What does it mean to be European?

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For Americans (and others), “Europe” is now the EU. Excuse me, the EU is Europe. There is a difference there. All of Europe is clearly not in the European Union; depending on how you slice it, the continent of Europe contains 50 countries but the EU is comprised of 27 member states. So no, “Europe” is not the EU. Rather, to those outside it, European Union has finally accomplished what was long accepted as true: it has solidified the European brand.

What do Americans think it means to be European? Let’s consult that bastion of cultural reflection, television. Europeans are typecast into a limited set of roles. We have the smooth but slyly evil businessman, the temptress, and the bohemian. Their accents draw us in but simultaneously make us distrust them. They have style, but it’s always a little too much: a silky pocket square that seems just slightly too expensive and too perfectly matched to the tie; a dress that fits perfectly but plunges just a little too low in the back, stubble and long hair that denote carelessness and inattention but are obviously attended to religiously. They have indistinct accents that are impossible to place geographically and they all have that je ne sais quoi, that mystery that Americans attribute to all Europeans but that in the end is never preferable to our comparatively simple selves. They have no particular tie to their home country – which isn’t always specified – but they are always very connected to Europe. The European dreamed up by American television is a brand: a loose cosmopolitan who eats rich food, enjoys expensive wine, but is perpetually thin without trying. This is the Little Debbie version of the European. Enjoy its creamy filling while ignoring its carcinogens.

What Europeans think it means to be European is much more unstable, much more transient. The EU may have created a ‘borderless Europe’ (for its member states) but actual Europeans are much more connected to the country of their birth than to their continent In fact, many of them see the EU, which is often characterized as “Europe,” as an encroachment on national sovereignty. They only identify themselves as Europeans when there is a palpable threat from without: Tunisian and Libyan migrants, Turkey’s possible accession to the EU. They coat nationalism chauvinism in the sweeter sauce of being European. When interviewed by NPR about the droves of Tunisian migrants rejected by France and sent back to Italy through her town, an elderly woman characterized the migrants as violent without specifically calling them so – “There are so many Tunisians here, there so many other people here, it is becoming more and more aggressive,” she says. but actual Europeans are much more connected to the country of their birth than to their continent“Myself — I don’t go out at night, I am afraid.” She is then quick to cloak herself in the hazy identity of the European: “Like many other people here, the woman won’t give her name for fear of reprisals, but she says she is Greek-born, with a British passport, living in France and calls herself European.” (Emphasis mine) Whose reprisals does she fear, exactly? Do the Tunisian migrants fear NPR? Will they hunt her down and break into her home? That is doubtful. But claiming fear is another very effective way of making the migrants the frightening “others,” and retreating within the gentler, cocoon of Europe, a continent that has won itself a reputation for rejecting violence and embracing pacifism (even though violence and armed conflict did not actually disappear after WWII). She is inciting hatred by using the brand of Europe to paint herself as the good guy.

Outside of a geographical definition, there is no accepted measure of what is a European. There is a European brand that is characterized by useful buzzwords like “stylish,” “cosmopolitan,” “diverse,” “educated,” etc. This brand implies that while those to whom it applies may be self-obsessed, metrosexual snobs, they are not people who would irrationally hate others. It’s a pliable brand that everyone, including Europeans themselves, use liberally when it suits them. The woman in Menton who calls herself a European would suddenly become firmly British if suddenly France were to try to impose exorbitant tariffs on British goods (an act that EU law prohibits), staunchly Greek if the ECB were to urge Greece to impose even stricter austerity measures, and irrevocably French if there were tensions between France and Italy that did not involve the greater looming threat of African migrants. But as long as the colored, non Christians threaten to invade her sense of cultural security, she will be a European.
 

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40 Responses to What does it mean to be European?

  1. I am European, so I mean it as a real question: Isn’t the same true for people from the different parts of America? Do not people from New York, San Francisco, Alabama or Texas do the same flip-flopping between identifications?

    • ginghamcloud says:

      I think they do, but the implications are different. The borders of European nation-states have been and continue to be subject to controversy. Tensions between states persist and in many ways are on the rise and these tensions are steeped in centuries of history. So when a citizen of Slovakia identifies as European as opposed to Slovakian, he is somehow looking past a list of grievances against, say, that runs back centuries.

      There is state rivalry in the US for sure, but it seems more playful. It is impossible for us to conceive of serious conflict developing between Minnesota and Wisconsin even though citizens of both states deride each other. Furthermore, Americans seem to be able to come together rhetorically for affirmative, not just negative reasons. For example, we are Americans when we walk to find a cure for cancer as well as when we are reeling after 9/11.

      Anyway, these are just some passing thoughts on your question. I’m sure there’s much more to it than this.

      • Guy Fox says:

        Interesting choice of example for unsettled borders: Slovakia, one half of the Velvet Divorce, perhaps the most consensual secession in history. There is still plenty of identity politics, e.g. with the Hungarian/Roma minorities, but territorial disputes are confined to the backwards parts of Europe: the Balkans. Wait! Germany’s charging back into Alscace! No, sorry, that was just another EU parliamentarian in an Audi.

        Your superficial stereotypes betray your deeper ones.

        • boeotarch says:

          I know some educated Serbs and Bosniaks who’d take offense at that “backwards” part. France and Germany have only stopped beefing over Alsace since ’45. Whatever stability they’ve got compared to the Balkans now comes down to the fact that the USSR imploded, NATO held together, and Yugoslavia’s economy tanked.

  2. cat says:

    I liked this post, so I hope you write more.

    When you describe “European” it sounds like you are describing “Western European”, or perhaps more specifically north-west European, or the imagined Europe of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Would poorer Spain or Portugal fit into that definition? Could Eat, Pray, Love have been set in Belarus? (Eastern Europe has its own brand.)

    “Europe” is a concept for Americans the way America is a concept for, well, Europeans. We see America mediated through Hollywood and TV shows. Is it real?

    A slight problem with your last paragraph…
    You say that the woman interviewed on NPR would adopt different identities depending on external circumstances, that she would be Greek, British or French – maybe she would, maybe she would not behave this way at all – since she was not asked we have no idea what she would do. It’s just a convenient way of proving your idea that “Europeans” switch identities fluidly.

  3. Supastaru says:

    First of all I think a disclosure is in order: I’m a student from Romania during a year abroad in France with a room in an international dorm.

    1. Saying Europe contains 50 countries and the EU only 27 is a little deceiving because of the micro-states (or just really really small states) and Western Asia. Would you casually say that the continent of North America contains 23 countries?

    2. The only times I’ve encountered the word “european” (as a noun) in a conversation was when I was talking to americans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing or insinuating anything; it’s just a matter of perception. Europeans between them rarely, if ever, use “european” in matters of identity. The conclusion of the study you quoted is so obvious it leaves me wondering why they even ordered it in the first place (bureaucratic waste of money anyone?).

    3 In the interview, it’s not only talking about the “colored non-christians” that triggered the woman’s declaration, but also the fact that she was talking to NPR.

  4. Pastabagel says:

    I also liked this post. As for American identities, it has really settled on east coast, west coast, Southern, and everywhere else. There are decidedly East Coast/New York attitudes that are distinct from West Coast ones, which are in turn different from Southern ones. And as for self-identification, a New Yorker will be sure to let you know they are a New Yorker, much like a Southerner will let you know they are from the South.

    But mostly these amount to variations on top of a homogenized national identity. Europeans are fond of saying there is no American culture, which is a back-handed way of saying they don’t like the global dominance of American popular culture.

    One thing that I found striking about what you wrote was the description of Tunisians in Europe as Tunisians. The immigration problem is Europe, if I understand it correctly, is that there are too many legal immigrants from North Africa and elsewhere in the heart of Continental Europe. But what is the threat, that they will alter the European character of the countries they inhabit?

    The situation would be different here: in America, a legal immigrant, even one who is not a citizen is labelled immediately as an American. They might be referred to as “Mexican” or “Korean,” but that is more an identification of origin or ethnic ancestry, not so much an identity. The immigration problem in the US is one of illegal immigration, and it is the illegal status that renders their identity as “Mexican” or whatever rather than American.

    I think a major part of what makes this heterogeneity possible and unremarkable is the general lack of social welfare programs. Anyone who comes here is here to work. And generally that means working a lot and also very hard precisely because their is no safety net. And people who work are forced to engage with anyone and everyone, they have to take other people as they are because your relationship to them is one of business. Everybody tries to find a way to work with everyone else because in the end, everyone’s money is the same.

    Without a safety net, you learn very quickly how the system works, how to navigate and negotiate your way through, how you are expected to behave to be successful within it, and how you can assume others will behave of the same reasons. I think this is way prevents ethnic balkanization on a large scale in the US, Little Italys and Chinatowns aside.

    I also think large scale socialization of the european style in the US would have the same result it is having in Europe. The creation of enclaves, and ethnic tension.

    • philtrum says:

      I don’t think this is necessarily true. Canada, though not socialized on the level of some European nations, has a more generous safety net than the U.S., and that is after cuts. But I do not think Canadians are generally more hostile to immigrants than Americans are, as your hypothesis would suggest we should be.

      And America does have an underclass that is strongly resented for supposedly being dependent on welfare, unwilling to work, criminal etc.; it’s just that that underclass is widely imagined as primarily native-born and black, rather than immigrant.

      I would hypothesize that what really makes the difference is that Canada and the U.S. are settler states.

    • CubaLibre says:

      “The situation would be different here: in America, a legal immigrant, even one who is not a citizen is labelled immediately as an American. They might be referred to as “Mexican” or “Korean,” but that is more an identification of origin or ethnic ancestry, not so much an identity. The immigration problem in the US is one of illegal immigration, and it is the illegal status that renders their identity as “Mexican” or whatever rather than American.”

      No, the problem is the same. The legal/illegal distinction is irrelevant: we could make all illegal immigrants into legal immigrants with the stroke of a pen. The question is, why won’t we make all those illegal immigrants legal? Well, reference any “amnesty” debate. We don’t want to make them legal because then we’d have to deal with them as a legitimate part of our society, which means dealing with questions of integration and strain on social services and taxes and and and. Cultural assimilation. The same issues that Europeans have with immigrants.

      • JohnJ says:

        That’s a misrepresentation. Opposition to amnesty is based on the same reasoning as the opposition to illegal immigration in general. For example, we could pardon all thieves, or murderers, or rapists, but we don’t. And not because we don’t want to deal with them as a legitimate part of society. We don’t pardon criminals in general because doing so undermines the law.

        • CubaLibre says:

          We don’t pardon all thieves and murderers because thieving and murdering is substantively bad. There’s no reason to restrict any immigration unless some kind of immigration is substantively bad. What’s bad about people immigrating? Overpopulation? Ever been to Wyoming? What’s “bad” about it is the issues I listed, i.e. the same issues that concern Europeans.

          • JohnJ says:

            Illegal immigration is substantively bad. That’s why we don’t pardon them. Immigration is not substantively bad, therefore it’s not illegal and we don’t have to pardon them.

          • boeotarch says:

            @JohnJ: Most of these people immigrate illegally because legal immigration has huge costs in money and time, and can be denied at any time, for any reason, on the whim of an overworked bureaucrat. When you’re immigrating to avoid starvation and/or getting your head chopped off by a cartel, I’d say putting up unreasonable barriers to their safe entry is what’s substantively bad.

            I’m gonna put this in conservo-terms. The American Revolution was illegal. Substantively bad?

          • philtrum says:

            By “substantively bad” I think these other commenters mean something besides “illegal.” I know not everyone embraces the harm principle or theories of universal justice when talking about law, but from the perspective of someone for whom “respect for the law” isn’t an automatic good, what practical bad effects does illegal immigration have?

            And does the current system of detention, deportation, etc., deal effectively with the bad things? Just in general, I’d say a law that doesn’t do what it was created to do is a bad law.

          • JohnJ says:

            The practical bad effect of illegal immigration is the same as that of someone breaking into your house uninvited. If you don’t believe illegal immigration is inherently bad, prove it by posting your personal address.

            Of course, people already know this. I mean, it’s obvious. I don’t for one second believe that people in favor of illegal immigration don’t understand that it’s wrong. They know. They just don’t care.

          • philtrum says:

            The practical bad effect of illegal immigration is the same as that of someone breaking into your house uninvited.

            It’s really not, unless you figure that every square foot of land in America (or wherever) is the government’s personal private domain.

            When I see a stranger walking around in the literal public square in my city, I don’t know whether that person is a Canadian citizen, a tourist, a legal or illegal immigrant. Most of the time I don’t need to know. I have no expectation of privacy in public space, I don’t keep my valuables there, so it’s really not analogous to my home.

            This is not to say illegal immigration doesn’t have bad effects, just that as far as I’m concerned that isn’t one of them.

          • philtrum says:

            If you don’t believe illegal immigration is inherently bad, prove it by posting your personal address.

            And seriously, do you feel that proprietary towards the entire United States? Including the uninhabited parts, the parts you’ve never visited, the parts you don’t like (if any)? Is someone going to bust in and steal the Grand Canyon?

          • JohnJ says:

            No, it’s not the government’s, but it is collectively owned by the citizens, and it is all governed by United States law, which prohibits illegal immigration.

            If I break into your house, it doesn’t matter if I steal anything or not. I’ve done something wrong merely by the act of breaking in.

            Now I am in favor of expanding legal immigration just as soon as we can get some real limits on federal welfare expenditures.

          • philtrum says:

            it is all governed by United States law, which prohibits illegal immigration.

            That’s a tautology. And I find it interesting that you consider government policies that you approve of (about which you were presumably not personally consulted) to be the collective will of the American people, but not government policies you disapprove of (welfare).

            Anyway, I am terribly literal-minded: I don’t expect to encounter strangers in my home. I do expect to encounter strangers on the public highways. What is the specific harm to me of encountering a stranger who lacks the correct papers, in a place where I expect to encounter strangers anyway?

            Again, I am not saying there is no harm in illegal immigration. I am saying I don’t believe in this specific harm.

          • JohnJ says:

            What is the harm to you in merely encountering a stranger in your own home?

            But how do you get this? And I find it interesting that you consider government policies that you approve of (about which you were presumably not personally consulted) to be the collective will of the American people, but not government policies you disapprove of (welfare).

            I hardly know where to begin. First, law in the US is not based on collective will. Second, something can be owned collectively without being governed by the collective will. Third, I specifically said that I was in favor of expanding immigration. I have no problem disagreeing with the law or the collective will when either are wrong. I do it all the time, in fact. Fourth, I’d wager that you also think there should be some measure of respect even for laws with which you disagree, but maybe not so much for the really bad laws (like slavery). Fifth, well… I guess it was just four, actually. It’s too late to take this sentence back because I already hit “Post”.

          • philtrum says:

            Third, I specifically said that I was in favor of expanding immigration

            But only if welfare programs are cut back.

            The difference is: I have a reasonable expectation that I will not encounter strangers in my home. I have no reasonable expectation that I will not encounter strangers on the street outside my home. There are at least 34 million people who have a legal right to be on that street — many more if you include people with work, school, and tourist visas. I cannot tell, by sight or behaviour, whether a person on that street is one of the millions of strangers who have a right to be there.

            I just see no point in such passionate defenses of the exclusivity of a club with 34 million, or 300 million, members. Certainly not to the hyperbolic extent you describe, wherein sharing a city street with someone who doesn’t have a visa is somehow the same thing as discovering an uninvited stranger in your bed.

            Anyway, there are other arguments against illegal immigration: it drives down labour cost for the poorest workers, that sort of thing. Why are you so stuck on this single argument?

          • JohnJ says:

            And I have a reasonable expectation that I will not encounter an illegal immigrant in America. But what does that have to do with anything. It’s not our expectations that are at issue. It what the person breaking in is doing. If someone breaks into your house and leaves before you get back, haven’t they still done something wrong?

            And do you think that every country in the world that has an immigration policy is doing it wrong? Maybe you should ask why every single country has one before demanding that America be the first to abolish ours.

          • JohnJ says:

            Just to be absolutely clear, the reason for the exclusivity is because of the welfare. It’s simple economics. The more welfare, the more exclusive the government must be in order to maintain its accounts. Less welfare=less exclusivity. Any reasonable advocate of expanding immigration (like me!) should also advocate reducing welfare. Reducing welfare makes expanding immigration possible. I want more people to experience the joy of our freedom. Most immigrants do simply want the opportunity to make better lives for themselves. I just don’t want the welfare state to allow the few who don’t fit into that category to ruin it for everyone.

          • philtrum says:

            It’s not our expectations that are at issue. It what the person breaking in is doing.

            I’m sure you’ve read your tort law, legislation, etc. What a reasonable person would do or expect is very much an issue.

            If someone breaks into your house and leaves before you get back, haven’t they still done something wrong?

            I do not accept your basic contention that entire regions, including spaces deemed “public” where millions of people come and go at all hours of the day, can be meaningfully treated as private property.

            Maybe you should ask why every single country has one before demanding that America be the first to abolish ours.

            1) I’m Canadian. I live in Canada. Every example I’ve used from my life has been from Canada.

            2) I never said America should abolish its immigration policy. I simply asked what was substantively bad about illegal immigration and then disputed the one and only answer you gave me.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            And I have a reasonable expectation that I will not encounter an illegal immigrant in America.

            That’s almost as ridiculous as pretending that the public sphere is the same as a house.
            Do you have a reasonable expectation that you will not encounter a pothead in America? What about someone that cheats on their taxes or who is a car thief?

            Other than the fact that the basis for your metaphor is so silly that I’m wondering if this is an argumentative exercise for you, it’s also inaccurate. Even if we pretend that “citizens of the u.s.” are the ones who are the true owners of our public spaces (really? how come I can still get fined for camping somewhere that I shouldn’t or defacing a national monument? Shouldn’t my stake in Whereverville national park be laid against the damage I’ve done to other shareholders?) you’re forgetting who’s inviting these folks in in the first place.

            If we accept that America is our “house” (although I have an issue with whoever chose most of this decor), then we have to consider who gave these folks the idea to come into our house (as opposed to any other). While our freedom is pretty sweet, the people who came for that come as refugees. Some of them stay past their visas or otherwise break the rules, the number is smaller and less people are arguing about them.

            We’re talking about the people who came for money, who were actually invited in for selfish reasons.

            Then, the prosecution of illegal immigrants is like throwing your daughter’s long-haired boyfriend (undocumented laborers) in jail for trespassing when he’s been tacitly permitted to sneak into your house since you moved in. (You’re not totally at fault; you don’t like him (he sneaks around!), plus, it’s starting to look like this isn’t a fling to get perspective: she really might not marry crew cut. And what if he gets her pregnant?!)

            Plus, now, the crew cut (american workforce) from down the street (who dad liked because he played football, but who she dropped, because he grew entitled and took advantage) is cranky because he’s not getting laid.

            We can be all pissed if we want to, break them up, demand she go back to her old crew-cut boyfriend, but I don’t know how well it’ll work. Especially because dad’s been looking the other way for so long, and she knows it’s mostly about the earring (accent) anyway. Also, busting the kid doesn’t quite seem fair– he was invited in, though it wasn’t by Dad (american citizenry) (maybe even under the specific prohibition of the homeowner (U.S. law)). Not to mention, you know how baby girl gets when she’s not getting laid. All (economically) depressed and (ass) inflated.

            While illegal immigration poses a lot of problems, it’s not inherently bad, the same way that jaywalking isn’t inherently bad. The rule is there for a reason; to keep order and to discourage extreme negative outcomes. But simply breaking it doesn’t make you a bad person.

    • Dirk Anger says:

      “The situation would be different here: in America, a legal immigrant, even one who is not a citizen is labelled immediately as an American.”

      Are you sure that’s always so? Obviously I’ve haven’t met many Americans, but I’ve met a bunch of Hispanic ones, and, even not being immigrants, they found really funny that we referred to them as Americans. They said that, even being citizens (and not even being immigrants, those were their parents), nobody referred to them as Americans back home, just like Mexicans or Puertoricans or wherever their parents came from.

  5. Comus says:

    Thank you for this interesting post. I’ve been reading through the results of the eurobarometer, and the answers often appear to follow the inner divides of Europe. This of course makes perfect sense. The northern welfare states can afford to value individual freedom, ecology etc. more, The southern east European countries value more immediate basic needs. I have a quaint feeling this could be driven through the Maslow looking glass. (even though there are some quite interesting differences, like the differences of perceived state interference between Sweden and Finland [high vs. low, repectively]).

    Still I am a bit more pessimistic of the European brand and it’s contents within Europe. The economic crisis following the Wall Street crash has done it’s fare share of damage to the e pluribus unum -ideology. There has been a nationalistic surge in the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany etc. This has been more visible in traditionally European states, possibly due to the idea of bailing out less well off countries (or, more appropriately banks and investors in those countries).

    The NPR interviewed woman is quite a selected informant on pan-europeism, as she herself is an immigrant within Europe. Of course she has acquired an european identity, that carries several positive connotations, and dissects her from other immigrants in a positive fashion. (even though I am a bit sceptical with spesific sentences with no references in a somewhat ideologically driven article) . I wonder whether we would have had similar comment from a native french farmer or a british pub lord?

    Now, if we perceive the brand “european” as a positive thing, that is mostly used when in contact with people from other continents (as people within Europe rarely use the term, even in spesifically pan-european setting), why is there a need to differentiate from that term via nationalism? It appears to be a struggle of brands. The financial crises of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Iceland and Spain have roughed up the image, and for the old Europe the inclusion of eastern european states, and now possibly Turkey has been a semantic disaster. We want to be European, but in a way that better suits us. I’m quite sure terms like Northern European, Northwest European, Scandinavic and several national identifications will see a rise in usage. It is all about identification and perception. The European -brand has been tainted and will break into fractions. the difference is similar to saying that I drive a european car vs. I drive an Audi.

    Now this in my view is an utter catastrophe. I do not wish to dismantle the umbrella-term of europeanism. I believe there should be solidarity btetween European countries, not self-interested barricading to ones respective corners.

    Oh, and of the three brands of european the author proposed, those are have their roots in national stereotypes within Europe. I’ll be the bohemian then, thank you.

  6. Two anecdotes:

    Craig Ferguson almost always refers to himself as “European” as often as “Scottish.” It seems wrong to my ears, even though I know it’s not. It sounds to me like artificial branding.

    In America, most people consider themselves “Americans” with the possible exception of Texans, who really do think of themselves equally Texan and American.

    Most Europeans do consider themselves whatever they are by heritage (parents) and then by birth country. But it takes a crisis to really show your true allegiances, and it remains to be seen if Greeks will become more Greek and Germans more German and everyone more anti- north african.

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      Living abroad and regularly interacting with ex-pats from other English speaking countries (primarily the UK, Ireland, Canada, and South Africa, as well as tons of Korean folks), I also find it interesting that the people I’ve met are more concerned with where I’m from in the States, rather than that I’m from the States.

      In seperate instances, many people from each of these different places have said that they find it really annoying when they ask someone where they’re from, and they say “America/the U.S.” without another, more specific descriptor.
      Their attitude is “Well, duh, you’re Amercian, I’ve heard you speak. But where are you really from?”

      I’d love to know what the extra geographical infromation tells them.

      • sm says:

        I’m looking at location of where person grow up as a shaping context. American gives a little information mostly boring – money as a moral value, speaks certain kind of english (well, duh :) ), pretend tolerance to difference, sensitivity to body odor, cosmetic dentistry, driving as a transportation. Not really interesting cultural details, stories. What are American stories? Who are American heroes?

  7. ginghamcloud says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I’d love to respond to all of your comments, but for the moment I’m very concerned by the fact that I appear to have lost my grip over basic html. Lots of glitches there, especially with the links. Embarrassing! I apologize for that. If I write more, I’ll try to not let that happen again.

  8. BluegrassJack says:

    Didn’t the creators of the EU try to bind the separate nations into a united states of Europe? To an American, that never seemed an achievable goal, because the separate nations had too many and significant differences in culture, history, language, ethnicity, to actually be united in a meaningful and functional way.

    As someone above correctly says, Canada and the US are settler countries, while European nations are settled countries having much less internal flexibility or willingness to be flexible.

  9. JohnJ says:

    Just to throw it out there, Canada and America have a federal system, which the EU is trying to emulate.

  10. BluegrassJack says:

    Germany and I believe Brazil also have a federal republic type of government. Such a system prevents a central government from holding ultimate power and allows regional power to exist. With only Germany in Europe having that status, the hopes for a united Europe appear unachievable.

    • Dirk Anger says:

      That’s not true, Switzerland is also a confederation (its official name is Helvetic Confederation). Spain is also sort of a confederation but everyone is very careful not to use that word because it would be very inflammatory for historical reasons.

      Anyway, I don’t see why do you think that makes a united Europe unachievable. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of reasons why it seems so, but I really don’t see how that’s one of them

      • BluegrassJack says:

        Let’s see. The confederations and federal republics have governments where power is divided between central governments and regional ones. Neither is actually supreme. When government power is shared – by law – all citizens feel equally empowered to some degree.

        Example: US federal government has authority in certain specific roles. National border security is one. Democrats and Republicans in Congress both hope illegal aliens from Mexico living and working in the US will become voters for their respective political parties, when such aliens are granted citizenship (hopefully never say I). Congress essentially ignores droves of illegal aliens entering US thru southern border.

        Arizona – one state of 50 – enacted legislation – for only Arizona which borders Mexico – to restrict illegal alien inflow. US government said you can’t do that, because it’s our responsibility. Arizona said “we’re doing it, because you’re not doing it”. The case is now in the courts.

        Final outcome: unknown. Government power shared is democratic government power.

        • Dirk Anger says:

          I do understand why federal governments are more democratic, what I don’t understand is why “only” Germany having that kind of government means Europe will never be united. (I insist: it’s not the only one, while not being federations, some European countries have a high autonomy for their regional governments)

          • BluegrassJack says:

            In the US, Germany is often called, “the strong man in Europe”. That impression may or may not be true, but it is one that many Americans hold. The 50 US states are alike enough that they are willing to tolerate a federal government with specific enumerated duties.

            European nations other than Germany, Switzerland, and a few others have significant internal squabbles (language, culture, history, ethnicity, political system, acceptance of free market economy/top-down market). Unification of those individual national identities appears unlikely to me. Again, I may well be wrong. I hope I am wrong.

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