Despite political hiccups, European identity on the rise
More and more EU citizens are likely to include the idea of
‘Europeanness’ in describing their identity. Austrian
demographers studying Eurobarometer (EB) statistics from between
1996 and 2004 found that younger people are more likely than
older generations to claim, at least partially, a ‘European’
identity in addition to their national one. So despite concerns
that the European project has embarked on an irreversible
slide after French and Dutch ‘No’ votes, young
people like the idea of being European.
In their study recently published in the journal Science, researchers
grouped together three different questions from the EB survey
that include ‘European’ as an identity marker along
with national identities. For the purposes of their study, they
labelled this category ‘multiple identities’.
European identity is popular with the kids.
In the 2004 EB, 58 percent of respondents were likely to include
the notion of being European alongside their national identities.
That means that 117 million citizens of the EU-15 above the
age of 18 fall into the ‘multiple identities’ category.
There were some discrepancies between individual countries however.
Luxembourg proved to be home to the most citizens willing to
describe themselves as European, with 78 percent respondent
doing so. Brits were least likely to do so at 40 percent.
Perhaps most surprisingly, France and the Netherlands figured
near the top of the list, with France coming in third out of
the 15. Sixty-eight percent of French and 59 percent of Dutch
respondents claim a European identity to some degree.
Next, the sociologists examined ‘Europeanness’ over
time. Would the young people in the EB surveys continue to feel
European throughout their lifetime, or would their perception
of identity change and come to resemble those of current older
generations more willing to claim a single national identity?
To get at this concept they studied the ‘cohort factor’,
which measures whether or not a generation is likely to see
themselves the same way throughout their lives.
The researchers, through statistical models, were able to confirm the presence of a cohort effect, leading them to conclude that younger people will hold on to their European identity into the future, confirming that European identity is indeed on the rise. As older generations pass away, fewer and fewer proportions of Europeans will think of themselves as having only a single, national identity.
If current trends continue, the researchers estimate that by
2030, 226 million EU citizens will consider ‘European’
as a valid way to describe them along with their ‘(National)’
identity. Those calling themselves European will outnumber those
who don’t 3 to 1.
Another notable point brought out by the study shows that EU
citizens’ decision whether or not to call themselves European
is not influenced by political events. Researchers ran models
taking into account such events as the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties,
as well as the introduction of the Euro. They detected no notable
difference in the figures, again confirming that ‘Europeanness’
is real despite some public scepticism of the European Union.