Mika Launikari


A few thoughts about identity

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I just finished reading the book entitled Identity written by the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. He explores the notion of identity in our liquid modern times and discusses how our professional, cultural, religious, sexual and socio-political identities are in a continuous and never-ending process of transformation. Identity, as Professor Bauman explains, is by its very nature deeply elusive and ambivalent. I imagine that for most of us it is easy to agree with his notion of identity.

The other day I had a look into how the European Commission is collecting data on the public opinion on the sense of European citizenship and identity across the 28 EU Member States and the candidate countries. The Commission is interested in knowing, if Europeans primarily see themselves as European citizens or rather define themselves by their nationality.

For research purposes the Commission uses the so-called Moreno question in its Eurobarometer survey on citizenship and identity: “Do you in the near future see yourself as (nationality) only, (nationality) and European, European and (nationality) or European only?”. The most recent Standard Eurobarometer survey (N:o 77, 2012) on European citizenship revealed that overall an increased majority of Europeans define themselves by their nationality and as Europeans (49 %). In the light of this Eurobarometer survey the respondents most attached to the European Union are in Luxembourg (72%), Poland (60%) and Belgium (58%), whereas the least attached can be found in the United Kingdom (27%), Finland (33%) and Cyprus (33%).

As many researchers say, a European identity, if such an identity exists, is to be regarded as work in progress. This in mind, also the EU and national policymakers acknowledge that a European citizenship contributes to a feeling of belonging to a community shared by more than 500 million people. I believe myself that in the long run, despite the fact that there will always be national differences across Europe (which is only a positive thing), a European identity can become something that really unites us Europeans.