EUROPEAN IDENTITY IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
The recent global economic crisis reveals besides the economical and social difficulties, even a more profound fact: the fracture between the present globalized political and economical system and the cultural models that defined its very beginnings.
21st century needs a new cultural model able to face not only the globalized world economical and social shocks, but also able to create a hopeful vision towards a future characterized by chaotic developments and incertitude. There is now a historical chance to come up with such a project. For the beginning, it is necessary to subject to a critical revue the two political projects that have represented the engine of the democratic and market economy progress: the United States and the European Union. Both structures, even though sharing common values and principles have also their own distinct identity coming from their different historical situation they had been made within.
The American political project worked as a “melting pot”, where emigrants that had left their European absolutist empires have adopted only one language - English, one new religious doctrine - neo-Protestantism, one economic doctrine – the capitalist market economy and one political system - the representative democracy, all these reunited under the pride of a unique model available for the entire world – the American model.
Its force and the attraction generated towards the rest of world consisted even in this unity and solidarity. The political project of the European Union had been outlined as a new chance at the end of a great historical tragedy that bled the world: World War II. It has been developed after the fall of communism, at the end of another huge historical trauma: the Cold War, as a fortunate opportunity for the countries and people in Central and South Eastern Europe.
The European Union is a political project with its own individual identity. A project that began from the conflict generating diversity during the time of national states, not only that it accepted, but it also promoted the development of national, linguistic, religious and cultural identities. The success of any project is connected to the presence of its resources. Conceived as a unity in diversity, The European Union project was and is an expensive project. It could not have been achieved without the help of the United States.
This help has initially consisted of a substantial economic support through the Marshall Plan and through a military one, within the NATO. The enlargement of the European Union, which integrated within it the countries in the Central and South Eastern Europe, was also preceded by the integration of these countries in the NATO. Thus, the United States took over the protection of the European states security, and also absolved the European states from paying huge expenses for arming. Another canal through which the United States supported the enlargement of the European Union was the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF not only that absolved the European Union from paying the very high costs of the economic consultancy for the post-communist transition, but also took over the resents that people felt for the social costs of the economic reforms. To the people in South Eastern Europe, these seemed as imposed by the IMF and not by the European Union. Nowadays, the European Union, despite its deficit of administrative bureaucracy, works as a harmonious body, where diversity looks like an advantage and not ballast.
From my experience as a geologist, I have learnt while researching big natural petrographic areas, that a system subjected to strong oriented pressures (stress) holds better if it is flexible than rigid. In the present crisis, such a harmonious system can be carried out through an extended partnership EU - USA. Europe can offer possibilities for transferring the pressures, like the case of the dollar-euro binomials, or the opportunities of alternative approaches during some global or regional political crises.
Such structures would solve the problem for a short term, but, on the long run they will not prove efficient if Europe and America do not find the intellectual resources to make a new cultural model for the world to come. Making up the strategies starting from the present policies, and further on, the vision of the future, based on these long term strategies, no matter how sustainable they were, means nothing but moving along towards the future with the back side. On the contrary, if we start from an inspired vision upon the future to the present, we can advance with our front part to the future, noticing in the same time both the obstacles and the dangers.
The present financial crisis distracts our attention from an obvious fact. We pass from a one-pole world that replaced, by the end of the Cold War, the bi-poled world of the East-West opposition, to a multi-poled world. This multi-poled world opens several ways that may seem attractive to the underdeveloped countries, with totalitarian regimes. No model can any more pretend to be a unique solution. As a European intellectual, I am far from thinking that the European Union would be such a unique model, but I can only consider it as a source of inspiration. A critical revue of the European project is all the time necessary.
For instance, we proudly talk about a common European identity, based on shared values. Which are these values defining the European identity? How could be trespassed – without forgetting them – the specific characteristics and even the national limits, on the way towards a common identity?
The answer to these questions lies right inside the European projects, but also in the European anxieties. If we will continue to shape projects without taking into account the inevitable anxieties involved by a political structure of half a billion inhabitants, then we have few chances left to develop a strong and democratic Europe. That is why I believe that the long way towards a European solidarity should start within every nation, local community or even family. Here where we can often notice a lot of the typical contradictions to the North and South or East and West world discrepancies. But this could also be the place where we can find the identity binder of a common ethos. Thus we can better understand the world we live in.
I believe that the Weltanschauung expression, through which the German philosophers understood that every age has its own way to see and understand the world is valid today, too, especially if we see it as a Gestalt der Weltanschauung, where the hole is more than the sum of the parts that compose it. This concept fits best to what politics should be in the knowledge society and in the globalised world of the future: a complex vision upon future, based on a new dialogue about human values.