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The role of culture in the European integration.

At the Beginning, a Confession

This presentation is intended to be a plea for taking into account the cultural aspects when dealing with European Studies.

And I am not referring to develop a research on the "cultural action" of the European Community, its history, its actual situation and the future perspectives. This research, of course, has been done and has to be done also for the future, after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and of the new Treaty on the European Union, which by the way does not introduce changes in the point immediately related to culture (point 167, which will substitute article 151, namely the former article 128). There are, nevertheless, some minor changes in other mentions to culture in the Treaty. But this is not intended to be the topic of this presentation, because the cultural action of the Union--expressed with a certain radicalness--is not the most relevant point when bringing to the fore the relevance of culture for the European integration, and--as the other side of the coin the relevance of the European integration for the culture.

It is of course in vain that we look for a mention of culture in the Treaty that was signed in Rome on March 25, 1957, at 17.46, when it was raining cats and dogs and the bells of the churches in Rome were greeting the new foundation. Only some 35 years later, the Maastricht Treaty will introduce an article specifically devoted to culture. In the enlargement of competencies that the States have attributed to the Community with this Treaty also the culture was considered, on a very small basis (the smallest fundament which is foreseen in the Treaties: the complementary action to the States) and with all kind of limitations (it was the only field for which not only harmonisation was excluded but unanimity was foreseen in each and every step of the decision making process).

Nevertheless, here a double thesis will be defended:

--the European integration is based on culture--from the beginnings;

--the European integration process has relevant cultural consequences.

Culture is understood here in a broad sense, as it has been described by UNESCO:

"Culture is a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group. It encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, values systems, traditions and beliefs."

This view of culture is common probably since the famous definition by Edward B. Tylor in 1871 (in the introduction to his work Primitive Culture): according to him culture is

"that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society". (1)

In this view of culture, values, attitudes, patterns are included--and probably also prejudices and stereotypes could be included.

The Cultural Fundaments

The Treaties (as the visible result of a movement which has well-known predecessors and which is inserted into a post-war ambience of the need to establish a new order in Europe, but which has done a decisive step with Schuman's speech in 1950) are based on roots that are immediately linked with culture in the quoted broad sense of the word.

More concrete: the Treaties tend to overcome cultural paradigms, precisely the cultural paradigms that in the view of the founding fathers were responsible for the disasters in Europe. One of these paradigms is the idea of the State, which--probably in the "mixed formula" of the Nation-State--has dominated the political life in Europe since the beginnings of Modernity. Europe has been an extremely violent continent (it is eloquent to have a look at the conflicts that have caused so much suffering to the population in Europe during centuries; in Annex I try to present a list which by no way is exhaustive but shows that only several generations in Europe during the last four centuries had the privilege to live in a world without war and post-war suffering).

After the end of a conflict (or short before it) the same procedure was established: representatives of the different states came together for negotiating a peace treaty. Very often, the treaties included territorial changes: a new map was considered a needed point of departure for guaranteeing the peace. Two points are here relevant: the consideration of the territory (with its symbols, its frontiers, and its rights) and also the logical succession of the events: first the war, the conquest of the territories, and then, the negotiation.

Famous treaties like the Peace of Westphalia, the Conference of Vienna, the Versailles Treaty and also the Conferences in Potsdam and Yalta at the end of WWII are based on this vision. And this vision corresponds with a culture, is a consequence of it, the consequence of the high value given to some concepts.

The European integration signifies in many ways a farewell to this culture. At least in two relevant senses:

--the European integration process means a weakening of the State, This is obvious in the moment in which a supranational body is established: supranationality means "transfer of sovereignty" and sovereignty is exactly the main characteristic of the State. The idea is to create a space which functions outside of the State control. The market is put under the government of itself--within a given frame. This frame is established by the Treaties and concretized then by institutions which have to be at least partially independent from the Member States; these institutions are at the same time controlling the correct functioning of the market. The initial configuration of the frame includes several dispositions that are foreseen for separating the States and the market. First of all, the use of the frontiers for interfering into the market is expressly prohibited: taxes and quotes are banned; also "measures with an equivalent effect" have to be dismantled. The difficulties to realise the Common Market--a goal which was possible only "in the second round", after the Single Act--shows that the "State in the market culture" was deeply rooted. Also subventions--another classical procedure through which the State regulates the market--are forbidden, and fall now under the responsibility of the Community's institutions. Of course: the description simplifies, and in real life things were more complex; but it tries to show only the cultural core of the process.

--A new negotiation culture has to be established. Negotiations should be no more the last step, after confrontation, the way for regulating the consequences of the confrontation; negotiation now has to be used instead of confrontation, it has to become the normal way for solving conflicts, the only way. This means that dialogue is considered the first instrument for conflict resolution. This is a cultural option.

The whole system of the European Communities, which within the Communities has established the communitarian method and international relations the idea of the Union as soft power, should induce a change of the cultural paradigm, not only in the political sphere but at the end also in the societies of the Member states. In the political sphere, the other Member states cease to be considered as enemies--at least as potential enemies and become partners in a common project, partners which do not share all the aspects of political life, partners that maintain own interests but also work on the realisation of a common project and, on the other side, have accepted a common methodology for finding a balance between the own and the common interests. This peculiarity, the balance between own and common interests, caused a new vision of "the other" Member state, which is no more completely "foreigner", although not being completely "one of ours".

And this balance has exactly to be transmitted also to the society: "the other" is not a threat any more, the reason for destruction and suffering, but someone who has accepted a common house, although living in different rooms.

The new consideration of "otherness", the abolishment of the mental barriers and their substitution by the experience of daily life which is facilitated by the open space, by the obliteration of the physical frontiers, this is a cultural revolution in Europe.

All these goals should be achieved via the Common Market, after the failure, already in the 50ies, of other possibilities. But a market is not only a trade event, an economic project therefore, but also a highly cultural marked project. The Common Market, that--as we have tried to show--has had so relevant consequences for culture, is on his part based on culture, on values, as Jedediah Purdy wrote regarding the market as such:

"The idea that markets arise naturally and always work efficiently is a myth; markets are products of legal, political, and institutional work, including property rules, contract enforcement, financial regulation, and of course the courts, police forces, and banks that put them into practice. The governance of markets must include "non-market values" such as distributive justice, solidarity, and stability. When properly governed, free markets represent a great expansion of human freedom and well-being. Improperly governed, they can bring crises and forms of exploitation that undermine their legitimacy and inspire destructive rebellions" (2)

The connection between market and culture is visible if one considers that simultaneously to the Common Market of the Communities also another Common Market was created. Durant the Cold War, the Common Market of the Communities coexisted with the common market on the other side of the iron curtain. But both markets were the consequence of two different types of society, of two different cultures, two antagonistic societies, based on two different cultures, on different values. With the Common Market, the Communities tend to situate the society in the centre, to create a State-free space, to promote a free movement which is dictated by supply and demand. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the economy was linked to the State, the citizens' will was not decisive: planning here--free movement there: two markets , two opposite world views, a fundamental difference, that means, a difference in the (cultural) fundaments.

And at the same time, each type of market had to reinforce in society the underlying values that had on his part been nourished by this culture. On that way, a double side interaction is established, that can be transmitted socially.

If the underlying culture of the common market of the other side of the uncommon Iron Curtain was Marxism, the common denominator of "this side common market" results from the basic ideas of the "founding father", which probably can be associated with an ordoliberalism (3), the federalism and the social doctrine of the Catholic church, together with a relevant percentage of pragmatic approach in the sense of the so called functionalism. It is well-known that most of the founding fathers have shared these values sources and have wanted to establish a common market on these fundaments, far away from collectivism and from the view of a regulating State which gives priority to society instead of the individual.

The Cultural Consequences

During the decades of the Communities' existence, Europe's face has changed considerably. Are some of the changes a consequence of the establishment of the Communities? It is of course impossible to identify single cause-effect relations for the changes; and it is not only impossible but also methodologically wrong, because changes in society normally are the consequent of different interacting factors. But at least one change can be attributed with a certain probability to the existence of the Communities.

And this change has to do with the consideration of the frontiers. Frontiers have many different meanings and consequences: in economic life, in political life, in social life, but also as a symbolic expression (4): they are one of the most relevant symbols of the State and its power, of the capability of the State to decide who is able to be accepted as (provisory) habitant of the territory. The possibility to cross the territory or to establish there the own home is seen as a privilege the State concedes to the individual after examining at the border whether he or she is dignified for this gift. With the establishment of the Common Market, an evolution has been set in motion that at the end will bring the European citizenship and as a reality that does not belong to the Community's life but is intrinsically connected with it--the Schengen space in which also the State activity at the border becomes invisible.

After the Maastricht Treaty, the free movement becomes a citizen right: it is no more the single State that considers whether the citizen has to be allowed to cross the border; it is the citizen who decides whether he or she wants to travel here or there, lo live here or here, to work here or there.

These are not only legal changes; or it could be said that these legal changes have brought also changes in the worldview: the idea to live in an open space in which the change of national territory has no consequences regarding how you are considered signifies a radical change in comparison with the previous situation. If you add the existence of a common currency (in part of the territory) and the increased exchanges thanks to some Community programmes--the panorama has changed, the feeling of belonging to the same community is becoming more and more a daily experience, of course together with the experience of diversity, which remains in the language, in the time schedule, in gastronomy and in so many other aspects of daily life.

The False Monnet quotation was right

Famous quotes are sometimes right although they are no quotes. The Jean Monnet dictum he would start with culture if he could start again with the European integration probably has never been said by Jean Monnet (5). But it could be stated that Jean Monnet really has started with culture--also in his first effort to establish the European integration, the effort which has become reality. He--and the other founding fathers and all the people who have contributed to realise this project--they all have indeed started with culture--because it was impossible not to start with culture. They have wanted to realise a political project; they have seen that the only possibility to realise it was using the economy. And in dealing with economy and with politics they have dealt with culture. The only problem is that this is forgotten.

Annex: Some Wars in Europe during modern times

1337-1453 Hundred Year's War (Valois-Plantagenet)

1453 Fall of Constantinople

1494-1559 Great Italian Wars

1562-1598 French Wars of Religion

1568-1648 Eighty Year's War (Netherlands)

1585-1604 Anglo-Spanish War

1618-1648 Thirty Year's War

1688-1697 Nine Year's War (against Louis XIV)

1701-1713 War of the Spanish Succession

1700-1721 Great Northern War (against Sweden)

1757-1763 Seven Year's War (Silesia)

1792-1802 French Revolutionary Wars

1804-1015 Napoleonic Wars

1821-1829 Greek War of Independence

1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War

1914-1918 World War I

1936-1939 Spanish Civil War

1939-1945 World War II

1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence

Only one extra-European war is included (Algeria); of course, European courts and states were involved in wars outside Europe, wars that have often been provoked by European states and have caused suffering always to the European population.


1. Albert, Michel (1989), "Souvenir de Jean Monnet" in Temoignages a la memoire de Jean Monnet, Lausanne: Fondation Jean Monnet pour l'Europe, pp. 23-27

2. Banus, Enrique (2000), "Algunas tesis simples para un tema complejo: 'Cultura europea'", in Banus, Enrique- Elio, Beatriz (eds.), Actas del IV Congreso "Cultura Europea", Pamplona: Aranzadi, pp. 5-30

3. Banus, Enrique (2002), "Cultural Policy in the EU and the European Identity", in Farrell, Mary; Fella, Stefano; Newman, Michael (eds.), European integration in the 21st century, London: Sage, pp. 158-183

4. Banus, Enrique (2006), "The cultural relevance of the borders" in Eurolimes 2, pp. 198-205

5. Bondy, Francois (1985), "Selbstbesinnung, Selbstbestimmung: Kultur und Integration" in Werner Weidenfeld (hrgs.), Die Identitat Europas, Munchen-Wien: Hanser, pp. 66-79

6. Cuisenier, Jean (ed.) (1979), Europe as a cultural area, The Hague: Mouton, 1979

7. Forrest, Alan (1994), "A New Start for Cultural Action in the European Community: Genesis and Implications of Article 128 of the Treaty on European Union" in International Journal of Cultural Policy 1, pp. 11-20

8. Perez-Solorzano, Nieves-Longman, Christopher (1998), "European Cultural Identity: Unity in Diversity or Family of Cultures?" in Banus, Enrique- Elio, Beatriz (eds.), Actas del IV Congreso "Cultura Europea", Pamplona: Aranzadi, pp. 117-126

9. Garcia, Soledad (ed.) (1993), European Identity and the Search for Legitimacy, London-New York: Pinter

10. Strath, Bo (ed.) (2000), Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other, Brussels: Peter Lang

11. Thuriot, Fabrice (1998), "L'influence de l'Unione Europeenne sur les politiques culturelles internes et en particulier en France", in Banus, Enrique- Elio, Beatriz (eds.), Actas del IV Congreso "Cultura Europea", Pamplona: Aranzadi

12. Wittal-Duerkop, Tanya-Elizabeth (1998), "Diskurse europaischer Identitat. Europaische Identitatsmuster im Spannungsfeld von Gesellschaftskritik und Kulturtheorie", in Banus, Enrique- Elio, Beatriz (eds.), Actas del IV Congreso "Cultura Europea", Pamplona: Aranzadi, pp. 201-214

13. Zettelholm, Staffan (ed.) (1994), National Cultures and European Integration, Oxford: Berg

(1) Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, London, 1871, p. 1.

(2) Jedediah Purdy, "The Values of the Market" in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 16, 2002, p. 143.

(3) To this term see for example Joachim Starbatty, "Ordoliberalismus" in O. Issing (Hrsg.), Geschichte der Nationaldkonomie. Munich: Vahlen 1984.

(4) See Enrique Banus, "The cultural relevance of the borders" in Eurolimes 2, 2006, pp. 198-205.

(5) Fabrice Thuriot calls this quote "citation apochryphe" ("L'influence de l'Unione Europeenne sur les politiques culturelles internes et en particulier en France" in Enrique Banus-Beatriz Elio (eds.), Actas del IV Congreso "Cultura Europea", Pamplona: Aranzadi, 1998, p. 1145). Nevertheless, the quote has been attributed to Jean Monnet also by members of the European Parliament (for example Varela in the debate from 15.9.97, see OJEC Annex 4-505, 18) and even in half-official writings, for example in John Myerscough's "European Cities of Culture and Cultural Months, a Report, "prepared for The Network of Cultural Cities of Europe" (Glasgow 1994) and "Funded by the European Commission". Also one on the main experts in Culture within the European Parliament could say some time ago: "Certainly that is often quoted in the Culture Committee" (Roy Perry-Budget Rapporteur for the Culture Committee of the European Parliament-at a public meeting "The Artists and EU" in Copenhagen 26. May 2004, quoted after:, 20 June 2007).

Enrique Banus *

* Enrique Banus is PhD (Comparative Literature, University Aachen), Jean Monnet Chair ad personam "European Culture" since 2003. Currently, he is Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Charlemagne Institute for European Studies at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona. Contact:
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Author:Banus, Enrique
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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