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The Forum > Article Comments > What is Europe? > Comments

What is Europe? : Comments

By Ioan Voicu, published 12/6/2008

Europe and Asia are joined at the hip, but can they have a more meaningful relationship?

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Away from diplomatic circles my experience leads me to believe that most Chinese are not really aware of Europe as an entity. They are aware of individual trading partners such as Sweden but seem not to have much idea about the EU as a force.

My approach as a teacher has been to teach "Western History" with emphasis on a shared history and a common genesis through Indo-Germanic language roots, with movements such as the Renaissance and Englightenment being a common thread.

This approach comes as a surprise to the majority of students whose limited knowledge of Western history has led them to view individual European countries as separate entities and thus they are unused to actual meaning of Europe as other than a geographical indicator.

Although exporters are catching on to the idea of a European market as opposed to simply a German or French etc. one it will, I think take a little more time before the average Chinese person comes to appreciate the term "Europe" and its implications.
Posted by Romany, Friday, 13 June 2008 9:20:09 AM
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There are many misunderstandings about Europe and the EU. The EU is about 15 years old (previously we had the strictly economic EEC). It is the only organisation where members voluntarily give up some sovereignty.

This is quite remarkable as in recent history sovereignty tends to increase rather than decrease. Most asian nations have their sovereignty increased in the last 70 years through the process of de-colonisation and sovereignty is a bit of a sacred cow. Non interference in internal affairs is one of ASEAN's foundations.

But back to Europe. European history in the early 20th century has shown the limitations of nationalism and the fragility of democracy. After WWII the EEC and later the EU where slowly developed.

Europeans however don't feel like they are primarily Europeans; they feel they are English, Irish, French, Dutch etc first and only then European. I think that is one of the primary reasons that the constitution failed 4 years ago. It will take another generation or so to develop a European identity. Of course there is always the possibility of a new seminal event to create a new national myth for European nationalism, perhaps through a severe energy crisis or climate change. Such an event could just as easily rip the EU apart or create a national myth for the entire world (dream on).

I think that there are many misconceptions about Europe and the EU outside Europe. The EU is taking a regional trade agreement like APEC, ASIAN, NAFTA or Mercosur a few steps further. Yielding sovereignty voluntarily is not easily done and we shouldn't expect miracles.
Posted by gusi, Friday, 13 June 2008 4:26:07 PM
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