2 letters on Europe

One, Two or More Europes

Dear Jean-Baptiste Joly,

The construction of the European Union was born from the desire to stop violence in the continent, after centuries of bitter confrontation.

The Second World War established a point of no return. In that sense the relationship between France and Germany has always been crucial for the construction of a unified Europe, punctuated by a long series of symbolic gestures and acts. At the same time the European Union has been inscribed within the capitalist and democratic system, strongly connected to the new power of the United States and juxtaposed to another Europe, the communist one.

After 25 years of the end of that double Europe, which redeployment of sovereignty, governance, equilibriums and power do you see? And is it even conceivable to talk about a European culture and identity?

Fabrizio Gallanti,
Via Donato Bramante 4, II Piano

Dear Fabrizio,

Under shock after the results of the European elections in France I was not able to answer your question about Europe earlier. Though living in Germany for more than 30 years I feel deeply concerned by what happened last week. Even the terms of your question sound differently now after what happened: your historical summary about Europe since the Second World War seems to have lost its meaning.

Somehow I am also afraid about your last sentence regarding the existence (or non-existence) of a European culture. What about Roman and Gothic architecture, what about Renaissance, about the invention of the novel as literary genre, about Romanticism, about the European Modernisms of the early 20th Century? What are they if not — among many others — perfect examples of an incredibly rich, diverse and coherent European culture? How could you forget? You put together culture and identity and mean probably something else that would have grown from the unification process of Europe in the last thirty or forty years. Difficult to say what it could be but interestingly enough: Non-Europeans looking at us see us rather as Europeans than as German, French or Italian. They are very disappointed when discovering that a majority of people living on the continent doesn’t consider themselves as such. This view from outside on Europeans could — let us be optimistic — have a positive influence on the way Europeans perceive themselves because the rest of the world tells us that we are Europeans, that Europe is our destiny.

Another point that makes me optimistic: Did you know that 32 million persons with citizenship of a country different from their country of residence are living on the territory of the European Union? They represent around 7% of the EU population. Of these non-nationals, 12 million are citizens of another member state. The largest numbers of foreign citizens reside in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Non-nationals in these five countries represent more than 75% of the total of the EU foreign population (Statistics from Demography Report 2010, European Commission, p. 48). These people are probably the nucleus around which a European identity and culture could grow because for all of them (I should say all of us) who are speaking more than one language, who are used to deal with differences, for whom the local reality is never immediately given for granted — the European dimension is a reality in their daily life.

But what about those who feel lost and abandoned by their national politics and don’t feel concerned by the European horizon? What kind of scenario can you imagine for them in the future? This is my question.

Jean-Baptiste Joly