The engine of 'Europeanness'? : free movement, social transnationalism and European identification
Title: The engine of 'Europeanness'? : free movement, social transnationalism and European identification
Author: RECCHI, Ettore
Citation: Daniel THYM (ed.), Questioning EU citizenship : judges and the limits of free movement and solidarity in the EU, London : Hart, 2017, Modern Studies in European Law, pp. 135-148
Does the experience of intra-EU mobility under the aegis of the free movement regime bolster a stronger European identification? This paper tries to address this question by framing it into a theoretical discussion of collective identity formation on the basis of social-psychological tenets. In particular, it outlines a ‘culturalist’ and a ‘structuralist’ model as most likely – and complementary – avenues of attachment to territorial-political entities. Applied to the EU, the structuralist model echoes Karl Deutsch’s ‘transactionalist thesis’, according to which cross-border individual practices are expected to create a sense of belonging to the overarching political unit. Using different indicators and surveys, the model is corroborated empirically. Not only do EU movers tend to feel more European than the general population, but all types of cross-border practices are found to feed into a more likely identification with Europe. In addition, among EU movers, European identification is significantly more frequent, the longer the period they have spent living abroad. Intra-EU migration is accompanied by the presence – and perhaps the maturation – of an identitarian bond unknown in the majority of the population. However, the limited demographic spread of free movement experiences reduces their overall capacity to uphold the legitimacy of the Union decisively. Free movement is an engine of Europeanness, but its horsepower is not sufficient to be a locomotive of further integration.
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