Inventing Traditions for Europe – Part Two Andreea-Volina
Map of Europe
As I mentioned in the first part of this series of articles, the European Union has started placing more and more emphasis on culture to create a common European identity. This emphasis translates concretely into money and energy to organize seminars and workshops to outline what “Europe” and “European” stand for in terms of traditions and shared values. The Scottish political theorist, Tom Nairn, said that this invitation to dig deeper in the common European history should not be addressed only to the elites of intellectuals, politicians and historians, but also to the masses. Only when the masses are convinced, there emerges the possibility to instill a collective memory and to create a historical consciousness.


E.J. Hobsbawn said in his book on inventing traditions: “Historians are to nationalism what poppy-growers in Pakistan are to heroin addicts: we supply the essential raw material for the market. Nations without a past are contradictions in terms. What makes a nation IS the past, what justifies one nation against the others IS the past, and historians are the people who produce it.” History creates an interesting product – the “we-product” – which is no more than historical events transposed into everyday life to inculcate the feeling of a collective social identity. This is what endows the institutions of a state/federation/confederation with legitimacy and authority so that its people can trust them. 

EU elites have been attempting to invent Europe at the level of public opinion through the medium of culture. Its tools were the symbols that represent Europe on the international stage, its information policy and the “Europenization” of higher education by rewriting history. In the 1980s there was no mention of “culture” in the treaties and therefore no legal competence or budget for cultural programs. The “EC Cultural Policy” was not born yet and everything that happened was the organization of some “ad-hoc” cultural events now and then. This was the moment when European politicians noticed the need to concentrate on culture to ‘bring people of the EU closer together’. In this sense they invoked economic reasons which were resumed in a 1985 speech by Jacques Delors: “The culture industry will tomorrow be one of the biggest industries, a creator of wealth and jobs. Under the terms of the Treaty we do not have the resources to implement a cultural policy, but we are going to tackle it along economic lines...We have to build a powerful European culture industry that will enable us to be in control of both the medium and its content, maintaining our standards of civilization and encouraging the creative people among us.”

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Therefore in 1985 the Council agreed to establish an “ad-hoc” Committee for a People’s Europe, chaired by the Italian MEP, Pietro Adonnino, also known as Adonnino’s Committee. Its recommendations were not strictly confined to the cultural sector, but they represented a milestone for the future course of actions: simplifying border-crossing formalities, minting a European coinage, increasing duty-free allowances, providing mutual recognition of equivalent diplomas and professional qualifications and giving rights to those living abroad to participate in local and European elections in their country of residence. Adonnino’s motivation to suggest the aforementioned measures was the need of culture and communication to mold the image of the community in the minds of its people. Further proposals included a Europe-wide audio-visual area with a ‘truly European’ multilingual television channel (to bring the people closer together), a European Academy of Science (to highlight the achievements of European science and the originality of European civilization in all its wealth and diversity) and a Euro-lottery whose prize-money would be awarded in Ecu and announced throughout the community (‘to make Europe come alive for the Europeans’). Furthermore, the Commission called for the formation of European sports teams, the transmission of more factual information about Community activities and their significance for European citizens (including ‘the historical events which led to the construction of the Community and which inspire its further development in freedom, peace and security’, as Adonnino put it), the inauguration of school exchange programmes and voluntary work camps for young people and the introduction of a stronger ‘European dimension’ in education through appropriate school books and teaching materials. 

All these measures had the goal to highlight European consciousness and “Europeanize” the cultural sector. 

 To be continued

Edited by:Lisa Enocsson