzeviris

    Why don’t we see more of the European Capital of Culture in our television sets? What better way to learn about new tourist destinations in Europe, by showing live events from there, on art, music, culture, the heritage of those cities who host the events and in extend the countries? People will watch the programs, will like the cities or not and decide to visit the next year… Now that is an initiative that I believe is a must! Why don’t we see any activities from the European Capita of Culture? Has it become just a cash milking procedure, an opportunity for a city to attract funds and that’s about it? Why not exploit it to its full potential? Me thinks anyway….

    I have written about it a couple of years ago in my blog: http://eblanademocraticmove.blogspot.com/2010/10/about-cultural-capital-of-europe.html

  9. Ana-Maria Anghelescu

    Some may argue that this is an utopia, but I don’t think this is something more than pure reality. The European Identity surely exists and we are the simple reason and example. We are not only Romanians or Germans or French, because our nations didn’t develop in a jar. They developed because of a certain reality, due to the other conditions – the external conditions. So, if we are what we are now, we are because of all that is European.

    We are in Europe, even if we are in our own countries. Surely, this isn’t the same thing as traveling abroad, but, still, we can experience an European lifestyle in our own countries.

    Tourism is recognized to be a stimuli for learning, because you experience and so you learn easier. That’s why I agree with the fact that traveling abroad could enlarge your horizon by creating you the sense of belonging to a great family: the European Family.

  10. Bastian

    Travelling educates (“Reisen bildet!”), goes the saying. However, for European identity it is not relevant. Immanuel Kant, one of the most famous European philosophers never left his home town Königsberg. People are European as children of European families, due to socialisation into distinct family and local traditions rooted in the history of European societies …

    It might be true that in times like these most Europeans spent vacation in their own country but there are very few who were never “abroad”, simply because European countries are small and borders are around the next corner. Although European identity has nothing to do with going abroad, one can, of course, ask if travelling increases identification with the EU project? I doubt! For example the ERASMUS programme: students usually appreciate the financial support, but many also feel pushed for going abroad, others return home frustrated and feel more “nationalsitic” than before. EU programmes often have unintended effects. Yes, travelling educates, but who expects more EU identification from it might get disappointed.

  11. Virág Gulyás

    @Mattijs, thanks for your view; however,national identity will not come from the city or region you are living in. I believe that is somewhat deeper. Flemish region can give you a certain way of growing up but your identity is mainly given by your nation, or in today’s mix families by the parents. how much effort they put on giving an IDENTITY to their child. I still believe there i no such thing as european identity; Europe in today’s form is too young to form an identity…..not only a generation….

  12. Freyja Wyred

    @Virág , I don’t think that is true, just look where I’m coming from… I know in the U.S we do not see enough tourism promotion in enough diverse media outlets for Europe. recently we have been getting a lot mor India promotions, which has been pleasant, for ads that is.

  13. Yurtsever Tamer Seval

    European Identity is of course an identity, but of course it has not grown enough to replace the sub-identity of the people.

  14. Vicente Silva Tavares

    Virág Gulyás, you only feel as an European if you visit Africa, Asia or even in America. Than you will see you belong to Europe, not just to your country. I have been in Africa and Asia, I know what that means.

  15. Paul Odtaa

    Around the early 1970s I worked with International Voluntary Service, IVS, organising work camps for a Housing Association in a deprived part of London.

    IVS was originally set up, just after the war, to get people from different countries to work together on projects. The idea was to get people, particularly the Germans and the French, to understand each other as a step to avoid another war.

    I think that now would be an excellent time to deal with the problems of unemployment and austerity by setting up similar work camps to work on the cultural sites of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. They should work together building better pathways, heritage centres and maybe helping archaeologists.

    It would boost the countries, get people from different nationalities to understand each others cultures.

    Understanding others helps an individual understand themself. Understanding yourself makes you, if you are a European, understand the similarities and the differences of your European inheritance.

  16. European62

    A few ideas come to mind:
    The surest way to develop a European identity is travel *outside* of Europe – especially in countries that are not too far away from our style of life. You are likely to discover that there is a common denominator which you don’t see in Europe.
    Travelling to another European country will be more likely to draw your attentions to what is different – but at the same time show you that people are essentially the same and you might develop some personal ties with people from that country. The present crisis became much more understandable for me on a personal level because I have a very close friend in Madrid (and there is a Greek in Dublin who’se views mean a lot to me). So from that point of view, yes travelling helps building understanding and European solidarity – which is much more important than identity.
    Third point: I’ve never understood why travelling to the regions in crisis hasn’t been subsidized. Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland *are* popular vacation destinations anyway, so why not egg that tourism along a bit (by making a vacation in those countries tax-deductibly for instance)?

    • Christos Mouzeviris

      Thanx EU62… And I agree with your idea to support tourism in the crisis hit countries… But the tourist agents think otherwise.. In many cases they even discourage people from visiting Greece for example, in fear for their “safety”.. Seriously? Something must be done about it…

  17. Eusebio Manuel Vestias Pecurto

    Os paises com em crise se o turismo não for subsidiado alguns desses paises os cidadãos não viajam porque os produtos tornam- se caros Eu vou escrever algumas coisas do meu pais Hoje Portugal quere o turismo e não têm ou têm pouco turistas por culpa dos governos anteriores Estes paise com a crise devem aranjar soluções para no futuro esses paises tenham turismo

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