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Table of Contents
- Part I -
Chapter One: Identities
1.1 - The role of Globalization
1.2 - A Personal Identity
1.3 - A Social Identity
1.4 - The Role of the “imagined community”
Chapter Two: A European Identity
2.1 - Historical Perspectives
2.2 - European identity in times of integration
2.3 - Models of European identity
2.4 - The Academic debate
Chapter Three: Europe in Crisis
3.1 - The European sovereign debt crisis - The Greek case
3.2 - Indicators of an Identity in crisis
Chapter Four: The European Media and the Crisis
4.1 - Towards a European identity: A European Public Sphere
4.2 - The national Media and the crisis
4.3 - Political Cartoons
Summary - Part I
- Part II -
Chapter Five: Methodology
5.1 - Introduction and structure
5.2 - Research design and method
5.3 - Operationalization
5.4 - Validity and limitation
Chapter Six: Focus Group Discussions
Chapter Seven: Conclusions
The past two years in this master program have been an exhilarating time which brought me as far as the other side of the planet and back. Along this way I have made many friends which will accompany me into the future. For that I am particularly grateful. The international and the interdisciplinary makeup of the program, allows a glimpse into a future shaped by globalization and may well be ahead of its time.
In particular, I would like to thank my family for their unconditional support through my academic career on three different continents. Furthermore I would like to thank my friends, new and old, for giving me the momentum to complete my studies.
In terms of this thesis, special thanks go to Professor Doctor Irene Neverla and Doctor Kathrin Voss for all the help they have provided. Furthermore I thank Shameem Mahmud for giving advice on the methodology. Also, I would like to thank Doctor Sophia Kaitatzi-Whitlock and all the participants for enabling me to conduct my focus group discussions.
The times in Aarhus, Sydney and Hamburg have offered me new perspectives and I am confident that the experiences gained will help me on my future path.
In these difficult times of the European sovereign debt crisis, this project aims at exploring the effect of this unprecedented crisis situation onto the sense of a European identity. For this purpose, the research Question has been formulated as follows: How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis?
The notion of a European identity which lies at the heart of this study is everything but new to the policy makers in Brussels, to social theorists and to political scientists from around the globe. A vast amount of literature has been published on the subject matter, ranging back as far as the 1970’s and beyond. As elusive as the concept of a European identity might first appear, the sheer amount of academic publications, research projects, think tanks and media coverage that have contemplated the notion of European identity, indicate its fundamental importance to the future of the European project and its institutions. Given the fundamentally altered circumstances, which Europe has been facing since the onset of the European debt crisis in late 2009, it becomes necessary to reassess the contemporary state of an evolving sense of European identity. A reassessment of previous conceptualizations on this notion, together with an analysis of the present crisis and the role of the media as opinion maker will provide the necessary conceptual framework for the analysis of the empirical results collected via focus group discussions. Together, the analysis of the theoretical framework and the empirical results will allow a glimpse into the contemporary perception of a European identity and how it has been affected by the present sovereign debt crisis. As large parts of the Academic community and various EU lead polls have suggested, the interplay between national and supra-national “imagined communities” and the European institutions will ultimately determine the support for a European polity amongst its citizens which , as many scholars suggest, is vital for the continuation of the “unfinished adventure” that is the European Union.
The present monetary crisis, which undoubtedly has affected some European states worse than others, has received a great deal of attention by politicians, international media outlets and economists. Aside all the measures of strategic and financial nature which have been undertaken to counteract the instability of the Eurozone and the European economic area, comparably little attention has been paid to the “other side of the coin”, that is, the sentiment of the European citizens. Large parts of the academic community agree on the fact that on a long term basis, the future of Europe and the European Union will just as equally be decided by the citizens of Europe and their support for a European polity, as it will be by the political and economic policy makers in Brussels and the other European capitals. Simply put: The European project can only work via the approval of the people, supporting the idea and spirit that stand behind it.
This project aims at providing just that, an insight into public sentiment on the European identity, focusing on the two European member states of Greece and Germany which have received a particular amount of attention due to the integral role they assume in the European struggle of the past years. In order to achieve this goal, the concept of European identity and the existing literature on the topic provide an essential tool and framework for the analysis of public sentiment on European integration. Also, through the analysis of existing literature, the project aims at juxtaposing the theoretical notions of a personal and a greater European identity represented in the academic debate against empirical results that will be collected via focus group discussions in the respective countries. Ultimately this project should allow insights on how people’s perception of a European identity has changed in the timeframe of the European debt crisis.
Part I - Chapter One - Identities
This first chapter of the project is to clarify different fundamental concepts surrounding the notion of identity. There are four overall concepts which will serve as “pillars” creating the base for the analysis of the academic debate on European identity in chapter two. These concepts have evolved from long lasting academic traditions in different areas of social sciences that are of crucial importance to the understanding of European identity as a central concept of this study.
The notions of “identity” or “social identity” (i.e. the individual attachment and identification with larger groups) are fundamentally intertwined. Hence, in order to explore the idea of European identity as part of a person’s social identity in greater detail, it is important to provide an excursion to the origins of the more fundamental concept of identity construction. In addition, for the in-depth assessment of the academic debate in chapter two, there are two more fundamental concepts which need to be addressed briefly in order to provide a well-rounded base, leading up to the most prominent conceptualizations of European identity. Those two concepts are the role of globalization and the role of the “imagined community” fostered via different forms of media.
Due to the limited scope of this thesis and the vast amount of literature published in the fields of identity, social identity, globalization and the imagined community it will only be possible to provide a condensed overview on these concepts, which is none the less vital to provide a base for a more in-depth analysis of the academic debate on European identity. Ultimately, the analysis of European identity in chapter two, the assessment of the European sovereign debt crisis in chapter three and the role of the media in chapter four will provide the necessary framework for the analysis of the empirical results in the second part of the thesis. The juxtaposition of the insights of the theoretical part with the empirical results will then allow conclusions to be drawn in respect to the research question: How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis?
1.1 The role of Globalization
“Globalization is a relatively new term used to describe a very old process. It is a historical process that began with our human ancestors moving out of Africa to spread all over the globe. In the millennia that have followed, distance has been largely overcome and human-made barriers lowered or removed to facilitate the exchange of goods and ideas. Propelled by the desire to improve one's life and helped along by technology, both the interconnectedness and interdependence have grown. This increasing integration of the world or 'globalization' has enriched life but also created new problems (Yale Global Online 2012).”
In a world increasingly shaped by the dynamics of globalization and cosmopolitanism, the concept of a unique and personal identity is of ever-present importance. Global interconnectedness has increased to a level that is strongly felt by many people around the globe, particularly but not exclusively in economically more developed countries (Andréani 1999, p. 10). International migration patterns, the establishment of English as the world business language, constant connectedness across continents and time zones via means of modern communication and the establishment of intergovernmental organizations are only a few manifestations of the omnipresent processes that are commonly referred to as globalization. In the wake of a multitude of developments, of which in particular the technological ones are anticipated to accelerate exponentially, peoples’ lives stand increasingly affected. With his book “ Globalization: A critical introduction ”, Jan Aart Scholte introduced an interesting concept centered on the notion of the “respacialisation of social life” or in other words how people’s lives and social identities are evolving in the modern globalized world. According to Scholte, “the spread of tranplanetary - and in recent times also more particularly supraterritorial - connections between people” (Scholte 2005, p. 59), lies at the fundamental basis of the globalization process. Furthermore he states that in terms of a persons’ “social sphere”, “Territorial domains remain very important but they no longer define the entire macro spatial framework" (Scholte 2005, p. 64). Scholte’s approach to globalization emphasizes fundamental changes in peoples’ lives caused by a diversification of their social connections. Subsequently, this change has profound impacts on the identity construction process of humans in respect to the different layers of a personal, social, ethnic, national or even supranational identity (Delanty & Baogang 2008; Pichler 2009, Smith 1992, p. 58). The compositions of identities are subject to constant change and are merely manifestations of the world we live in. Scholte states that “(…) a definition of globalisation as a respatialisation of social life opens up new knowledge and engages key policy challenges (…) (Scholte 2007, p. 1499).”
Since globalization is increasingly affecting people’s “social lives”, the impact onto the identity formation process may well be described as a diversification and addition of different layers to one’s identity (Maier & Risse 2003, p. 2). Having mentioned the overarching framework of globalization under which processes such as European integration and other macro social developments shaping an individual’s identity occur, it is important to have a deeper assessment of the question where the concept of “identity” actually comes from. Only by assessing theses fundamental concepts it becomes possible to analyze the academic debate on European identity which in return provides the basis for the empirical results collected via focus group discussions.
1.2 A Personal Identity
The work of famous psychologist Sigmund Freud laid the basic foundation of the modern concept of identity, which would later be significantly enhanced by the works of scholars such as, most prominently, Eric Erikson. In 1923 Freud published his work “ The Ego and the Id ” in which he formulated a comprehensive approach to the analysis of the human psychic apparatus. According to Freud’s “structural model”, there are three basic functions of the human mind which largely determine who we are. The “Id” is the unorganized part of your mind which reflects the basic and unconscious human needs and instincts. The “Ego” is the conscious part of the human psyche, which gives us the ability to make rational decisions in the long term pursuit of happiness. Being consciously aware and being able to plan according to your memories are crucial for the Ego’s mediation function between the “Id” and reality. Lastly, Freud identified the “super-ego” as the third part of the human psyche which makes up a person’s identity. The super ego is that mainly unconscious part of our identity which according to Freud “takes on the influence of those who have stepped into the place of parents — educators, teachers, people chosen as ideal models (Freud 1933, pp. 95-96).” Hence, the super-ego also works as a sort of mediator between the uncontrollable part of the “Id” and the norms of society. Thereby it also constitutes a crucial part in shaping our social identity, which will subsequently be discussed in greater detail.
Building upon the work of Sigmund Freud, today’s views of a personal identity were strongly shaped by the German scholar Erik Erikson, his theory of personality and the concept of the “ego” or “self”. In his book “Childhood and Society” Erikson states that the, “Ego identity, then, in its subjective aspect, is the awareness of the fact that there is a self-sameness and continuity to the ego's synthesizing methods and a continuity of one's meaning for others (Erikson 1963 in Engler 2009, p. 156).” When analyzing the existing literature on personal and social identity it becomes clear that the creation of a self-image has to happen against “the others” (Shore 1993, p. 782). On a personal level these “others” are the individuals we encounter in our daily lives. They are in particular our family and close friends, which set the parameters for our own self-definition. In his later work “ Youth and crisis ”, Erikson goes on to state that: “[The Ego identity's] most obvious concomitants are a feeling of being at home in one's body, a sense of 'knowing where one is going', and an inner assuredness of anticipated recognition from those who count (Erikson 1968, p. 165).” Therefore, the ground level of the identity construction process is shaped by our surrounding individuals who allow us to shape our own identity by measuring our beliefs, values, tastes, interests, talents etc. against “the others”, therefore determining what is different or unique about us as an individual.
1.3 A Social Identity
Undoubtedly, our identity is shaped by many other factors that determine our self perception apart from direct and personal connections to the people that surround us in our daily lives. The social identity everyone possesses has an important role in the self- determination process that shapes our identity as a whole. A vivid example of how identity was conceptualized in ancient history are the “Hierocles Circles” which shows that the concept of possessing different layers of varying degrees of attachment to particular communities is everything but new. In the 2nd Century A.D., the Greek stoic philosopher Hierocles devised a model of concentric circles of identity, following the tradition of stoic cosmopolitanism. He described a person to possess a multitude of circles of attraction, ranging from the human mind at the very center to the immediate family, all the way up to your city, country and ultimately the entire human race. For Hierocles it was the duty of every human to try and draw all these different circles as close to the center as possible, thereby ensuring an equal and balanced connection to all these spheres of attraction (Ramelli 2009).
Millennia have passed and the tone may have changed but the message remains the same. It is largely social connections and our relation to larger groups which determine how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world. Social identity theory lies at the heart of this notion because it reflects our relationship to everything beyond our personal and immediate scope of interaction. Social identity theory, founded upon the works of British social-psychologist Henri Tajfel, offers important insights into the fundamental human need to align ourselves with groups for the purpose of social interaction, even beyond the scope of physical connection. According to Tajfel, social identity is “(…) that part of the individual’s self-concept which derives from their knowledge of membership of a social group, together with the value and emotional significance of that membership (Tajfel 1981, p. 251).”
A person’s social identity is composed of their membership to a multiplicity of different social groups of which some are of key importance in terms of their self- definition. According to Kay Deaux, “Many forms of social identity exist, reflecting the many ways in which people connect to other groups and social categories. (…) we have pointed to five distinct types of social identification: ethnic and religious identities, political identities, vocations and avocations, personal relationships, and stigmatized groups (Deaux, 2001 p. 1060).” These types of categorizations proposed by Deaux vary in importance for each person since the makeup of an identity is inherently individual. Closing in on the discussion about European identity, the two categories of social identification proposed earlier, being ethnic and political identities are of central importance to this project and shall be assessed in greater detail.
Undoubtedly for most people, their ethnic and political identity makes up a substantial part of their self-perception and definition. Though not the same, ethnic and political identities are often closely linked to a person’s national identity due to the core features they share, such as a common language, symbols, traditions and cultural heritage. An ethnic identity does not necessarily align itself with a national identity but in many cases they overlap and interact (Smith 1992, p. 59). This view is shared by Marilynn Brewer who states that, “All social identity theories share the recognition that individuals can-and usually do-derive their identities from more than one social group.
(…) When social identity is defined as part of an individual self-system, managing multiple identities is something like an internal juggling act. On an ongoing basis, the individual (either consciously or subconsciously) weighs and assesses available aspects of the self to determine which are activated or engaged as guides to behavior in the current situation (Brewer 2001, p. 121).” The understanding of multiple layers of social identity remains of great importance in respect to the concept of a European identity.
That being said, both ethnic and national identities share a core feature that needs to be addressed. As stated earlier by Tajfel, social identity is founded upon the “knowledge of membership of a social group” (Tajfel 1981). These social groups, be they national or ethnic, are in most cases much too vast in scope to be grasped through direct interaction. Regional, national or even supra-national communities are made of up to hundreds of millions of people, making it impossible for the individual to have a direct connection to even a fraction of the members that make up these communities. When looking at the concepts of the nation and national identity, Benedict Anderson’s understanding of the nation as “imagined community” remains a popular approach to the nation state as a concept and how it is defined by an individual’s perception (Cilla, Reisigl, Wodak 1999, p. 149). Anderson states that: “(…) I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign (…) The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations (Anderson 1991, p. 7).” Thus, according to Anderson, the imagined political community that is the nation is as limited as it is of individual importance to a person’s identity. To further build upon Anderson’s concept of the “imagined community”, it is safe to say that social groups beyond the national scope, such as the European Union can equally be perceived as imagined communities. As clarified earlier, social groups, even up to a national scale, determine our social identity. Logically this would imply that “social groups” beyond the scope of the nation such as being European, could therefore also culminate in something one might call a European identity. This view is shared by Gerard Delanty, who states that: “European identity is a question of collective identity and as such, theoretically, is no different from the question of national identity (Delanty 2003 p. 50).” Following this theoretical approach, the notion of a European identity cannot be easily dismissed.
1.4 The role of the “imagined community”
Even though according to Gerard Delanty the theoretical foundation of this identity formation process is equal, one might hardly argue that today, for most people, their European identity is as evolved and significant as their national identity. The Eurobarometer (EB) bi-annual survey of 2006 displays this fact in figures: In 2006, 43% of those polled said they ‘never’ thought of themselves as European, 38% said ‘sometimes’ and only 16% said ‘often’ with 2% abstaining (EB 66, 2006).
Undoubtedly, this results from the way that in the past, both of these imagined communities have been communicated to the individual. On the one hand there is the nation, providing a well defined concept of the outer rim of peoples imagined communities for hundreds of years, clearly setting the “us” and the “others” apart. On the other hand, there is the concept of a European identity which has only started emerging onto a measurable scale after the end of the World War II, representing the pinnacle of a long-lasting tradition of war and conflict across the European continent. The security and protection which national belonging has to offer have become imprinted into our cultural norms for hundreds of years. If conflict between nations and other regional social groups had not had such a decisive impact on the lives of the Europeans over the past centuries, it is possible that the intangible notion of a European identity would not be as intangible as it presents itself today after slowly growing into people’s lives for a mere 65 years (Borneman & Fowler 1997, p. 492; Andréani 1999, p. 13).
Considering the importance of Anderson’s concept of the imagined community in regard to the social, national and even supra-national identity formation process which is vital to the understanding of a European identity, it remains to clarify what has been driving and consolidating these processes until today. According to Anderson the national “imagined community” was only able to form through the spread of vernacular, a language shared by all members of the community. “(…) this transformation should be so important for the birth of the imagined community of the nation can best be seen if we consider the basic structure of two forms of imagining which first flowered in Europe in the eighteenth century: the novel and the newspaper (…) representing the kind of imagined community that is the nation (Anderson 1991, p. 16).”
Possibly the most prominent feature of an imagined community, a shared language, played a crucial role in determining the boundaries between “us” and “them”. In the process of this solidification, making the notion of nationality and hence a national identity more graspable to the average citizen, another milestone was yet to come. The development of the printing press and the rise of mass media made it possible for the individual to connect him/herself to the emerging national community as a whole. Before that, publications were mostly written in Latin whose understanding was limited to small educated elites (Anderson 1991; p. 13; Borneman & Fowler 1997, p. 500). The intangible notion of nationality became more tangible and perceivable when the boundaries, shared by a common vernacular were set. Along with the profound impact of mass media in terms of the evolution of languages and hence of national identities, another core aspect of social identity formation was introduced through the increasingly common publications of news in vernacular. Through the spread of newspapers or other forms of mass media, Anderson emphasized that:
“(…) each communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose identity he has not the slightest notion. (…) What more vivid figure for the secular, historically clocked, imagined community can be envisioned? At the same time, the newspaper reader, observing exact replicas of his own paper being consumed by his subway, barbershop, or residential neighbours, is continually reassured that the imagined world is visibly rooted in everyday life. (…) fiction seeps quietly and continuously into reality, creating that remarkable confidence of community in anonymity which is the hallmark of modern nations (Anderson 1991, p. 20).”
Thus, according to Anderson particularly the simultaneous perception of events, described in his book as “homogenous empty time” gives the consumer a sense of his or her place in time in accordance with the other members of the community. Therefore, fostering a personal sense of solidarity and belonging via a shared record of past, presence and future. The vital role of the media in respect to the evolution of a European identity, particularly in the light of the Eurozone crisis, will be assessed in further detail in Chapter Four of this thesis.
Chapter 2 - A European Identity
The previous chapter aimed at unveiling different fundamental concepts with the purpose of providing a basis for an in-depth discussion on such a highly debated topic as European identity. Having established that macro-social processes such as European integration are closely interrelated to the contemporary global social and economic dynamics which have become known as globalization, it also becomes clear that the fundamental rules of these dynamics have the potential to both shape national and supra-national collective identities and imagined communities.
The four conceptual pillars discussed in the previous chapter are seemingly individual entities but they are connected by carrying a common structure and serving a common purpose, as the foundation for a deeper understanding and analysis on the following conceptualizations on European identity. Firstly, after having established a theoretical basis of the debate on an emerging pan-European identity effectively linking the terms “European” and “identity”, it is now important to briefly assess the historical perspectives on a European identity. Secondly, for purposes of an in-depth analysis of the academic debate in the chosen timeframe, the Five Models of European identity proposed in Gerard Delanty’s paper “ Models of European identity: Reconciling universalism and particularism ” provide a concise overview on the different conceptual camps surrounding the notion of European identity and serve as a helpful tool for analytical purposes. Thirdly, due to the vastness of different conceptualizations that amounted over the past decades, the in-depth analysis of the academic debate surrounding European identity will follow a chronological order in timeframe from the early 1990’s until today. Eight publications will be assessed in particular detail with the goal of reflecting possible trends in how a European identity has been conceptualized over the past two decades. Furthermore the analysis of Delanty’s models and the chosen publications on a European identity, will serve for the purpose of interpreting the empirical results in the second part of this thesis.
2.1 Historical perspectives
The history and development of a European identity is evidently closely intertwined with the history of the European continent in all its complexity. The gradual emergence of economic cooperation in different fields amongst the European nation states after World War Two, eventually culminating in the intergovernmental organization of today’s European Union, clearly required a fundamental reinterpretation of the concept and value of a European identity (Tassin 1992 in Orchard 2002, p. 429). This reinterpretation is essentially going on until this day and is well represented in the academic debate, reflecting the various different approaches on the matter. According to Bo Stråth, “The history of a European identity is the history of a concept and a discourse. (…) There has been a high degree of agreement on the concept as such, but deep disagreement on its more precise content and meaning (Stråth 2002, p. 3).” This well describes the discursive nature of this topic, essentially emphasizing that currently, European identity is of a more individual nature which shares some but not all of the features that are generally associated with a national identity. Therefore, instead of being an overarching replacement to national identity, European identity presents itself more as an addition to be incorporated into an overall “identity mix” made up of local, regional, national and possibly European sentiments, making up parts of one’s social identity (Kohli 2000; Bruter 2004 et al.).
First it is important to assess where the idea, that the multitude of different European nations presenting themselves in all their diversity should actually share a partially collective identity, comes from? Apart from their geographic proximity what else do these countries and their citizen’s share to justify such an assumption? The concept of Europe as a continent has its roots in the middle Ages and was part of the prevailing world view that the world was divided between Asia, Africa and Europe as the three major landmasses. Back then the landmass we know today as Europe was already closely associated with the spread of Latin and the Christian religion through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire (Walkenhorst 2008; Stråth 2002; Delanty 2002). In times of the Renaissance the term Europe became increasingly prevailing and there were first attempts pinpointing geographical border regions. Throughout history there have been numerous definitions as to where Europe’s borders are to be drawn. These varying definitions of the borders are historically centered on the Ural River, the Caspian Sea the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains (National Geographic Atlas of the World 7th ed. 1999). These theoretical borders of Europe largely remain accepted to this date even though it is evidently hard to pinpoint the exact frontier between the European and the Asian continent (Andréani 1997 p. 7; Risse & Grabowsky 2008). The fact that the borders of the European continent can’t be drawn specifically has interesting implications in regards to the European Union as well as European identity formation, which will be analyzed in greater detail, later on in this chapter.
Arguably, the European nation states share a complex and deeply intertwined history. Over the past decades, the multitude of different scholars analyzing the theoretical concept of European identity have invoked several historical commonalities amongst the European nation states, which ought to serve as a foundation for the development of the different rhetorical approaches towards a deeper understanding of the matter. Some of the most common, though still highly debated, historical bases for a common European heritage are the largely shared Christian religion, the historical impact of Roman and Greek influences and the period of enlightenment (Delanty 2002; Höjelid 2001 in Walkenhorst 2008; Stråth 2002). Other communalities include characteristics such as science, reason, progress and democracy (Stråth 2002). Even though these attributes of the European nation states are indeed shared amongst each other to a larger or lesser extent, most scholars would agree that in terms of the academic debate on European identity, these rather intangible commonalities do not hold enough strength to represent the current state of a European identity in the context of the rapidly gaining importance of the European Union institutions and European integration.
2.2 European identity in times of European integration
After having briefly assessed the historical bottom layer of the argumentative construction of a European identity, the focus will now shift towards the perceptions of European identity in times of European integration. The aim is to provide a brief insight into the state of a European identity in this fundamental, yet inherently limiting time period between the end of World War Two and the end of the Cold War era. Excerpts from a speech given by Winston Churchill in 1946 during an address at the University of Zurich, present a powerful and early account of Europe’s historical heritage and a visionary representation of the development of the European Union and a pan-European identity.
“If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and the glory which its (…) people would enjoy. (…) [The goal is] to provide it [Europe] with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. (…) why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this turbulent and mighty continent? (…) In order that this should be accomplished there must be an act of faith in which millions of families speaking many languages must consciously take part. (…) Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause (Winston Churchill 1946).”
This account provides an adequately profound representation of how Europe reinvented itself after the Second World War, emphasizing today’s deep interconnection between the European Union and an emerging pan-European identity (Borneman & Fowler 1997, p. 488). Furthermore it allows an insight into the profoundly strategic nature of the European project set in motion over the course of the past decades, which determines the frame for any academic debate on the pan-European identity within this given time period. Also, this early historical account on plans of European integration displays the awareness of the important role which “a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship” would play for the European project. Winston Churchill focused on what he described as the “United States of Europe”.
Today we know that the European Union in its current structure is still far away from a federal constitutional republic such as the likes of the United States of America. Yet, in the light of the current debt crisis we have seen a strong intensification of the debate whether “more” or “less” European integration will lead Europe out of its present crisis. Considering the measures undertaken by the European institutions and the European Central Bank such as the European Security Mechanism (ESM) it becomes clear that the European Union’s policy on “damage control” clearly points towards more integration and unity in Europe’s future (Krakowski 2005, p. 7; Kohli 2000; Borneman & Fowler 1997, p. 494), currently representing itself via increasingly integrated fiscal policies in Europe but possibly encompassing other former national competencies, such as a foreign and security policy, in the future.
Breaking down the academic debate on European identity, which is the main purpose of this chapter, is not an easy task. Over the past decades there has been a multitude of different approaches on conceptualizing European identity by the different scholars, researching this field (Delanty 2002; Camia 2010; Risse & Grabowski 2008). The various approaches on the matter cover a broad spectrum and reflect the different schools of thought that were applied with the purpose of formulating concepts which adequately interpret the past and current state of a pan-European identity.
2.3 Models of European identity
For the purpose of analyzing the different conceptual models towards a European identity, the categorization discussed in Gerard Delanty’s paper of 2002, “ Models of European identity: Reconciling universalism and particularism ” provides a helpful tool in reflecting upon the two sites of the spectrum between universalism and particularism (Delanty 2002) and the overall five different models which reflect the different schools of thought on the matter. Delanty’s categorization of the different approaches towards a European identity has served as basis for the work of numerous scholars (Jamieson 2002; Beck & Grande 2007; Delanty & Baogang 2008; Camia 2010; Pichler 2009) and particularly his approach to the concept of cosmopolitanism has yielded strong support amongst the academic community in regards to a better understanding of a European identity. For the purpose of providing a structured reflection on European identity, the academic debate shall be assessed according to the different positions on the matter being: moral universalism, post national universalism, cultural particularism, pragmatism and cosmopolitanism (Delanty 2002). It is vital to assess a broad spectrum of different publications dealing with the concept of European identity individually, and by doing so, making use of the proposed categorization models Delanty has established in his works. Hence, it is imperative to provide a short overview over the five different Models.
2.3.1 Moral Universalism - According to Delanty, moral universalism is an approach to the understanding of European identity which is founded upon general values which have come to be associated with western democracies. At the core of this conceptual approach, lies the notion of “morality” and various founding principles of western societies such as human rights, liberal democratic values, respect, tolerance, fraternity, humanitarianism and sciences, to name a few. These very broad principles are intrinsic to the fabric of several treaties in the history of the European Union such as the “Maastricht Treaty” and the “Treaty of Lisbon”. Delanty also briefly mentions the “Charta of European Identity”, which was requested by Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, before the European Parliament in 1994 (Charter of the European identity, 1995) , to be based around these principles of morality. Many scholars that have published their ideas of a European identity have incorporated these very general moral values into their conceptualizations (Krakowski 2005, p. 15; Risse & Grabowski 2008, p. 13). Delanty convincingly argues that these moral principles do not suffice as a conceptual foundation in regards to the notion but merely offer a “very thin” approach to justify a common European identity. He emphasizes the intrinsically universalistic basis of this model and even though, very compatible with the national identities present in Europe, he states that, “the problem with this model of the European is that the values it appeals to are not specifically European (Delanty 2002, p. 347).” One might agree with him that, even though these moral values serve as founding principles of the European Union, they are not powerful enough to create a “thick” feeling of belonging and identification with the European imagined community, but are principles which are equally shared with “western” nations such as Australia, the US or Canada.
2.3.2 European post national universalism - The second approach outlined by Delanty is described as “qualified universalism”. It focuses on the “political and juridical norms” that are present in the European nation states, basically emphasizing these institutions to serve as the common ground for the evolvement of a European identity. “While basically sharing the universalistic moral idea of human rights, it focuses identity on specific institutional and cognitive achievements of the European heritage such as the constitution (…) (Delanty 2002, p. 348).” The failure to ratify the European constitution in France and the Netherlands has shown that a European identity needs to be based on more than just on constitutional commonalities. Neglecting the cultural aspects in regards to commonalities amongst European nations could be considered a weak-spot of this model.
2.3.3. European cultural particularism - Different to the two previously discussed models, this third approach is centered on a particularistic approach towards European identity. In other words, this model focuses on the primacy of the European culture as the main commonality amongst European nations to serve as a basis towards a European identity. Amongst others it emphasizes a shared cultural heritage, the European federalist tradition and Europe as beacon of high culture. In particular it stresses a common history on the foundations of Greek, Roman, Latin and Christian influences culminating in the period of enlightenment. One might agree with Delanty on the fact that this model, standing on its own, overreaches itself. There are some intrinsic problems with basing the contemporary European identity on the shaky pillars of a common cultural heritage. Though popular amongst Euro-federalists, this model of a European identity neglects the orthodox and Islamic tradition in Europe (Delanty 2002, p. 349) therefore associating the European Institutions and Identity specifically with Christian values. In regards to the EU policy of ‘unity in diversity’ one might also agree with Delanty that, the unity emphasized trough a common cultural heritage, does not adequately represent the cultural diversity in today’s Europe.
2.3.4 European pragmatism - The fourth model after Delanty emphasizes the contemporary European “way of life” as the major common ground for the development of a shared identity amongst Europeans. As opposed to model three, it focuses more on the social aspects and the fiscal policies present in Europe today. The way people live in Europe is increasingly shaped by integration. The European institutions, the single market, the Euro as a common currency are manifestations of modern Europe and, according to this approach, provide a foundation for the evolution of a European identity. In this sense, one might agree with Delanty on the point that this model indeed provides a “thicker” conceptualization than previous models, in particular the normative universalistic models, discussed earlier. The foundations for the model of European pragmatism appear to be a lot more rooted and perceivable in people’s everyday lives. Many of the European states are facing similar challenges and even though there are major differences in terms of economic strength of the different nations, the European sovereign debt crisis has shown that European integration has reached a point, in which the nations of Europe are interconnected to an extent where one countries fiscal problems strongly affect the other members of the community. As stated by Ulrich Beck, Europe has become a “community of fate” (Beck, 1999) Nonetheless, Delanty raises several points of criticism in regards to the model of European pragmatism. Even though “Popular music, sport, tourism, the Euro, are possible expressions of this new kind of Europe (Delanty 2002, p. 351)”, the lack of a common language is a major obstacle to the development of a European identity. Also, Delanty argues that much of the European popular culture is closely intertwined with the global spread of US popular culture, which hence could be a limiting factor to this model of European identity formation.
2.3.5 European Cosmopolitanism - In response to previous works of scholars that have attempted to conceptualize European identity, Delanty has proposed a fifth model which has received widespread attention amongst the academic community (Beck u. Grande 2007; Calhoun 2008; Pichler 2009 et al.). The model of European cosmopolitanism is an attempt to combine the models Two and Four into a new approach in understanding the formation process of European identity. By combining the two models, this approach successfully avoids the limitation of being either too universal- or particularistic. Instead, it stresses the cosmopolitan heritage of Europe as the foundation for the development of a European identity. Instead of focusing too much on the particularistic argument of a common European cultural heritage, as model Three approaches usually do, the core of this concept is that “it might make sense to define European identity in terms of its conflicts, traumas and fears (…) (Delanty 2002, p. 353)
(…) The constant negotiation of difference; the existence of borderlands; the reinvention of the past (Delanty 2002, p. 354)” does not conflict with the principle of “Unity in diversity” promoted by the European Union, as it is the case with the model of European cultural particularism. European collective memory of the many conflicts of history and the recognition of difference amongst European cultures and towards international migration to Europe, are key to this conceptualization. Delanty sees European cities as melting-pots in which a European identity is evolving and one can’t help but notice that pan-European cultural encounters, particularly through work and education and growing European tourism, are indeed becoming increasingly more present in the daily life of many Europeans. Also Delanty invokes another commonality across Europe, centered on the socio economic values which many European nations share and that distinguish the European, from the US economy.
2.4 The academic debate
For the purpose of discussing the general schools of thought that are represented in the academic debate, Delanty’s five models on European identity have provided an initial overview of the different camps reflected within this debate. None the less, due to the limited scope of this thesis, only a certain amount of publications can be discussed in greater detail. As for the structure of this reflection of the academic debate, a chronological order will be applied. By this it may become possible to pinpoint certain trends within the debate, which to a certain extent, allow a glimpse into the zeitgeist of the time of publication, displaying steps towards more contemporary conceptualizations of a European identity. In the early 1990s the focus of most scholarly work in the field, lay with ethnicity and nationalism in the European sphere. The concept of Europeanism was still rarely debated and the impact of European integration on identity-studies was less discussed (Shore 1993, p. 780). The period of the early 1990s is a good starting point for the analysis of the academic debate on European identity, because the end of the cold war and the reunification of Germany indeed represent the major “game changer” for efforts of European integration after the Second World War. The end of the cold war has initiated a new chapter in the evolutionary process of the European Union and the according efforts on European integration (Borneman & Fowler 1997, p. 488; Andréani 1999, p. 6). Hence, this fundamentally altered situation represented a new starting point for the academic debate on a European-identity. From a time of looming conflict, where large parts of eastern Europe were under communist rule being effectively out of reach for any effort of integration, towards a time where at least theoretically, there were no limits to the possibilities of what Europe could become and how far European integration might go.
With his work National identity and the idea of European unity, Anthony Smith has provided an early and oft-cited account (Shore, 1993; Delanty 2002; Walkenhorst 2008; Camia 2010 et al.) of his views towards a pan-European identity. In his approach Smith takes a somewhat critical approach to the notion of a European identity but also acknowledges the ongoing transformation and diversification of the identity of individuals. “Yet however dominant the nation and its national identification, human beings retain a multiplicity of allegiances in the contemporary world. They have multiple identities (Smith 1992, p. 59).” Also, Smith makes the observation that political and economic organizations and institutions in Europe receive the lion’s share of attention, whereas questions of “cultural and psychological issues associated with European unification (…) questions of meaning, value and symbolism (Smith 1992, p. 57)” are not perceived of equal importance.
Furthermore, Smith particularly emphasizes the resilience and ever-present importance of the national identity as a collective identity for the people. For him, national identities “(…) are vivid, accessible, well established, long popularized, and still widely believed, in broad outline at least. In each of these respects, Europe' is deficient both as idea and as process (Smith 1992, p. 62).” For Smith, a major limitation for the evolution of a European identity is the apparent lack of “prehistory” across European nation states and, that for him, cosmopolitan cultures are of “fundamentally memoryless nature (Smith 1992, p. 66).” This view stands in sharp contrast to other, more recent viewpoints about the emergence of a pan-European identity previously described in the models by Delanty. Following the argumentative line behind the idea of European cosmopolitanism (Model 5) one might argue that the foundation for a European identity is provided through the collective memory of Europe’s “conflicts, traumas and fears” (Delanty 2002). Indeed, the conflicts of the European continent were of crucial importance for the establishment of the European Community in the first place, which through ever growing efforts of integration, have culminated in today’s European Union institutions. Also, in the view of European cultural particularism (Model 3) which emphasizes a common European cultural heritage and shared history, Smiths argumentation is conflicting at best.
The next reflection of the academic debate follows a rather different approach to the conceptualization of European identity. In his work, Inventing the 'People's Europe': Critical Approaches to European Community 'Cultural Policy, Chris Shore provides an insightful account on the active efforts of the European Commission in the late 80’s and early 90’s, to foster the feeling of a “shared cultural heritage” amongst Europeans, with the ultimate aim of promoting unity and strengthening the emerging sense of a pan- European identity (Shore 1993, p. 779). Shore’s work is a much-cited (Stråth 2002, Jamieson 2002, Walkenhorst 2008) early account of the emerging academic debate surrounding the notion of a European identity. He observed that in terms of the consolidation of the academic debate, “While political and economic unification in Europe have become major issues (…) [while] anthropologists have contributed relatively little to the analysis of these processes - either at a theoretical level, or in terms of ethnographic study (Shore 1993, p. 779).” Since the early 90’s, we have seen an increase in the amount of publications that deal with the conceptualization of an emerging European identity as well as a diversification of rhetorical approaches towards this conceptualization.
By analyzing the cultural policies of the European commission in the early 1990s, Shore sheds light on some profound discrepancies that arise between the process of actively promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage and history via EU institutions and the ongoing need of the European population to retain their national cultural identity. “Much continues to be written about problems of ethnicity and nationalism in Europe (…), but less is said about 'Europeanism' or about the impact of the European Community on national identity.” (Shore 1993, p. 780) In his writing, Shore reflects upon the Euro-federalist position present in the European Commission at the time. “For self-proclaimed 'extreme federalists', such as Fontaine and Wistricht, as well as many Commission officials, a primary obstacle to European unification is the intrusive presence of the nation-state (Shore 1993, p. 787).” He goes on to quote the Baget-Bozzo Committee: “(…) the fact that 'Europeans know more about the American Civil War (…) than they do about their own history, society and culture' is symptomatic of a profound 'European cultural identity crisis (Baget-Bozzo 1986 in Shore 1993, p. 785)”. When analyzing Shore’s account of the Euro-federalist stance present amongst “many Commission officials”, the correlation to what Delanty described as the model of European cultural particularism becomes obvious. Delanty emphasized that the focus of Euro-federalists often lies with an ideology of a “shared cultural heritage” which is “a central part of the official ideology of the new managerial elites of the EU (Delanty 2002, p. 350).” Delanty outlines several pitfalls of this ideological stance towards a pan- European identity which are equally represented in Shore’s reflections. Perhaps the most obvious point of critique to the approach of European cultural particularism is the inherent contradiction to the EU’s objective of being “united in diversity”. One might agree with the argument that a “shared cultural heritage” simply does not adequately reflect the multicultural societies of today’s European Union. It largely neglects orthodox and Islamic traditions which are present in large parts of Europe and which have either evolved over centuries or more recently, through migration patterns associated with the dynamics of globalization. Scholars such as Asa Lundgren have provided similar accounts in their work: “It has been suggested that there are alarming tendencies to position Muslims as the fundamental ‘Other’ in today’s identity construction within the EU (Lundgren 1998 in Petersson & Hellström 2003, p. 240).”
One might assert that the concept of a “shared cultural heritage” as a solitary basis for a European identity shows significant deficiencies. In addition to that, Delanty emphasized the “anti-American” undertone of the European culturally particularistic approach, which again is well reflected in the account provided by Chris Shore (Shore 1993, p. 785). Shore also sheds light on another major point of criticism towards the identity-construction efforts of the European commission. Until today there are no official borders to Europe and hence to the expansion of the European Union, which is highly debated and relevant to the concept of an emerging European identity (Kohli 2000; Bruter 2004; Pichler 2009). This is so, because as previously noted, identity formation and identification with larger groups happens against ones image of “the others” and the differences that exist between one’s own imagined communities and what lies beyond it. Hence, the boundlessness and lack of clear distinction between “us” as Europeans and the imagined communities of “the others” can theoretically be perceived as a hindering factor to the emergence of a pan-European identity.
Though agreeably, there is an important link between the shifting borders of the EU and the perception of the European imagined community, one might also assert that, if put in perspective to the profoundness of the endeavor, the EU is still in a potentially early phase of its existence and consolidation. So, one could argue, is the concept of a European identity. Apart from the major eastern enlargements of the EU in 1995, 2004 and 2007, future expansion plans appear less rapid, with currently only the country Croatia, entering the EU in 2013 and only five more countries with the general possibility of entering the EU, in the not too distant future. Hence, it is unlikely that the European Union will follow a policy of ever extending territories eastwards. Going back to Shore’s point, one could argue that the current sense of “boundlessness” of the EU may in the long run, not be as limiting of a factor to the consolidation of a European identity as it may still appear today, given the decreased pace of expansionary trends in the future. Lastly, Shore signals support for a point originally formulated by Stuart Hall, “we should celebrate 'our mongrel selves' and rejoice in melange, hybridity, impurity, intermingling and creolization (Hall 1992, p. 8 in Shore 1992, p. 795).” By this he displays support for an approach to the matter of European identity, which leans towards the European cosmopolitan camp described in Model 5 according to Delanty’s categorization.
For Craig Calhoun, the question of an emerging European identity is closely linked to the question whether the conceptualization of a European identity can follow the same principals of the national identity formation process. In his publication Constructing Europe ’ s Identity: Issues and tradeoffs, Calhoun states that “The projects of making national identities have been very powerful (…) we need to ask whether the attempt to achieve European identity is primarily a continuation of the same project (Calhoun 1997, p. 14).” Calhoun goes on to emphasize the question, whether cultural similarities across Europe are strong enough to enable a clear cultural distinction towards “other identities of the same order to which European can be counterposed (Calhoun 1997, p. 21).”
By this, he raises an important point as to whether the European institutions should perceive their role in the formation of a European identity, based on the role that national governments have historically played in fostering a national identity. Past and present examples suggest that the EU institutions have taken up and implemented several attributes which are generally associated with national identities and national governments. Most prominent examples of these attributes are the European anthem, the European Flag, diverse European symbols, and Europe Day, celebrated annually on May 9th. Though one might argue that these attributes are much less prevailing then their national counterparts, they still show that the EU institutions, at least partially, apply similar methods in consolidating and supporting an emerging collective European identity by means of a shared symbolism.
In his writing, Craig Calhoun acknowledges the importance of the European institutions but shows doubt on the question whether these institutions should be following a European cultural particularistic ideology in regards to an emerging European identity. Calhoun’s standpoint represents a criticism to the camp of European cultural particularism, i.e. the third model after Delanty. As other scholars have argued (Shore 1993; Delanty 2002 et al.), the approach of European cultural particularism as the conceptual foundation of a European identity has some major weaknesses, being primarily that it does not adequately reflect today’s European community in all its diversity, particularly in regards to the increasingly multicultural and multi-ethnic influences originating from beyond a “traditional” European heritage. For Calhoun it is most important to “(…) build institutions that encourage and protect multiple, discontinuous, sometimes conflicting public spaces and modes of public engagement, rather than to attempt to nurture or impose some unified European culture. (…) I should hate to see cultural unity assume primacy in the European project (Calhoun 1997, p. 15).” In addition to these approaches, Calhoun also takes on Jürgen Habermas’ interpretation of “constitutional patriotism”, a concept which is closely associated with the work of the German scholar. For Habermas the formation of individual attachment to an imagined community such as the nation state is closely linked to a constitution, since it is vital in enshrining the core values of a given society. “By this he means above all attachment to certain procedural norms, a love of the conditions one’s country provides (…) (Calhoun 1997, p. 19).” In Calhoun’s view, Habermas’ approach of “constitutional patriotism” focuses too much on the nation state. Calhoun argues that “there is no intrinsic reason why ‘constitutional patriotism’ could not work on the scale of Europe (…) (Calhoun 1997, p. 19).”
Concluding from this statement, it becomes obvious that Calhoun supports the concept of “constitutional patriotism” which is encompassed in Delanty’s second Model which he coined “European Postnational Universalism” (Model 2). Since Calhoun had previously argued in favor of cultural diversity instead of leveling down the diversity of the European cultural landscape towards equality, one might deduce support for Models Two and Four after Delanty. As previously outlined, it is those two models that make up Delanty’s approach of “European cosmopolitanism”. Calhoun had previously stated that there is no reason why constitutional patriotism should not work on a European scale. Today we know that the attempt of establishing a European constitution based on a single text via the “Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe” which was rejected in France and the Netherlands in 2005, failed the ratification process. Since this treaty would not have replaced the national constitutions but merely aimed to combine and specify previous EU treaties into a single text, it still showed that there is a certain level of disunity amongst the EU member states on the question, as to where and how far the European project should go.
The next approach towards a conceptualization of European identity to be discussed was formulated by Gilles Andréani in his work Europe ’ s Uncertain Identity. As the title of this publication suggests, for Andréani, uncertainty is one of the most crucial characteristics of the European project (Andréani 1999, p. 1). For Andréani, uncertainty, being an integral element of the European Union from the start, presents itself as a hindering factor to the process of integration in today’s European Union. Furthermore, as previously discussed by Craig Calhoun, he raises the issue “(…) of loading the European project with the symbolic attributes of state sovereignty without transferring to it the corresponding powers (Andréani 1999, p. 5).” Another factor that is vital to the principle of uncertainty as a key component of the European project is that for him, “None of the cultural, historical or geopolitical concepts which could enable us to identify the borders of the European Union has, up to now, been decisive (Andréani 1999, p. 8).” Following this approach, Andréani makes clear that he does not support the idea of European cultural particularism. “The idea of a cultural and historical divide between Protestant and Catholic Europe, and Orthodoxy, is no longer tenable (Andréani 1999, p. 8).”
Andréani raises some very interesting points on the debate about an emerging pan- European identity. For him, European identity should not just “(…) be regarded as a real possibility” but rather as an existential component of the European project. “There will be no European unification if Europeans do not develop a sense of belonging to Europe, nor if the European political project fails to evoke in them that mixture of memory, desire and loyalty that defines belonging to a political society (Andréani 1999, p.13).” He also affirms the importance of previously broached issue, which one might assert, not many scholars point out clearly enough. That is, putting the development of a European identity, as “thin” as it may appear to some of us today, into the appropriate timeframe in respect to the existence of the European Union. Andréani states that “(…) a European identity is, nevertheless, developing only in a slow and patchy way (…) The primary feature of any future European identity must be diversity itself (Andréani 1999, p. 13).” Firstly, one could agree with the fact that subjectively the formation of a European identity may appear creepingly slow. Logic also implies that, when put in perspective to the profoundness and complexity of the project, the transformation and diversification processes of collective identities on the vast scale of the entire European continent can hardly happen overnight but instead happens on an equally vast timescale of decades and generations. More simply put, “European identity is very definitively a work in progress (Duchesne 2008, p.397).” Secondly, Andréani emphasizes that a European identity needs to be build around “diversity itself”, which at first glance might imply support for the tradition of European cosmopolitanism, but then again he formulates a different approach than the one outlined by Delanty in his Model of European cosmopolitanism.
In his model of European cosmopolitanism Delanty had proposed a European collective memory based on “conflicts, traumas and fears” (Delanty 2002) as conceptual foundation for the emergence of a pan-European identity. As an example he invoked that “(…) the holocaust loses its national particularity, it becomes more and more a European memory (Delanty 2002, p. 354).” For Delanty it is these collective memories which are uniquely European, something we all share, yet in no form of an exclusive nature but instead build on humility in the light of collective historical burdens and towards a peaceful and united future. For Andréani, “Neither can memory be the source of a broad European consciousness. Europe has a history but no memory (Andréani 1999, p. 13).” To him, the tragedies of the twentieth century are of divisive nature. “Memory, culture and interests can contribute to the formation of a European identity. Its heart, however, must be of a different nature. (…) A European identity can therefore only be political.” By arguing this way, Andréani makes a relatively clear case for the approach of “European Postnational Universalism”, in particular the European institutions and their projects of integration, which ought to eventually form the basis for a European identity. Furthermore he proposes the EU’s “tolerant and respectful” approach to international law as a major differentiator to the US foreign policy. “It may only be a small step from today’s Europe to EU institutions and political processes that are able to generate the loyalty of Europeans (Andréani 1999, p. 28).” Admittedly, the European institutions as well as the juridical norms and practices may well be one of the core features of a feeling of solidarity and unity amongst Europeans. Yet, one might also assert that this conceptualization of a European identity lacks an interpersonal dimension. Delanty supports this notion by emphasizing that a purely “European Postnational Universalistic” approach is “too thin” as basis for an emerging pan- European identity.
As briefly broached before, the renown philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas has published several works on Europe and an emerging collective identity amongst Europeans. In his publication Why Europe needs a constitution, Habermas provides an insightful assessment of the European project, particularly stressing the need for a European constitution as a reflection of shared values amongst Europeans. Habermas’ concept of “constitutional patriotism” (2001) which had been briefly discussed earlier in this chapter is generally categorized under the European Postnational universalistic mindset towards a European identity after Delanty (Delanty 2002, p. 348). Interestingly enough, when analyzing Habermas’ conceptualization of a European identity, it becomes clear that he has incorporated core features of almost all other models into his work, outlining the prerequisites for the emergence and consolidation of a European identity.
As the title of his publication suggests, Habermas stresses the fundamental importance of a European constitution for the future of Europe. For him, Europe is a “(…) new political form, something more than a confederation but less than a federation (Habermas 2001, p. 5).” It’s about “neither ‘assimilation’ nor ‘coexistence’” (Habermas 2001, p. 21). At the core of the question, why a European constitution is of such vital importance for Europe lies Habermas conviction that Europe is united by “(…) the great democratic achievements of the European nation-state, beyond its own limits (Habermas 2001, p. 6).” For Habermas, the conservation of these achievements such as civil rights, social welfare education and leisure, via the implementation of a European constitution is of fundamental importance. He goes on to list modern science and technology, Roman law and the Napoleonic Code, human rights and the nation state itself, as European achievements. Next to the quite obvious European Postnational universalistic theorization based on shared political and juridical norms amongst Europeans, his argumentation apparently encompasses elements of European cultural particularism. When outlining the different models of European identity, Gerard Delanty had expressed criticism towards this particular model, due to its exclusive nature which inadequately reflects the level of diversity present on the European continent today (Delanty 2002, p. 349). One might indeed argue that the historical achievements of the European nation states possess low potential for self-identification for, let’s say, a first generation immigrant from Cambodia which has gained European citizenship. Later on in his publication, Habermas goes on to add a more cosmopolitan level to his argumentation which is more profoundly rooted in peoples everyday experiences of Europe and which complements his line or argumentation. Habermas makes a clear point by saying, “Economic expectations alone can hardly mobilize political support for the much riskier and more far-reaching project of a political union (…) this further goal requires the legitimation of shared values (Habermas 1991, p. 8).” Via this statement he reemphasizes the fundamental importance of an emotional attachment and solidarity within the European community and towards the European institutions in addition to the much-discussed economic elements of the European project.
The European “community of fate” is moving towards a cosmopolitan order which is closely tied to international law, reflecting European values and distinguishing ourselves from other ideologies present in other parts of the world. Habermas stresses that next to “economic justifications”, “affective attachment to a particular ethos: in other words, the attraction of a specific way of life (Habermas 1991, p. 8)”, is of vital importance for the future of Europe. This view includes rhetoric aspects of European pragmatism outlined in Model four according to Delanty, which focuses on the contemporary “way of life” in Europe as the basis for a European identity (Delanty 2002, p. 351). Also, for collective identities to emerge beyond the scope of the nation state, he emphasizes the importance of three elements: A European public sphere, European civil society and a European political culture. Habermas is certainly right in underlining the importance of these social spheres for the consolidation of European identity, especially in regards to the one precondition which they all share, being communication, i.e. language (Anderson 1991). It may well be that the language barrier itself presents the greatest obstacle to the evolution of a ‘shared polity’ (Habermas 2001, p. 19) and subsequently also to a sense of pan-European identity. Lastly, Habermas raises an interesting point by claiming that: “What forms the common core of a European identity is the character of the painful learning process it has gone through (…) It is the lasting memory of nationalist excess and moral abyss that lends to our present commitments (…) (Habermas 2001, p. 21).” This understanding of a collective European memory of the “conflicts, traumas and fears”, as Delanty had previously phrased it, clearly depicts Habermas taking up a position that would be categorized, at least partially, as a European cosmopolitan approach. Still one might argue that the points raised by Habermas remain valid until today, since it is also known that the rejection of the European constitution has not halted the process of European integration. Habermas’ views on European identity provide a good example of the diversity and hybridity of this academic debate towards European identity.
Ulrich Beck’s and Edgar Grande’s work Cosmopolitanism - Europe ’ s way out of crisis provides an interesting account on the conceptualization of European identity. As the title already suggests, Beck & Grande, make a case for the position of European cosmopolitanism, which in recent years has seen a growing amount of literature and cosmopolitanism itself becoming “(…) currently one of the most prominent topics in the social sciences and humanities (Robertson & Krossa 2012, p. 1).” First of all, Beck and Grande raise an interesting point by stating that: “Europe is in crisis - institutionally, economically and politically. But it would be too simple to blame the failed referendums on the European Constitutional Treaty (…) (as) Europe had maneuvered itself into a blind alley long before that. With the Treaty of Maastricht in the early 1990s (…) (Beck & Grande 2007, p. 67).” For Beck & Grande, political integration has not kept up with the degree of economic integration present in today’s European Union. Here it is important to note that the degree of economic crisis in times of publication of this paper was not as severe as the situation presents itself today, though it has been argued that precisely this lack of political integration has become one of the key factors for the evolution of European sovereign debt crisis, which will later be assessed in greater detail. The authors emphasize the point that “Europe has to be reinvented (Beck & Grande 2007, p. 69)” and that a cosmopolitan approach can serve as a helpful concept to achieve this goal. “Our argument is that we need not less Europe but more - but we need a different, more cosmopolitan Europe (Beck & Grande 2007, p. 70).”
In order to reach this goal, Beck & Grande assert that cosmopolitanism, as fundamental principle for a reorientation of the European idea, can aid the process of shaping common European policies without transferring more legal authority away from the nation states towards the EU institutions (Beck & Grande 2007, p. 75). Hence, finding consensus in the decision making process, instead of a more classical majority voting system adopted from the nation states may, according to Beck & Grande, allow Europe to move towards the future, following its principal of being “united in diversity”, yet avoiding the pitfalls of the continuing conflict against national sovereignty. With their work, Beck & Grande primarily stress one point, which other cosmopolitan thinkers have not emphasized to this degree, being that, “The transition to cosmopolitan democracy in Europe cannot be achieved simply by adopting the familiar and accustomed models of national democracy. It calls for far-reaching institutional and procedural innovations - a reinvention of Europe is impossible without the reinvention of democracy (Beck & Grande 2007, p. 80).” Indeed one might agree that this is one of the fundamental questions for the future of the European project. Craig Calhoun had previously raised the question to what extend EU institutions should try to use the same tools used by national governments in fostering the national identity. Beck & Grande go even further in asking to what extend the decision-making processes in the EU should follow the role model of the nation states.
Florian Pichler has provided another recent account of the cosmopolitan school of thought in respect to an emerging pan-European identity. With his paper Cosmopolitan Europe he supports the notion that, “Cosmopolitanism represents a way of dealing with difference and similarity within changing societies in a globalized world (Pichler 2009, p. 3).” Pichler addresses some of the strongest arguments in favor of cosmopolitanism, present within the academic debate. One might agree with him on the notion that a cosmopolitanism ideology is a response to the evolution of existing forms of identities driven by the impact of globalization encompassing migration and transnationalism (Pichler, 2009). Hence, a European identity as manifestation of cosmopolitan theory is subject to the same overarching stimuli. He also reemphasizes the claims by Beck & Grande that in fact, “Cosmopolitanization can be seen as an institutional response to globalization regarding a change of the organizational principles of societies (Pichler 2009, p. 5).”
Also, Pichler discusses the main points of criticism raised towards a cosmopolitan conceptualization of an emerging pan-European identity, being its theoretical vagueness as well as the societal implications of organizing cosmopolitan societies. Again, one might ask, if cosmopolitanism is founded on the principle of “being a citizen of the world”, how can it help strengthening a sense of “Europeaness” and belonging to the European imagined community? To answer this, one might reemphasize the point made by Habermas that a vital part of the European project is in fact about devising a new political system, “something more than a confederation but less than a federation (Habermas 2001, p. 5)” The European Union could be seen as an experiment in which a new political system is tested. If proven to be successful and sustainable the European project could serve as role model to other regions in the world and therefore does not have to be conflicting with a global perspective.
The account provided by William Biebuyck and Chris Rumford, Many Europes: Rethinking multiplicity sheds light on some interesting arguments about the conceptualization of Europe and a common identity. First, Biebuyck & Rumford raise criticism towards the position indirectly suggested by the European Commission, to equate the EU institutions with Europe itself. In this context they criticize “(…) the tendency to ‘fix’ Europe, to stabilize its meaning, to associate it - above all else - with the values and programmes of the EU (Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p. 4).” Secondly, they counterpose the view that Europe can be perceived as singular in terms of its “political or cultural form”. Instead they emphasize that, “Rather than a site of closure, we contend that Europe needs to be understood as containing elements of ontological creation and transformation (Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p. 4).”
The authors link their argument to Stefan Elbe’s view, who based on Friedrich Nietzsche, claims that, “The whole point of Nietzsche’s ‘‘good Europeans’’ was thus to resist the temptation of drawing up an ideal or identity that Europeans would then be persuaded to internalize (Elbe 2003 in Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p. 4).” In their approach, the authors follow the argument that Europe lacks a homogenous meaning but that it is instead composed of many meanings, practices and strategies and is hence a “ (…) site of multiple - and often times contradictory - productions and transformations (Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p.5).” As opposed to other conceptualizations, the authors demand an inversion of the conceptual approach of Europe’s nature, away from an approach which takes for granted “that there is an underlying unity”, towards an approach that accepts Europe’s multiplicity and diversity as the fundamental basis for any further debate on the topic. To them, it is precisely these multiplicities which “(…) often combine and overlap to produce hybrid forms of Europeaness (Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p. 16).”
Biebuyck’s & Rumford’s approach to an understanding of Europe and hence, the meanings and ideals which the people associate with the European idea, is best characterized by it’s inherently reductionist ontology. To a certain extent, the approach of the authors can be seen as a call upon the entire academic debate, surrounding the European idea and thus a collective European identity, to not get carried away. They emphasize that conceptualizations should not be founded upon the presumptive idea that a singular view of Europe exists “a priori” and that the goal would merely be to define what that notion encompasses. Instead, they stress that every conceptualization must start with the perspective of how Europe presents itself today, in all its “meanings, practices, strategies, and subjects (Biebuyck & Rumford 2011, p. 5)”, therefore forcing scholars not to presume anything about the collectivity of Europe, which might not be grounded in reality. The critique towards the EU commission to equate Europe with the EU, calling upon Christian values, a shared historical memory and the tendency to pinpoint Islam has the historical “other” for purposes of internal identity consolidation, clearly represents a criticism to the school of European cultural particularism.
Chapter Three - Europe in Crisis
The European sovereign debt crisis is widely acknowledged to be the worst crisis that Europe has faced since the end of the Second World War. This has been publicly acknowledged by European leaders such as the German chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated at a congress in the city of Leipzig, that “Europe is in one of its toughest, perhaps the toughest hour since World War Two (France24 2011).” This statement emphasizes the general severity of the situation for the European Union and particularly for the most omnipresent manifestation of European integration reflected in the establishment of the Eurozone. This chapter aims at providing a concise overview of the events and problems that have led to the European sovereign debt crisis with a particular focus on the case of Greece. Furthermore this chapter includes an analysis of the Eurobarometer data, focusing on questions related to the notion of a European identity. From this extensive pool of data it may become possible to deduce certain trends regarding European identity and how it has evolved over the course of the crisis. It is important to discuss some of the events and challenges which Greece is facing in order to understand how the results of both, the Eurobarometer data, analyzed in the second part of this chapter, and the focus group discussions, came in to being. The public opinion represented in both, the Eurobarometer and the focus groups allow insights concerning the challenges that the population is facing in times of crisis. Consequently, it is imperative to assess the crisis in order to shed light on how some of the major challenges of this crisis have affected the public sentiment regarding a European polity.
3.1. The European sovereign debt crisis - The Greek case
One of the major factors, if not the predominant trigger of the European sovereign debt crisis, can certainly be attributed to the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 that caused the ongoing global economic crisis of 2007-2012 (Lane 2012, p. 50, Dieter 2009; Welfens 2011; Barth, Prabha & Yun 2012). In return, the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 resulted from the burst of the US real-estate bubble (subprime mortgage crisis) that came to be closely associated with the bankruptcy of the former financial heavyweight Lehmann Brothers (Lane 2012, p. 55). This course of events is a prime example of the profound level of global interconnectedness of governments, intergovernmental institutions, and large financial actors on the stage of the global economy. Though the addressed events are only partly related to the excessive debt/GDP ratios that some European member states built up over the past decade, one might certainly agree that they represented a tipping point, where a long neglected problem turned into a bitter reality for some EU member states and consequently for the Eurozone and the European Institutions (Welfens 2011, p. 15). The European sovereign debt crisis presents itself as the result of a highly complex interplay of different internal and external factors which are subsequently going to be analyzed in greater detail for the purpose of providing a concise overview on how this present day crisis unfolded. As stated earlier, there is a clear link between the global financial and economic crises, the resulting recession of 2009 and the onset of the European debt crisis (Jones 2011, p. 616). Though not responsible for the systematic flaws and the resulting mismanagement, which made the current extent of this crisis possible, the previous and ongoing global crises can certainly be seen as the proverbial “last straw” that triggered the onset of the events to follow. Yet, an in-depth assessment of the Global Economic Crisis would go beyond the scope of this thesis.
At the core of the structural problems surrounding the European sovereign debt crisis lies the general dilemma of the European Union: To further integration amongst the European member states without imposing regulations, which would conflict with traditional domains of national sovereignty. In that sense, the European project can traditionally be categorized via the constant reevaluation and renegotiation between national and supra-national interest. Particularly the economic and monetary integration fields have been “flagship-domains” of European integration, represented in the introduction of the single market and the Euro as a single currency. Most scholars in the field would agree that at the heart of the Eurozone crisis stands the discrepancy between the high level of economic integration, present in Europe today, versus the relatively low level of political and fiscal policymaking (Jones 2011, Shore 2011, Welfens 2011, Valiante 2011). Heribert Dieter brings it to the point by stating that, “(…) the European Union (…) turned out to be unable to implement a joint response to the crisis. The lack of a common financial policy became an issue (Dieter 2009, p. 141).” This systematic weakness has been an ever present concern since the creation of the monetary union, as Shambaugh claims that, “At the time of the creation of the euro, many economists (…) worried that the (…) fiscal policy offsets within the euro area would mean that when different shocks hit different parts of the currency union, there would be no policy levers to offset the shocks (Shambaugh 2012, p. 13).” Interestingly enough, the European Commission describes the EU’s response in the following way: “The EU’s response to the downturn has been swift and decisive (European Commission 2009, p. iii).” When juxtaposed, these two statements reflect the profundity of different viewpoints on the matter.
Aside from the triggering impulses of the financial and economic crisis and the resulting recession that hit large parts of the world, including Europe and the Eurozone, the presented evidence clearly indicates that internal policy failings on both national and EU level strongly contributed to the severity of the ongoing crisis. In his paper “ The Euro ’ s Three Crises ”, Jay C. Shambaugh argues that “(…) Europe and the Euro in particular have moved to center stage of the crisis” and that the Eurozone in fact faces “three crises”: a lack of inter-bank liquidity, a sovereign debt crisis and a macroeconomic crisis due to the slow rate of economic growth present in some EU periphery countries (Shambaugh 2012, p. 1). At this point one might assert that all three facets of the European sovereign debt crisis are strongly related to the first point raised, the lack of a common financial policy across the European Union.
As pointed out by Shambaugh, the first problem that the European banks are facing is a drastic capital shortfall, which is closely associated with the problem of the sovereign debt itself. To a large extent, it is banks that have invested in the government bonds of the most crisis-struck European countries Portugal, Ireland, Greece and potentially Spain and Italy. “(…) the sovereign debt holdings of the banks suggest that if the stressed sovereigns (…) cannot pay their debts, the banking system is insolvent (Shambaugh 2012, p. 2).” This situation is aggravated by the fact that “(…) the banking system in the EU traditionally plays a relatively strong role (Welfens 2011, p. 21).” On the other hand, it is not just the banks that ensure the liquidity of the sovereign nation states but it is also national governments that have ensured the survival of the banks directly via bailouts. “As governments in the developed countries attempted to restore economic growth through bailouts of banks (…) national deficits began rising to alarming levels (Barth, Prabha & Yun 2012, p. 76).” More than bailing out banks directly, the national bailouts for Greece, which followed via the European central bank aimed at ensuring the liquidity of the Greek government. Not least because large banks across Europe held large portions of Greek debt in the form of bonds, which would become worthless in the case of a Greek insolvency, hence throwing the European banking sector back into turmoil (Welfens 2011, p. 26). The subprime mortgage and financial crises have shown, how rapidly contagious the struggle of a few large banks can become to global financial markets. Furthermore, it becomes obvious that, particularly in Europe, the banking sector and the nation state have an almost symbiotic relationship in which the failure of one has devastating effects on the other. At the core of the crisis as it presents itself today (and apart from the general problem of a lack of a common European fiscal policy outlined earlier), it is clear that the excessive rise of debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratios in some of the EU member states have become the dominant problem for the Eurozone now and will remain so in the near future. In an editorial on the topic Sovereign Debt Crisis: Why in Europe and not Elsewhere?, Carlo Cottarelli of the International Monetary Fund, raises the important point that, indeed high debt to GDP ratios is a problem not exclusive to the Eurozone. He proposes two reasons, which are of particular importance to the further assessment of the Eurozone crisis. First he asserts that “potential growth is perceived to be higher in the USA, and growth is critical for fiscal sustainability (Cottarelli 2012, p. 1).” This point, of a lack of growth in the Eurozone, relates back to what Shambaugh had pointed out to be one of the “three crises of Europe”. Second, Cottarelli points at the very high (20%) amount of national government bonds held by their own central banks (Cottarelli 2012, p. 1). Particularly the issue of a lack of growth in the Eurozone stands in close relation to the austerity measures as a condition of the bailout packages which, in return, have caused massive civil unrest and heavy criticism and disillusion with respect to the European Union and, hence, a possible impact on the emerging pan-European identity (Fligstein, Polyakova & Sandholtz 2012, p. 107). Evidently, the Greek case of a looming national bankruptcy is of particular importance to this thesis. To understand the severity of the situation, which has partly been reflected in the focus group discussions, it is imperative to be aware of the extent to which Greece has been affected, and the central role it assumes, in this present day Sovereign Debt Crisis. Greece joined the European Union in 1981, “and for more than a decade governments were reluctant to embrace broad supply side reforms and to privatize the manifold economic activities of government (Welfens 2011, p. 23).” The issue of the overblown public and administrative sector and the apparent lack of sustainable competitive economic reforms have been pointed out by numerous scholars (Welfens 2011, Lane 2012, Shambaugh 2012) to be some of the core reasons for the vast government debt to GDP ratio (132.4% in the first quarter of 2012) present in Greece (Eurostat 2012, p. 2). Again it is important to note that, as stated earlier, very high debt to GDP ratios can be maintained for an extensive period of time, yet it becomes an acute problem if this ratio stands in no relation to the strength of the respective economy, which is the case for Greece. In his book BUST: Greece, the Euro, and the Sovereign Debt Crisis, Matthew Lynn provides a relatively early account on the Eurozone crisis with a particular focus on the Greek case. Though, today the situation may not appear quite as bleak as in 2010, Lynn’s analysis of the prehistory to the Greek problem remains valid. “One feature of the Greek economy during the 1990s, the crucial years running up to the adoption of the euro, was the relentless expansion in the size of the state. (…) On any measure you cared to look at, Greece was lagging way behind the mainstream euro-zone economies (Lynn 2010, p. 46- 47).”
The Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) entered into force in 1999 with the goal to ensure fiscal compliance within the monetary union. Two figures stick out as the major cornerstones of this treaty: that public debt of a member state should not exceed 60% of its GDP and that an annual budget deficit should not exceed 3%. One of the common reproaches voiced towards Greece today is that, “Greece had long been an especially problematic case, including controversies about the reliability of the statistics provided by the Greeks to qualify for the euro (Mamadouh & Van der Wusten 2010, p. 114).” In addition to the doubt whether the real economic figures would not have sufficed to enter the monetary union in the first place, the policy of “creative accounting” apparently persisted. “Greece’s accession to EMU was based on (…) the use of creative accounting, as was discovered later. Public debt levels were excessive, the drachma was overvalued and, as a result, the country found itself at a permanent competitive disadvantage. (…) the Greek political system was characterised by clientelism and corruption. Consequently, the country joined EMU disappointingly unprepared (Kotios, Pavlidis & Galanos 2011, p.265).” With the onset of the financial and economic crisis and the resulting global recession, it is safe to say that things went from bad to worse and at a rapid pace, “the new government announced a revised 2009 budget deficit forecast of 12.7 percent of GDP—more than double the previous estimate of 6.0 percent (Lane 2012, p.56).” Considering the financial turmoil of the past years and the ongoing economic crisis, investors had become more than careful. The weakness of Greece and some other members of the European monetary union was reason enough to, once again, send shockwaves across global financial markets, Europe moved to the center of attention and “a Greek problem turned into a EUROpean and a EUropean problem (Mamadouh & Van der Wusten 2010, p. 114).”
For the purpose of the in-depth assessment of the focus group discussions in the second part of this thesis, it was important to provide a reflection of the problems which Greece and consequently Europe is facing. One might assert that there are several indicators pointing towards a direct link between how severely the different regions in Europe have been affected by the Eurozone crisis, and the degree to which they endorse a belonging to a European polity. It has become clear that the European Union institutions have contributed to the development of the crisis and the austerity measures imposed via the European central bank most severely affect the “average” Greek citizen. How then is their view towards the EU and the rest of Europe going to be affected? Furthermore, the Euro as a currency is possibly the most omnipresent every- day manifestation of the European project, hence, with a Euro in crisis, how is the sense of belonging to this European project affected on an individual level? The next subchapter aims at providing further evidence that there is in fact a connection between the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe and a sense of a European identity.
3.2 Indicators of an Identity in crisis
For the purpose of analyzing how the sense of a European identity has been affected by the Eurozone crisis, two indicators are of particular value for the assessment of a potential correlation between these two topics. First, the biannual Eurobarometer (EB) study, conducted by the European Commission, provides extensive quantitative data on some of the core questions related to an emerging pan-European identity. As previously outlined, the sense of a European identity is closely, though not exclusively, linked to the European Union institutions. Past and current support for national and European institutions, the Euro as a common currency and the support for various attributes of the European project in general allow important insights into the current sentiment of identification and belonging to the European polity. Here again, the focus of comparison between pre- and post-crisis data will focus on the two countries of Greece and Germany - which should offer useful reflections for potential trends, as one has been mildly and the other one intensely affected by the current crisis.
The Eurobarometer surveys have been conducted on a regular basis since 1973 and can therefore be described as an extensive collection of public opinion data amongst EU member countries. For the purpose of analyzing the potential correlation between the Eurozone crisis and a European identity it is important to look at a range of attributes related to the European identity before and again, after the onset of the present crisis. This may allow deducing certain trends which are of great importance to the research questions. On a side note, it is important to mention that, when looking at the percentages, some might not add up to 100%. In every case, this can be attributed to a small percentage of people that “did not want to answer” or “did not know”.
3.2.1 Prospects and economic outlooks
One major indicator, of how diverging the impact of the crisis has been on the different countries, can be deduced from questions related to how people perceive their life and their prospects. On average, in 2008 - 80% of the interviewees in Germany stated that they were ‘fairly happy/completely happy’ with their life. This figure even increased to 89% in 2012. In Greece in 2008, 65% felt happy, whereas in 2012 the figure sank to a mere 32%. That is a decrease of -33% for people feeling happy with their life, on the other hand, around 2/3 are unhappy with their life (EB 69, 2008; EB 77, 2012). This can partially be seen as a failure of both national and supra-national government institutions to provide people with the conditions to live a good life. The future outlook of those most severely affected by the crisis, presents itself as bleak. In 2012 only 10% of Germans believed that their life in general will become worse in the next 12 months. In Greece, 56% believe their lives will turn for the worse in the next year (EB 77, 2012). Furthermore, 99% of Greeks believe that their economy and 98% - that their job market is worse in comparison with the rest of Europe. Only 10% of Greeks today believe things are going in the right direction with the EU (EB 77, 2012).
On the questions whether it is presently good to be a member of the EU and whether one’s country has benefitted from the membership in the EU, the figures again display a clear image. In 2006, 57% of Greeks thought it was good to be part of the EU and 74% believed their country had benefited from the membership. (EB 66, 2006) In 2011 only 38% (-19%) believed it was good to be a member of the EU and only 47% (-27%) believed they had benefited from the EU membership. German figures in the same timeframe remained relatively stable (EB 75, 2011).
When directly asked about the European sovereign debt crisis, 60% of Europeans believe that the worst is yet to come. Particularly skeptic views on the matter of the state of the Eurozone crisis can be observed in those countries that have been most affected. Most skeptical in relation to the European sovereign debt crisis are, Spain with 72% (+15%), Italy 62% (+13), Greece 77% (+8%) and also the UK where 73% (+10%) of the interviewees saying that “the worst is yet to come” in comparison to the data gathered in 2009 (EB 77, 2012).
Two more interesting changes in attitude can be observed here. On the question whether free market competition is the best guarantee for wealth, in 2008, 68% of the Germans and 45% of the Greeks (lowest in Europe) agreed with this statement (EB 69, 2008). In 2012, the figures for Germany have stayed relatively similar, with 74% agreeing on the above statement, whereas the attitude in support of this statement in Greece has risen to 64% (+19%) (EB 77, 2012). On the statement that leisure time is more important than work, in 2008, 70% of the Greeks and only 28% of the Germans agreed. In 2012 statistics for Germany remained similar with 35% agreeing on the above (+7%), while in Greece, now only 41% agreed with the statement that leisure time is more important than work. That’s a decline of -29% in four years. A possible conclusion from this could be that, Greeks put more emphasis on their economy becoming more competitive, so it can create more wealth in the future. Furthermore they display an increased willingness to work more to reach this goal.
Currently, EU citizens see three measures as most important in strengthening the European economy (multiple answers). Most agreement on how to improve the state of the European economy lies with a stronger focus on education (46%), reduction of public debt (38%) and the easiness to found an enterprise (35%) (EB 77, 2012). In terms of reforms of the global financial markets and which measures the EU should implement, 88% of those polled said more focus should lie on measures against tax evasion and tax heavens. 81% want additional taxes on bank-profits and 76% demand stricter rules for credit rating agencies (i.e. Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch group) (EB 77, 2012).
In terms of prospects and economic outlooks the data suggests a presently deep divide across the European Union:
In 2012 in Greece 32% of the interviewees are ‘fairly happy/completely happy’ versus 89% in Germany
In 2012 in Greece 56% belief their lives will turn for the worse in the next year versus 10% in Germany
In 2011 only 38% of those polled believed it was good to be a member of the EU (- 19% since 2006)
In 2011 47% believed they had benefited from the EU membership. (-27% since 2006)
In 2012, 60% of Europeans believe that the worst of the European sovereign debt crisis is yet to come
3.2.2 Trust and Image of the EU
The data also reveals that trust in the EU institutions has taken a heavy blow, particularly, but not exclusively, in the most crisis-affected countries. In 2006, 61% of Greeks ‘tended to trust’ the European Commission, whereas in 2012 this figure was down to 20% (-41%). Overall the trust in the Commission plummeted from 47% to 36%. Trust in the European Parliament dropped from 63% in 2006 to 27% (-36%) in 2012 in Greece. For overall Europe, the figures declined from 52% to 40% in 2012. Also the trust in the European Central bank declined: in Greece, from 58% to 16% and Europe-wide from 49% to 35% (EB 65, 2006; EB 77, 2012). The overall image, associated with the EU, has deteriorated as well. In 2006 41% of EU-wide interviewees associated the EU with something ‘fairly positive’. In 2012 this figure dropped to 28% (-13%). In Greece in 2012, 40% associate the EU with a “fairly negative/very negative” image (EB 65, 2006; EB 77, 2012). The trust in the EU in general has declined distinctively. In the timeframe between 2007 and 2012 the EU-wide amount of people that “tend to distrust” the European Union has risen from 32% to 60%, subsequently the people that said they “tend to trust” the EU has fallen from 57% to 31% in the same time period. Also, the amount of people that are in favor of a common market and the Euro as a common currency, has declined from 61% in 2007 to 52% in 2012 (EB 77, 2012).
In terms of trust and the image of the EU the data suggest a significant decline/deterioration:
Trust in the European Commission in Greece plummeted from 61% in 2006 to 20% (-41%) in 2012. (EU wide -11%)
Trust in the European Parliament in Greece plummeted from 63% in 2006 to 27% (- 36%) in 2012. (EU wide -12%)
Trust in the European Central bank in Greece plummeted from 58% in 2006 to 16% (- 42%) in 2012. (EU wide -14%)
EU wide in 2007, 32% of those polled said they “tend to trust” the EU. In 2012, 60% of those polled said they “tend to distrust” the EU.
3.2.3 Shared Values and a European Identity
As pointed out before, one of the most relevant attributes of European identity surrounds the notion of shared values across Europe. In 2008, 54% of the EU wide respondents agreed that values across Europe were similar. In Greece 58% agreed with this statement and in Germany - 52%. When asked again in 2012 on the matter of shared values across Europe, the percentage of interviewees declined to 49%, which constitutes -5 % overall (EB 69, 2008). The figures become a lot more significant when looking at the numbers for Greece and other crisis struck member states. In 2012 in Greece only 43% of the respondents believed in shared values across Europe, which is a significant decline of -15%. Most other member states, which are particularly affected by the crisis show similar results with declines of -23% in Portugal, -18% in Spain and - 8% in Italy. In 2012 Germany only displays -1% difference on the question of shared values across the EU (EB 77, 2012). It is also interesting that the data shows that younger Europeans tend to agree more on shared values across Europe than older citizens. 62% of the Europeans in the age group of 15-24 agreed on shared values whereas only 46% in the age group of 55+ agreed. On a side note, this might partly be attributed to EU programs such as Erasmus Mundus and others, which provide extensive intercultural experiences at a relatively early point in life (Riotta, 2012).
In the light of a declining belief in shared values across Europe, particularly in the crisis-torn member states, Eurobarometer 77 reveals two more important facts. When asked about the most important elements of a European identity, ‘the Euro’ and ‘democratic values’ score the highest percentages, with 41% and 40% respectively. When asked about which ‘issues’ create a feeling of community amongst EU-citizens the most, ‘the economy’ and ‘values’ again score highest with 26% and 23%. This indicates that for most of the people polled, ‘shared values’ and ‘the Euro/economy’ make up the most important parts of a European identity. The data suggested that there is a steep decline in the belief in ‘shared values’, particularly in the crisis torn member states. Furthermore, data also suggests even more profoundly negative public opinions on both the economy and the Euro. Hence, one could conclude, that the two most important aspects of European identity, particularly in the crisis-torn member states, show clear signs of being negatively affected by the crisis.
The data related to the question of the EU citizenship indicate more interesting trends regarding the European identity. When asked if they felt like a citizen of the EU, 61% of the Europeans answered with ‘yes’. Yet, whereas Germany places itself on the upper end of the scale, with 74% feeling as EU citizens, some of the crisis-torn member states place themselves on the low end of the scale. In Greece only 50% and in Italy only 45% see themselves as European citizens. Yet, other crisis-torn states show very different results. In Spain for example, 70% still feel as EU citizens and the lowest percentage on this matter is scored by the UK with only 42% feeling as EU citizens (EB 77, 2012).
Despite all this, the data shows that between 2005 and 2010, i.e. before and in the timeframe of the crisis, attitudes have changed surprisingly little. The two strongest groups here are ‘national citizen only’ and ‘1st national and 2nd European’. In 2005 in the whole EU, 41% felt ‘national only’ and 48% ‘1st national and 2nd European’. In 2012 in the whole EU, 38% (-3%) felt ‘national only’ and 49% (+1%) felt ‘1st national and 2nd European’ (EB 64, 2005; EB 77, 2012). Though there have been slight fluctuations over the timeframe of seven years, the results have remained surprisingly stable.
In 2008, 54% of the respondents across Europe agreed that their values were similar. In Greece 58% agreed with this statement and in Germany -52%. In 2012, 49% (-5) of the respondents across Europe agreed that Values were similar. In Greece only 43% (-15%) of the respondents believed in shared values across Europe. (-23% in Portugal, -18% in Spain, -8% in Italy and -1% in Germany) ‘Values’ and ‘the Economy/ the Euro’ constitute the most important factors of European identity for those polled and display a distinctly negative trend. None the less, the percentage of people feeling as ‘national citizen only’ and as ‘1st national and 2nd EU-citizen’ have remained surprisingly stable in the timeframe of the past 7 years.
Chapter Four - The European Media and the Crisis
As this thesis aims at providing insights into the current zeitgeist of a European identity in times of the European sovereign debt crisis, one more aspect remains of vital importance, which will hence be addressed in this Chapter. First, it is significant to point out that the European media in all its diversity has a long lasting tradition of interconnectedness with the notion of a European identity. In relation to that point it is important to briefly address the state of the European public sphere as reflection of the role that European institutions, pan-European and national media outlets have played in strengthening a sense of European identity. Second, as today the predominant forms of mainstream media primarily address and affect the national ‘imagined community’, with the European public sphere simply not yet being as evolved as it’s national counterpart, it is important to look at some examples of how the national mainstream media has reported on the present crisis. Furthermore, the way this current crisis is transmitted to the national publics by their respective mainstream media outlets not only sheds light on national public sentiment but also allows insights on a looming divide across Europe. This holds particularly true in respect to the image that is being transmitted about the economy, the euro and shared, democratic values across Europe, since these two attributes had previously been identified as the most prominent features of a European Identity amongst most Europeans. Here again, the focus will lie on German and Greek media outlets, due to the central role which these two countries have assumed in the light of the current crisis. Third, political cartoons have played a small but vital role in the focus group discussions as means of reflecting some of the critical points raised by the different national outlets and as a stimulus to further the discussions, presented in the second part of this thesis. Hence it is important to briefly address their part in the relationship between the crisis and the media.
4.1 Towards a European identity: A European Public Sphere
The European public sphere has been closely intertwined with the notion of an emerging pan-European identity right from the start. “(…) every state holds a conversation with its subjects as to the legitimacy of its existence.” (Price 1995, p. 234 in Gibsrud 2007, p. 480) Following that statement, Jostein Gibsrud describes the Public Sphere as, “the social space in which that conversation takes place” (Gibsrud 2007, p. 480). Hence, consecutively the European public sphere could be described as the place where the European Union holds a conversation about its legitimacy of existence. Or, as stated by Maier & Risse “If we conceive of the EU as an emerging democratic polity beyond the nation-state, the issue of a European public sphere is raised quite naturally (Maier & Risse 2003, p. 51).”
The concept of any public sphere whether national or supra-national is intrinsically intertwined with Benedict Anderson’s notion of the ‘imagined community’, which in return is vital for understanding the formation processes of collective identities, such as a European identity. Since national or supra-national collective identities are ‘imagined’ due to their vastness in scope, the previously addressed “conversation on the legitimacy of its existence”, happens via mass media which play a fundamental role in representing this “conversation” to the individual. As is stated by Anderson, ”(…) When the media, as a case in point, discursively embed a European identity position as the natural order of things, the political power of the EU, whose legitimacy depends on the symbolic production of an imagined European community is simultaneously nourished and supported (Anderson 1983 in Olausson 2010, p. 141).” Hence, the way media communicates Europe, on a national or on a pan-European level, affects ‘imagined communities’ such as ‘Europe’, therefore fostering or undermining a sense of European identity with the individual.
Since the fate of European ‘imagined community’ is closely tied to the fate of the EU institutions, it comes to no surprise that these institutions have tried to exert their influence onto the European public sphere from an early point, to ensure their legitimacy (Bourdon 2007, Brüggemann & Schulz-Forberg 2009, Olaussen 2010, Gibsrud 2007). This leads back to the fact, which is most distinctly reflected in the analysis of the academic debate, being that the European project on a long run cannot survive solely on an economic basis without a personal attachment of the European citizens (Smith 1992, Andréani 1999, Habermas 2001, Pichler 2009). There are numerous examples of media outlets, unions and organizations which have attempted, directly or indirectly funded or supported by the EU, to strengthen an emerging European public sphere. One of the most prominent examples being the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and others such as Euronews, Eurosport, ARTE, Bloomberg and Deutsche Welle, to name a few (Gibsrud 2007). Even though there are some critical voices claiming that, the emergence of the European public sphere has failed due to lack of significance (Bourdon 2007) one might rather sight with the position of Gibsrud or Maier and Risse, that a European public sphere in fact exists (Maier & Risse 2003, p. 81). Particularly Jostein Gibsrud emphasizes the right point in this debate, “(…) no one expected the sort of success he measures the modest results up against so as to conclude with ‘failure’ (…) it would clearly be unreasonable to expect a European identity at the intensity level of national identity after the EU’s mere 50 years of problematic existence (Gibsrud 2007, p. 490).” Concluding from this remark, just as European identity formation may still be in its beginnings, so may the European Public Sphere.
With the increased role that European integration has assumed in people’s everyday lives, one might still ask what the current limitations to a stronger European public sphere might be. First and foremost, the diversity in languages across the European continent possibly represents the major reason for the limited amount of continental publications, TV channels and radio stations. “(…) modern nations have been construed as based on a high level of cultural integration; with shared values and symbols communicated mainly through a common language (Bourdon 2007, p. 275).” Previous analyses suggest that even though the perception of shared values across Europe has declined, it remains one of the core attributes of a European identity. None the less it remains largely true that presently, there are still considerable language barriers present across the European continent (Habermas 2001, p.19).
Here it is important to note that these language barriers could recede in the foreseeable future. According to Juan Luis Cebrián, publisher of the Spanish newspaper “ El Pais ”, “(…) it seems obvious that the expansion of English as a lingua franca is inevitable, not just in Europe but worldwide. Inevitably, this will affect the sensibility and feelings of the identity of Europeans (Cebrián 1999, p. 40).” If English as a second language indeed proceeds to gain importance in Europe, it may well be possible that we can perceive an increasing amount of pan-European mainstream media outlets which target all of Europe as potential audience in the future. Another important point is the financial viability which these endeavors will have to achieve on the long run as Craig Calhoun correctly emphasizes, “(…) the media that encourage and shape cosmopolitanism are not simply responses to individual taste or morality but creatures of capitalism (Calhoun 2008, p. 217).” Hence it is fair to say that the future of the European public sphere will partly be determined by market dynamics and financial viability of the respective endeavors. Lastly it remains to clarify that alternative and social media, blogs and other online platforms have the potential to create a lasting effect on the identity formation process in general, including a consolidation of the European public sphere. “(…) the Internet and also other media enable communicative connections beyond such national frames, making identities more easily ‘mobile’ (…) Defining ‘imagined communities’ and identities as subjects of research becomes increasingly complex in this translocal frame (Hepp 2005, p. 3-20).”
4.2 The national media and the Crisis
Having previously concentrated on the role of pan-European media and an emerging European public sphere for the development of a European identity, in the light of the research question, it is now imperative to assess how the crisis has been communicated in some of the major national media outlets. Here again the focus will lie with the two countries of Greece and Germany, so that this assessment can shed light on some of the preceding representations of the crisis in national mainstream media, which have influenced public opinion on the matter. It is particularly important to be aware of the public discourse in the media which the participants of the focus group discussions had been exposed to. In this regards both German and Greek mainstream media have played a key role in polarizing public sentiment on the matter of the Eurozone crisis and European integration by, not uncommonly, adhering to populist sentiments.
As the analysis of the Eurobarometer data has shown, there are several core features of the European project which are currently perceived very critically by European citizens at large. Furthermore the data has indicated a widening gab across Europe in terms of satisfaction of the citizens, trust in future of the EU as well as integral features of European identity such as common values, the Euro and the single market. The growing frustration which European citizens experience is well reflected and further inflamed by some national media outlets across Europe, particularly also in Germany and Greece. A survey conducted by Emnid, on behalf of the “Bild am Sonntag” German newspaper, displays that in February 2012, 62% of those polled were in favor of the Bundestag declining new financial aid to Greece. Only 33% supported new aid payments (Die Welt Online, 2012). The crisis has taken a toll on the support for fundamental principles of solidarity in the EU, in both Germany and Greece. This is well reflected in a number of media representations from both countries, which aimed at polarizing and appealing, to “Eurosceptic” public sentiment.
Prominent examples of these harsh manifestations have been provided by the German magazine “ Focus ” and the Greek newspaper “δημοκρατία” (Democracy). In their issue from the 9.2.2012, “ Democracy ” titled “ Memorandum macht Frei ”, comparing the Greek memorandum with the infamous lettering in front of the Nazi concentration camp Dachau, “Arbeit macht Frei” while displaying the German chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform. Already in 2010 several German mainstream media outlets appeared with a number of reproaching titles. The magazine “ Focus ” appeared with title stories such as “ Greece- and our money! ” (Focus,
3.3.2010), “ I want my D-Mark back! ” (Focus, 5.5.2010) and later that year, “ Crooks in the Euro-Family ” (Focus, 22.10.2010). The newspaper with the widest circulation in Germany, the “ Bild ”, meanwhile demanded, “ Take the Euro away from the Greeks! ” (Bild, 3.11.2011) and asked, “ Why do we pay the Greek luxury-pensions? ” (Bild, 27.4.2010) These feature articles aimed at addressing the frustrations of “the German taxpayer” and their alleged financing of fiscal mismanagement in Greece. Publications in both countries even engaged in what one could perceive as “vendetta-like” behavior, mocking each other’s national symbols with the effect of further stirring up public sentiment (Cohen 2012). Mutual insults via media outlets in both countries are quickly taken up and responded to when the opportunity presents itself (Bild, 26.7.2012), not quite unselfishly as one might assert, since such polarizing titles tend to attract readers, boost circulation and the amount of clicks received on the web.
Interestingly enough, even publications which generally stand for quality journalism often fail to provide a fair and balanced depiction of the present crisis and European project in general, which is reflected in the way they set their news agenda. Since beginning of the crisis, the German “flagship-magazine” - “ Der Spiegel ” has released many cover stories on the Euro with polemic titles such as: “ The mistake of a century ”, “ The Euro lie ”, “ The last battle ”, “ Acropolis goodbye! ” , “ If the Euro breaks apart? ” and “ Attention, Inflation! ” (Winterbauer 2012). The Author argues that “Many times, the Spiegel has let the Euro die on their front page and with that, has spurred a money- apocalyptic mood (own translation, Winterbauer 2012).” Again, the fact that concise or even polemic titles tend to attract readers is not a secret and may play a role in the news agenda setting and the way a story is framed by journalists. In an online publication, “ Der Spiegel ” has also grabbled with anti-German sentiment in Greece, which is fueled by several Greek media outlets. The Authors state that, “Images of Chancellor Merkel with a grim facial expression now appear almost every day on the cover pages of Greek newspapers. (…) the harsher depictions of her wielding a leather whip and wearing a Swastika armband. (…) The vitriol isn't just on display in the tabloids. (…) Andreas Kapsabelis, editor-in-chief of the tabloid Dimokratia, (…) believes the Germans are trying to destroy the Greeks and using financial means to achieve what they failed to do militarily more than 60 years ago.” (…) "We are doing our job and voicing public opinion“, Kapsabelis says. (…) Georgios Delastik writes of the "deployment of the Fourth Reich" in the left-liberal newspaper Ethnos. (…) "I am a staunch European," he says. (…) it is "self-defense" (…) by emphasizing the Germans' most vulnerable side: their Nazi past. No one in the Greek media is willing to acknowledge that the two things have nothing to do with each other. And anyone who could is currently waving the Nazi cudgel. (…) "It's terrible," says Delastik, noting that this sort of thinking doesn't fit with his idea of a united Europe. (…) However, Delastik refuses to admit that he is also fueling anti-German sentiment with his harsh editorial pieces. (…) [According to] a survey published by the news magazine Epikaira last week, it does seem like many Greeks have become convinced of what was previously nothing but polemics. Of the approximately 800 Greeks surveyed (…) 69 percent even believe that German politicians are genuinely pursuing the goal of establishing a "Fourth Reich." (…) Before the crisis, the Greeks were generally enamored of the Germans (Heyer & Bazoglou 2012).”
This exert from the article adequately reflects a journalistic dilemma, not just present in Greece. On one side, there is the need to adhere to stereotypes spread across the general public and to provide stories with familiar frames which many of the readers crave. This need to adhere to populist sentiment may even be enhanced by the particularly bad economic situation in Greece and a struggling print news industry which is facing its very own global crisis. On the other side stands the journalistic ethic of providing a fair and balanced depiction of the situation. When the balance between these two needs fails and shifts strongly in a populist direction, which the exerts from the articles indicate, it becomes indeed possible that constantly reasserted negative images about Europe enhance fear and anger with large parts of the public, which in return can permanently undermine peoples believe in a European polity.
In her paper “Turn the other Greek ”, Daniela Chalaniova makes some interesting observations in this regard, “the crisis serves as breeding ground for populist rhetoric and opens up room for blame-games (…) with hefty input from the media (…) stereotypes, repeated from a position of authority, can reinforce negative associations in the minds of the audience (…) Stereotypical representations (…) throughout the European media can have a harmful impact on Greek identity and self-consciousness (Chalaniova 2012, p. 2).”
Yet, it is also important to note that in times of the European sovereign debt crisis there has been a shift in the way the Greek population perceives the mainstream media as source of information. Data from the Eurobarometer shows that in 2008, 28 % of the Greeks trusted in television as a source of information and 35% trusted the Press in general (EB 69, 2008). In 2011 only 22% of the Greeks trusted in TV (-6%) and only 28% trusted in the Press (-8%) (EB 76, 2011). This may indicate that the way the crisis is communicated in Greece, may also have increased distrust among the population. After evaluating the evidence, one can certainly say that the media plays a crucial role in the way the current crisis is communicated across Europe, particularly in the most crisis affected EU member states such as Greece. Therefore, if a large amount of media publications shift towards unbalanced, polemic and populist representation of the problem at hand, as well as the European project in general, public opinion may be distorted by a clear lack of objectivity. Appealing to historical enemy stereotypes, such as the Germans as a “Nazi-threat” fundamentally undermines the European values of solidarity and mutual support, thus creating potentially long lasting ruptures in regards to a European identity. As stated earlier, for centuries various forms of media have served the purpose of strengthening “imagined communities”, making them tangible for the public. Just how they can strengthen an “imagined community”, they also have potential to weaken them. One might assert that particularly in such difficult, crisis riddled times objective, fair and balanced reporting by the media remains more important than ever.
4.3 Political cartoons
Political cartoons were used as means to stimulate the discussion in the focus groups therefore it is important to briefly assess their role in the media discourse across Europe in times of the crisis. Here again the focus will lie with Greece and German media outlets. In the light of the previous analysis, it has become clear that the way the crisis is communicated to the audience via national media outlets, plays a considerable role in public opinion formation. Political cartoons offer a way to point out controversial and often stereotypical impressions in a humoristic and satirical manor, where a similar message in the form of a “serious” article or news-report would be likely to lead to heavy criticism. As Chalaniova points out correctly, “Using humour, satire and exaggeration combined with commonly understood metaphors, symbols, stereotypes and narratives, cartoons help construct our social reality.” (Chalaniova 2011, p. 5) The various forms of media play an important role in the way the crisis is communicated, both in Germany and in Greece. Cartoons represented a great tool to quickly display some of the more controversial positions surrounding the debt crisis, reflected in the media, without making the focus group participants read lengthy articles before the discussions. This point is emphasized, by L.H. Streicher who claims that, “For the man in the rush (…) caricature is a way of catching at a glance the meaning of an event, a person in the news, or a pictorial summary of a power constellation (Streicher 1965, p. 1).”
Not just in terms of a quick display of a certain situation or event, cartoons can also be perceived as a complementation to other sources of information. Chalaniova has argued that next to other representations of political opinion, in the media via language and texts are fundamental, yet “do not tell the whole story...” (Chalaniova 2011, p. 5). As previously pointed out there is significant evidence that parts of the European media landscape has resorted to stereotypical “mudslinging”, with the effect of not just heating up but polarizing public opinion on matters such as European integration, solidarity and shared values.
Summary - Part I
Having concluded the first part of this thesis it is vital to recall some of the established trends, insights and result which have emerged from the analysis in the previous chapters. The discussion of fundamental concepts and the presentation of insights ultimately aimed at moving closer towards answering the research question:
How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis? The discussed concepts and insights drawn from the analysis of the literature on European identity, the European debt crisis, the data of the Eurobarometer, and the media discourse are vital for the analysis of further empirical results in Part II of this project.
~ Chapter 1 ~
The first chapter aimed at establishing four “pillars” that serve as foundation, leading up to the next chapter on the academic debate on a European identity. To grasp the complexity and different nuances reflected in the academic debate, some fundamental concepts required clarification. The first pillar of this foundation, which was briefly discussed in this chapter, is the general notion of globalization, which one might assert, supra-national identity formation processes (i.e. European identity) are part of. Scholte’s concept of “respacialization of social life” (Scholte 2005) as a definition for Globalization adequately depicts the dynamics of today’s world onto people’s lives and their social identities. Therefore globalization was established as the overall basis or frame underlying the dynamics of European integration and identity formation, hence serving as the first “pillar” in the line of argument towards the discussion of European identity.
The second pillar of this foundation was the discussion of the concept of identity itself and its historic roots. After having presented the roots of the very term “identity” being originally based on Sigmund Freud’s concepts of the “id”, “ego” and “super-ego”, the analysis focused on the concept of “social identity” based on the work of Henri Tajfel, which is of vital importance to the notion of European identity, serving as the third “pillar” of argumentation. Aside that part of our identity which is shaped by direct contact with close individuals, it is “social identity”, a sense of identification and belonging to larger groups beyond our direct scope of perception, which distinguishes “us” from “the others” and plays a crucial role in construction of one’s overall identity. National and supranational identities belong into this category, being only truly perceptible on the foundation of an “imagined community”.
Benedict Anderson’s concept of the “imagined community” is vital to the understanding of “social” and therefore European identity. Hence, the concept of “imagined communities” and strong correlation to the role of the media in the formation of national community and identity, serves as fourth and last “pillar” leading up to the discussion of European identity. Based on the fundamental theoretical similarities that a national and a European identity share, the concept of imagined community and in particular the role of the media, is vital for the understanding of European identity and the preconditions and limitations that shape this development process.
~ Chapter 2 ~
The aim of this chapter was to represent a limited selection of publications to, none the less, provide a chronological depiction of the academic debate on a European identity in the timeframe of the past 20+ years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of this chapter was to move closer towards the research question. Though not directly answering the research question between the cause and effect, the representation of previous conceptualizations on European identity, is essential for the analysis of the empirical results, which is to follow in the second part of this thesis.
For the purpose of structuring the analysis of the academic debate, the Five Models outlined by Gerard Delanty in his essay Models of European identity: Reconciling universalism and particularism aimed to provide points of orientation on the most prominent conceptualizations on an emerging pan-European identity. The five models were of particular value for the in-depth assessment of the chosen publications but, more than that, will provide a valuable link for the cross-assessment and juxtaposition of the key points present in the academic debate with the empirical results of the focus group discussions. They reflect the conceptual spectrum and political ideologies between universalism and particularism, singularity and multiplicity, nationalism, euro- federalism and cosmopolitanism.
From the assessment of the academic debate, several core questions have emerged as being of particular importance in respect to the contemporary assessment of European identity. First and foremost, the vast majority of scholars would agree on the fact that the European project cannot survive solely on a policy of economic integration but that eventually there is the need for an attachment and identification with the values of the European polity (Smith 1992; Andréani 1999; Habermas 2001; Pichler 2009). From this, one can conclude that the concept of a European identity, whether strengthening or receding in the foreseeable future, will remain inseparably tied to the European project. Secondly, an important question that sticks out of the debate is, whether EU institutions should orient themselves on the nation as a role model in terms of their structure and conduct, particularly in respect to an active promotion of a European identity via symbols. This question relates to another key aspect, being that several scholars have argued that the European project is basically about devising a new political system (Calhoun 1997, Habermas 2001, Beck & Grande 2007, Biebuyck & Rumford 2011). The fact that in this view, the European institutions will enter, or have already entered new ground, raises new problems concerning the uncertainty and boundlessness of the European project. In other words, how to identify with an imagined community which lacks a clear goal of what to become and how far to expand? Thirdly, the school of European Cosmopolitanism offers valid arguments by focusing on the diversity and multiplicity of Europe as it presents itself today and as an “institutional response to globalization” (Pichler 2009, p. 5; Giddens 2012, p. 24). Since growing support for Cosmopolitan values can be seen as response to the ever growing effects of Globalization, one might assert that this school of thought may hold considerable potential on how to conceptualize the European idea now and in the future. Yet, in the light of Europe as a “work in progress”, all models hold potentially valid points for defining ones’ attraction to the European imagined community. Furthermore the diversity of the different approaches is reflected in, and crucial for, the assessment of the empirical results and in ultimately answering the research question.
~ Chapter 3 ~
The aim of Chapter Three was to first provide a relatively concise overview of previous events and present problems which allowed the European sovereign debt crisis to reach the worrisome dimensions which it has reached today. First and foremost the Euro-crisis is an integral part of the research question. Hence, knowledge of some of its key factors could therefore not be ignored nor presupposed and needed to be discussed, at least briefly. The display of the Eurozone crisis in the first part of Chapter three is fundamental in regards to interpreting the results from both the Eurobarometer and the focus group discussions.
Besides the importance for the analysis of empirical data, the assessment of some of the specifics of the Eurozone crisis allows for some interesting conclusions on the European project which is crucial for the analysis of the contemporary state of European identity. First, statements such as the one by Angela Merkel show that Europe is facing its biggest crisis since the end of the Second World War (France24 2011). This fundamentally altered situation which Europe faces lies at the very heart of the reassessment of the current state of a European identity. Another crucial point to be made was to show that the crises of the past years are profoundly interconnected, hence representing one of biggest challenges faced in times of globalization. This fact is closely tied to one of the biggest dilemmas of the European Union, being the constant push for more integration across Europe while retaining the sovereignty of its member states. The implementation of a shared currency without a shared fiscal policy can certainly be seen as a reflection of this dilemma. These failings, which could be seen as bad crisis management by government actors, are certainly reflected in the low trust which EU citizens currently have in EU institutions such as for example the European central bank. Best examples are the life-altering austerity measures imposed on Greece which certainly contributed to anger and disappointment amongst the population.
The analysis of the Eurobarometer data is of profound importance to this thesis, because it represents the first empirical evidence that the state of European identity has been affected by the present European debt crisis. The in-depth assessment of the current situation by means of focus group discussion builds upon this evidence. General satisfaction of the population in crisis affected member states has plummeted. The social divide between rich and poor is increasing. Membership of the EU is perceived as negative by large proportions of EU citizens again particularly in the most crisis affected regions. Pessimism about the future development of the crisis is prevailing. Trust in all major European Union institutions has declined considerably. Shared Values and the economy/ the Euro have been pinpointed as integral parts of European identity. Belief and trust in both of these vital attributes has decreased significantly, especially in the crisis-torn regions of Europe. Particularly this finding allows for a more in depth investigation of public opinion in the second part of the thesis.
~ Chapter 4 ~
This chapter aimed at assessing which role the media has played in the evolutionary process of a European identity. Furthermore it aimed at emphasizing its great influence on public opinion, particularly in times of crisis. The assessment of literature and the examples provided in this chapter indicated that media, in all its forms, play a critical role in the identity formation process. This insight has originated from Benedict Anderson’s understanding of the nation as “imagined community”. As previously established, the concepts of the “imagined community” also apply to supra-national entities such as the European Union. Media represents the major tool to connect the individual to these “imagined communities”, such as the European community. Also, it was crucial to provide an insight into the current state of the European public sphere, due to its vast importance for the notion of a European identity.
This chapter also showed that the European Union institutions have tried to make use of the potential which pan-European media has, for the consolidation of a European identity. To this date, the European public sphere exists via several pan-European media outlets such as Eurosport, Euronews, Arte and others. Yet it only represents a very small proportion of the “media-mix” of consumers, which largely remains tied to a national frame. The prevailing language barriers across Europe sure represent a limiting factor in the foreseeable future. Particularly new media hold great potential as a means of cross border communication. The examples provided of both the German and Greek media were provided to shed light on the fact that media cannot just foster ‘imagined communities” but also work against them, via the constant reinforcement of a negative image on a particular matter. Insights into the news agenda of Bild, Focus, Dimokratia and Ethnos were to show that in times of the European sovereign debt crisis, the reinforcement of old stereotypes the use of polemics and unbalanced reporting are at a current high, with a potentially far reaching impact on public sentiment on matters of European integration.
Part II - Chapter Five - Methodology
Before analyzing the data, collected through focus group discussions in Germany and Greece, it is imperative to discuss the overall methodology of this project. The main objective of this research was to find out how the European debt crisis has affected a sense European identity. From this goal it was possible to derive the research question: How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis?
5.1 Introduction and structure
It became clear that for answering this question and devising a structured argument, some basic concepts could not be presupposed and required clarification first. Hence, the first chapter was devoted to the analysis of several basic concepts underlying the research question on the very lowest level. What is the makeup identity? What are social/collective identities and how do they form? How does the macro-social trend of our time, globalization, relate to collective identity formation? What are imagined communities? These questions needed to be addressed before any meaningful assessment of the theoretical framework on the European identity or the European sovereign debt crisis could take place.
After having clarified these basic concepts, the next step was to provide a comprehensive reflection of the theoretical conceptualizations of the European identity. The vivid academic discourse surrounding the debate on the matter, hence serves as the theoretical framework for the first part of the research question: “the sense of European identity ” Providing a detailed account of this debate showed how the understanding of a European identity has evolved over the decades and which conceptualizations are currently gaining in importance. Subsequently, the focus shifted to the theoretical framework of the second part of the research question: “the European sovereign debt crisis ” . Again it was important to provide at least an overview of the complex events, preconditions and shortcomings that the European debt crisis entails, and how these have been analyzed in professional publications. Having now clarified the theoretical framework on both core features of this thesis, it thus became possible to look at the first indicators and empirical evidence in regards to the research question. The analysis of the Eurobarometer data strengthened the position that the European sovereign debt crisis has in fact, impacted on the sense of European identity. At this point, one last domain of relevance towards both a European identity and the European debt crisis required clarification. After having assessed the political and economic spheres entailed in the research question, the role of the media constituted the last point of focus. Since the media is absolutely vital for the formation of collective identities on the scale of imagined communities, the relation between the media and the European identity required further analysis. After a short theoretical excurse into the concept of a European public sphere, it became crucial to analyze the role of the national media as a main channel of communication between the challenges of the European debt crisis and public sentiment towards a European identity. Evidence suggested that the way the crisis is communicated to the public (strive for objectivity vs. stereotypical/populist) does indeed affect public sentiment in regards to a feeling of belonging to the European polity. At this point, evidence grew stronger that the European debt crisis affects the sensation of European identity.
5.2 Research design and method
When confronted with the question of which method would be most appropriate to gather empirical data, it became clear that it would become important to narrow down the scope of research. This was the case because gathering data concerning European identity all across Europe would exceed the scope of this thesis. Hence, the two cases of Germany and Greece were chosen because both assume a central role in development of the European debt crisis. With Germany having the strongest economy in Europe, it was able to absorb a lot of the “shockwaves” emitted by this crisis; hence the standards of living amongst the German population have remained largely unaffected. On the other side of the scale is Greece. The country where the debt crisis has parts of its origins and where recession, looming bankruptcy, austerity measures and a possible exit from the Euro, have left the country in a permanent state of turmoil. The living standards of large parts of the Greek population have been severely affected and are likely to remain this way in the foreseeable future. Though, theoretically both countries are facing the challenge of the European debt crisis, one countries population remains largely unaffected while the others’ stands severely affected. Due to this disparity it has become possible to investigate how the impact of the crisis on the lives of the citizens, correlates to their understanding of a European identity. Hence, a comparative research design was deemed to be suitable.
Even after the decision to focus on Germany and Greece, it was clear that more focus would be required to reduce the sample size. The decision to focus on students had several reasons. An existing cooperation with the University of Thessaloniki allowed for a potential pool of participants in Greece. More importantly, students generally represent a rather young, future oriented, politically engaged sample with above average English-language skills. A certain level of English of the participants was a precondition for conducting any form of social research in Greece, due to the presence of language barriers. In addition to that, a general interest in the view of younger Europeans on the matter of European identity was present from the start of this project.
At this point it became crucial to choose the appropriate method for following a comparative approach between Greek and German students. Essentially the choice between a qualitative and quantitative approach was based on previous attempts to investigate the nature of the European identity. In this regard, particularly the work of Michael Bruter, On what citizens mean by feeling 'European': perceptions of news, symbols and borderless-ness served as a good reference point for the research design of this study. One might agree with Bruter that, “No deductive technique, however, would allow us to let citizens explain to us the deeper signification of citizens’ answers to our questions on who they are and how they perceive their attachment to varying political communities (Bruter 2004, p. 2).”
Based on this understanding, a qualitative approach to investigate the European identity in times of the European debt crisis seemed best suitable. After having decided for a qualitative approach to data collection, it was important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the different qualitative methods against each other. The strongest indicator for a link between the crisis and the European identity was the data provided by the Eurobarometer studies. These studies use mostly quantitative questionnaires, but generally apply ‘structured’ and ‘closed’ questions. The great advantage of a qualitative approach is to be holistic, content sensitive and flexible in order to access knowledge which is otherwise not easily attained. Hence to compliment the insights from the Eurobarometer the choice of data collection fell to in-depth interviews.
On the question whether personal interviews or focus group discussions were best applicable, the choice fell to focus groups. Focus groups offer the advantage of potentially attaining more relevant insights due to their semi-structured nature. Whereas personal interviews are of a more structured nature because they are build on a dialogue between interviewer and participant. In focus group discussions it is possible to harness the momentum of group dynamics by letting a discussion amongst participants evolve and possibly attain insights beyond the original question. Yet, it is still possible to guide the discussion in a certain direction by asking some general questions, to avoid that it drifts of onto unrelated topics. Furthermore looking at Michael Bruter’s work, focus group discussions have already proven themselves as a valuable tool for the investigation of the European identity. Also, the questions used in the focus group discussions were based on the questions which Bruter utilized in his 2004 study. To provide more focus on the contemporary situation and the impact of the crisis, the questions were enhanced by asking, if the participants additionally felt a change related to a certain topic, issue, or subject within the timeframe of the crisis. (See next chapter)
Finally in terms of the overall research design, a qualitative, comparative approach was chosen to collect empirical data via “ A comparative focus group study on Greek and German students ” .
Overall four focus group discussions were conducted in Greece and Germany. The first two discussions were held in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece. The city was chosen due to an existing cooperation between the Universities of Hamburg and Thessaloniki. The second two discussions were held in Hamburg, Germany. Both cities are the second biggest city in terms of population in their respective countries, hence ensuring a basic level of comparability. Both discussions were held in circles, facing each other in a calm environment, in rooms provided by the respective universities. The general timeframe of the discussions were set at around one hour, some fell short, while others exceeded this timeframe. Generally the field of study of the participants played no role. However, the majority were students of media and social sciences. Overall the participants fell into an age-range between 19 and 26.
The first discussion was conducted with a group of four students from Greek universities and the second group included seven participants of which one had to leave early. Both discussions in Greece were conducted on October 5th 2012. In Germany, the first discussion was held on the 6th of December and the second, on the 13th of December 2012. In Germany, the first group consisted of four participants, whereas the second group had eight students in it. Again, one person had to leave the discussion early in the second group in Germany. All four groups were first presented with a collection of political cartoons published in German and Greek print and online publications. The goal of this was to stimulate the discussion and quickly reflect some of the prevailing problems and stereotypes surrounding the present crisis. Four overall questions were asked in the course of the discussions (see next chapter). Though these questions were posed in intervals of 10-15 minutes by the interviewer, there was no fixed timeframe devoted to each question. The goal was to establish a comfortable environment where a truly open and vivid discussion could emerge, allowing insights beyond the original questions. When a particularly relevant point was reached upon in the discussion, the interviewer would sometimes ask if the participants could elaborate further on this point. Final remarks and gratitude for participation were extended to the participants at the end. There was only one interviewer, the discussions were recorded and later transcribed so that exerts from the discussions could be presented and analyzed in this thesis. The names of the participants were changed to ensure their privacy.
5.4 Validity and limitations
When the research question was tested for its validity, it was juxtaposed with the core features, a good research question should have. It should be interesting, relevant, ethical, feasible, concise and answerable (Green 2008 in Sutton 2011, p.10). Generally one might assert that all of these criteria are met. Yet, it is fundamental to emphasize that the empirical research of this project being focus group discussions, are evidently not representative to all of Europe. Conducting a representative qualitative study on the European identity via focus group discussions would require hundreds of discussions in all EU member states across all types of demographics, hence going far beyond the possibilities of this thesis. In addition to that remains the internal ambiguity and flexibility of the understanding of European identity as a concept itself. Yet, despite being unrepresentative, the study allowed interesting and important insights into contemporary opinions and sentiments in regards to an emerging European identity.
A limiting factor which also needs to be addressed is language. Even though, participants in Greece on average possessed a high command of the English language, some participants had a harder time then others, to get their message across. Yet, with some translation-help amongst the participants, arising ambiguities were quickly overcome. None the less, the fine nuances in formulation which a native speaker has at his/her disposal in order to get his message across were not as present in Greece as they were in Germany, where participants spoke in their native language. Focus groups aim at establishing a relaxed and open minded atmosphere where all opinions are appreciated. The possibility remains that certain participants may be reluctant to voice all their thoughts on a particular matter, or that they are too shy to speak up in certain cases. Each methodological approach includes advantages but also disadvantages. A qualitative, explorative approach such as the use of focus group discussions to analyze social developments, generally boast with high internal validity and deep information content. Its disadvantage to a quantitative approach is that it’s not representative and that the opinions hence only precisely reflect a small group of people.
Chapter Six: Focus Group discussions
In this final chapter the results from the Focus Group discussions, conducted in Thessaloniki, Greece and Hamburg, Germany will be presented. Four overall questions served to guide the participants through the discussions. They allowed for the free development of a discussion reflecting each group’s individual priorities, yet they ensured that the discussion stays on topic and does not drift off to unrelated issues. As briefly mentioned, the questions posed to the participants, build upon those utilized by
Michael Bruter in his 2004 attempt to evaluate the state of a European identity via means of Focus group discussions. Hence the questions focus on core topics related to the sense of a European identity with the participants. Since this thesis can be seen as a reevaluation of European identity given the fundamentally altered precondition of the European debt crisis, the questions by Bruter were enhanced accordingly. Whereas the first part of the question was adopted from Bruter’s earlier study, the second part aims at gaining additional insights on the impact of the present crisis. Hence, the four general questions which served as framework for the overall four discussions conducted in Greece and Germany were:
How do you perceive the way you are informed about Europe by various news media? How has this news agenda changed in the timeframe of the crisis? How do citizens know and perceive the various main symbols of European integration and what do they mean for them? Has this perception changed in the timeframe of the crisis?
What is your direct experience with Europe and how does it influence your level of European identity? What were your direct experiences with Europe in the timeframe of the crisis?
What do you think about the ‘idea’ of a European identity, do you think it exists? Do you believe it’s generalized and widespread and how does it connect with other political identities? Do you think the notion of a European identity has changed in the timeframe of the crisis?
In order to conduct a structured analysis of the findings, the questions and their respective answers will be assess one by one. On each question, the focus will first lie with the answers provided by the Greek and then by the German focus group participants. The answers obtained in each country will be juxtaposed with the insights from the theoretical framework and core concepts found within the academic debate as well as trends deduced from the Eurobarometer data and media representations in the respective countries. Furthermore, the goal on each of the four questions will be to also juxtapose some of the results from German and Greek groups with each other, in order to assess possible similarities and differences on the matter of public opinion surrounding the notion of a European identity.
Question One: As previously established, there is an integral link between public opinion and the way a problem like the European debt crisis is communicated. The media reflections presented in chapter four constitute examples of how balanced, yet critical reporting can fall victim to polemic displays of old clichés and stereotypes. These stereotypical representations, if reasserted over long periods of time, have the potential to polarize public opinion and reignite old rivalries. This, in return, has potentially far-reaching consequences for a European identity build around solidarity and mutual support. For the purpose of getting more insights on this matter, the first question was formulated as: How do you perceive the way you are informed about Europe by various news media? Has this news agenda changed in the timeframe of the crisis?
When it gets to the way different forms of media reflect the nature of the European debt crisis, the answers provided by the focus group participants in Greece, allowed for some very valuable insights. Antonis from Group 1 in Greece said that:
“(…) About the media in Greece, what they usually say about Europe is not always what we see, for me that’s the main problem, we get a lot of bad images what economics, especially in Germany are like right now, that is perceived as a menace by Greeks and by many other countries.“
Relating back to the assessment in chapter four, of how the crisis is communicated via different forms of mainstream media, evidence is growing stronger that media in both countries, but in this context particularly in Greece, lack critical assessment of the actual systematic causes of the crisis rooted in political and economic policies. Instead it appears that presently, in the Greek case, different mainstream media outlets prefer to play the “blame-game”, attributing causes and consequences of the present crisis heavily on external policies imposed via EU institutions, allegedly spearheaded by German economic policies. Antonis goes on to say that:
“What we’d really like is real information but we most get images of what media people think that is Europe or that media people think that will sell better as Europe, as a European image for Greek consumers.”
General consensus in the Greek focus group discussions was that the participants perceive the way that the mainstream media informs them on topics related to the Eurozone crisis and the European Union in great need of improvement. This apparent lack of trust complements the Eurobarometer data, which had already indicated that presently only 28% of the Greek population trusts their press (EB 76, 2011). Antonis’ statement emphasizes particularly one point: Different mainstream media outlets in Greece construct an image of the crisis and its perpetrators in the eyes of the public, according to what they deem will sell best and what fits the political agenda of the respective publication. Tough this problem relates back to a general dilemma of journalism, briefly touched upon in chapter four, one might assert that when this way of reporting is taken too far in times of crises, it skews public opinion and displays propaganda-like features (Chalaniova 2012). Nickos and Constantina from Group 2 in Greece provide further insights on this problem:
”I think it’s a one sided thing (Greek news agenda), here especially, because like it’s all about the money and everything, so they say that people are losing their jobs, so we’ll focus just on our things, it doesn’t matter for us what the Germans say or what’s going on in the UK and if they are keen to support us or not (…).”
In addition to that, the Statement by Constantina supports the issue raised in chapter four concerning the polarizing and polemic approach in communicating the crisis and the current state of the European Union, chosen by the German magazine “ Focus ” and the Greek newspaper “ Dimokratia ”. Constantina from Group 2 in Greece said:
“(…) it’s one sided, there was always a lack of information (…) about what’s going on because they make the decision for us, (…) we are not getting the whole idea. If there is something that has Greece, fine then they will transmit it here, if not, it’s like it never happened. For example this cartoon you showed us (points at the Focus cover) that was the thing that was most projected here, in regards to Germany. No magazines [from Germany] that had a positive view [on Greece], that said support them don’t let them go, this was radical here, there were voices [some German media outlets] but they were not communicated as much, whereas this [Focus title] was all over the place.”
This statement further supports and well reflects the notion that generally the way a certain problem or story is framed and communicated to the public by various mainstream outlets hold great potential in public opinion formation. The statement shows that the mutual incitement of these two publications via the reassertion of old clichés and stereotypes, serves the purpose of finding an external scapegoat on whom to blame the current problems, which is then sold to the public. Since trust in the mainstream media outlets has decreased further in the timeframe of the crisis, particularly younger people such as the sample participating students, turn towards new media as source of more balanced and objective information. Sophia from the Group 1 in Greece said:
“Many Greeks believe that the blogs are very informal and it’s not always true. We are not keen on Blogs. So the mainstream media they take an advantage of this and we are not very informed.”
On top of this statement, which emphasizes the generally rather reluctant stance of Greeks to incorporate the internet and new media into their information-mix, Nikos’ expression stresses the potential which new media holds in their strife for direct, first- hand information.
“(…) actually the media as a whole are changing because there is no way that today there is still a strict way of seeing that this is a newspaper and this is TV because the people are the media today. Those people that participate in Media, they are posting all the time on Twitter and Facebook, using the social media to inform what’s going on around them, so they aren’t depending on mainstream media organizations.”
This point certainly underlines the fact that social media holds great potential for the spread of information, particularly in times of crisis, where the political pressure on mainstream media outlets sometimes threatens their impartiality. This certainly holds true for social movements during developments such as the “Arab Spring” but also, to a certain extent, for the case of Greece in the frame of the European debt crisis. Particularly social media then offers users the possibility to directly engage in conversations and exchange information first-hand and across borders, which greatly improves and diversifies the information-mix that ultimately affects a person’s opinion. This also relates back to what Andreas Hepp had claimed earlier, that particularly the internet allows the flow of information to happen outside of the national frames and that cross-European social networks in fact hold great potential in fostering the European public sphere (Hepp 2005, pp. 3-20).
In respect to the research question, it was particularly important to find out whether the focus group participants have observed changes in the news agenda of their national media outlets in the timeframe of the crisis. Particularly in regards to the European project and how it is depicted. General consensus was that certain changes could indeed be observed. Antonis from Group 1 said:
“There was like a change, at least the mainstream mass media are now criticizing the public policies from Berlin. Anyway they were always Criticizing publications like the ‘Focus’ or what ‘Schäuble’ was saying sometimes.”
Generally, the statements show that, at least some of the mainstream media outlets have changed the way they report about the European Union and the Crisis, in the eyes of the discussion participants. Further statements shed light on the nature of this change observed. Calliope form Group 2 said:
“For the first time after these elections, the radical left became the second party in the parliament and also we had a very big rise of the Nazi-Party. So the journalists and the television started to reevaluate their position towards the European Union.
(…) most newspapers were always a little skeptical about the European Union.”
According to Elias from Group 2, the very serious situation which the Greek population is currently facing is also reflected in the media:
“Before the crisis it was more humorous programs but now most programs deal with politics, talk-shows, and discussions. We, the Greek people, we have changed because we see 25 or 26 year olds who are in the age that is strongly affected by the crisis, who want to work but they can’t find jobs. So when they meet for Coffee, they discuss the jobs that they didn’t get, the crisis and we talk about these things again and again and again because we believe that we have no future in Greece.”
After these insightful statements collected in the focus group discussions in Greece, it is now important to look at what the German focus group participants had to say concerning the first question of how they feel informed about Europe by various national news media. Right from the start, it became clear that the attitude of the participants, towards the way Europe is reported in the light of present crisis is quite different to the general consensus in the Greek focus groups. Generally, the German participants appear to be less critical towards their national media, and show more trust and understanding on the way the crisis is reported. There was more variation in opinion regarding the objectivity of the national mainstream media. Yet, the participants also pointed out that they had observed an increased use of polemics by various national news media. Lydia from Group 1 in Germany said:
“It’s hard to say about the media in general (…) the “BILD” Newspaper reports in a very different way on this matter than the “Tagesschau” does. If I watch the “Tagesschau”, I generally feel well informed. I have the feeling that, actually reporting is always very Pro-European. (…) I think that German media (…) were largely Pro-keeping-up Europe, in their responsibility.”
This statement emphasizes that focus group participants in Germany had a more diverse opinion about how they are being informed about Europe, whereas in Greece, the opinion of participants was largely critical in terms of objectivity and news value on the matter of Europe. Some participants in Germany stressed that they do feel the German mainstream media are aware of their “responsibility” to portray the current crisis in an objective and analytical manor. Yet, other participants perceived reporting about Europe and the crisis as exaggerated and unobjective. Now it is imperative to look at a few opinions on a scale between objectivity and polemics. Björn from Group 2 said:
”What first strikes me is that everything is very panic-driven (media representation of the crisis) and the way the Media is reporting is above all very tabloid-driven. It’s like there are official ‘theses’ proclaimed such as: The Greeks are all lazy (…) that’s what our tabloid press does and somehow I have the feeling that this is the only thing which is transmitted over there [in Greece] (…) [while] to us, the only thing being transmitted is the “Hitler-thing” [from Greece] (…) when we watch the Tagesschau and see how people in Greece are burning German flags, in my opinion, this doesn’t add anything positive to the overall situation.”
In reply to that, Susanne from group 2 added:
“The media are searching for this (…) who is somehow burning the flag, that’s just such a strong image that you’ll want to have and broadcast for sure.”
These statements show that participants in Germany vary in opinion concerning how the crisis and the current state of Europe are being communicated. Björn raises an interesting point, which was also perceived by the some of the Greek focus group participants. When it gets to foreign (Greek or German) media reflections in the national media in Greece or Germany, media outlets will tend to focus on negative or even insulting reflections they can pick up on, for according to the participants, inciting and sensationalist purposes. Though this holds particularly true for the tabloid press, examples such as the German “ Focus ” show that respected mainstream media outlets, on occasion, engage in similar behavior. As it has been mentioned in chapter four, “(…) stereotypes, repeated from a position of authority, can reinforce negative associations in the minds of the audience (…) (Chalaniova 2012, p. 2)”, hence the position of German media on the question of Greece and the Eurozone crisis was described by Charlotte from Group 1 in Germany as follows:
“The opinion [in the media] is sort of like: Yes, we have got to support this, since we are for it [Europe]. But at the same time the Greeks are also being mocked.”
This point is also related to another argument both German groups had touched upon individually, which in essence, relates to the very different situation, German and Greek participants find themselves in. In Greece the debt crisis is an experience which is strongly rooted in reality, which is felt over again in people’s everyday lives. In Germany, for the vast amount of citizens, the crisis if of a more “imagined” nature, since the consequences for people’s daily lives have yet been limited. Germans experience the European debt crisis largely via the media and not personally by unemployment and poverty. The German participants were very aware of the seriousness of the situation for the European Union and the Eurozone, yet both German groups touched upon the fact that after years of reporting an “imagined” crisis, indifference is creeping in. This creeping indifference could be referred to as “compassion fatigue”, a term which generally finds its use in journalism, related to long lasting violent conflicts or famines. One could argue that just like the war in Iraq the European debt crisis is a long lasting crisis situation, which is communicated via the media, to those who are fortunate enough to not experience the crisis personally. In an article of the Columbia Journalism Review, this problem is touched upon in the context of the Iraq War: “(…) how does one cover the weekly — the daily — grind of death and destruction with an unwavering urgency? How can one guard against a creeping callousness, a hint of “ho-hum” in tone or treatment (or, perhaps worse, a war-as- entertainment approach, graphic-heavy and overly produced?) (Barrett, 2007).” Admittedly, this statement addresses a warlike-situation, yet it addresses one common question. How to cover a long lasting crisis situation on scale between rising apathy and sensationalism? Similar issues were pointed out by the participants of the German focus groups in the context of Greece and the European debt crisis. Thomas from Group 1 points out that:
“(…) the suffering is displayed similarly to the way it is reported in Africa, where the picture is being transmitted that also everyone is suffering.”
This statement clearly points in the direction of what was previously discussed as compassion fatigue. If indeed compassion fatigue is on the rise, concerning the European debt crisis, this has potentially far reaching implications for an emerging European polity. Susanne from Group 2 said that:
“So, what I have observed is that (…) amongst the population there is some sort of disenchantment (about the crisis), it’s been going on since months now and the numbers which are being tossed around, (…) are completely unimaginable and at some point you get the news: Once again a few billions will have to be spend … whatever.”
Claudia from Group 2 said:
“I think so too, by now the media coverage needs to be somehow exaggerated, so that people will again pay attention to it.”
Particularly the last statement relates to the concept of compassion fatigue described in the Columbia Journalism Review, where the terms “graphic-heavy and overly produced”, could also be related to the examples presented earlier, of how polemics are used to keep people interested in the topic. The German groups also mentioned social media as a tool to improve their information-mix and to get information from people that are directly affected. Charlotte from Group 1 said:
“You catch more (information) via social media, like on Facebook as opposed to only German media. I am friends with a few Greeks (on Facebook) and I can see them, again and again, being involved in Social media actions (…) There I see a little hope for Europe because it (social media) connects people and enables oneself to develop different (from mainstream) opinions (…).”
Question Two: The second question posed to the focus groups in Greece and Germany relates to a topic which has been discussed by numerous authors in the academic debate surrounding the notion of a European identity and evidently plays a central role in regards to this topic. For the purpose of analyzing the current state of the European identity it was hence imperative to get further insights via the focus group participants on the question of: How do citizens know and perceive the various main symbols of European integration and what do they mean for them? Has this perception changed in the timeframe of the crisis?
For centuries, symbolism such as the use of flags, anthems, holidays and a currency have been used by nation states to foster a sense of belonging to the national imagined community, with its citizens. Today, the use of symbols has been adopted by supranational organizations such as the European Union to invoke a sense of belonging and personal identification with the European project. This fact has also been observed in the Greek focus group discussion, where Stavros from Group 1 described his position on European symbolism and finds very precise words:
“I believe that European symbols are there to solidify the position of the European Union. People that live in European terrain and share the same history with other European countries, same processes, same currency, same national anthems some basic European languages all of them serve as common identity. These countries
(…) for them are safety, security and support from the other European countries; they belong to what Benedict Anderson has called an “imagined community.”
Stavros points out correctly, that indeed a shared symbolism holds great potential in fostering a sense of support for the European project. Yet, the question asked aimed at finding out whether these symbols in fact invoke some sort of attachment with the participants. The extent to which they feel attached to the rest of Europe, offers insights on the importance of European identity with the participants. In the focus groups in Greece, European symbolism is perceived rather neutral and at times critical. Here, in advance, it is safe to say that similar opinions manifested themselves in the German focus groups. Stavros described his opinion about European symbols as follows:
“To me the European symbols mean something, not very strong, mediocre but at least they mean something.”
This opinion was a rather prominent in the focus groups in Greece and Germany. Though there were some participants which were leaning towards either a fairly negative or a fairly positive view of European symbolism, most participants’ opinions were centered on neutrality. For Christos from Group 1 in Greece, the European symbols indeed represent something positive and invoke a feeling of unity in terms of Europe. He states that:
“For me it’s like, I am European oriented I mean I do believe in the common future (…) the Euro, the European Flag, the anthem I didn’t even knew about, they are just symbols of the fact that we are going somewhere all together and for me that’s a good thing. (…) The European Union is about real integration really going towards a federal state, that’s for me something really basic when we talk about the European Union (…) So, the symbols for me mean exactly that. The fact that during the crisis we have to reevaluate our relationship with the (EU) symbols makes me feel stronger about them actually. When you feel that you may lose something then you get closer to it.”
Christos’ account transmits a quite positive image about European symbols but it is fair to say that the concept of European symbolism is not uncontroversial and had been critically discussed in the academic debate surrounding the European identity. Here, particularly the work of Gilles Andréani had offered insights, by critically assessing European symbolism as means of state sovereignty without giving the European Institutions the according powers. (Andréani 1999, p. 5) Andréani’s work served as criticism to the approach of European cultural particularism, summarized in Gerard Delanty’s models of a European identity. European symbolism is closely tied to the EU institutions, being a top-down approach in fostering a sense of belonging. Yet, it remains doubtful whether cultural particularism associated with Euro-federalism, amongst others by the use of symbolism, can serve as an adequate basis for the consolidation of a European identity. It is this top down approach of symbolism, promoted by EU institutions, which has been picked up on by the participants in both Germany and Greece and created controversial responses on the matter. Calliope from Group 2 in Greece has a very different view on European symbolism:
“(…) Symbols are just symbols (…) The European Union (…) should be [about] solidarity amongst the people, not the governments, the people and I think that the European Union is so far from that. For me the European Flag means absolutely nothing. Nothing. (…) we should focus more on what they [the symbols] should be. (…) for most Greek people and for the media, the flag of the European Union is the symbol of the bad guys and everything, but there are many people like me (…) we believe that any kind of flag is bad, because they bring out boundaries and borders. One may say that the European flag represents that there are no borders but there actually are borders. Maybe not amongst us, but for the others which are not in the European Union (…) For me, flags always equal boundaries.”
This view about European symbolism represents a critical viewpoint on the matter. Generally participants did not feel that negative about European symbolism. The view transmitted by this participant indicates that for a part of the Greek population, the European flag is indeed perceived as a symbol, not for solidarity, but for the austerity measures imposed on Greece. She also indicates that the flag is used in a negative context by Greek media outlets but most importantly, the participant touches upon a point which relates back to the academic debate. A cosmopolitan approach for the conceptualization of a European identity presently has a lot of proponents. Since the cosmopolitan school of thought emphasizes the equality of the individual as a world citizen, one could argue that this understanding collides with the concept of Europeaness (Pichler, 2009). This correlates with the dilemma pointed out by the participant. Cosmopolitan values are promoted internally within the EU, but despite their universal nature, they only reach as far as the borders of Europe, therefore constituting a contradiction in itself. Yet, in return, one could also argue that for the ultimate cosmopolitan goal of humanity forming a single community, the next logical step on the way would be a supra-national aggregation such as the European Union.
All in all, positions within the focus groups, concerning the European symbols could be described as neutral. Yet, one of the European symbols came up in every discussion and was perceived by most participants as something positive and helpful, despite the recent turmoil. As the Eurobarometer data has indicated, trust in the Euro is currently decreasing. None the less, most participants agreed that the Euro is a good project, which they support. Particularly the fact that currency exchange in the in other European countries has become unnecessary was perceived as helpful and pleasant. Also the Euro was strongly associated with the right to free movement, another feature of the European project, perceived as very positive by the majority of participants in both countries. Nikos from Group 2 said:
“(…) the common currency. All this provides the opportunity for young people to go abroad and not get worried that they are going to the UK (…) like you have to when you go to Australia or the US, which brings along more difficulties.”
Concerning, the research question it was important to find out whether the meaning of European symbols had changed for the participants, in the timeframe of the crisis. In this regard, Christos from Group 1 said that:
“I think that for the first time during the crisis for Greece, we really did get to question the European symbols, we really did get to question our belonging to the European Union. (…) There were some discussions about where the Euro will go.
(…) It never used to be that big of an issue in Greece, we never had a referendum for the European operations, (…) The European Union was there, (…) we didn’t really know where it was going but we were on that train where we were going. Now we think about it.”
This statement emphasizes the importance of the current crisis and the question of belonging to the European Union in the contemporary public discourse in Greece. As the Eurobarometer data has previously indicated, trust in the European institutions has been strongly affected in Greece over the timeframe of the crisis. Therefore it is safe to say that for those people that currently distrust the EU institutions and have radically changed their opinion about the European Union, their perception of the European symbols will also be negatively affected in the timeframe of the crisis.
In terms of European symbolism and the way the participants perceive those in times of the European debt crisis, the results from the German focus groups displayed similarities to the ones in Greece. Though, admittedly very negative connotations with European symbolism were not present. Overall, European symbolism was met with a certain level of neutrality or ambiguity by most participants in Germany, neither voicing strong feelings of dislike, nor displaying widespread identification with these symbols. Some participants did have positive things to say about the symbols, Leon from Group 2 in Germany said:
“So, I have to say that people generally do not really identify with Europe and these symbols (…) I think it’s those things that matter most about Europe which are intangible such as, for example, travelling without a passport (…) every time I cross a border [in Europe] and I see this flag [European] I do find it very refreshing and then I find it great that I don’t have to change money (…) the freedom one has received through the Schengen-Agreement, that I find absolutely fantastic (…)”
This statement emphasizes the fact that European Symbolism usually does not evoke patriotic feelings, as it is often the case with national flags and symbols. Yet, it can evoke positive associations with some of the attributes of the European project, which people encounter in their daily lives. Again, in terms of symbolism the Euro was elevated as the most expressive European symbol. Björn from Group 2 in Germany said:
“For me, the Euro is the European symbol. Every company, every country, every city, every small village has a flag and possibly a hymn but the Euro, that to me is the symbol of Europe.”
Susanne from Group 2 added:
“I see it similarly; though I believe the Symbols create an Identity externally so to say, represent (Europe) (…).”
In addition to that Charlotte from Group 1 in Germany stated that:
“(…) in a country where I can pay with Euros, I imminently feel more welcome as if I would have to change money and calculate exchange rates. Though, all these symbols like the flag and the hymn, which I don’t even know, are rather nonexistent.”
All in all, just as it was in Greece, the group participants see the Euro as the major symbol for Europe and generally displayed fondness of the Euro because it was one of the manifestations of the European project which perceivably made people’s lives easier. In this regard, the Eurobarometer data had shown that in fact the Euro and the European economy are amongst the most prominent features of a European identity. Data also indicated a historic low in terms of trust in the common currency, yet the group interviews have revealed that even though there is uncertainty about the Euro’s future, participants still appreciate the positive aspects of this project. One participant also emphasized the fact the EU institutions strongly promote their symbolism, which is often met with a sense of indifference. Claudia from Group 2 in Germany said:
“(…) I have the feeling that the Flag, the Hymn, yes they exist, their quite nice, and they (EU Institutions), again and again try to promote them (the symbols) with the people (…).”
She goes on to state that at her former university, she was involved in the “ErasmusTeam” which conducted trips to the European parliament in Strasburg:
“(…) everyone received a European flag and they [the EU] always tried to promote their symbols.”
Lastly, surrounding the discussion of European symbolism, one of the participants emphasized another interesting point which had also emerged in the focus group discussions in Greece. This criticism relates back to the ambiguity of cosmopolitan ideals in Europe which has previously been discussed. The participant said that: “(…) why should European nationalism be better than German? When you think about it, Europe is, if it should really evolve any further not as dispersed as it is today, it would be nothing else but a nation itself, why should that be better? (…) A country isolates itself, it doesn’t matter on what scale this happens but the problem remains the isolation. (…) If you say you are European one still isolates oneself (…) actually it would be better to say we are all humans.”
Though most people would agree that some form of polity below the global level is required at least for administrative purposes, it was interesting to see that this point was brought up individually, both in Greece and in Germany. It reflects a level of critical thinking about the values of “unity in diversity” which the European Unions are trying to promote. Yet, despite the fact that Europe is home to people from all over the world, the addressed “unity” barely extents past the European borders.
Question Three: The third Questions which the discussions in Greece and Germany focused on, was: What is your direct experience with Europe and how does it influence your level of European identity? What were your direct experiences with Europe in the timeframe of the crisis? The goal of this question was to gain insights from firsthand accounts of how extended periods abroad in Europe have helped to create a sense of connectedness to other regions of Europe or Europe as a whole. This evidently allows interesting insight concerning the development of a European consciousness amongst the participants. This, in return, is of great importance to a sense of European identity. Furthermore the second part of the question focuses precisely on experiences gained during the crisis-timeframe, hence allowing insights on the question whether a sense of belonging and support with Europe has been strengthened or undermined during the crisis. Accounts as such would allow further insights on the research question of how the European debt crisis has affected a sense of European identity.
Considering the question of direct experience with Europe, focus group participants in both Greece and in Germany generally agreed with the fact that especially extended periods of time abroad in Europe, have helped them to feel more attached to other parts of Europe. Most importantly, study abroad experience in other European countries, were mentioned on numerous occasions as providing valuable experience and not uncommonly, consolidating a sense of interconnectedness across Europe. In the light of the research question, it was of particular interest to see whether Greeks and Germans had negative experiences abroad related to some of the prevalent stereotypes of their country’s role in the crisis. For the Greek focus group participants, the direct experiences they encountered abroad, in Europe could be described as fairly positive. With some exceptions, the accounts drew a positive image of how the Greek participants experienced other European countries, directly or indirectly. Antonis from Group 1 in Greece said:
“(…) I think most people who feel European are living in big cities or Athens or Thessaloniki, who had the chances to travel, to go for Erasmus, to go for studies
Other statements on study abroad experiences by Greeks indicate that international student environments in universities across Europe can also serve as “neutral ground”, where existing stereotypes can be overcome and overarching problems such as the Eurozone crisis can be discussed. Antonis from Group 1 describes such a situation:
“(…) in the semester of 2010/2011 I was in Denmark for Erasmus and I had some German friends and we were talking about the crisis and they were students of political science and they read a lot and were against their Christian Democrat Party [CDU] and their policies and we were laughing about the crisis, they were saying for example: We give more money to the Greeks and they are buying a second pool or big house (…).”
Here, one might assert that the fact that the discussion takes place in a third-country aside from Germany or Greece may allow for a more unwound discussion about a usually rather touchy subject. The fact that in a discussion no one has the proverbial “home-advantage” can allow for a more critical assessment of one’s own position as supposed to a discussion in one’s own national surrounding, conducted amongst fellow citizens. This point will, to some extent, later be emphasized by the German focus group participants. Some other accounts for the focus group discussions in Greece show that aversion experienced by the participants in other European countries in the timeframe of the crisis were the exception rather than the rule. Stavros from Group 1 in Greece said that:
“I have never considered this but now that you mention it, I haven’t seen any different kind of behaviors from members of other European countries. (…) I have a friend that lived in Germany for some months, I asked her is there any kind of racism towards the Greek people there and she said no, at least not as we think of it. It’s not that much.”
Joanna from Group 2 in Greece stated that:
“I went to Germany two years ago, to Berlin, and I didn’t have bad experiences. I talked with German people, they were very kind, I told them I am Greek, (…) I think that we have to cope not with politicians but between us as people. Germans with Greeks or French with Italian, we have to be individuals that participate in the team called the European Union and to see the good things and how we can go further and not say: “I don’t like the Flag, I don’t like the Euro!” I think they are things that are not as important, as to understand our role as individuals and as members of the European Union.”
Another statement from a Greek participant indicates an interesting fact, which emerged from the discussion in both Greece and Germany. Projects funded by EU institutions are perceived as an active way of creating a sense of interconnectedness across Europe allowing participants to encounter new perspectives on different issues. Though this effect is perceived as active effort to foster understanding and tolerance via EU funded projects, aside from direct educational benefits, participants in both Greece and Germany generally had positive opinions about such projects. Sophia from Group 2 in Greece said that:
“My experience is very good because I’ve been in many European programs abroad with many people exchanging experiences. The point is that these programs were from the European Union and it was about everything, a wide range of topics and I have a very good opinion about that.”
Yet, particularly one account in the Greek discussions showed signs of aversion against Greeks related to the present crisis. Though again, this experience does not reflect the general positions in the groups, it none the less shows that for some people, Europe is moving closer to a “two-class society” where stereotypical blame games set the tone. Calliope in Group 2 in Greece said:
“(…) last December I went for a seminar in Brussels (…) you have no idea how much discrimination there was against me for being Greek, how much discrimination I experienced. They were like: ‘Oh you are the poor kids of the Eurozone!’ - ‘And how is the situation in Greece? ‘(Sarcasm)” (…) This shouldn’t be the European Union it should be (…) we are not enemies you know, or inferiors and superiors.”
Another relevant point which was expressed in the group discussions in Greece was that some participants attributed possible negative attitudes against Greece and its citizens to the way European media outlets communicate the Greek role in the crisis, to its publics. Evidently, this point serves as another indicator on the use of stereotypical, adversary reporting by European media outlets with the result of polarizing public opinion on the matter of the Eurozone crisis. Constantina from Group 2 observed the following:
“(…)Well there was this bad image of Greece projected through the foreign media, so that is why every time they saw a Greek they said: “Oh the poor, the thieve or whatever.” And I know that from people who were in France, Germany, Brussels, (…) that was this bad idea that was projected and they felt like they were paying us money which we just kept. This is why they were against Greeks but I think now it’s just because the media at that time projected this bad image of the Greeks (…).”
At this point it becomes important to reemphasize that the chosen sample of Greek and German students is evidently not representative for the diverse demographics of the respective countries. Students generally possess above average communication skills, educational backgrounds and abroad experience hence they often appear self-reflective, critical and less prone to adhere to stereotypical images projected, as do some other parts of society. Generally the same holds true for most people they encounter in the frame of travels and study abroad experiences in other European countries. Hence, a certain level of moderation was pervasive in all group discussions. This is well reflected in Christos statement in Group 1:
“I have travelled a bit during the crisis, many people were asking, what’s really going on in Greece? I see that people got their information through their media, but they were also questioning their information. Is it really that bad in Greece? Do people really have nothing to eat? (…) my wives parents live in Germany, they did get some kind of racism from time to time, they do get hostile feelings, people sayings things,(…) in many ways we were proud of being Greeks (…) I do believe that this has changed and it has shattered our own image of ourselves as part of the Europeans and the European Union. Now, we don’t feel that proud to say that we are Greeks when we go abroad (…).”
In the German focus group discussions, the participants generally had very positive direct experiences with Europe. Whereas in Greece, the participants described their abroad experiences as rather positive, though there were some exceptions. Some participants did experience some resentment towards Greeks abroad in Europe, related to the Eurozone crisis. The accounts of the German participants on the other hand, indicate that they did not make such experiences abroad. Charlotte from Group 1 in Germany said:
“So, I have not encountered any resentment but I do have the feeling that, when talking to other Europeans and you do mention something negative about Germany that they are sort of grateful to, for once, also voice some criticism.”
This view is shared by Leon from Group 2 who added that:
“In the timeframe of the crisis I have not felt any aversions abroad in Europe, quite to the contrary, rather admiration in the sense that they said, that they [other Europeans] would like to have a job market on which they would stand a chance (…).”
In reply to Leon’s comment, Lina said:
“(…) I had the same feeling that it is possible to remain factual and talk about it [the crisis] (…) On my exchange in Spain nobody insulted me as a Nazi or asked if I voted for Angela Merkel. Of course it was said that the Germans are well off because they are ‘rich’ (…) but that is also the truth and I think people should be allowed to say that (…) I have never witnessed it becoming personally insulting (…).”
These are only some of the statements which show that across the board, the Germans did not just made positive experiences and did not encounter hostility but to the contrary, they received recognition for the good state of Germany’s economy. Yet, it is to keep in mind that most long-term abroad experiences made by the participants happened in the frame of student-programs, which, as one might assert generally boost with high levels of tolerance and open-mindedness and self-reflection. Instead of blaming outside forces, which, as we have seen, is not uncommonly suggested by the media, students may tend to self-assess internal failings more critically than other parts of the demographic. In this regard, Marie from Group presented an interesting account:
“(…) I have many friends from Italy, so I have the feeling that they are more disappointed by their own development [in Italy] (…) my roommate was Italian (…) it was more like she was disappointed by her own government and that she simply saw that currently, things aren’t working out at all, so they saw that very critically.”
The fact that students and younger people generally show higher levels of enthusiasm when it gets to the questions of interconnectedness across Europe is not just reflected in Eurobarometer data but also directly addressed in the discussions. The Eurobarometer data had suggested that in 2012, 62% of Europeans in the age group between 15 and 24, believed in shared values across Europe, whereas only 46% of the 55+ age group shared that view (EB 77, 2012). In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that shared democratic values across Europe had previously been pinpointed as one of the major factors constituting European identity. The point that younger people are more prone to a sense of “Europeaness” was picked up on by participants in both Greece and Germany. Louisa from Group 1 stated that:
“I believe that this idea ‘Europe’, it’s more the younger generation which actually lives this, that one can travel and has the same currency everywhere, that they are more interconnected because almost everyone is going on an Erasmus stipend abroad, hence a stronger sense of feeling European.”
Susanne from Group 2 said:
“(…) if I understand this right, all people here went abroad within their studies (…) I believe we are a generation that is used to spending extended periods of time aboard in Europe at an early age. It’s a generation thing (…) in any case, it’s a step in the right direction and very important. The Euro is not everything, not exclusively the identity, so much is clear.”
Now, in relation to the question whether their abroad experiences have made the participants feel more European, the results allow for some interesting insights. Whereas general consensus was that abroad experiences enhance interconnectedness across Europe, for some participants it also helped to perceive their German identity from a new perspective and even actively contemplate the makeup of their identity as a whole. Marie from Group 1 said that:
“For me, my study abroad experience has changed everything, just thinking about things like: Do I really feel like I am German, do I really feel European?”
She goes on to state that:
“I used to say I am from Schleswig-Holstein, that has nothing to do with Bavaria (…) The further one goes away, at least speaking for me, the more I feel connected to Germany as a whole (…).” These points depict another fact that is very important to the understanding of European identity, being that it’s of a non exclusive nature. This relates back to the first chapter of this thesis, where the makeup of one’s social identity was discussed as being hybrid and multilayered. Hence, prolonged abroad experiences can theoretically create a feeling of closer attachment to your own nation, as well as to Europe as a whole. (The hybridity of the participants social identity, will be further addressed on the next question) Prolonged experiences abroad in Europe can provide a deeper understanding of how similar but also how different lifestyles across Europe can be. Eventually the way one’s identity will be affected is hence subject to the individual experience. Lastly, one aspect which had also emerged from the discussions in Greece is to be mentioned. The German focus groups also picked up on the strategic nature of European exchange projects such as Erasmus, at promoting a sense of Europeaness across Europe. Yet, just as for the Greek participants, this was not perceived as something bad. Luisa from Group 1 had the following to say:
“I do believe that it is an active tool (to promote interconnectedness across Europe) but then again, I don’t find it bad and the circle of friends has somehow spread across Europe (…).”
She went on to say that:
“I think that exchanges always serve a purpose of extending ones consciousness and become more tolerant and to gain new perspectives (…).”
To that, Charlotte from Group 1 added:
“I do believe that these are deliberate actions, just like the German-French youth exchange in the 50s and 60s but I find it to be good.”
In the frame of the same discussion, Thomas emphasized that:
“I do find it good, but not in the light of the fact that more people will feel European but instead, that people can see that other people in other countries are just humans and that they have the same problems (…).”
In the light of previous statements of the participant, he once again emphasized that “European nationalism” is in no way a goal to strive for but that the ultimate focus of such projects should be to promote cosmopolitanisms on a global scale.
Question Four: The last major question which was posed to the participants of this study is closely tied to the theoretical framework of this thesis and is there to complement insights gained from the academic debate on European identity. The previous questions aimed at portraying the participant’s opinions on some key features surrounding European identity. This question aimed at gaining more insights on the detailed and current stance on the matter of European identity. Particularly the Eurobarometer data had indicated substantial changes in public opinion in regards to the understanding and belief in a European polity. Hence it was imperative to provide insights on how European identity is currently perceived on the ground, by the participants of this study, on a scale of affectedness between the two countries of Greece and Germany. For that purpose, the question has been formulated as follows:
What do you think about the ‘ idea ’ of a European identity, do you think it exists? Do you believe it ’ s generalized and widespread and how does it connect with other political identities? Do you think the notion of a European identity has changed in the timeframe of the crisis?
When asked about the European identity and its personal meaning to the individual participants in Greece, one point raised by Stavros from Group 1 in Greece underlines a fact which is well reflected in the academic debate and which had previously been emphasized as one of the major challenges to a scientific study of European identity.
Ultimately the way the European identity is strongly based on its individual understanding and definition. Whereas the conceptualizations reflected in the academic debate aimed at narrowing down and moving closer to a collective understanding of the concept, the diversity reflected in the academic debate has also shown that, to this date, there is no definite and ultimate conceptualization of a European identity. Furthermore the Eurobarometer data has helped to pinpoint the two major components of a European identity, to most of the interviewees, yet there were other attributes which were named as core components of such an identity. In this regard, Stavros said:
“(…) I would like to say that the European identity is nothing material, therefore something difficult to describe and to define. Each one of us might have a different view in his mind of what the European idea is (…).”
The analysis of the academic debate and the assessment of the formation process of social identities in general have shown that the vast majority of scholars in the field would agree on the multiplicity and non-exclusive nature of the social identities in general. This fact is further emphasized by the Eurobarometer studies, which asked about a sense of belonging in terms of local/national/European levels of allegiance, where most of the interviewees opted for a multiplicity of attachments to different social spheres of their personal life. Stavros from Group 1 in Greece claimed that:
“Well it [a European identity] certainly does exist for me. However my Greek identity comes first, second the European. I am more of a local guy then international, at least now and I also believe that many other citizens, (…) like me in Thessaloniki believe the same. (…) Mostly I would select Family, Media and Education those are the primary pillars that shape an identity.”
Another point which was briefly touched upon concerning the question abroad experience discussed earlier is that an understanding of European identity may become clearer to the individual when being outside of the European frame. Sophia from Group 1 reemphasized that:
“I believe that we have many identities (…) when you are in the European Union you think as a Greek you are Greek but when you are in America or Asia you will say I am European. So then it’s the other identity coming out (…).”
Similar statements reoccurred both in Germany and Greece and indicate that abroad experiences, in- or outside the European frame often cause people to actively contemplate the makeup of their identity, hence allowing a clearer sense of self perception in a globalizing world. Another aspect which is important to keep in mind when assessing the Greek participants’ views on a European identity was brought up by Constantina in Group 2 in Greece, who stated that:
“But I think for a person who doesn’t travel who’s just staying here, (…) Europe is an idea mostly (…) We are not like Germany which is opposing France and Belgium, it’s a family, (…) Greece always felt cut off from the rest of Europe, at least geographically.”
Joana from Group 2 added that:
“Generally I am in favor of being part of a group. Even a huge group like (…) the European Union, doesn’t scare me but I don’t want to lose but preserve my identity in a combination of both national and European.”
Overall, the vast consensus amongst the Greek participants was that first, the importance of the European dimension to the makeup of one’s overall identity is individual and different for everyone. Second, to a majority, a European identity was perceived as existent, yet invoking different feelings then the one which are generally associated with national identities. Build upon the insights of the academic debate and the group discussion, perhaps one could say that the European identity as being of a more rational and metaphysical nature as compared to the rather unquestioned and passionate manifestations one can perceive in national patriotism. As an explanation for this difference, the status of Europe as a “work in progress” was suggested on numerous occasions in this thesis and was also picked up on, by participants of the focus group discussions in Greece. Christos from Group 1 stated that:
“(…) I don’t think there is a European identity in the same way that there is a national identity. National identities have been forged through centuries, (…) but there is the processes of creating a European identity and I believe in this process but there is no European people yet (…) we all feel national, our national identity comes first, (…) maybe for some people their local identities are stronger and we also think that this national identity can be part of something called a European identity, of something of the idea of being European. (…) there is the European idea, the idea of Europe living together, being able to work together and build a common future together. That’s an idea and that can be the basis for an identity in a few decades maybe (…).”
In regards to the question how national and possibly European identities interact, the following statement from Elias of Group 2 emphasizes the touched upon, strategic nature of the European project:
“If we look at what the founding fathers of the European Union wanted for that Union, it’s similar to the model of the United states of America. But the big difference is that the United States of America came at ones, (…) but in the European Union we already had countries that were strong states, which didn’t want to abolish their benefits of sovereignty.”
Aside the general understanding of European identity and in the light of the research question, it was essential to investigate whether, amongst the participants, the sense of European identity has been altered by the present European debt crisis. It became clear that for a considerable amount of participants in Greece, their stance to the European project and particularly the European institutions has changed quite drastically in the timeframe of the crisis. Calliope and Elias from Group 2 well reflect this fact by stating that:
“There is something like a European identity but we are not there yet. (…) For me the European identity is something that has to do with, like I said, the solidarity amongst people and also it has to do with some social and political ideas that developed in Europe like equality and no discrimination but we are not there yet.”
To that statement, Elias added:
“We are all Greeks, as Socrates would say and we all are citizens of Europe. Nowadays, and especially from 2010 and afterwards, I have the strong need to believe that because we face big common problems, and this is important to keep in mind when we are talking about the idea of identity. So, I feel more as a citizen of the European Union from 2010 and onwards but as Calliope said, the major problem is that I want to see solidarity, in order to feel it.”
Evidently the Greek society and lifestyle has been strongly affected by the crisis. The very low trust ratings of EU institutions in Greece, combined with the growing support for extremist parties show similarities of what Erik Erikson had described as following: “In periods of collective crisis, such potential rage is shared by many and is easily exploited by psychopathic leaders (…) in other people, classes, and periods, the crisis will be clearly marked off as a critical period intensified by collective strife or epidemic tension. Thus, the nature of the identity conflict often depends on the latent panic or, indeed, the intrinsic promise pervading a historical period (Erikson 1970).”
Though the term “psychopathic leaders” used by Erikson may be only partially applicable to the Greek case, it is no secret that the Greek political landscape displays a significant shift in terms of voting behavior, to the benefit of radical left and right wing parties. The radical Greek left wing party “Syriza” increased their parliamentary seats from 13 in 2009 to 71 in 2012 and the presence of radical right wing parties rose from 15 in 2009 to 18 in 2012 (Puglisi 2012, p. 2). The current political situation is vital in regards to the concept of identity and reflected in the discussions in Greece. Elias said:
“I was very surprised to see young people that I know, that said, I voted them (right wing party). Young people and very old people, that for me, was a very interesting fact. The edges of society.”
The opinion concerning the European institutions in the focus groups in Greece was diverse. Yet, general consensus was that there is a lot of room for improvement. As discussed earlier, projects like Erasmus or the Euro as a common currency were largely perceived positive by participants. None the less Greek participants also emphasized several points which are widely perceived as negative, proposing explanations for current trends in Greek society, which are relevant to the research question. In Group 1, Antonis stated:
“(…) I was raised with (…) a myth that we have a common future with Europe,
(…) for me the crisis was kind of like a revelation as for many other Greeks. (…) The crisis showed who has the true power in Europe and who can control really things and who can implement policies. (…) I don’t feel any attraction towards the European institutions, especially because of the last years but also due to several other reasons like democratic issues.”
On the question whether the participants perceive an advancement of European identity, Nikos statement provides a valid assessment of current situation and the way a sense of European identity has been impacted by the European debt crisis in Greece
“As I see it today, actually the exactly opposite thing is happening here in Greece. I can see that people are more concerned about the immigrants living in Greece, than ever before. (…) So national sentiment is growing right now and the European identity is shrinking. Concerning the attitude towards other Europeans it’s more or less the same because the media in the different Countries like Germany or the UK, (…) say that Greece is stealing our [UK’s/Germany’s] money and that they are not responsible for their actions (…) so many people think that the other European countries are not treating us very well, they are not very kind, if they were in our position we would also help them.”
When directly asked about the personal understanding of a European identity, the answers of the German participants intersected with the Greek positions on numerous core features. Though, one major difference did become clear from the start. German participants generally had moderate opinions on matters of European identity but these opinions had not been drastically altered in the timeframe of the crisis. Also, just like in Greece, the German participants emphasized the multiplicity of their social identity, stressing that they possess a multitude of allegiances to different larger groups, from the very local, to the European level. Julian from Group 2 in Germany said:
“(…) despite the fact that we live on a local level I would agree that we also possess a sort of European identity. One could say, I am from Hamburg, I am German, I am European and one could say I am a world citizen.”
To that Björn added later:
“I think the way in which we define ourselves is very much context driven. When I am in Hamburg, I say I am from Barmbek (…) If I go further, abroad, and I go to Greece, I say that I am from Germany and of course, if I go to America, I am first of all European. (…) I think if you ask yourself, am I European, I would formulate the question differently, am I not a European? That, I would definitely answer with no.”
This again shows that the way we define our self in relation to larger groups is characterized by individuality and multiplicity and is very much situation and context related. Furthermore when asked about the nature of European identity, the German participants emphasized another point which came up in the discussions in Greece, being that the participants could relate to a sense of European identity but it did not invoke patriotic feelings like national belonging does to most people. Stefan from Group 2 reasserts this fact by saying:
“I believe, I personally have never had a national-feeling, like we are the strong Europe or something (…).”
It became clear from the discussions, that just like in Greece; the general nature of European identity amongst the participants was rather curiously investigated then passionately felt. Lina from Group 2 stated that:
“(…) I would say that something like a European identity exists (…) I think what actually connect us are simply values, something like the belief in universal human rights, they are present in every European country. (…) the belief in a community of states (…) living together peacefully and that we basically appreciate and help each other.”
Despite the fact that the focus group discussions in Germany did not display any drastic changes in opinion on the matter of European integration and the European project in the timeframe of the crisis, some criticism was voiced on the matter. Particularly the democratic deficit of European organizations came up on numerous occasions. Louisa from Group 1 stated that:
“I think that the decision making processes [in the EU] are totally abstract and the legitimization of the European institutions is very abstract as well (…) who in Germany could tell you how the EU Commission is elected?”
Thomas from Group 1 goes even further by asserting that:
“In my opinion it [EU institutions] were consciously devised to spread confusion”
The alleged democratic deficit of European institutions is perhaps the major point of criticism in terms of the European project and is well reflected in the Eurobarometer data. Across Europe the polls suggest a chronic lack of trust in European institutions which has worsened across Europe and has reached unprecedented lows in the crisis- torn member states. Though they are not synonymous, European institution initiatives such as the introduction of the Euro and the single market are closely connected to a sense of European identity. Several other points have emerged from the discussions in Germany as being vital to the current understanding of a European identity amongst the participants. In this regard, particularly language has been pinpointed as a key factor to an emerging sense of Europeaness. Participants discussed the issue of language barriers as a de facto limitation to living and working across Europe, yet participants also perceived language barriers to be receding. Charlotte from Group 1 in Germany said:
“(…) English is fairly wide spread, so I do believe that every European learns English at some point in the school career. So, we do grow up in such a way that we can communicate with each other, if we want.”
On this matter Marie stated:
“(…) we will see in the next decades how this [the spread of English] develops because today we do have a large part of the population that doesn’t speak English, the way we do it, like my grandparents, they don’t speak English at all.”
A common Language has been distinguished as crucial in regards to Benedict Anderson’s concept of the imagined community, which in return is vital to collective identity formation such as a European identity. In Gerard Delanty’s approach of European cosmopolitanism, cities had been characterized as “melting pots” in which the European identity is evolving. This view was shared by Luisa from Group 1 who stated that:
“(…) Europe (Institutions) promotes the next level of identity-formation but perhaps it will be rather cities, where a lot of integration is happening in an urban setting.”
Lastly, in regards to current and future outlooks on a European identity, another point which was raised in the academic debate and in the group discussions in Greece was also mentioned in Germany. Participants emphasized the state of the European project as a “work in progress” and hence that, if the current crisis can be overcome, further integration across Europe holds the potential to further foster a sense of European identity across Europe. Luisa from Group 1 said:
“I think that, on a long run, a consciousness will emerge amongst the people and that there will be something like a “European idea”. (…) the World is moving closer together and I don’t think it’s really up to date, to unconditionally see yourself as citizen of a nation. If you perceive yourself as a European is a different question, I perceive myself as someone living on this continent.”
To end this analysis on a positive note, two statements by participants in Germany capture some essential points in regards to the European institutions, the Euro and a possible consolidation of a sense of European identity in the future. Björn from Group 2 said:
“I don’t perceive a future without the Euro as free of problems because I believe that the consolidation of Europe is not concluded. I think we are in a state (…) where the whole EU could still fall apart und conflict between nations could reemerge (…) I do see it as important to do everything possible to keep this currency together (…) to provide structural integrity to further grow together socially.”
Susanne from Group 2 asserted that:
“I do still believe in the European project and I find it to be admirable. It is an experiment which has not yet existed in this form, that’s why it is not possible to follow a preexisting model but it really is an experiment and no one knows exactly where it will go (…) before the crisis I found the idea [the EU] to be good but through the crisis I have the feeling that this feeling has increased, that we must hold on to the idea (…)”
Chapter Seven: Conclusions
A lot of research has been conducted on the causes and consequences of the present Eurozone crisis and its implications for the future of the European project. Academia, political actors and the media have concentrated their analyses and problem-solving efforts on the financial dimension of this current crisis since, after all, its structural causes are generally rooted in the financial and economic domains. Evidently, implemented measures such as the launch of the ESM, austerity, saving schemes, debt cuts and privatizations, are primarily targeted at economic, financial and political actors. Yet, despite its fiscal causes, the consequences which result from these measures have far reaching implementations for the citizens of the member states and hence, affect both spheres of the European project equally. Aside from all institutional, fiscal, economic and monetary initiatives which make up the European project, the fact remains that ultimately the European project is of a democratic nature and is subject to the endorsement of the citizens of its member states.
It is precisely on this fact that this thesis bases its roots. The European Union has a historical tradition which goes much deeper than questions on the reduction of tax barriers or even the creation of an internal market. The fundamental goal of the European project is, and has always been, to foster peace, solidarity and mutual support amongst the people of Europe. With the heavy focus on fiscal blame-games and renegotiations of sovereignty versus common actions, the impression might arise that this goal is increasingly lost from sight. Hence, in the light of this unprecedented crisis, a reevaluation of public opinion in regards to the European project was in place. For this purpose, the makeup and importance of a European identity in the eyes of the Europeans served as a great tool to investigate current sentiment on the European project amongst parts of the European population. Lastly, the research question of this project was narrowed down to the following: How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis?
The quest of finding an answer to the above question has been long but it has revealed important insights which now allow certain conclusions to be drawn. At this point it is important to reassert that the results of the focus group interviews are not representative to the overall population of Greece and Germany. None the less, the facts displayed in the Eurobarometer data are intended to be representative for the respective population at large. When both sets of data are analyzed individually, they allow for some relevant insights but it is particularly where both sets of data intersect, that trends become clear and conclusions can be drawn.
The four major questions which were posed to the participants of the focus groups in Greece and Germany each cover one relevant domain in regards to the research question. Hence, combined with the insights gained from previous chapters and the representative Eurobarometer data, it was possible to deduce some important trends and findings. Lastly, the one-by-one display of the findings will paint a clearer picture and will ultimately allow answering the research question.
In regards to the Media, the focus groups delivered additional evidence that, in the timeframe of the crisis, stereotypical, eurosceptic, polemic displays of the European project and are on the rise. The Greek participants displayed a rather critical attitude towards their own media, which further supports the Eurobarometer data, which had indicated very low trust levels in the Greek press. The intensity of the blame-games between German and Greek media was confirmed by the participants. The German participants displayed more trust in their media, yet voicing some criticism on an increased use of polemics. Again, these results display similar patterns as the ones indicated by the Eurobarometer data. Furthermore participants in both Germany and Greece perceived new media as great tool to enhance the personal information-mix and that it holds further potential for the evolvement of a European public sphere. A rather surprising result from the German groups was, the perception of a certain degree of compassion fatigue amongst the general population, displayed in the way the media communicate the ongoing Eurozone crisis-story.
In regards to European symbolism overall neutrality dominated the discussions in both Greece and Germany. Yet, in Greece it became clear that European symbolism was perceived as increasingly critical in the timeframe of the crisis, for it being associated with the harsh austerity measures imposed. In Germany neutrality best describes the participant’s perception of European symbolism. Participants in both Greece and Germany picked up on the constructive nature of European symbolism and that it serves the purpose of actively fostering a shared imagined community across Europe. This was also one of the key points which emerged from the academic debate surrounding European identity. Another point which reemerged in the discussions has also been part of the theoretical framework. Both groups raised a certain level of criticism towards European cosmopolitanism. European symbols may foster a sense of borderlessness across Europe but the fact that borders towards the outside remain, conflicts with the very nature of cosmopolitan ideals. Despite this dilemma, participants generally voiced an increasing importance of cosmopolitan values amongst the younger generation. This insight complements the Eurobarometer data which had shown that younger citizens generally displayed a stronger belief in shared values across Europe. Lastly, for both Greek and German participants, the Euro remains the most important symbol of the European project and was generally perceived as positive. None the less, doubt about its future was voiced in both, the discussions in Greece and Germany.
On the matter of direct experience with Europe, the general consensus amongst the groups was that, particularly abroad stays hold great potential for feeling more connected to other regions of Europe or even Europe as a whole. Though abroad stays can strengthen a sense of Europeaness, it is largely individual experiences which will determine how a person’s identity will be shaped. Previous analyses have shown that in times of the Euro crisis, the reestablishment of old stereotypes are one the rise. Hence it was vital to get a firsthand account if the participants encountered an increased level of antipathy, related to their country’s role in the current crisis. Focus group discussions have shown that abroad experiences were largely positive. The German participants in particular did not encounter any aversions related to Germany’s central role in the crisis; instead they received positive feedback for the comparably good state of the German economy. The majority of Greek participants recounted of positive experiences, yet some participants did encounter negative stereotypes, related to the increased media depictions of Greece as the”poor-house” of Europe. Another interesting insight was that German participants also emphasized that aboard experience had helped them to identify more with Germany as a whole.
As for the question on European identity the participants largely stressed multiplicity by asserting that there are local, national and supranational layers to their social identity and that according to their current location, they change in dominance. When asked directly about the concept of a European identity most agreed that such a thing exists but it was repetitively stressed that it is still in an emerging phase, a point which one might agree with. In this regard it may help to understand national identity as often evoking patriotic and passionate feelings whereas a sense of European identity might currently best be described as rational and metaphysical. In other words, participants felt that identification on a European scale is emerging but does not evoke feelings of patriotism on Europe at large. None the less some participants already stressed that they felt like citizens of Europe. Another interesting point which relates back to the conceptual approach of European cosmopolitanism was put forward in the German focus groups. European metropolises are increasingly turning into international melting pots, hence displaying great potential for a further consolidation of a European identity.
To many it may appear that European projects are implemented creepingly slow, which is often attributed to the bureaucratic nature of EU institutions. Yet, when the project is put into in perspective to its profoundness and vastness, one might get a different perspective. This point is vastly important in regards to the understanding of a European identity. Though to some it might appear as an artificial construct of EU institutions and the social sciences, an increasing and accelerated integration across Europe and the growing establishment of English as lingua franca, as part of the overarching trend of globalization, are facts today. For that matter, the first generation of European cosmopolitans which may perceive their social sphere more on a European than on a national level may not be far ahead. Since the beginning of the European project and aside from some setbacks, European integration has always displayed an increasing trend. Even in times of its “worst crisis”, today the EU is implementing measures to drive this integration forward. Until today it remains unknown how far the European project and a sense of European identity will evolve in the future and it remains to say that a worsening of the Eurozone crisis or other unforeseeable events could put a hold on European integration. Yet, if such hurdles can be overcome, the European project has great potential and with its consolidation, a stronger sense of European identity could manifest itself. At this point it is important to propose some suggestions for further research. The profound crisis which Europe is currently facing has resulted in some fundamental changes for the European project. In the timeframe of the present crisis a lot of research and coverage has focused on governmental and economic actors, as well as the implemented policies. The implications for the citizens of the crisis-torn member states and the resulting change in attitude towards EU institutions and the European project at large have not received closely as much attention. Yet, one can hardly argue that peoples’ attitude and approval is not equally decisive for the European project. Hence, more research on the matter of public opinion on the European project and an emerging European identity can allow insights on how far the European values of solidarity and mutual support have been impacted by the present crisis. In the light of the fact that the current crisis could continue for an extensive period of time, it would be beneficial to observe, whether a looming rift across the European community is widening. The present crisis has been omnipresent for over two years now and at present nobody knows how long it might drag on. The focus groups discussions in Germany picked up on a point which has far-reaching implications in regards to the basis of solidarity in Europe which rest upon compassion for other Europeans. Participants in Germany have reasserted that a sense of indifference, about the crisis may be on the rise. It would be interesting to further investigate an emerging sense of indifference or “compassion fatigue” in regards to the Eurozone crisis. Furthermore, an assessment of the interconnectedness of a possible sense of indifference across Germany with contemporary representations of the crisis in the German media could allow for some interesting insights. These insights would provide new perspectives, as to what extend Germans may perceive themselves as part of a European polity.
Also, groups in Greece and Germany picked up on the potential of blogs and social media as source of information on the crisis. More research on the implications of social networks as manifestation of a European public sphere could shed light on a shifting information-mix in the 21th century. Constant and direct communications between Europeans via social networks may hold great potential in regards to a sense of connectedness across Europe. Lastly, following the approach of European cosmopolitanism and statements by focus group participants, it might be insightful to investigate implications of cross-European migrations to European metropolises in regards to a consolidation of European identity.
Now, in regards to the overall research question of How has a sense of European identity been affected by the European sovereign debt crisis? This study comes to following conclusion: When subjected to detailed analysis, the Eurobarometer data has displayed two facts. First, for most Europeans the European identity consists of shared democratic values and economic/fiscal cooperation/the Euro. Secondly it is precisely those two attributes of the European project which display a moderately negative trend across Europe at large. More worrisome is the fact that in the crisis-torn member states, particularly in Greece, the mentioned attributes have downright plummeted to all time lows. This indicates a looming divide across Europe, concerning people’s attitude on the future of the European project. The focus group discussions complement and further strengthened the insights from the Eurobarometer. The German participant’s sense of a European identity presented itself as overall only mildly affected through the current sovereign debt crisis. The Greek participants drew a quite different picture, though admittedly not as profoundly negative as the Eurobarometer had displayed, a sense of resentment, doubt and skepticism about the European project was observable. None the less, it was positive that the Greek participants largely retained a sense of distinction between the interpersonal and the intergovernmental spheres and implications of the present crisis situation.
Ultimately, from a quantitative and representative and from a qualitative and non- representative perspective: A sense of European identity in the crisis-torn member states presents itself as negatively affected by the European sovereign debt crisis. Based on the same perspectives, a sense of European identity across Europe presents itself as moderately affected.
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- Alexander Meyer-Thoene (Author), 2012, European Identity in Times of the European Sovereign Debt Crisis, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/294882