Can Europe Make It?

Europe is anthropologically interesting, but lacks awareness

Karl Littlejohn
17 January 2014

I am currently reading an MA in Black Sea Studies at the International Hellenic University in Greece, because I have always been fascinated by the Balkans and Eastern Europe. But more than my research, Greece’s very culture, history and language have offered me a complete life package in a culturally dynamic country.

Having studied Maltese and Mediterranean history at the University of Malta, new themes have become important for me, relating to identity, the Mediterranean, 20th century politics and International affairs. This has given me a new sense of obligation as a European citizen, to write on subjects that many of my fellow Europeans must feel are either unquestioned or else unanswered.

First of these is the highly debatable concept of European identity. It seems to me that identity is not something that can be established in constitutions, treaties, and laws. Being part of Europe, or a ‘citizen’ of it, must be part of one’s individual or collective consciousness. Countries currently in the EU were already European from way before. Greece did not become more European from 1981, Malta and Cyprus did not become more European in 2004.

The notion of being ‘European’ is clinched in one’s territorial belonging, social cohesion, language and culture. However, there is no fixed identity. The significant difference lies between an identity that changes because it is destroyed through cultural replacement, or else, one that changes through a cultural continuity.  Identity is indeed a complex subject.

The European Union in its beginnings set out to secure peace and prosperity in a continent that was always torn apart by wars and conflicts. Europe is also the physical continent, the smallest continent on Earth, yet the most linguistically and culturally diverse. This is what makes Europe interesting anthropologically, with its discrepancies from region to region, dialects and customs. For example, I come from the tiniest and the southernmost territory of Europe: Malta. The Maltese language is mainly of old Semitic origin, written in Latin alphabet and has heavy grammatical influences from Italian and minor inputs from English.

There are issues which I sincerely believe must be tackled or tackled in a different way in the EU. I must confess that I am not a person who puts massive trust in institutions, believing instead that either political or social change must come from the people and not vice-versa.

So it follows that people through their individual abilities, should contribute to resolving issues collectively. There is one main problem in Europe in my opinion: lack of consciousness within Europeans. This is not a question that can be institutionalized and legislated for. Better education policies are key.

To genuinely understand the problems of economic recession, mass immigration, environmental destruction, an absurd political class, injustices and overall degradation, consciousness and awareness and a sense of belonging to a wider community must be restored to Europeans.

I would like to address these issues in my upcoming blogs in a contemporary European context for the preparation of the European Parliament elections this May.

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Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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