Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Europe’s story

I’m still mired in an intensive real-world project (all revolving around clarifying the insane complexity of post-Soviet Russian politics, which anyone who’s looked into it even briefly will know is a tough – if fascinating – gig…), so continued light posting here for a bit.

Meanwhile, via Kosmopolit, it appears that Timothy Garton Ash (always interesting on Europe, even if you don’t agree with him) has launched a new project to get up a debate about the story Europe should tell.

By “Europe”, of course, he means primarily the EU. At a period when the EU project seems more confused and directionless than ever, and while secretive moves are being made to revive/revise the EU constitution, regular readers of this blog will know that one of my ongoing obsessions is what the decidedly late-20th century EU can do to make itself relevant again for the 21st century.

Garton Ash’s initial essay in Prospect is certainly an interesting starting point, even if his ideas to weave a concept of “Europeanism” around “freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity” are somewhat vague, and leave out the single most important continent-wide binding force of “artistic culture”. But he’s certainly coming from the right starting point, with no illusions about the difficulty of the task:

“In this proposal, our identity will not be constructed in the fashion of the historic European nation, once humorously defined as a group of people united by a common hatred of their neighbours and a shared misunderstanding of their past. We should not even attempt to retell European history as the kind of teleological mythology characteristic of 19th-century nation-building. No good will come of such a mythopoeic falsification of our history (“From Charlemagne to the euro”), and it won’t work anyway. The nation was brilliantly analysed by the historian Ernest Renan as a community of shared memory and shared forgetting; but what one nation wishes to forget another wishes to remember. The more nations there are in the EU, the more diverse the family of national memories, the more difficult it is to construct shared myths about a common past.

This is a debate worth having. I only wish I had a bit more time to join in