Political Identification in Europe: Community in Crisis?
Table of contents(14 chapters)
The themes of crisis and identity have been discussed endlessly in relation to European unification since 1950, but generally not in their interrelation. After looking briefly at the literature on the notion that integration has often proceeded through crises, and on the relation between European and national and regional identities, the author examines some real or perceived crises and suggests how they may have impacted the issue of identity. These crises include that of the immediate post-war years, the slow emergence of serious reflection on the Holocaust, the imposition of communist rule across half of Europe and the Cold War, the crises of decolonisation and the persistence of European racism, European divisions in relation to crises in the Middle East, Europe’s (non-)response to environmental crisis, the crises of the 1968 years, the crises of post-communist transition and the Yugoslav wars, the Eurozone and refugee crises, the Brexit crisis and finally the current coronavirus crisis. These persistent and often recurring crises (Dauerkrisen) have confronted European political elites with what have been called crises of crisis management, and European populations with different ways of conceptualising their relation to Europe.
Migration has a strong political significance and a crucial constitutive role for identity. The liminal status and exclusion of migrants delimits the inside/outside of political communities and allows for the constitution and coherence of identity. Migration is also a challenge: while it is often presented as a managerial issue related to states’ economic and labour considerations, it essentially challenges and undermines their national and cultural self-image. Migration management also reflects the values and qualities communities identify in themselves; thus immigration policies put communities and states to the test for the way such values are upheld. This contribution explores migration’s constitutive role for European identity and the challenges it presents it with. Explaining the securitisation of migration management in Europe and its racial and dehumanising characteristics, it argues that the two-tier human rights system created in the European space affecting migrants undermines European identity value claims and threatens to undo them. It claims that the time has come to acknowledge European identity’s historical constitution in colonialism, and to envisage it as a fluid, open-ended project accommodating in earnest racial and cultural diversity, pluralism and difference.
The prevalence of anti-EU integration and anti-immigration rhetoric across the continent, the increased presence of Eurosceptic parties in the European Parliament, and most importantly Brexit suggest that the European Union is having an existential crisis. This chapter debates the role of the EU citizenship regime on this crisis, by resting its central thesis that there is a fundamental mismatch between the way that EU citizenship is at present derived from Member State citizenship, and the transnational affinity of the EU citizenry that is invited by the internal market and migration. As a remedy, the chapter projects a supranational EU citizenship regime that coexists with the current EU citizenship regime. Focussing on the social and political imperatives, the chapter brings forward tangible policy recommendations for the proposed EU citizenship regime and expounds how it can be an effective policy instrument for the EU’s internal and external struggles.
The contribution draws upon the protests against a proposed trade deal between the European Union (EU) and the United States as an example of the potential to identify as European citizens. It is relevant given the multiple challenges the EU is currently facing, particularly a crisis of democratic legitimacy. While trust in EU institutions is at a historic low, some citizens – such as the Anti-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) protestors – want to have a say in EU decision-making. The resulting conflicts should not be misunderstood as a threat. Instead, the author’s suggestion here is that democratic conflict has the potential to contribute to the politicisation and the identification of citizens with the European project. Following this line of thought, the potential of the Anti-TTIP protests lies in a civic democratisation of the EU through conflict. The author focusses on protestors’ participation experiences and their self-understanding processes as European citizens. The author explores the different ways in which protestors experience themselves as European citizens which aims to open up the discourse about the multiplicity of European citizenship. This variety of meanings ascribed to European citizenship is not regarded as a danger, but as the potential to enrich Europe with new ways of being and acting as European citizens.
The resurgence of right-wing parties and movements in almost all Member States of the European Union seems to indicate an escalating crisis not only of the European political project, but also of the societal fabric across Europe. In order to better comprehend its origins, it is important to understand how the identification of citizens with the EU is being shaped and challenged by attitudes including rising nationalism, Euroscepticism and anti-immigration feelings. While the focus during the current political crises has been overwhelmingly on statements and policies made by politicians, parties and institutions, this chapter instead studies the perceptions of the ‘common people’ and how they construct their identities within the European discourse, thus closing an important research gap.
This contribution is based on empirical data gathered during a large-scale project called Restorative Circles for Citizens in Europe, financed by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Commission. Between January and June 2017, individuals from different walks of life came together in Trebnitz and Berlin to talk about ‘their’ Europe. Originally envisaged as an opportunity for dialogue between Eurosceptics and pro-Europeans, it soon revealed that there are many nuances in these attitudes. The presence of members and sympathisers of populist and right-wing movements and parties in the meetings changed the communication dynamics, and offered a unique opportunity to observe how (bottom-up) identity is constructed and what impact it has. This contribution analyses the extensive collected data.
Populism is one of the main symptoms of the contemporary crisis in Europe. How can the rise of populism best be understood? Whereas existing analyses predominantly utilise rationalist and behaviouralist approaches and focus on political, economic and cultural interests, this contribution proposes a different approach. The author focusses on affects and emotions. The author shows that where other parties or political movements opt for rational and dispassionate debates on merits of political programmes, populists instead offer, invoke and respond to strong emotions across multiple political settings. Emotions feed and propel populism in its bid for power by forming collective identities through the clustering of love for ‘us’ and hate for the ‘other’.
Ontological Security Theory (OST) is used here as a framework for understanding populist behaviour in the sphere of security perception, identification and community-building. In recent debates, OST has been used because it allows the motives for certain behaviours to be located in the need to maintain or recreate positive identity constructed via biographical narratives. OST suggests that any lack of narrative continuity regarding the shape of the self-images for both individual and collective identities will therefore constitute a source of ontological threat; the lack of a sense of security. In this contribution, the author uses the examples of populist policies and discourses in Hungary and Poland that illustrate this dynamic to analyse the past- and future-oriented collective identifications underpinning the recent rise of populism in Europe.
Since 2008, Greece has been spiralling down an economic and socio-political crisis. Over the past decade, it has endured massive riots, consecutive elections, a debilitating public debt, and endless rescue plans by the EU and other international bodies. The crisis sparked an intense interest in the Greek public discourse, which is often accused of being dominated by populist rhetoric. This interest appears to be accompanied predominantly by a certain leitmotif: instead of appreciating the assistance offered, the Greek people resent it and taking refuge in populist rhetoric, further undermining the country’s stability. This echoes the age-old argument that ‘the people are an irrational mob acting impulsively, a lamentable state that should be cured or disciplined.’ Could the shaming, the appeal to sober morality – branding all other discourses as populist and dangerous – be the fashionable response of a cosmopolitan elite, high-profile pundits and institutions to the problems of global capitalism? The debate raged in the public sphere and in the streets of Athens. On multiple occasions, the crisis was used as a trope in the European public sphere to justify socio-political changes, austerity measures and disciplinary actions. The emerging schema juxtaposed populist/anti-populist discourses, reducing discourses and identities to black and white. This chapter reads discursive constructions of the Greek crisis, by-stepping the populist/anti-populist divide. Using analysis based on affect theory and the philosophy of emotions, it investigates the various uses of resentment as part of affective engineering and as an instrument of collective identification, in an environment of multiple overlapping crises in Europe.
In recent decades, economic and social differences have increased in many Western countries. The consequences of these societal changes are higher unemployment and more insecurity within the working class. Hostile attitudes towards the poor and immigrants have grown in scale and intensity, leading to claims of a crisis. However, these attitudes are not as common among the ethnic Norwegian working class as they are in the United States and France. Workers in Norway are more hostile towards the rich than vulnerable groups. In contrast with those in the United States and France, it appears that the working class in Norway still struggles for recognition of its societal role and political identification, and this ‘struggle’ is still fought against the economic elite.
On 23 June 2016, 51.9% of those who voted in the UK referendum on membership of the European Union (EU) opted to leave. The impact of this result upon both British and European politics has been profoundly disruptive and divisive. It not only marks a ‘seismic moment in post-war British politics’ (McGowan, 2018, p. 4) but has also disrupted expectations for the European project; no Member State had previously left the Union. Political institutions have been thrown into disarray, many citizens remain in a situation of existential uncertainty, and the political realm is cleaving. What has come to be known as ‘Brexit’ seemingly marks a crisis; a tear or a wrench in the very fabric of European politics, or perhaps a knot in which different socio-political tendencies have become entangled. In this chapter, the authors are interested not so much in diagnosing the factors that led to Brexit as they are the different interpretations that the ‘Brexit crisis’ is now being given. The authors map out five readings of ‘the Brexit crisis’ and contend that any attempt to grasp the meaning of Brexit demands drawing on all of them.
Much analysis considering the putative political challenges of the European Union (EU) has focussed on the (lack of) participation and identifications of European citizens. But what about the bureaucrats working on their behalf? This contribution will address the issue of representative bureaucracy and identification in the EU, specifically in the European Commission. While the literature on representativeness of public administration has focussed on issues of social class, ethnicity and gender, it is also important to consider geographical representativeness. This is particularly important when region (in this case of the EU nations) is relevant. As the authors point out, this question is all the more relevant given the assumption that individuals who join the Commission will identify with Europe more than their home country. Yet, at a time of ongoing discussions about a crisis of the EU and in the midst of populist governments, such an assumption is at least questionable. While it is difficult to assess the extent to which decision-making may be influenced by nationality, at least understanding patterns of representation can be important for understanding how passive – if not active – representation functions. The formal emphasis on representative bureaucracy within the EU raises several potential conflicts with other important principles of public management. It also creates a conflict with the fundamental commitment to creating transnational personnel who eschew strong attachments to nation states.
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