Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, often speaks about her belief that stronger “political union” will be needed if the EU is to survive the coming decades. During a series of Citizens’ Dialogue meetings between EU Commissioners and ordinary citizens from towns and cities across Europe, she has usually finished each meeting by arguing that a democratic and effective EU must be based on a stronger political union between its member states. It’s a question we discussed only last week here on Debating Europe, and it’s something that has divided our commenters since we launched.
It is not about destroying nation-states… it is about including [them] in a greater group of different cultures and states with their European ideals in common.
It’s easy to claim that European unity should be based on common values and ideals (few people are seriously arguing against the value of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in 21st Century Europe), but is there a common European identity that can bind us together through the bad times as well as the good? Christos from Greece worries that an EU based purely on national self-interest cannot last:
Is the EU still only an economic bloc that countries join [only] for economic reasons? [...] Will countries ever decide to join or stay in the Union because of the common good (if such thing exists) instead of their national interests?
We put Christos’ comment to Ivo Vajgl (a Slovenian MEP whose party belongs to the liberal democratic ideology in our Vote2014). He was quite positive in his response:
We also had a comment sent in from Pedro arguing that a common European identity could be fostered through the education system:
I think there should be a class on ‘Europe’ since [an] early age. Having a common approach to these teachings everywhere on the EU would contribute [to] a common identity for all Europeans. It would be multidisciplinary: history, culture, sociology, etc.
We put this suggestion to Iuliu Winkler, a Romanian MEP whose party belongs to the centre-right ideology in our Vote2014. He enthusiastically supported Pedro’s suggestion:
However, we also had a comment sent in from Sven, warning that this approach could easily be seen as pro-EU propaganda. Here’s how Iuliu Winkler responded:
In fact, classes on the EU may not be necessary (and national curriculums are anyway the exclusive preserve of member-state governments). The available polling data suggests that many people in Europe already feel a certain sense of European identity, with Eurobarometer suggesting that 62% of Europeans consider themselves to be a “citizen of the EU” and 55% feeling their identity is both European and national.