I am very pleased about the development below, One increasingly sees it if they -like me- travel often on those cheap flights. You see all sorts of interesting people that work and play around Europe. I think as an aging continent the EU has politics dominated by the older generations brought up under rather nationalistic times. The young have a more regional outlook. Its news like that that make me hopeful about the future, because this will start filtering through to politics.
Feeling of 'Europeanness' on the rise, study says
23.10.2006 - 09:28 CET | By Mark Beunderman
Despite gloomy analyses over the EU's failure to connect to its citizens, Europe's younger generations are increasingly feeling "European" next to their national identities, according to a new study.
In an article in the journal Science, published last Friday (20 October), a team of Austrian sociologists found that older generations of citizens who only feel attachment to their nation – not to "Europe" - are dying out.
The sociologists studied the European Commission's Eurobarometer studies from 1996 to 2004, which contain the question whether respondents feel, for example, only Italian; Italian and European; European and Italian; or only European.
The answers of all respondents who said they had at least a partial sense of "Europeanness" where grouped under the heading of "multiple identities" – and revealed that this group is on the rise while those who feel they only have a national identity are on the decline.
In 2004, 58 percent of those surveyed had some sense of feeling European, a number which is set to rise to 68.5 percent by 2030 if the current trend continues, according to the study.
Media and student exchanges
"We show that the younger generations ... of Europeans are more likely to have a European identity in addition to their national one. And since the younger citizens will eventually replace the older, more nationally-oriented ones, the European demos will likely change accordingly," the authors say in a statement.
The sociologists said that the Europeanisation trend has a number of causes, including "expanding media impact coming from and reporting about the European level, the increasing free movement of people across European borders either for tourism or work, the increasing number of students in university exchange programmes as well as the fast-growing day-to-day communication across borders."
But they emphasized that the inclination to feel more European does not come at the expense of national identity.
"Contrary to common belief, the development of a European identity does not have to be accompanied by the decline of a national identity," they said.
But the results of the Austrian study may not boost the cause of the European Commission and MEPs who are seeking to re-connect to citizens, as the study only covers the period up until 2004.
After that year, the union saw two failed referenda on the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands as well as increasing public hostility to further enlargement of the union.
Perhaps more importantly, the study presents only a partial picture as it only covers the "old" EU of 15 member states before enlargement in May 2004.
Within the EU-15, Luxembourgers were the most "European," with a 78 percent average between 1996-2004 admitting they felt at least a partial sense of European identity.
Italians came second at 72 percent, followed by the French (68%) and the Spanish (64%) while at the other end of the scale Swedes (45%), Finns (43%) and Britons (40%) felt less European.