European Identity

What is the criteria of being a European?

In collaboration with Network Democracy, students of the Amsterdam University College are organizing a variety of events in the New Democracy Dome throughout the month of May. The students are following a Global Politics theme course on Global Civil Society so you can expect workshops, panels, discussions and more on topics relating to a variety of international and societal problems.

The turmoil of the refugee crisis is bringing up the question whether a European identity exists, as many nationalists in countries all around Europe claim that the refugees are not ‘compatible’ with the European identity. As essentialist markers of identity used to describe nations, do not apply to the multiplicity that is Europe, we would propose to look at European identity through the framework of values. The workshop invites everyone to visualize what being European means to them.

Immigration policies in Western EU countries usually require some proof of ‘culturalization of citizenship’, or adhering to the values that are considered key to the country’s ideals. Cultural norms and values are identified as prerequisites of citizenship. As nation-states’ politicians and the elite have always employed narratives in order to form and mobilize a particular national identity, it is not surprising that now it is set up in a transnational level. If one wants to identify with the European community, he or she (should) share common values and criteria for judgment. Under the notion of ‘Human Rights’, this kind of value framework is spreading throughout the rest of the world as well. These value frameworks, presented as universal, do not even include people geographically located in Europe, with the example of Ukraine’s struggle to become ‘more European’. The process of establishing identity is always tied to the establishment of borders: whenever we talk about borders, we talk about the establishment of boundaries between one identity and another, of dividing people into ‘Us’ and the ‘Other’.

Establishing values which encompass European identity might not be the right path in creating a society without borders. However, with this workshop we propose to ask the ordinary Europeans to construct what it means to be European for them, challenging the power hierarchy of identity construction, and looking for an authentic and real image of the European.

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