What is the relation between European integration processes and development of identity and democracy in Europe? European integration created a new frame of reference for identity-building and for democracy as well– how we can create European demos, European civil society, and European collective identity. Clearly, there’s a lot of questions here and a lot of problems related to it, especially when it comes to the relation between national level and European level. National identity, as we know it, broadly speaking, can be constructed in two different ways– the so-called ethnic model and political model. The ethnic model is based on culture, heritage. It’s kind of looking in the past for where we come from, what kind of cultural background we have.
And if we build identity on this basis, it often tends to be exclusive. There’s a question of boundaries. How do we relate to others? Do we all come from the same roots, from the same background? So of course, it makes it difficult to accept cultural diversity. On the other hand, a political model of identity is more inclusive. It’s more open, because it’s kind of forward-looking. It’s based on shared values. It’s based on the project of developing of society, which may be pluralistic, which may be more open, more inclusive, as I said.
So perhaps if we try to apply these two models to the European level, then it’s much more likely to succeed to build a European identity as a political type of identity– internally pluralistic, open, inclusive, more related to civil society, more related to social diversity, cultural diversity. But of course, it does not eliminate the question of boundaries and the question of relation with others. Who is going to be the non-European with whom we build relations? Where do we place boundaries? Who are going to be, as sociologists say, significant others for Europeans? How do we construct this boundary? How do we construct European neighbouring countries, European neighbourhood, the category?
And how do we build relations between Europe and those others, those significant others outside of Europe? Of course, there’s also the question of democracy in relation to identity. From our studies of national identity, we know that there is a very close relation and, I believe, mutual relation between identity and democracy. It is known that, at least on the national level we need a collective identity in order to build democracy, because democracy is a procedure, is decision-making, is governance in the name of a community, in the name of a national community. We need a feeling of belonging. We need the spirit of being together, of being part of a community.
Citizens vote and participate in democratic procedures as members of a national community. So without collective identity, it will be very difficult, if at all possible, to build democracy. The same can be said probably about the European level. In order to develop democracy on the European level, in order to develop European democracy, to create a European demos, we need to have a kind of European collective identity, to feel that we belong to Europe, that Europe is for us an important frame of reference, that we can be active as citizens in Europe and for Europe. But I also think that the relation between identity and democracy is mutual, that it goes both ways, because democracy is participation. Democracy is meaningful activity.
We participate in democratic procedures, and by participating we feel that we belong. We construct our identity in the process of participating in different civic activities, different citizens’ activities. And democracy, of course, is a key activity for citizens. So without democracy, it is also difficult to think of identity, especially identity which is, as I said, the open one, the civic one and not an ethnic.
And I think therefore, what we can say that for Europe it is essential that, on the one hand, we try to create a feeling of belonging, we try to create the frame in which citizens can identify in the European space of values, but, on the other hand, that we also develop democracy, that we develop procedures, that we develop a European demos. How it is possible? Certainly, a major step forward, in principle, theoretically, so to speak, it would be to change the European Parliament in such a way that is not as it is at the moment of election to the European Parliament are organised separately for each member states. We know that this is how it is done today.
It would be a huge step forward if we can organise the European elections in such a way that European parties that present their own programmes for Europe and elections are done the same day across Europe, and European citizens vote for parties of their choice on the European level. As it is now, which is also often raised as a problem for European democracy, election campaigns for European parliament are organised separately in each member state. And there are domestic issues in question. There are national parties that compete. So in fact, rather than having one European demos, we have 28 separate political systems.
This might be, as I said, a major step forward to build European demos, which will, in turn, strengthen our feeling that we belong to one society, that we solve our common European problems, that the European frame of reference matters.