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Does the European Union need a collective identity?

Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski
University of Leipzig
Viktoria Kaina
FernUniversität in Hagen
Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski
University of Leipzig
Open Panel

Abstract

During the recent years there has been a surge of publications on ‘European identity’. Nevertheless, our knowledge about collective identity building at the supranational level is still quite limited. This unsatisfying state of affairs is mainly caused by two problems. On the one hand, research on European collective identity grapples with inconsistent evidence, contradictory conclusions and controversial diagnoses. On the other hand, scholars widely disagree whether the European Union does even need a collective identity to successfully sustain the European unification process. Against this background, our paper analyses the need for a European collective identity, entrenched in the Europeans’ consciousness of sharing a common fate. The paper comprises three main parts. First, we will discuss several conceptual challenges, in particular, the two-level-problem in analyzing collective identities. Taking up the insights of these considerations, the second part will discuss various functions of collective identities including the function of legitimating political rule. In the third part, we will shed some light on the challenges the EU is facing concerning its internal identity making, that is, the goal to construct and revitalize a resilient ‘imagined community’. Summing up, we will give an answer to the paper’s main question.