Task: 2/2 The following task is a test to reflect your personal mental map of Europe. As explained above, there is no one and only definition what Europe means and which indicators should be used to identify the concept. But we all have a more or less vague idea of what we find important to defining Europe. To exchange thoughts, post them on the discussion board on blackboard, which will help us to learn more about each other.
Think about the criteria for inclusion and exclusion: Who was or will be included / excluded and why? (Max. 500 words).
Discuss the consequences of a narrow or broader definition of Europe as a precondition for a European Union membership:
What are the potential costs and benefits of each concept?
What are possible theoretical arguments for the different concepts in the perspective of disciplines like economy, political science, sociology, law or history?
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“Europe” is a vague concept – or rather a pluralistic one, as there has never been any clear definition of what is meant by the term. As you can infer from the table, conceptions are numerous and of different kinds, and those shown above are just a small selection of the all existing ones. Thus, a question like “who will be included or excluded” depends first and foremost on the definition of determining factors, often with regard to a respective area someone is looking at. Moreover, many conceptions dispose of “overlapping and intertwining structures” often tending to be quite flexible (Walker 2000, p. 464).
I would like to draw upon Walkers applicative mental maps of Europe. They comprise six different categories: security, economy, culture, religion, geography, and politics (2000, p. 466ff). If we look e.g. at the geographical map, one can see how imprecise such a notion of Europe can be, because no one can say for sure where it ends. Geographical Europe comprises roughly 50 countries with altogether more than 730 million inhabitants, reaching from its westernmost extension in Portugal towards the East, adjoining to Asia. While some people consider the Ural Mountains as the natural boarder of the “old” continent, others even include countries like Kazakhstan, Russia or Turkey as so called semi- recognized states. There are no clear cut boundaries. Continuing with the security map, the concept can be based among others on NATO, or alternatively on OSCE with its 56 member states. Both organizations include other nations than European ones. But “Europe” could also be expressed by the EU – through its advancing common security and defense policy (CSDP).
To belong to one of these various European “clubs”, an aspiring member has to fulfil several criteria. They may be given geographical facts, religious circumstances and decisive historical happenings (fall of the wall), or fulfilled like e.g. economic hurdles, certain requirements of legal or democratic standards, they can be sportive prerequisites, or political aims like the creation of a peace and stability zone, etc. Last but not least, there is plethora of criteria, and hence approaches of how to define Europe, some broader and others narrower, with each entailing positive and/or negative impacts.
Consequences of a narrower concept of Europe might be, if e.g. merely based on one certain religion like Christianity, that it could become more difficult to push forward diversity, mutual respect and tolerance towards others (to prevent a “clash of civilizations”), which could lead in turn to less understanding, and thus stability. On the other hand, homogeneity of all kinds could also stabilize an existing system, because a greater pluralism would possibly produce more conflicts in the form of economic, democratic, etc. disparities. As Fischer already noted with regard to a growing EU, tension could arise as long as democratic and political structures are lacking, leading a larger EU to an inner crisis because of a limited capacity to act (Fischer 2000, p. 4f.). Furthermore, the coordination of such an abundance of diverse interests in a greater union becomes more complicated, time consuming and also intransparent.
Various scientific disciplines put forward different arguments for and against an enlargement of the European Union – of course, depending on the respective theoretical lens someone is looking through. From an economic point of view for instance, a large single market with standardized rules means a stronger impact on the global stage – especially against the background of globalization. In the political area for instance, the incentive to become a member of a strong union with all its benefits can speed up a transition towards more democracy (as to the former Soviet states in Europe), can induce faster change in required standards for human and civic rights as well as the guarantee of certain freedoms (compare Walker 2000, p. 467).
To sum up: Many different “Europes” exist at the same time. The term "Europe" has multiple uses. Last but not least, a lot of factors come together and intertwine: common religion, culture in terms of a shared history, political tradition etc. Depending on the perspective, special concepts of Europe are applied with all their positive or negative side effects.