Europe? Which Europe? Which future Europe?

revised December 2002
Europe of nations

Europe of regions

Europe of the peoples

Unitary Europe

Divisions and patterns

Language Futures Europe

Nation Planet


The real existing Europe is a Europe of nation states, 'Europe des patries'. This section is divided, by attitudes to nations and 'Europe' (often meaning the EU). There are four basic attitudes: active rejection of the EU as an enemy of nations, a passive acceptance of nations and the EU, a belief in the necessity of co-operation among nations, and a specific belief that the EU is good for existing nations. The first attitude is that of most anti-EU activists. The third attitude is more associated with Atlanticism. The fourth is often falsely called 'federalist' or 'euro-federalist'. (Most of its supporters oppose federalism, as a political philosophy).

opponents: Europe of nations against EU

The opponents of the EU (and EU extension) usually take a simple defensive nationalist position. Often, they are suspicious of 'superstates'. Some opponents have more specific grounds for a Europe of nations. They may support organic, biological or Darwinist theories of competition and survival. That is, belief that competition among nations is necessary for the 'health' of each nation. There is a militarist version of this belief, but also the version of Mazzini: competition for cultural prestige. (In the first year of his government Tony Blair repeatedly talked of this, using the word 'beacon' to describe Britain).

Almost all of the EU opponents, in all these categories, believe it is necessary to dissolve unions of nations, and 'restore' sovereignty - or at least defend it against further erosion.

  • Euromyths - keyword index: the EU information office in London lists the myths about the EU, mainly from the British press.
  • Quotes from Eurosceptics including Protestant Euroscepticism...
    For to be in the European Union means to cede sovereignty to another, namely, the acolytes of the Papacy who rule the European Union. (Chris Richards, The Reformer).
  • A Europe without England, fear of a Europe of the regions imposed by the EU, replacing the nation states.

neutral to EU

This model is a Europe of existing nations, a status quo unaffected by the EU. Diversity among nations is seen as desirable in itself, and the EU is considered acceptable if it does not become a state-like organisation. Until about 10 years ago this was a general attitude to the European Economic Community. However this consensus no longer exists: it has split into the other categories. Either the EU is seen as hostile to nations, or its justification is seen in its usefulness for nations. Neutral, passive acceptance of the EU has disappeared from the political scene.

unions of states

This attitude is based on the belief that all states are potentially aggressive to each other. Therefore, it supports forms of interaction to avoid war or conquest, for 'security'. The formal expression is in non-aggression pacts, alliances, mutual security pacts or organisations. There is a more general tradition of unions of sovereign states, for co-operation in some form. In this approach, Europe is only a part of broader unions: see the section on patterns. This approach places Europe within Atlanticism, 'the West', 'the North', or sees Europe as a UN region. (See the section on patterns and divisions) European conservative Atlanticism is the main example: there is a formal and well-funded Atlanticist lobby in the US which shares its vision. In the mid-1990's the main issue was a transatlantic free trade zone,TAFTA. Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq put military co-operation back at the top of their agenda: However, unions of states are not exclusively a right-wing issue: the category also includes 'proletarian internationalism'. Marx, Lenin and Stalin all supported a world of co-operating nation states.

EU of nations

This category includes all models of 'supra-national' [i.e. not a state] organisations in Europe:
  • economic - for trade and market scale advantage: this includes customs unions, and therefore the original European Economic Community
  • regulatory: social/economic, environmental, financial
  • international courts
  • currency unions
  • cultural organisations
  • standards organisations
An 'expanded customs union' still seems the most accurate description of the EU. In this model, the primary logic of the European Union, or any successor, is: the national interest of each nation state. The idea of Europe as a free-trade area, is one expression of this, but not the only one. The Union can and does concern itself with non-economic national interests, but they stay national interests. This model, the dominant model of the EU, is not only a Europe of the nations - it is Europe for the nation state.

The idea of a 'cultural co-operation Union' - associated with cultural pan-nationalism - is only vaguely represented in present EU politics. Its typical expression is, in European media funds, which support co-productions of national media industries. (An ideologically pan-European fund would not aid national media). Older than the EU, and still active, are international and European standards organisations. In principle they represent a model of 'minimum-standard only' co-operation between nations - from human rights to electric voltage. The OSCE was, until a few years ago, a sort of political 'minimum-standards' authority for Eastern Europe: monitoring of elections was a typical activity. However its role has changed since Bosnia, and especially since the Kosovo intervention, to the point of acting as a quasi-colonial government there.

EU as transitional

Finally, there is an attitude/belief that the EU is transitional to some other form of Europe, not just a larger state (see the next 3 sections).
  • meso-scale transition, to a limited number of states in Europe, perhaps larger nation states
  • facilitation of dual states, dual monarchies, dynastic unions, condominium
  • the EU as transitional to a single [federal] state


There are four sources of the regional model in Europe: official regionalism, regional federalism as an ideology or political model, eco-regionalism or bio-regionalism (derived from environmentalism), and urban regionalism. The last is the oldest: the ideal of the ancient Greek polis, and the Italian city-states.

Official regionalism

This is the officially acceptable alternative to a Europe of the Nations, presumably because it is not an effective threat to those nations. It includes three categories:
  • Partnerschaften, jumelage, exchange visits, etc.
  • cross border co-operation, usually of regions at national boundaries: the Euregio type
  • assemblies of regional and local governments
This is approximately a chronological order. The formal expression of this model evolved from isolated euro-regional assemblies, to European assemblies. Some examples of the official model of Europe of the regions, and other relevant sites:

Official meso-regionalism

The newest trend in official regionalism is meso-scale regional co-operation. The first generation of Euregio and Euro-regions (such as Neisse-Nisa-Nysa, listed above), were small. They included typically two or three second-level local government units. Partly under the influence of the EU spatial planning studies, partly as a result of subsidised cross -border contacts in eastern Europe, a second generation has emerged, which may include 20 or 30 local/regional authorities. The formation of these groupings has been accelerated by the INTERREG programme. They vary in the depth of co-operation, but they share one characteristic: like the first generation, they are no serious threat to the nation state.

Regional federalism as ideal

Some regionalists are also federalists: they believe that a federal government is the best form of government. There are two models of regionalist-federalism in Europe: cultural-historical and economic. The cultural-historical variant, 'Europe des pays', includes restorations of historic regions, nostalgic regionalism, and semi-commercial regionalism (the 'Disneyland identities' of regional theme parks).

The economic variant includes sector-based and trade-based regional federalism. Sectoral co-operation is found among declining regions, or agricultural regions. Trade-based regionalism includes proposed restorations of trading leagues among cities, such as the Hansa.

  • Béla Pomogáts: Europe of regions, on Hungarian cultural-regionalism.
  • Prospects for the Future: The European Union of Regions, Lega Nord:
    "Yet these dreams must survive: they may be eventually realized in a European Union based on a federation of Regions, after the dissolution of the nation- States (France, Italy, Germany); after all, the structure of the nation-State is a historical artifact functional to a given social and economic situation which will soon become obsolete."
  • A free Padania in a free Europe, Lega Nord, 1997
    "The peoples of Europe and Padania need something quite different: a Europe of the Peoples and of the Regions. Make no mistake: we are not here to perpetuate the current form of nation-State, neither in its current dimension, nor on a continental scale, and hardly as a decomposition of the current States only to be reproduced on the same model. The Padanian movement emerges as a main catalyst in a general European mutation.
The Lega Nord is best classified as ethno-nationalist, and secondarily ethno-regionalist: it is still substantially an Italian anti-immigrant party.


This is a specific regionalism, based on 'natural units'. In North America the scientific term 'bioregion' was adopted by environmental activists, but interest in the idea seems to have faded. There was no comparable movement in Europe, but in European geography there was always a strong 'natural-region' tradition. A related category is river basin regionalism, the basis of the Tennessee Valley Authority model of regional development. There are some river-basin authorities in Europe, but their impact of national sovereignty is minimal. There are no recent large-scale basin development plans on the TVA model, and most river-basin organisations are environmentalist. See the 1997 article (in European Planning studies 5(2), 241-255) 'The Danube-Rhine water system as a European regional integration structure' by Hristo Marinov, Castenson Reinhold, and Karl-Geert Malle.

Urban regionalism

This model is a Europe or urban regions based on the city-state as ideal form of community, and a federation of such states as ideal for Europe. Again this regionalism exists in official and unofficial versions. The 'digital cities' of the 1990's were often seen as new version of the city-state ideal. According to some they would revitalise the European city. In reality, they were no more than an Internet provider. They have all gone commercial or disappeared - seldom has a vision of the future of Europe evaporated so quickly.


This is the main competitor of the existing Europe of nations, 'Europe des patries'. An ethnic pattern of states in Europe would mean: revising all boundaries, so ending all existing nation states. This model has increasingly been adopted by 'the right' in Europe: at first by anti-immigration parties, and later by neo-nazi groups, although ethnic federalism was not originally part of national-socialist ideology).

There are five sources of this model, a Europe of ethno-states

  • racial state theories, mainly pre-1945
  • ethnic regionalism - the ethnic emphasis in 'Europe des pays"
  • secessionist co-operation, implying a future all-secessionist Europes (the ideal of Europe underlying, for instance, ETA - IRA cooperation)
  • ethnic federalism as a category of the federalist tradition. This includes meso-scale ethnic federalism in Europe: pan-Celtic federalism, pan-Slav federalism, pan-Nordic federalism.
  • movements for restorations of ethno-states, 'ethnic nostalgia' often a combination of ethnic and monarchist loyalties.
It is often difficult to separate ethno-nationalist and ethno-regional groups and models.
  • Cultural Association Nòste Rèis, "the roots of the Piedmontese people, proud of their history, language, land and culture. Brothers of all other Italian and European peoples in a peoples' Europe, not centralized States, respectful of the autonomy of others, uncompromising of their own."
  • Europa de les Nacions, a CIEMEN publication. Ethno-nationalist and oppositional: this is not the Europe of the existing nations.
This model is not inherently limited to Europe. Equivalent in form to the 'world of nations' are possible world orders of ethno-states. This is expressed in world scale ethnic federalism, or at least co-operation: in for instance, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. (UNPO - not a UN organisation). Intercultural co-operation emphasising a 'world of cultures' is another aspect of this model.


This section includes pan-European ideas, most of them in a pan-nationalist form. Pan-nationalism is itself a form of nationalism: in style, structure and ideology it is comparable nation-state nationalism. Another category of unitary Europes are those of essentialist definitions of Europe, sometimes themselves underlying a pan-nationalism. Finally there is a largely hypothetical category of unitising Europes, which are not pan-nationalist.

European pan-nationalism

European pan-nationalism has a political and cultural base. Politically, members of pan-European organisations resemble Atlanticists: liberal-democratic, traditionalist about authority, and fearful of terrorism, drugs, and corruption of youth. However, the main characteristic of pan-Europeanism is its obsession with culture and identity - above all the search for a 'common cultural heritage'. That is usually stereotypical: it starts with the roots of European civilisation (Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Carolingian), mentions religion (Christian, Judeo-Christian, Protestant) and qualifies the religious aspect with humanism and/or the Enlightenment. Often another set of values is added, those of conservative liberalism. Vaclav Havel especially represents the overlap of this kind of European-values orientation with Atlanticism. In the United States as well, the Atlanticist right often deliberately identifies itself with 'western culture' - a mentality satirised in the expression "from Plato to NATO". Cultural pan-Europeanism is associated with a real cultural infrastructure: exchange programs, cultural institutes, and the definition and promotion of a pan-European 'high culture', including opera, prestige art exhibitions, and the art trade.

The mainstream of European pan-nationalism combines both the political and cultural aspects, but the cultural is dominant. These organisations have a backward-looking traditionalist orientation: their real or imagined 'common culture' is always something that existed in the past. The broad category of cultural pan-Europeanism includes forms of religious pan-nationalism, with their models of future Europes.

  • Catholic Europes, including neo-mediaeval Europes under papal patronage, or a restored Papacy-Empire duality
  • unions of Protestant city- states in Europe
  • a non-Christian equivalent: a model of an Islamic Europe
Explicit religious pan-nationalism, however, is politically marginal in Europe. The more usual approach is that of the Pan-Europa Union: advocating a christian core of a European cultural identity.
  • Pan-Europa Union: for a christian Europe. The Bamberger Programm sets out the ideology of the movement...

    Die Paneuropa-Union bekennt sich
    - zum Christentum als Seele Europas, insbesondere
    - zum christlichen Menschenbild.
    Die Paneuropa-Union kämpft gegen
    - alle Tendenzen, die die geistige und moralische Kraft Europas zerstören,
    - Nihilismus, Atheismus und einen unmoralischen Konsumismus.
    Die Paneuropa-Union erstrebt
    - ein christliches Europa, das ein Kontinent der Menschenwürde und der Achtung vor Gott und seiner Schöpfung ist.

  • Charta Oecumenica: Unsere gemeinsame Verantwortung in Europa:
    "Die Kirchen fördern eine Einigung des europäischen Kontinents. Ohne gemeinsame Werte ist die Einheit dauerhaft nicht zu erreichen. Wir sind überzeugt, dass das spirituelle Erbe des Christentums eine inspirierende Kraft zur Bereicherung Europas darstellt."

  • Charta der Europäischen Identität Europa-Union. Despite the name, this organisation generally supports a confederal Europe of Nations.
    "Aufbauend auf den geschichtlichen Wurzeln der Antike und des Christentums hat Europa im Laufe der Geschichte mit der Renaissance, dem Humanismus und der Aufklärung die überkommenen Werte weiterentwicklet. Dies führte zu einer demokratischen Ordnung, der allgemeinen Geltung der Grund- und Menschenrechte und der Rechtsstaatlichkeit."

  • Charter of European Identity
    Vaclav Havel on European identity
    "The European Union is based on a large set of values, with roots in antiquity and in Christianity which over 2.000 years evolved into what we recognize today as the foundations of modem democracy the rule of law and civil society. This set of values has its own clear moral foundation and its obvious metaphysical roots, regardless of whether modern man admits it or not."

  • Konrad H. Jarausch: A European Cultural Identity: Reality or Hope?
  • EU: L'Europe et la Culture
  • Europa - ein grosser Natur- oder Geschichtspark?
Although usually the claimed European heritage is vague, some visions of a unitary Europe involve a return to a specific unity that existed in the past. Most important is the model of a return to the pre-nation-state multi-ethnic empire. In such empires one ethnic group was usually dominant: the others had a subservient role, although the ethnic segregation was less rigid than among modern nation states. The long-term Nazi plans for Europe, or at least the ideas of Hitler himself, fell into this category. It includes other imperial restorations: Roman, Carolingian, Habsburg, or Napoleonic.

The essential boundaries

This category includes the definitions of Europe by reference to outside. (For post-structuralists this is the only possible definition, Europe is defined by the 'other of Europe'). The main essentialist boundaries are those with:
  • Islam, the East, the Orient
  • non-Christians, heathens, unbelievers
  • Russia, the Slavs, Orthodox Christianity
  • the Mediterranean, 'Africa', meaning usually North Africa
  • Asia, the steppe
This approach is often linked with a vision of world history as a history of civilisations. It has been dramatically revitalised by resurgent Islamism, and the idea of inherent hostility between the west and the Islamic world. Some euro-sceptic opponents of the EU use a mirror image of the essentialist approaches - the term Fortress Europe implies that the EU exists primarily to exclude others. On this type of geopolitical exclusion see 'False universalism and the geopolitics of exclusion: the case of Islam' - Richard Falk, 1997, in Third World Quarterly 18(1), 7-23.


This section covers the patterns and divisions, applied to Europe internally - and external patterns which are inclusive of Europe. Historically, this category includes traditional regional geography, collections of national geographies, and ethnic and racial geographies, including migration theories.

how geography divides Europe..

Geographers cannot describe Europe as uniform: they must use some sub-divisions. In turn, these categories can form models of a future Europe.

First, there are the traditional functional divisions: industrial and agricultural Europe.

Second, the new functional classifications, which now dominate urban / regional geography in Europe

  • Europe of urban networks, spatial networks
  • North of the South, Euro-Sunbelt, Alpenraum, Dorsal, growth zones, Blue Banana
  • European Megalopolis, Eurocities, europolis, hierarchies of 1st and 2nd level European cities, European 'Silicon Valleys', technopoles
These are the most influential of the patterns/divisions: they directly influence the allocation of EU funds for regions, and for the Mediterranean and central eastern Europe. Similar categories are in preparation for European-level spatial planning. A third categorisation is mainly economic: core and periphery. It includes such concepts as the axis of Lotharingia, the Rhine Valley concentration, the diagonal axis Manchester-Milano, and the Ruhr as core. More generally, west or North-West Europe as core. The are also historical global core-periphery models: the pre-1800 global core usually corresponds to western Europe. Cultural geography also sometimes defines core areas. For Europe, possible cultural and historic cores are North Italy, the Low Countries, Germany, Northern France.

A fourth possibility is the attribution of a specific European function within Europe. This is the equivalent of 'national port', or 'national capital' in nation states. The EU has never committed itself to official proposals for a future capital: Brussels is the only city which seriously considers this possibility in its long-term planning. In contrast, the politically neutral designation of a 'European cultural capital' proved popular as a city-marketing tool. So popular that the rules were changed, to allow several cities to be simultaneously European cultural capital.

A fifth categorisation is used especially by historians concerned with long-term and geopolitical phenomena: the basin models. They refer to historical patterns of trade, and culture around the Mediterranean, North Sea, or Baltic.

An sixth category includes the geometric and numerical models of territorial subdivision. Simple numerical models are a popular image of the continent: dual and triple Europes. Dual Europes include:

  • East v West
  • North v South
  • Latin v Germanic
  • Protestant v Catholic
  • Atlantic v Mediterranean
Triple Europes include:
  • Slav-Latin-German
  • Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox
  • Orthodox-Islamic-Western Christian
The last is the current favourite with clash-of-civilisations theorists, not least because it appears to correspond to the divisions in Kosovo and Bosnia.

shift theories

Shift theories combine macro-patterns in space and time. They are based on the idea that there is a shifting centre of civilization, power, and wealth:
  • archaeological-historical, 'ex Oriente lux'
  • economic-historic: from South to North, Mediterranean to Atlantic, from North Italy to Low Countries, from Britain to Germany
  • slavophile West-to-East shift theories
  • constitutional shift theories: translatio imperii, 'Third Rome"
There are few online resources on these..

infrastructure, planning

The plans relevant here are those with a specifically European content, in which a European infrastructure is seen at least partly as an end in itself. Some routes and projects have symbolic significance without being pan-European in scale themselves:
  • single 'prestige' links - bridges and tunnels: Channel Tunnel, Messina bridge, Oresund link
  • historic routes: the NW to SE links, the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, the Orient Express, historical North-South or East-West axes, the Brenner route, Hohe Strasse
  • lines to isolated points or regions: the Vorkuta railway
The Trans-Europe Network (TEN) projects are by definition continental in scale: they also clearly have a symbolic intention. European-level infrastructure issues include:
  • the road, rail, and waterway transport networks. The COMECON infrastructure planning in eastern Europe was the first at this scale.
  • the designation of priority corridors, perhaps with multiple infrastructure (road, rail, pipeline, optic-fibre lines)
  • planning of European oil, gas, water and electricity grids - a development primarily driven by neoliberal water and and energy markets.
  • communications: historically the European telegraph, telephone, and postal services had a 'continental' identity. However the new information and communication technologies are primarily market-oriented. Although they have far more capacity than their predecessors, they have much less of a 'European' character.
  • airport improvement, and air traffic control
  • port improvement, shipping control, and a possible EU-level maritime authority
Euro-scale spatial policy and 'regional planning' was a logical step after economic co-operation. After the vague Europa 2000 documents, the much more concrete European Spatial development perspective (ESDP) was prepared by the EU. The latest in the series is the 'Guiding principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent' adopted at the European planning ministers conference (CEMAT) in Hannover in September 2000. The Hannover conference was organised by the Council of Europe. Neither the EU nor the Council of Europe have planning powers, so all these plans are technically advisory documents. However, some themes are already evident, and largely undisputed:
  • very large zones will be designated as green recreation/nature zones, with large-scale abandonment of agriculture. Where there are still farms, it will usually be extensive agriculture. Most of Europe's food will be produced on a relatively small area with intensive agriculture, by a small labour force.
  • new technologies, technopoles, and 'silicon-valley' technology concentrations will be subsidised
  • development will be concentrated in a number of 'dynamic zones' (ESDP) and concentration of transport in corridors seems inevitable
  • the market will determine the primary spatial order at local and regional level.

Europe as part of a larger unit

Atlanticism is the primary example of the inclusion of Europe in a larger framework. It is recognisable as an ideology: there are people and organisations which call themselves Atlanticist. It has however developed in time, so that a simple chronological classification of Atlanticism is possible:
  • early Atlanticism: anglophone and meaning primarily Britain-USA partnership
  • the mature Atlanticism of the NATO, expanded after 1989 to Eastern and Central Europe - but apparently no further east.
  • informal and cultural Atlanticism: influence of American popular culture
  • an obscure category of European secessionist movements seeking to join the USA (Sicilia, Ireland)
Two other very common categories include Europe as part of a larger unit. First, Europe as part of 'the West" - in a cultural, political, or military sense. The more it is intended in a political or military sense, the more it overlaps with Atlanticism. Nevertheless there are few organisations which promote a specific 'westerness', as the Atlantic Commission promotes Atlanticism. The term 'West' usually means the OECD states, the industrial democracies. A second similar categorisation, but more popular on the left, is to include Europe as part of 'the North'. This is defined in contrast to claims of 'the South": nevertheless it it also usually means the the OECD states.

Europe as fringe or periphery is a mainly historical category, which was popular in the first geopolitical theories. It places Europe at the edge of: the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the steppe zone, or as a peninsula of Asia. In classic geopolitics, Europe is seen as the edge of Eurasia, of 'The Heartland', of the 'World Island'. See R. I. Moore (1997) 'The birth of Europe as a Eurasian phenomenon.' in Modern Asian Studies 31(3), 583-601.

A special form of these theories sees Europe as a battleground, or as subservient to others, perhaps in the future. There are at least three themes in this category, largely dystopian:

  • Europe as battleground in a world ideological conflict, the 'European Theater of War' of Cold War military planning.
  • economic subservience: Europe as agricultural or recreation area for others (Japan, USA).
  • Europe as economic battleground for others: formerly USA versus Soviet Union, later USA versus Japan, at present more likely USA versus East Asian, or Pacific versus Atlantic. The idea has always been popular among pessimistic commentators on the future of Europe: it implies that even without being subservient, Europe can play no independent role in global competition.

global culture and civilisation

There are three groups of ideas on Europe and globalism and globalisation. The first group includes claims that a global culture already exists - expressed since the 1960's in the term 'global village' and its many successors. A similar claim is that 'Benetton globalism' (global free trade in cultural icons separated from their geographical origins) has replaced specific cultural areas.

The second theme is backed by much academic research: the belief, that transnational economic activity makes territory irrelevant. It assumes the emergence of a transnational structure - social. cultural, political, and especially economic. Typical themes in this research are globalisation, the space of flows, place marketplace, and global networks. Although such research is often described as critical, and the authors often have a background in the 'academic left', their enthusiasm for globalisation is often evident. In such theories there is no specific 'Europe": at most there are nodes within the global networks of the global network society. Obviously, there is a close relationship between these theories and neoliberal ideology.

A third group of ideas, about the global aspect of Europe, is the oldest: normative globalism or cosmopolitanism. Since this is a general philosophical tradition, it is not necessarily linked to any particular territory. However, in recent years, political cosmopolitans have seen the EU as a model for global integration.