The insistance on national sovereignty that many still support becomes more and more outdated and reveals a misconception of identity itself.
It is not the location of our birth or the country surrounding it we relate to the most but a society sharing common interests and values in our environment. In the past the troubles of far-distance communication and transport made geographic seperation an unsurmountable obstacle for the vast amounts of society. But today the world has changed more than anywhere else in developed regions like Europe. Change provokes resistance but instead of fighting a natural development I prefer to ask how we can adapt and profit from it?
What stays are our core interests and values. Most Europeans believe in peace, human equality, justice, freedom and democracy. This is the true reason of our union today, not the fact Europe is recognized as an individual continent, a fundamental difference to national identity. History has brought them together, nothing more.
But uniting Europe holds many more opportunities to enrich and evolve the European society. Cultural and traditional differences are invaluable resources of diversity only to be accessed by the key of tolerance. The unification of free markets has constantly progressed but the political union seems to be at odd in the face of the Eurocrisis. While economic globalization and even stronger, ‘Europeanisation’, has tied our continent together and spread wealth and peace, we have failed to reflect this in a European public being diverse in culture but aware of its shared values and interests.
The National State becomes less attractive
For long the global economic dominance of the western hemisphere has not been questioned. In the shadow of American leadership and the lack of a European society has seemed to be a secondary shortcoming. A strong and united Europe with the backing of hundreds of millions of voices has simply not been required. It is now that we have to recognize the dilemma of a gap between society and economy.
Not only have certain kinds of market and debt liberalizations crossed red lines, emerging countries around the world are even challenging the superiority of western economy and concerning Europe, the economic crisis has put the fallacies of European Integration on open display. While Europe has united its markets almost inseparably, politicians struggle between acknowledging and widening this progress at the same time as serving separate societies.
This gap has proven unsustainable. Ultimately I believe there are only two ways towards a stable and Europe: Separating the markets or uniting our societies.
The former resembles a reversal of globalization, shifting foreign trade back to primarily rely on domestic trade in order to put national politics in sufficient control of the country they govern. No doubt, the result would be devastating. We strongly depend on foreign trade within Europe, probably more than most people are aware of. Single European nations with their small population and, assuming we choose this way, a limitation to domestic economy, should not hope to be respected by strong countries with much larger populations around the world many of which neither sharing our interests nor values. However they will set the rules for the pack of individualist European nations. The USA cannot serve as an assurance forever.
Democracy depends on the the state of Europe
Something I have missed so far is a debate about the political contagion we would be prone to when non-democratic powers lead the global stage. In my opinion this longterm effect is widely underestimated or ignored.
Emerging nationalist movements close their eyes to the transformation the globalization has caused to the world. We can't just turn history back to a comfortable point where no one could match the West. They exploit fear of the foreign to make people shy away from a way forward.
So is it really impossible to unite our societies instead? National societies have not exactly been pushed to integrate. Pushing people is not a good idea anyway without increasing social instability. So what is there to begin with?
There are enough commonalities
Many Europeans like Europe. They like to travel without obstacles, they like to pay with just one currency, they speak at least a little English to communicate, they like and apparently even stand ready to defend a free internet across borders. And if they have ever left our continent they have experienced being referred to as Europeans because Europe is known for something quite rare in the world - yes! Equality, justice, freedom and democracy.
I think there are enough people who like to be Europeans and could identify with other Europeans if the European media landscape and leading political rhetoric would not be so fragmented along borders that should be open for ideas, inviting everyone to deliberately move between different perspectives like they can today on the national level.
Multilingualism is a hurdle, yes, but technology and education can be a solution. Maybe not now but soon.
The European network of Facebook
The internet is a unique powerful tool, catalyst and network to connect people, spread a message and find a common voice. We have experienced the cross-border impact it can have in recent years around the world.
The society of today is not the same as the one of tomorrow
Social media has been existent just for a couple of years, the electronization of our civilization is at the very beginning and its accessibility and penetration rises significantly every year. It’s impossible to make certain predictions but if there is any space where Europeans can unite first, it will be most likely online. We should keep that in mind and politicians shouldn't forget the online generation will grow into leadership in the near future.
The looming temptation of a better past is an illusion. Europe has not been a better place twenty years ago or ever before. Re-emphasizing differences will only catalyze all kinds of inequalities we thought to have left behind.