European Identity Politics

Karl Aiginger, Heinz Handler

Abstract


Social and political sciences use the term ‘identity’ in describing a wide range of phenomena, whether these be personal explanations of self-understanding, descriptions of common interests or the shared experiences of a larger group. It has been used in the recent analyses of countries or larger communities, but also in the historical studies of very different societies in developing or industrialized countries. To make the concept more operational and open to empirical research, we dichotomize it into an inclusive versus an exclusive type. This enables us to carve out the different policy conclusions associated with each type. We then apply the concepts for analysing the emergence of European identity over the past decades, as well as its limits and recent headwinds. We present survey data on national and supranational identity and country differences concerning trust in national and European institutions. As a counterstrategy to populism and the exclusive type of identity, political observers, from scientists to members of the media, are split into suggesting either a "cordon sanitaire” to discourage voting for such ideas versus an embracement strategy by including their representatives into government, thereby controlling them or revealing their incompetence. This paper, in contrast, ventures a proactive strategy of four steps to localize the root causes of the success of populism, offering an inclusive vision for the long run, policy instruments for economic improvements and a new narrative. These concepts are linked to the strategy of the European Commission of a Green Deal and a Social Europe "striving for more”, which acts as a program to strengthen the inclusive European identity and pre-empt the renationalization requested by the exclusive type. It is much too early to analyse the COVID-19 crisis under the proposed dichotomization and the new narrative. However, the differences in the initial reactions of countries to the emerging pandemic, bashing foreign sources for its creation and misusing the crisis for a restoration of autocratic leadership on the one hand and looking for solidarity on the national as well as international level on the other, may later be attributed to the concepts of exclusion versus inclusion.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/rae.v12i2.16841

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