Guest contributor Carlo Klein is seen in an archive portrait taken by Annabelle Denham
Speakers corner: Despite cultural and economic convergence within the EU, nationalism remains a roadblock to greater European integration, writes Carlo Klein.
We have recentlydiscussed European integration and concluded that, in the ideal case, economic and political integration should go hand in hand. At that time, we mainly mentioned the existing difficulties of achieving a deeper economic integration, but what about political integration?
economic convergence (of member countries’ GDP per capita, income inequality and business cycles);
cultural convergence (of citizens’ religiosity, sexual morality, gender equality, cultural capital and their appreciation of the role of governments); and
institutional convergence (of different indicators of quality of government and public administrations, governance, quality of legal institutions, educational outcomes and regulatory environment).
Unfortunately, their analysis is based on a limited number of member countries, excluding central and eastern European member countries, and only covers the period from 1980 to 2008.
The authors’ conclusion is that there has been economic convergence, mainly during the period 1980 to 2000, but at the same time a certain cultural and institutional divergence can be observed. Apart from these changes over time, the authors also observe a cultural heterogeneity between member countries in general and within member countries with a larger heterogeneity within than between countries!
Nevertheless, the authors are not too pessimistic, because when they compare Europe and the United States, they observe a similar cultural heterogeneity pattern, so that a deeper political integration, following the American model, could be implemented in Europe. A major difference between the US and Europe remains and will cause a problem to political integration in Europe: nationalism.
Therefore, they recommend, quite optimistically, that a common European identity needs to be fostered so that on the economic level risk sharing and solidarity will become dominant values. Then, distrust between different nations must be decreased “by expanding European educational initiatives”, like Erasmus, at every level of education and by transferring sovereignty to European policy making institutions (different from the European Council) that are “accountable to all European citizens either directly, or indirectly through European Parliament”.