Scope of Study

The researchers working for the study "Carriers and Symbols of European Culture and Identity" have scrutinized EU mission statements, policies, speeches and descriptions of cultural and language programs in order to get an overview the image of Europe as described by policy makers in official discourse.

In addition to that and in order to find out what effects this "theoretical" statements and descriptions had in practice, they conducted a case study in Istria (Croatia), in which they investigated how people (around 100 interviewees) reacted to discussions about European culture and identity and what their relation to other elements of identification looked like.

2nd Issue, December 2008

Everything Is Fine or Is It?

"Europe: Unity in Diversity" is the EUs slogan. Officially, cultural and
linguistic differences are seen as an advantage and researchers have not found EU policies addressing conflicts, minority questions or problematic history. This idealized picture may contribute to scepticism towards EU.

During the last thirty years, new symbols have been created to foster a sense of belonging to Europe and to fuel economic growth. These include the European passport, drivers licence, anthem, flag, the European statistics, exchanges of students and various cultural initiatives.

However, these symbols have apparently not succeeded in creating emotional bonds to Europe. The study "Carriers and Symbols of European Culture and Identity" suggests that this may be because there is a lack of discussions about conflicts in the EU, about questions on immigration, about the role of English in Europe, about power relations, in short: about the less pleasant aspects of life and politics.


Many identities in Istria
In Istria, a certain number of interviewees expressed the opinion that Istria was closer to Europe than other parts of Croatia. They explained their opinion by saying that Istria shared European values such as order, good manners, respect for laws, multiculturalism, openness to strangers, being diligent and hard working, modest and communicative.

This sense of belonging seems not to be a result of EU initiatives: they are seen as top-down projects with no clear link to reality.


A flattery image of EU, but
Despite the good image of Europe which the interviewees expressed, many of them are concerned about possible (economic) difficulties after entering the EU, based on experiences from other countries. The interviewees like the idea of belonging to Europe (culturally), but show resistance towards some political and economic norms of the EU.The study indicates that identification in Istria (Croatia) is highly complex. In general, people are seen and see themselves as "Istrians". However, this regional identity is only one of the identities which exist in parallel: the local, the regional and the national identity (and others). Depending on both the people and the situation, the local identity is judged more important than the regional and the national, or the other way round, or there is no hierarchy at all.


>>> Comment by Senka Boić, Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb