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National and EU Identity, Public Opinion & Democracy. Markus Thiel, Ph.D. Dept. of Politics and International Relations Florida International University. Introduction. Before EU, Europe as birthplace of modern nationalism Europeans today have many commonalities:

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National and EU Identity, Public Opinion & Democracy

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National and EU Identity, Public Opinion & Democracy

  • Markus Thiel, Ph.D.

  • Dept. of Politics and International Relations

  • Florida International University


  • Before EU, Europe as birthplace of modern nationalism

  • Europeans today have many commonalities:

    • mixed economy & welfare states

    • common historical determinants

    • common attitudes toward life

  • + ‘Critical junctures’ of the Maastricht Treaty provisions (1992/93): Euro, CFSP, citizenship

  • A dichotomy between EU supporters and opponents visible ( e.g. with rejection of the constitution/Lisbon Treaty, ‘post-Maastricht Blues’ and current ‘identity crisis of the EU’)

Identity as a social concept

  • Diverse and often generalizing, undifferentiated use of theoretical constructs such as collective ID, nation

  • Matters on an individual and group level

  • (Social) identity is essentially a categorization framework made up of sets of comparisons and contrasts used to emphasize distinctions among groups (‘us’ against ‘them’)

Collective identities theorized

  • 2 basic camps regarding the general logic of identity-formation: essentialists & modernists

  • Essentialists/Primordialists(Connor, Smith): Ethnic nationalism as an expression of the eternal and essential constituents of collective identities

    – sceptical about European Identity

  • Modernists/Constructivists (Anderson, Gellner): emphasize fluidity of ID, social learning & mobilization & theorize civic nationalism as an elite-driven project for nation-building

    - optimistic about Eur Identity

Theory & Literature

  • European ID consists of cultural and civic aspects of a pan-European common identification (Bruter)

  • Cultural aspects/ID recognize(s) the common history and cultural commonalities, though the extent of this is disputed (McCormick) – ‘shared heritage argument’

  • Civic ID builds upon the Member States’ liberal-democratic governance (HR, democracy, welfare & tolerance) and the EU’s integration measures (internal homogenization & differentiation)

Relationship of national & European identities(Nested, cross-cutting & blended model)

Consequences for European ID?

  • Blended model most appropriate one:

  • EU membership leads to an identity change which impacts upon the previous national identity

  • Since EU membership identity then interacts with rather different national identity constructions, the overall effect will not be homogenous leading to a generalized EU identity but rather, we find (27) nationalized European identities

  • (different meanings of what ‘Europe’ means in different countries e.g. France, Germany, UK, Ireland etc.)


  • Absence of popular support for the EU (only half of EU-27 support membership and identify with the EU)

  • Democratic deficit (=lack of democratic input by citizens)

  • Knowledge & participation deficits (EP elections)

  • ‘Euronationalism’, ‘Superstate Europe‘

  • Devolution & Stateness problems

  • Constitutional problems

  • Important: to recognize the idea and reality of European identity, ideological component (Delanty)

Public opinion (EB 70, Fall 2008)

  • The three main indicators covering the general attitudes towards the EU – the support for EU membership (53%) and the image of the EU (45%) – have either remained stable or declined slightly since 2006.

  • 2006: 46% of citizens support further enlargement of the EU in future years and 42% oppose it

  • For EU citizens, the three values which represent best what the EU is, are human rights (38%), democracy (38%) and peace (36%).

The future of transnationalism & democracy in the EU

  • The upcoming EP elections serve as signifier for the degree of civic engagement with the EU & its pro/contra-position reg. EU: the EP evolving into a truly representative body?

  • Enlargements weakens the dominant Anglo-Franco-German position but produces disunity among institutions & fears among EU citizens: broadening vs. deepening?

  • The Lisbon Treaty, rejected by the Irish who thus block reform for the rest of Europe, aims at balancing (more) supranational integration and national interests & strengthening of external face: an end of national vs. European interests?

  • (More) Democracy, Delivery, Diversity, Dreams needed?

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