Europe : where are its cultural borders?

F.J.M.G. Helmond, van, J.M. Ulijn

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In this essay it is stated that Europe fundamen tally is a cultural phenomenon: an idealistic image of European community and identity. Which implicates that Europe is far from perfect and completed. Europe is a destiny as well as a wish -dream. 0.1 On the every-day surface the image of the unification of Europe is that of a strange jumping procession, a fatiguing going forwards and backwards, a critical compromise among the national states that primarily aim at their own political sovereignty and their own economic interest. In the meantime however nobody can doubt in earnest that the compromise is irreversible. Exactly that laborious progress of the European project refers to a deeper level of unity or integration. The compromise is proof that the European unity is unthinkable and impossible without a common desire, a propelling ideal. If the European unity was not fundamentally a cultural or mental unity the project of Europe would have failed a long time ago. The unity of Europe is neither a geographical nor a political reality, but a profound, imaginative, subconscious and exactly as such all the more a reality: a common identity and a binding ideal, in short one culture. 0.2 The unity of Europe is not a new invention but the re-invention of an historical reality dating from centuries before the inventi on of the nation states. The 19th century nation states work as a blockade for the process of European integration on the fundamental basis of cultural unity (not on the basis of geographical or geo -political outside or inside frontiers). The European Union as a cultural phenomenon is not a new state, on the contrary: Europe is a re -conquest from the modern national ‘villain state’ Europe is not a unitary state, but a cultural, a moral unity. Europe is a unity in ‘post -modern’ form: it is an absolute political novelty and unparalleled in political history. 0.3 If ever the integration of Europe, today and in the future, is concretely visible and comes into being, then it will be in the cities, the urban regions and in their mutual relationships. The relationships between cities in Europe cross the national frontiers. Both the European superstructure (culture) and the substructure (economy and technology) are located in the cities. 0.4 The post-war prosperity, the economic power and the social -cultural quality of life in western Europe owe their existence to what is called: the Welfare State or the Rhineland model. The European welfare state model is the basis and the success formula of the European social - economic growth and prosperity thanks to a relatively high labour-participation, controlled development of the cost of labour and a relatively calm and reliable labour climate through social security. 0.5 As a cultural entity Europe has originated in the course of thousands of years from subsequent migratio ns of nations, from the import and integration of the most diverse cultural influences. Europe stands no chance on a leading position in the world as the power of the strongest, but as founded on solidarity with the weakest. Europe is not an impregnable fo rtress, but a social-economic home for all living there. Originally Europe is a multi -cultural reality. The power of Europe lies in her cultural diversity. The harmony among the European nations is more fundamental than the contrasts. 0.6 It will be a matter of (re)invention or creation of open forms of democratic co -existence, in old and new connections, not frightening but on the contrary enriching or – in perhaps a more realistic sound – necessary, inevitable in view of the new global processes of mobility, 6 communication and migration. In this perspective, new, greater political entities such as Europe are the only possible guarantee for the maintenance of cultural identity and diversity, just because greater entities like Europe have been built up from smaller, older and much stronger entities than the nation state, rooted as they are in history and national character. In this connection the importance of the European cities and urban regions must be emphasized once more. The European unification and the ambition of ‘old’ population groups for acknowledgement of their own identity and a certain degree of independence are the reverse sides of one and the same process. A European Union, whichever way it turns, will be a Europe of the nations (peoples) inste ad of the states. 0.7 The ‘undercurrent’ where the unity of Europe develops itself in a concrete way is a cultural subconscious process that consciously, at least visibly moves in the field of economy and technology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Global Jean Monnet / ECSA-World Conference 2010, 25-26 May, 2010, Brussels, Belgium
Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
PublisherEuropean Commission of Education and Culture DG
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Eventconference; Global Jean Monnet / ECSA-World Conference 2010; 2010-05-25; 2010-05-26 -
Duration: 25 May 201026 May 2010


Conferenceconference; Global Jean Monnet / ECSA-World Conference 2010; 2010-05-25; 2010-05-26
OtherGlobal Jean Monnet / ECSA-World Conference 2010


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