Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Europe of ElitesA Study into the Europeanness of Europe's Political and Economic Elites$

Heinrich Best, György Lengyel, and Luca Verzichelli

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602315

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602315.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 12 November 2018

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Chapter:
(p.94) 5 The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe
Source:
The Europe of Elites
Author(s):

Irmina Matonytė

Vaidas Morkevičius

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602315.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates elites’ perceptions of potential external and internal threats to a cohesive Europe (enlargement of the EU to include Turkey, close relationships between some EU countries and the United States, interference of Russia in European affairs, increase in nationalism, immigration from non-EU states, negative effects of globalization on welfare, and economic and social differences among the EU member states). Results show nationalism and socio-economic differences to be perceived as the highest threats. Significant differences are found between perceptions of elites from EU founding member states and the new post-socialist EU member states; the perception of threats is not systematically stronger among political elites than among economic elites, although elites’ left–right political identification is a powerful predictor. Threat perception is also related to elites’ visions of Europe and articulated along three lines: cultural heritage, socio-economic order, and governance. Elites’ trust in the EU institutions decreases their perception of threats.

Keywords:   European elites, threat perception, cohesive Europe, identity, socio-economic frame, political self-identification, nationalism, immigration

5.1 Background

As a point of departure for our work, we hold that, among other things, the elites of the European Union (EU) express who ‘we’ are, what are ‘our’ norms and ideals, and how ‘we’ differ from other communities. In this context, analysis of elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe might provide interesting new insights. Our aim, however, is not study threats in vivo (as provoking a reaction along the structural-functionalist and neo-functionalist lines), nor do we look for any causal link between elites’ perception of threats and their later policy preferences and actions. Rather, in a social constructivist manner, we look at the threats in vitro, in other words, we are interested in how elites define, frame, understand, and place perceived threats in the broader context of the European project, i.e. visions and interpretations of desirable political developments and favoured values of the EU.

Social science literature makes it clear that every identity, whether individual, social, or political, presents a fundamental and troubling paradox: an identity establishes itself in relation to a set of differences, and it operates under powerful pressures to fix, regulate, or exclude some of these differences (Rousseau and Garcia-Retamero 2007). The influential ‘no demos’ theory, which suggests the absence of any true European community (Weiler 1999), emphasizes the lack of any genuine common European-wide character, and supports the proposition that the current European project is based on territorial connections between countries and narrow social circles of elites (Eriksen, Fossum, and Menéndez 2004). In other words, lacking the common will and identity of a united people, the cohesion of the European project (p.95) continues to depend strongly on elites. In relation to this, social psychology theorists and political scientists (most notably, Carl Schmitt) have suggested that a mythical figure of a foe is fundamental to serve as a unifying force to establish a national ‘we’. Even if a European identity does not need to be constructed through a radical other (i.e. it is a temptation rather than a necessity), European studies often engage in an uneasy search for the other, thought to be either seeing the EU from outside or destabilizing it from within (Risse 2001; Wodak 2004; Matonytė and Morkevičius 2009). From a post-structuralist perspective, and relative to European identity building, Diez developed a fourfold typology of othering: the representation of the other as an existential threat (securitization); the representation of the other as something inferior; the representation of the other as violating universal principles; and representation of the other as different (2005: 628). Diez claims that the core values, principles, and norms of the EU lie at the centre of othering, and that all the time the European self is being constructed, the other is also being built (2005: 617).

In the realm of international relations and national security studies, it is widely accepted that the self-assertion of a people and the democratic quality of a political regime depend on the social acknowledgement of otherness and on the unifying ethos arising from pressure to contest the otherness (Connolly 1991: 8). Research, such as that by Campbell (1998) on American foreign and security policy, demonstrates the importance of the constructions of otherness as opposed to more ambiguous definitions of identity from within the polity in elite and governmental discourse. Indeed, following the line of discourse analysis, mainstream social constructivists focus their attention on the normative power of Europe and its abilities to shape conceptions of the normal (Manners 2002: 235–58). In this vein, a common European foreign and defence policy is assessed as a means for nation states to deal with the external threats (Schoen 2008: 8), therefore empowering, rather than weakening, the nation state to maintain its self-determination and sovereignty (Risse 2001). European studies also show that perceived threats not only motivate protective behaviour (such as border controls, restrictions on immigrants’ freedoms and rights, etc.), but also promote support for EU-level policies. Therefore, the normative power of Europe shaped and put forward by the relevant political elites, when refined and placed within a broader context, might be helpful in revealing the nuances of European identity under elites’ construction.

In this chapter we attempt to expand research on the normative power of Europe beyond the areas of defence and security, and to associate it with differences in elites’ visions of the future of the EU and their political-ideological orientations. In order to do this, we examine elites’ perceptions of threats (external and internal) to a cohesive Europe, where threats are defined by the (p.96) functionalist logic supposing the homeostatic nature of social systems. By this, we mean that we assume the EU is aiming at maintaining equilibrium and that it is sensitive to external and internal challenges that could disturb its alleged inner balance.

It would seem that threats to a cohesive Europe may have different saliency and that elites’ perception of them might depend on the environment, the overall situation, and the issues at stake. With regard to elites’ attachment to the EU, this can be conceptualized not only in parallel to their national identities but also vis-à-vis their symbolic and pragmatic relations to Europe and to the EU as a political project (Lengyel and Göncz 2009). In this case, elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe would not say so much about elites’ European identity as about other aspects of the elites’ European project, such as their trust in the EU institutions, their future visions of the EU, and their ideological orientations, which are separate from the nation state analytically. In this study we also control for the extent to which elites’ gender, age, educational level and human capital, and relation to Europe explain variations in elites’ perceptions of the threats to a cohesive Europe.

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.1. European elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe

(p.97) In the IntUne survey, from which we draw the data for this work,1 three non-EU countries (Turkey, USA, and Russia) were named as potential (but not proposed as actual) threats to European cohesion.2 Following functionalist logic, the survey also identified several internal threats to a cohesive Europe,3 i.e. an increase in the nationalism of EU member states, immigration from non-EU states, the negative effects of globalization on welfare, and economic and social differences among the EU member states as plausible factors setting a centrifugal motion in place and causing the EU’s development outward.

As can be seen in Figure 5.1, following descriptive analysis, threats are ranked according to how strongly they are perceived and evaluated by the elites. We proceed by this ranking order, starting with the threat of growing nationalism, which is assigned the highest weight as a threat to a cohesive Europe, and ending with the smallest ranked threat, i.e. the close relations of some EU countries with the USA.

First, conceptualization of nationalism in the EU member states as a threat to a cohesive Europe reminds us of the very first incentives to start the European project of economic cooperation, which in post‐1945 Europe was to restrain German and French nationalism. Since then, national identities in the EU have been relegated to the narrow field of cultural policies, while peaceful trade and diplomacy became the main instruments of politics. The anti-nationalist narratives that deny the legitimacy of nationalism altogether as an atavistic notion and regard nationalism as an obstacle to human rights, international harmony, and economic rationality (O’Sullivan 2004: 33) have been laid at the basis of the EU as a political project. Yet, the national identities of the EU member states have not disappeared and political elites exploit these identities to mobilize significant Eurosceptic and nationalistically minded parts of the population. Indeed, since the turn of the twenty-first century, the radical right and neo-nationalism has been growing in almost all European countries. The radical right insists on defence of national interests, criticizes pro-European governments, and attacks immigration, with organized, violent (p.98) attacks against immigrants and foreign companies being reported across the EU. The referendum on the ratification of the European constitutional treaty was rejected in spring 2005 in France and in the Netherlands, when opponents successfully argued that Muslim minorities in the EU are already too large and that the Constitution would harm national feelings of populations in the EU member states.

Japanese scholar Haba (2007) claims that the rise of nationalism under European integration can be divided into three types: radical nationalism (exemplified by outbursts of Nazism and ethnic cleansing, since democracy always carries with it the possibility that the majority might tyrannize minorities); liberal nationalism (exemplified by instances of a patriotic sentiment, not chauvinistic or xenophobic, but rather friendly to foreign countries4); and finally, xenophobic nationalism (born out in attempts to overcome the democratic deficit in the EU, urging direct popular democracy, and contributing to growing antagonism between titular (true) European citizens and the others). According to Haba (2007: 4) the current growing nationalism in the EU is mostly of the xenophobic type, which is expressed by popular participation in the EU democracy through such instruments as referenda and elections, where the EU citizens express their antagonism to the others, who presumably undermine their interests. Xenophobic EU citizens do not see any clear match between the EU and their own interest, and their claims for citizens’ interests in the EU emerge not as solidarity with neighbouring countries, but as xenophobia. The EU member states elites’ perception of growing nationalism as a threat to a cohesive Europe might then mean that the whole EU project is in danger. Indeed, as already noted, analysis shows that European elites see the threat of the growth of nationalist attitudes in the European member states as the highest among all the threats presented to them (see Figure 5.1). In fact, 75 per cent of the European elites surveyed perceive growing nationalism in EU member states as a (very) big threat to European cohesion.

Second in the ranking of perceived threats is that of economic and social differences among the EU member states. In 1957 the European Economic Communities set the goal of a closer union among the peoples of Europe and laid down four freedoms that allowed for the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital in the member countries. Since then, the EU has grown from six to twenty-seven countries, thirteen of which, at the time of the survey (2007), successfully shared a single currency. Yet, in fact, from the economic point of view, the EU remains very diverse. While by international comparison all EU countries have large public sectors, member states still differ significantly with regard to the scope of the tasks assigned to the state, (p.99) local authorities, non-governmental organizations, and social security agencies. National labour market institutions differ considerably: some member states rely on strict legislative regulation of labour markets, others leave more power to trade unions and employers’ associations, and yet others value workers’ and entrepreneurs’ individual initiatives. The social and economic differences among the EU member states have been reported as especially disturbing in relation to post-socialist EU enlargement (Vaughan-Whitehead 2003), although even among the fifteen old member states of the EU, social policies diverge vastly in areas such as social security, industrial relations, regional development, and agriculture. Distinctive dynamics of socio-economic development of an individual EU member state arise from a multi-tiered system where the member states share policy-making responsibilities with the EU central authorities. For instance, one of the reasons for the rejection of the European Constitutional treaty (2005) was that the French ‘no’ voters were suspicious that the EU would impose what is known derisively as Anglo-Saxon economics, effectively dismantling the cherished French welfare state. Therefore, social and economic differences among the EU member states are seen as a potential centrifugal force, so that elites perceive them as a strong threat to a cohesive Europe. Indeed, the descriptive statistical analysis shows (see Figure 5.1) that economic and social differences among the member states are understood as the second biggest threat to a cohesive Europe: more than a half of European elites see it as a big or quite big threat.

The elites in our sample ranked eventual EU enlargement to include Turkey (an official EU candidate country since 2005) as the third most significant threat to a cohesive Europe. This may be because the elites see Turkey as a particular challenge on many accounts concerning the European common market, cultural traditions, and geopolitical stakes. Indeed, the possibility of Turkish entry into the EU has already produced quarrels among the EU leaders and representatives of the EU member states, ranging from disagreements about human rights and women’s place in the country, to issues of secular culture and Islam in public life in Turkey, as well as addressing problems of Turkish immigration to the EU (McLaren 2007). Due to its hybrid position vis-à-vis Europe, Turkey is an ideal other for the construction of European identity. Historically, Turkey has mostly been a part of the European power set, but it was also construed as a Muslim enemy at the gates of Europe. Turkey’s limbo position allows the EU on the one hand to wield its influence over Turkey, and on the other hand to construct its difference (Diez 2005: 633). In the case of Turkey, the power of the Europeanization discourse is not unidirectional: this discourse binds the EU and Turkey, since it empowers the other (here, Turkish elites) to remind the EU leaders of their promises (Diez 2005: 633). Both sides entertain and maintain affective, normative, and pragmatic engagement. Assessment of the EU member states elites’ perceptions of (p.100) the threat posed to a cohesive Europe by its eventual enlargement to include Turkey might capture many reference points around which the European project evolves. Indeed, the descriptive statistical analysis shown in Figure 5.1 indicates that enlargement of the EU to include Turkey is understood as an important threat to a cohesive Europe (half of the elites thinks so).

Elites assign Russian interference in European affairs, which is presented in the IntUne survey in a clear and direct way (causing nuisance through its interference in European affairs) as the fourth threat to a cohesive Europe. In fact, the descriptive statistical analysis (see Figure 5.1) shows that half of the elites consider the Russian interference in European affairs as either a very important or an important threat to a cohesive Europe. The European elites’ understanding of Russia is important and since historical times Russia has played a significant role in the formation of European identity. Russia has been, and still is, often perceived as a learner (or a follower) of European economic and political practices (the idea of Russia as a follower does, of course, imply that Russia is becoming more like ‘us’ and thereby less different) while at the same time being perceived as a potential threat to European security (primarily from a military perspective, but also concerning energy and economic matters). In 1996, Neumann found that the most important others in the Russian political discourse were the West, Germany, the Baltic countries, as well as Europe in general (Neumann 1996: 6). Yet, for Russians since the late 1990s there is an obvious tension between accepting the role of a follower of Europe and maintaining the notion that Russia is a great power. Russia is reluctant to be a ‘good’ learner and to respect human rights, cherish ethnic minorities (for instance, Chechens), and recognize its neighbouring countries (Central and Eastern European states from the former Soviet bloc, and the Baltic countries, in particular) as nations on a par with the Russian nation itself. This situation suggests that insecurity of the Russian self may result in a nationalistic policy vis-à-vis Europe. Russian aggressive reactions to the enlargement of the EU (and NATO) also show the extent to which Russia has not yet accepted that these particular institutionalizations of European and Western selves are not and cannot be potential threats to Russia (Neumann 1996: 6).

In the elites ranking, the next threat to a cohesive Europe is posed by immigration from non-EU countries, which is in fact growing in the EU. Cooperation in the sphere of immigration policies is seen as a prerequisite for the European single market, its internal border-free space and its shared external borders (Papademetriou 2006). After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US (and those in Madrid and London later) immigration took on the additional connotation of a security threat to the EU. Yet, regulation of European immigration has a decades-long legacy of failed promises. In the EU, cooperation on the issues of immigration is hampered by a confrontation (p.101) between Euro-enthusiasts, supporting the initiative to fully harmonize the EU immigration policy, and the Eurosceptics, suspicious and conservative, willing to preserve national vetoes on the numbers of admitted immigrants. Political divergences between the European mandate to regulate immigration and its matter-of-fact results point to a difficult dilemma and render the issue of immigration elusive. It also makes harmonization of immigration policies difficult, which is required by the European single market (the project of economic integration). However, in matters of immigration, concerns of identity (national and European) override economic considerations, since people are inclined to make choices based on non-economic criteria when contemplating outsiders and the political means to control them (Ugur 1995: 971). Immigration policy, owing to its resonance with policies of citizenship, membership, and identity, is non-divisible and non-transparent and cannot be produced through bargaining, like simple economic negotiations. Immigration stands out as a tremendous threat to established visions of the European identity and societal integrity (Ugur 1995: 972). Even though the elites may have an educational advantage, which can be expected to increase tolerance, and do not share the ordinary people’s fears of losing their jobs, the issue of immigration is sensitive for them too since it taps into the very essence of the EU as a political project, drawing a lot of its support from a general hostility towards other cultures (McLaren 2002: 564). Indeed, the descriptive statistical analysis (see Figure 5.1) shows that 40 per cent of the elites perceive immigration from non-EU countries as an important threat to a cohesive Europe.

The survey also addressed the elites’ perception of negative effects of globalization on welfare as a threat to a cohesive Europe. This question was intended to measure the elites’ approval of economic globalization and their perception of the trade-offs between European welfare and its success in the globalizing economy. As Giddens and Hutton (2000) claim, we must take globalization seriously and acknowledge that the old strategies and institutions, including existing structures of the welfare state, are no longer able to deliver. Indeed, as our data (in Figure 5.1) show, the negative effects of globalization on welfare are perceived as a threat to a cohesive Europe by more than one-third of elites.

Another issue, tested as an external threat to a cohesive Europe, concerned the eventual EU enlargement to include some unspecified countries (they could have included Norway, Ukraine, Croatia, Moldova, Macedonia, Georgia, Tunisia, and Israel among others5). This variable measured elites’ general (p.102) support for further expansion of the EU, their readiness for multicultural accommodation of newcomers, and their willingness to sharpen several geopolitical and socio-economic disputes. However, the descriptive statistical analysis (see Figure 5.1) shows that the threat of EU enlargement to countries other than Turkey was not rated very highly by the elites.

Finally, the last threat to a cohesive Europe considered by the elites was that stemming from the US having close relations with some EU countries. The US as an external factor, which helps articulating the European identity and mobilizes EU collective action, is analysed in several instances. European concerns over US competition in the defence sector led to an elaboration of the EU Research and Technology Development policy (Mörth 2003). Some authors argue that the very possibility of an EU common foreign and security policy is questionable, given that the US entertains special relations with several EU countries (for example, with Great Britain, as well as with the post-socialist Central European states, Poland in particular; see Šešelgytė 2007). Other studies imply broader and deeper cultural affinities between the US and, on the one hand, the Anglo-Saxon and Eurosceptic Great Britain, and on the other hand, the conservative post-socialist EU member states (Donskis 2005: 164). The US in the elites’ survey under consideration was

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.2. European elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe: elite type differences

(p.103) not conceived as an important threat to a cohesive Europe, yet it was included to represent another political tradition and another security community. The descriptive statistical analysis (see Figure 5.1) shows that close relations between some EU countries and the US are not generally perceived by elites as a threat to a cohesive Europe, but nevertheless, 20 per cent of European elites find it somewhat threatening.

Further analysis (see Figure 5.2) shows that there are no great differences between European political and economic elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe.6 Political and economic elites do not diverge significantly in their assessment of threats to a cohesive Europe, lending support to the thesis about the intra-elites mutual cueing effect, enhancing and levelling their attitudes towards the EU (Best, Matonytė, and Morkevičius 2009). Indeed, economic elites significantly differ from political elites only regarding their relatively low perception of the threat posed by globalization (20 per cent of business elites find it a big or quite a big threat, with a much higher 40 per cent of political elites finding it a big or quite a big threat). On all other accounts, perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe run in parallel between political and economic elites.

It is known that elite perception of threats to a cohesive Europe varies considerably between various EU member states and, as observed by Anderson and Kaltenhaler (1996), that the timing or length of a country’s membership in the EU has an impact on national elites’ attitudes towards Europe. However, larger differences are found when perceptions of threats by elites from the founding member states of the EU are contrasted to those of elites from new (post-socialist) EU member states. In general, elites from founding EU member states (in this study: Belgium, France, Italy, and Germany) perceive a lower level of threats than their counterparts from the post-socialist EU member states (in this study: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia). This difference might be explained by the performance of the nation state (Kritzinger 2003): old consolidated democracies with well-functioning market economies have an evident advantage over the post-socialist states where a general feeling of insecurity is amplified by many ongoing reforms, the latter led by the state institutions crucially lacking public trust.

The biggest difference (of 30 per cent) is seen in European elites’ perception of Russia: 60 per cent of elites from post-socialist countries claim that Russia poses a big or quite a big threat to a cohesive Europe, while this opinion is held by only 30 per cent of elites from the EU founding states (see Figure 5.3). This difference highlights the geographical proximity and recent political past of (p.104)

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.3. European elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe: country differences

the post-socialist countries, whose elites define the Russian threat of interference in European affairs not in a soft, social constructivist way, but in harsh terms as an existential threat (securitization), adding that Russia transgresses the universal principles of human rights, democracy, etc. (Diez 2005: 628). In relation to the general strongly negative perception of Russia, post-socialist elites want in particular to control negative externalities of political transformations in Russia and to be absolutely sure that the EU is a zone of peace, respecting human rights and supporting prosperity. Elites from post-socialist countries also are markedly more afraid of the enlargement of the EU to include Turkey and of the threat to a cohesive Europe posed by immigration from the non-EU countries than the elites from old Europe. Yet, past experience or the current situation explain little as to why elites from new post-socialist EU member states are more sensitive to perceived threats associated with immigration from third countries and the Turkish integration. It may be that these fears have deeper cultural roots and draw on aspects concerning their national identity and/or are related to a particular vision for the future of Europe. We should also point out that the post-socialist elites appear to feel much less threatened by eventual EU enlargement (not including Turkey) than their counterparts in old Europe (presumably, the areas of EU expansion may include (p.105) countries from the Central European Schicksalgemeinschaft––community of fate––such as Croatia, Moldova, and the Ukraine).

The elites from the founding EU member states report significantly higher concerns about the disintegration of welfare in the EU than do the post-socialist elites: 40 per cent of them (compared to 30 per cent of post-socialist elites) find globalization negatively affecting a cohesive Europe, and 30 per cent (compared to 10 per cent of post-socialist elites) see close relations between some EU member states and the US as a threat to European cohesion. The fact that a greater threat from the US is perceived by the elites from the founding EU member states might reflect their discontent concerning the intense transatlantic ties of Great Britain and, to a lesser extent, of Eastern European countries (new NATO members). Elites from the old EU member states are also more worried about the centrifugal effect of growing nationalism in the EU countries. This finding corroborates the view that there are diverging nationalisms in the founding EU countries versus post-socialist EU member states (Haba 2007). In other words, higher saliency of xenophobic nationalism in the public and political agenda of founding EU member states, as opposed to the post-socialist EU member states, generates greater sensitivity of elites from the old Europe to the threat of growing nationalism to a cohesive Europe. Also, elites from the founding EU member states evaluate the threat to a cohesive Europe posed by economic and social differences among the EU member states more highly than the post-socialist elites. The relatively negative assessment of economic and social differences among the EU member states given by elites from the old Europe might stem from the fact that these countries are net contributors to the EU budget and are getting tired of the (growing) burden of economic solidarity.

5.2 Hypotheses

Differences in observations of country (region) and structural (depending on elites’ sector) differences in elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe necessitate a closer scrutiny of other aspects of the elites’ European project, which might present complex patterns. Here, we formulate some exploratory hypotheses, which we test later by means of regression analysis.

Empirical studies reveal that political ideology is a major factor influencing elites’ attitudes towards different issues (Aberbach, Putnam, and Rockman 1981). We assume that perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe are shaped by the elites’ left–right ideological orientations. It is extensively conceptualized that people oriented towards the political left usually emphasize issues of political and social equality, social security, solidarity, as well as international peace and cooperation, whereas politically right-oriented people put emphasis (p.106) on issues of economic freedom and growth, competition, national and traditional moral values, as well as state authority and military power (Budge et al. 2001). Consequently we expect to find that left-leaning elites perceive bigger threats to cohesive EU as coming from growing nationalism in the EU, from economic and social differences among the EU member states, from globalization effects on welfare, as well as from close relations of some EU countries with the US. In parallel, we hypothesize that right-leaning elites would perceive higher threats to a cohesive Europe as being posed by enlargement of the EU to include Turkey, by Russian interference in European affairs, by immigration from non-EU countries, and by enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey. Following the performance model (March 1988; North 1990; Dalton 1996), we also expect that the strength of elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe would be negatively related to the elites’ trust in major EU institutions.7

We also assume that differences in the interpretation of the European project might explain the differences in European elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe. First, we identify the cultural dichotomy, defining elites’ attitudes towards the European cultural heritage (here: considerations that Christian values and traditions are at the core of the European project versus assertions of the secular nature and profile of the EU). Even though formally the EU (since its inception by the Treaty of Rome) is a secular body and there are no formal ties to any religion and no mention of religion in any current or proposed treaty, researchers agree that Christianity is a powerful cultural identity that works both to resist and to accommodate Europeanization. Looking at political controversies surrounding Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam, Byrnes and Katzenstein (2006) discuss the increasing salience of Europe’s religious definition and argue that religious factors are stumbling blocks rather than stepping stones towards further integration of Europe. These authors show that all three religious traditions promote European identity and the EU in the ways not intended by the founders of the European project and are divisive for the body of EU political leaders and social elites. Therefore, we assume that elites who perceive being a Christian as very important for being a true European would also perceive higher threats posed by EU enlargement to Turkey and other countries, as well as by immigration from non-EU countries. Additionally, we expect that elites who think European identity is secular will perceive higher threats to a cohesive Europe posed by nationalism and by close relations of some EU countries with the US.

(p.107) Second, we identify the socio-economic dichotomy, defining elites’ attitudes towards the EU role of providing better social security versus making the European economy more competitive. Vaughan-Whitehead (2003) found that political sensibilities of the European elites are sharpened by widening social and regional inequalities in the EU, which are caused by the presumed EU obsession with economic growth, detrimental to social and cohesion policies. Growing proportions of European elites claim that the European project is not only about economy and trade, but also about social protection, cooperation, and solidarity, and that the EU must set an example of how to manage interdependencies and master globalization. Competing views on how the EU economic integration and market regulation should evolve are embraced by elites. Hooghe and Marks (1999) subsumed this discussion under the label of neo-liberals versus social democrats. Hence, we expect that elites who think the main aim of the EU is to make the European economy more competitive will perceive economic and social differences among the EU members states and negative effects of globalization on welfare as posing the greater threat to a cohesive Europe.

Third, we identify the supranationalist versus intergovernmentalist dichotomy defining elites’ attitudes towards the EU governance, the first group supporting supranational governance and the second arguing for greater reliance on EU member-state generated legitimacy and authority.8 As Wessels and Katz comment, ‘the acute problem of the EU legitimacy emerged, because the European Community eroded the basic ordering principle of the modern European state, which is autonomy within and independence without’ (1999: 5). We hypothesize that supranationalist elites will perceive greater threats to a cohesive Europe to be posed by growing nationalism in the EU member states and by some EU countries having close ties to the US. In addition, we expect that intergovernmentalist elites perceive EU enlargement to Turkey and other countries and the interference of Russia in European affairs as posing the greater threats to a cohesive Europe.

For the regression model, we hypothesize that some distinguishable patterns in elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe might appear due to the EU being a factual community, engaging national elites (among other actors) in intensive social interactions: we expect that elites’ engagement in dense European networks, knowledge of foreign languages, and frequent (p.108) communication in and about the EU will generally lead to lower levels of perceived threats. Finally, we control for whether perceptions of threats are shaped by the elites’ gender, age, and level of education.

5.3 Results

The results of an ordered logistic regression analysis show that elites’ ideological left–right orientation generates the most empirical support for our hypotheses concerning elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe (Table 5.1). Left-leaning elites perceive growing nationalism inside the EU, the close ties of some EU countries with the US, and the effects of globalization on welfare as significant threats to a cohesive Europe. Right-leaning elites, however, perceive threats from immigration, the eventual enlargement of the EU to include Turkey, and interference of Russia in European affairs to be significantly higher. Perceptions of only two threats (socio-economic differences among the EU member states and enlargement of the EU to countries other than Turkey) do not generate any significant relation with elites’ political ideologies. These findings are in line with classical political theory, which conceptualizes the left as emphasizing issues of political and social equality, social security, solidarity, as well as international peace and cooperation, whereas the right is found to be oriented towards economic freedom and growth, competition, national and traditional moral values, as well as state authority and military power. These results, which show how strongly the left–right continuum is applicable to the perceptions of the threats to a cohesive Europe, are yet more proof of the unyielding weight of political ideologies in framing the understanding of issues, not only at the national but also at the European level, and across public policy domains.

As expected, trust in the EU institutions significantly decreases elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe. The higher the level of elites’ trust in the EU institutions, the lower their perception of economic and social differences among the EU member states, enlargement of the EU to include Turkey, immigration from non-EU countries, effects of globalization on welfare, and close American ties with some EU countries as threats to a cohesive Europe. As to three other threats (growing nationalism, interference of Russia in European affairs, and enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey), they do not display any significant relation to elites’ trust in EU institutions. This twofold finding is clearly in line with the institutional performance thesis and shows that in those areas where the EU institutions have some leverage and experience of engaged and successful dealing institutional trust lowers threat perception. Yet, in the areas which are not clearly related to any EU institution and which do not have a good track record of (p.109) successful prior initiatives and actions of the EU (here, faulty EU dealings with Russia, uncertainties about further EU enlargement, and lack of EU institutional leverage to combat xenophobic nationalism) institutional trust has no effect on elites’ perceptions of threats.

Concerning elites’ dichotomous views about European cultural heritage (Christian versus secular Europe), socio-economic order (better provisions of social security versus competitiveness of the European market), and governance (supranationalism versus intergovernmentalism) we find that all three frames do indeed work and that they explain variations in elites’ assessment of the threats to a cohesive Europe. The cultural dichotomy generates significant relations with perception of all but one (economic and social differences among the EU member states) of the threats to a cohesive Europe. The socio-economic dichotomy yields significant results with elites’ perception of four threats to a cohesive Europe. Those elites who hold that the main aim of the EU is to make its economy more competitive, perceive higher threats to a cohesive Europe posed by social and economic differences among the EU member states, negative effects of globalization on welfare, and close relations between some EU countries with the US. On the contrary, those elites who favour social security in the EU are systematically more sensitive to the threat of the EU enlargement to Turkey. Curiously, we do not find the frame of social security versus a competitive European market relevant to elites’ perception of immigration as a threat to a cohesive Europe. Plausibly, for those elites who see the EU as a project of increasingly competitive European market, immigrants do not contradict the principle of free movement of labour and competitive salaries. On the other hand, those elites who see the European project as one of social rights and guarantees do not perceive immigrants as a threat to a cohesive Europe, but they do recognize immigrants as providing the ultimate test for the proclaimed values of European solidarity and social justice. Finally, the dichotomy distinguishing supranationalist and intergovernmentalist elites also yields significant results, regarding the perception of four threats to a cohesive Europe. Supranationalist elites systematically perceive higher threats to a cohesive Europe posed by growing nationalism and by the close ties of some EU countries with the US, while intergovernmentalists perceive the enlargement of the EU to include Turkey and immigration from non-EU countries as higher threats to a cohesive Europe.

The density9 of elites’ contact with EU institutions has a very limited influence on the elites’ perceptions of the threats to a cohesive Europe. It is (p.110)

Table 5.1. Ordered logistic regression of elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe on their visions of the EU, ideologies, social background, and human resources (seventeen EU countries, 2007)

Threat to the cohesion of the EUa

Explanatory variables

Growth of nationalist attitudes in the EU member states

Economic and social differen-ces among the EU member states

Enlargement of the EU to include Turkey

Interference of Russia in European affairs

Immigration from the non-EU member states

Effects of globalization on welfare

Enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey

Close relationships between some EU countries and the US

Importance for being true European: to be a Christianb

−0.20i

0.38

0.13

0.45

0.20

0.15

−0.18

Main aim of the EU: making the European economy more competitive vs. providing better social security for allc

0.37

−0.29

0.75

0.56

Supranationalism

0.43

−0.22

−0.42

0.29

Left–right self-identificationf

−0.11

0.13

0.16

0.16

−0.14

−0.16

Trust in the EU institutions

−0.13

−0.07

−0.08

−0.22

−0.13

Genderd

0.42

−0.50

0.29

Age

−0.02

Education:e

Law

−0.34

−0.65

Business

−0.70

Engineering

Social science

−0.73

Humanities

0.45

−0.53

Frequency of foreign media useg

Knowledge of foreign languagesh

0.41

0.29

European contacts density

−0.18

Log likelihood

−1544

−1567

−1583

−1603

−1458

−1561

−1425

−1393

N

1304

1315

1307

1296

1307

1286

1244

1313

(a) On a scale from 0 (not a threat at all) to 3 (a big threat).

(b) On a scale from 0 (not important at all) to 3 (very important).

(c) Making the European economy more competitive coded 1 and providing better social security for all coded 2.

(d) 1 (female), 0 (male).

(e) 1 (the field of education specified), 0 ( otherwise, including ‘no university degree’).

(f) On a scale from 0 (extreme left) to 10 (extreme right).

(g) On a scale from 0 (never) to 3 (every day).

(h) 1 (can speak at least two foreign languages), 0 (otherwise).

(i) Regression coefficient (reported only if p ≤ 0.05).

(p.111) (p.112) statistically significantly correlated only with the lower perception of the close relationships between some EU countries and the US as a threat to a cohesive Europe. In a similar vein, elites’ knowledge of foreign languages is only weakly related to their perception of threats to a cohesive Europe: it lowers perception of immigration and EU enlargement to countries other than Turkey. Frequency of foreign media use does not affect elites’ perception of any of the enumerated threats. Therefore, we conclude that the factual elites’ European experiences and socialization in everyday life of the EU do not significantly influence elites’ perception of the threats to a cohesive Europe.

Finally, we find that elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe are seldom and weakly related to elites’ gender, age, and educational profile. Interestingly, male European elites perceive Russian interference in European affairs and the close relations of some EU countries with the US as significantly greater threats to a cohesive Europe, while female elites distinguish themselves by their higher concerns about the threat of immigration from non-EU countries. Surprisingly, being younger slightly increases the likelihood of higher perception of the threat posed by the Russian interference in European affairs. As to university-level education, only education in the humanities correlates with a

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.4. Predicted probabilities of perceiving growth of nationalist attitudes in the EU member states as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

(p.113) greater concern among elites relating to the threat of immigration from non-EU countries; in all other instances, educational profile does not affect or lower elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe. The field of education also has the most significant influence on elites’ perceptions of Russian interference in European affairs and on effects of globalization on welfare as threats to a cohesive Europe.

In order to explore the hypothesized relations between the three variables reflecting the identified dichotomies of elites’ interpretation of European cultural heritage, socio-economic order, and type of EU governance with elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe, we constructed ideal types (reflecting the extreme values on the identified variables) of elites and compared predicted probabilities of their answers when confronted with the threats under consideration. Due to consistent impact, we also included elites’ political self-identification in the ideal types. We excluded elites’ trust in the EU institutions, since––if significant––it indiscriminately lowers perception of all examined threats. On the grounds of weak impact in our regression model, we also did not include socio-demographic and elites’ European human and social capital related variables.

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.5. Predicted probabilities of perceiving economic and social differences among the EU member states as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

(p.114) It appears (see Figure 5.4) that perception of growth of nationalist attitudes in the EU member states as a threat to a cohesive Europe clearly differentiates the hypothesized elites’ groups. It is significantly higher among those who underline the secular character of the EU, who support its supranational governance, and who identify with the extreme left. Proponents of a secular Europe are clearly those who also favour post-national modernity and who are therefore sensitive to nationalism, in particular in its xenophobic forms. Analogous logic explains the supranationalist worries about growing nationalism as a threat to a cohesive Europe.

In parallel, elites’ perception of economic and social differences among the EU member states moderately differentiates the hypothesized elites’ groups: likelihood of perceiving economic and social differences among the EU member states as a threat is higher among elites who favour social security over the economic competitiveness of the EU, and who identify with the extreme left (see Figure 5.5). As predicted along functionalist lines, elites who identify with the extreme left are concerned with social justice more than with economic growth and global market competitiveness, and view economic and social differences among the EU member states as a threat to cohesive Europe.

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.6. Predicted probabilities of perceiving enlargement of the EU to include Turkey as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

(p.115)

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.7. Predicted probabilities of perceiving interference of Russia in European affairs as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

It also appears that seeing Turkish integration as a threat to a cohesive Europe considerably differentiates the hypothesized elite groups: it is significantly higher among elites who favour a Christian Europe, are against supranational governance of the EU, and identify with the extreme right (see Figure 5.6). In the eyes of those who cherish the Christian roots of Europe, the non-Christian traditions of Turkey make its eventual integration into the EU a threat to European cohesion. Intergovernmentalist elites are more sensitive to the threat associated with Turkish integration into the EU because they plausibly expect that due to its big population, huge markets, and strong geopolitical situation, Turkey’s integration into the EU would cause disequilibrium in the European fraternity and hinder the interests of smaller states.

Results of the analysis show that perception of Russian interference in European affairs as a threat to a cohesive Europe also differentiates to a considerable extent the elites’ groups: perception of this threat is systematically higher among intergovernmentalist elites who identify with the extreme right (see Figure 5.7).

Similarly, perception of immigration as a threat to a cohesive Europe strongly differentiates the elite groups: it is significantly higher among those elites who cherish the Christian roots of Europe, are intergovernmentalists, and self-identify with the extreme right (see Figure 5.8). The fact (p.116)

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.8. Predicted probabilities of perceiving immigration from the non-EU member states as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

that strong opinions about the Christian roots of the EU enhance negative perception of immigration is related to the fact that most current immigrants to the EU come from non-Christian backgrounds and therefore dilute the cultural-religious specificity of the EU. The finding that intergovernmentalist elites fear immigration more highly than those who proclaim a supranational Europe might be related to the fact that those elites identify strongly with the nation state and do not want to empower supranational EU institutions, even though it becomes increasingly evident that immigration policies require coordinated EU action at the expense of member-state sovereignty.

To somewhat lesser extent, perception of globalization effects on welfare as a threat to a cohesive Europe also differentiates the elite groups: it is higher among elites for whom the main aim of the EU is to make the European economy more competitive and who identify with the extreme left (see Figure 5.9). In a way, the results presented so far might be reflective of the neo-liberal versus socialist controversy among the European elites.

There is little differentiation in the elite groups concerning the probability of considering EU enlargement to include countries other than Turkey as a threat to a cohesive Europe: it is only slightly higher among those who put (p.117)

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.9. Predicted probabilities of perceiving effects of globalization on welfare as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.10. Predicted probabilities of perceiving enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

(p.118) an accent on the Christian roots of Europe, are against supranational governance, and who identify with the extreme right (see Figure 5.10).

Finally, perception of some EU countries having close relations with the US as a threat to European cohesion also considerably differentiates the hypothesized elite groups: probability of perceiving this threat as a big one is higher among elites who favour a secular Europe, support supranational governance of the EU, and identify with the extreme left (see Figure 5.11). Evidently, for the European supranationalists, the close relations of some EU countries with the US mean additional barriers and difficulties to the central management of European politics, especially concerning foreign affairs and security. However, the observed relation between the cultural-religious dichotomy and elites’ perception of the threat posed by the US to a cohesive Europe invites us to broaden the interpretation of the US as the other to Europe. Plausibly, the European elites in favour of a secular EU view the US as a threat to a cohesive Europe and thus display their disapproval of the high political stakes the US put on ‘moral values’, such as those associated with pro-life and other highly voiced conservative policies (our survey took place during the administration of President George W. Bush).

The other side of European identity: elite perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe

Figure 5.11. Predicted probabilities of perceiving close relationships between some EU countries and the US as a threat to a cohesive Europe by hypothesized European elites’ groups (derived from ordered logistic regression analysis results)

(p.119) 5.4 Conclusions

The EU was created more than fifty years ago with the aim of fighting against nationalism and the socio-economic differences that had led to the devastating world wars of the twentieth century. The European project at that time was meant to unite its member states in their efforts to live in peace and prosperity. At the end of twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century, the European project underwent tremendous changes and began evolving into a superstate. This has necessitated new legitimating arguments and discourses, since the realist/functionalist background of the EU as a practical arrangement for free trade and international cooperation is no longer sufficient. This has led to the EU searching for an identity, which differs greatly (both the search process and its content) from those observed in the construction of national identities. Perceived threats to the European project capture elites’ imagination: along with the old threats of nationalism and socio-economic differences among the European countries, new malicious forces appear: the proposed entry of Turkey, of other countries, and immigration in general (i.e. the inflow of different people, cultures, and values), the close ties of some EU countries with the US (friendship with the other and betrayal of native Europeans), the interference of Russia in European affairs (destructive influence of the other), and the negative results of globalization on welfare. Our initial differentiation of threats to a cohesive Europe into internal and external sources is therefore refuted. Our analysis of elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe rather shows that the old realist/functionalist threats of nationalism and socio-economic differences among the EU member states continue to be perceived as the highest, yet the new constructivist/ subjective threats to a cohesive Europe are perceived as lower.

Our findings also show that there are differences in perception of the old and new threats to a cohesive Europe expressed by elites from the old and new EU members states (elites from the EU founding member states score higher than elites from the new post-socialist EU member states on perception of nationalism and socio-economic differences among the EU countries, and yet they also score higher on perceiving the enlargement of the EU to include other countries and the close relationship of some countries with the US as threats vis-à-vis a cohesive Europe).

Contrary to our assumption that there might be some ‘division of labour’ between political and economic elites, whereby political elites are more intensively engaged in EU matters, perception of threats to a cohesive Europe among the political elites is not systematically stronger than among economic elites. This observation lends itself to interpretation along the lines of the (p.120) elites’ mutual cueing effect. However, more research on other segments of national elites (civil society, media, cultural, academic, etc.) and their perception of threats to a cohesive Europe would be needed to better explain the national elites’ cueing effect in the European project.

Our study strongly confirms the assumption that elites’ left–right political identification is a powerful predictor of perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe. We find that European elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe are related to their visions of Europe, articulated along three lines: cultural heritage (Christian versus secular Europe), socio-economic order (better provisions of social security versus competitiveness of the European market) and governance (supranationalism versus intergovernmentalism). It is worth emphasizing here that the realist/functional dichotomy of the socio-economic order appears to have much lower differentiating potential regarding the elites’ perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe than the two constructivist/subjective dichotomies related to elites’ interpretations of European cultural heritage and suggested governance. Our finding that the socio-economic frame (arguably, the initial one and the driving force of the European project from its very inception) is only moderately relevant in explaining elites’ perception of threats to a cohesive Europe supports our assumption that there are two layers to the European project: the old one based on common interests (prosperity and peace) and the new one based on a search for a comprehensive European identity. Regrettably, there was no data in the IntUne survey on yet another possible frame applicable to the European project, namely, on its military versus civilian power. In terms of the search for a new common identity and normative constructions of the EU, it would be interesting to study its impact on the perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe. Such a test would allow us to see if elites’ preferences to military power (reflecting the old layer of the European project) versus preferences to civilian power frame (reflecting the new layer of the European project) are in line with the socio-economic frame of the EU (the old one favouring economic growth and the new one emphasizing social solidarity). This line of research concerning the differentiation of old and new perspectives of a cohesive Europe might be pursued with a time series study that compares eventual changes in elites’ perceptions of threats resulting from the world economic crisis in 2008 with other areas of change, such as developments in US political leadership and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty in 2009.

Finally, our study greatly substantiates the social constructivist paradigm, which emphasizes relations of political convictions, subjective evaluations, and cultural attitudes with further conceptualizations of social and political practices and orientations much more than with factual individual situations. (p.121) Notably, elites’ trust in the EU institutions statistically significantly decreases their perception of threats to a cohesive Europe. Yet, there is little elites’ convergence in values and perceptions of threats to a cohesive Europe due to high interaction density among its elites, to their strong European socialization or, for that matter, to their gender, age, or level of education.

Notes:

(1) Only data from interviews in the EU member states (seventeen countries) were analysed in this chapter.

(2) Exact wording of the questions was the following: Do you think that the interference of Russia in European affairs is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that the close relationship between some EU countries and the United States is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include Turkey is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU?

(3) Exact wording of the questions was the following: Do you think that immigration from non EU countries is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that the growth of nationalist attitudes in European member states is a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that economic and social differences among member states are a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU? Do you think that negative effects of globalization on welfare are a threat or not a threat for the cohesion of the EU?

(4) As was witnessed in immature democracies of early post-communist Central Europe of the late 1990s; later this liberal nationalism efficiently converged into a wide, popular support for the EU.

(5) In 2007 Iceland was not yet on the EU agenda for its eventual membership.

(6) In Figure 5.1 both political and economic elites were included in the analysis.

(7) The ‘Trust in the EU institutions’ index was constructed from questionnaire items asking respondents to evaluate their trust in the EU institutions (the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council of Ministers) on an 11-point scale (from 0 – ‘No trust at all’ to 10 – ‘Complete trust’). Internal consistency of the index is quite high (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.84). The index is an average of non-standardized item scores.

(8) Later in the text we use the labels—supranationalists and intergovernmentalists—to differentiate between elites supporting supranational design of the EU governance and those arguing for keeping a member-state dominated framework of the EU. The ‘Supranationalism’ index was constructed from four questionnaire items: for details see the IntUne Codebook, items rp08_1a, 1b, 1c, and rp08_2 in the Appendix of this book. Internal consistency of the index is quite low (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.59). The index is an average of standardized (mean – 0, variance – 1) item scores.

(9) The ‘European contacts density’ index was constructed from four questionnaire items where respondents reported the density of their contacts with the actors and institutions of the EU. For details, see the Codebook, chapter 11, items co2_1, ev09a, b, and c. Internal consistency of the index is quite low (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.65). The index is an average of standardized (mean – 0, variance – 1) item scores.