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This is a selective overview of projects, studies, and initiatives that have grappled with the question of a European narrative. It is divided into three parts: “normative projects”, focusing on what a European narrative should be, “descriptive and analytical projects”, focusing on how European narratives can be categorized, and “outreach and interactive projects”, focusing on how European narratives are shaped.

  1. Normative Projects

    1. Europe’s True Stories
      In this article, published in Prospect Magazine, Timothy Garton Ash suggests that a new European story should be woven from six strands, each of which represents a shared European goal: freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity.
    2. New Narrative for Europe
      In 2013, a cultural committee was tasked by the European Parliament with the drafting of a text that would identify a new narrative for Europe. It published “The Mind and Body of Europe”. In 2018, the European Commission published “12 Ideas for the Future of Europe”, a report with the committee’s selected suggestions posted by citizens on a website.
    3. Remappings: The Making of European Narratives
      Remappings: The Making of European Narratives (2013) is a collection of fourteen short essays edited by Odile Chenal and Bas Snelders on how to craft a new narrative for Europe. The project was born out of a European Cultural Foundation (ECF) conference in 2011 concerning the same subject.
    4. A Europe We Can Believe In - The Paris Statement
      In this manifesto published in 2017, a variety of European intellectuals (including Ryszard Legutko, Pierre Manent, Andras Lanczi) claim to defend the “real Europe” based on strong nation-states and recognition of its Christian heritage as opposed to a false, cosmopolitan, deracinated Europe of technocratic elites which “threatens us”.
    5. Manifesto for a European Republic
      In this manifesto launched in 2013, Ulrike Guérot and Robert Menasse claim that the Europe of nation-states has failed and that the European idea needs to be democratised within a post-national, just, and fair European Republic, in which citizens are treated as equals and directly influence political decision-making.
    6. Oral History of European Integration Collection
      This research project completed in 2016 by the University of Luxemburg focuses on the institutional perspectives of European integration. The collection includes dozens of interviews with diplomats and politicians involved in the formation and development of the European Union (EU).
    7. Europe Beyond Borders
      This interdisciplinary project of the Europaeum Scholars Programme uncovers perspectives held by people who feel disconnected from the EU in different ways, building on 16 in-depth interviews held across Europe. The project intends to look ‘beyond’ national ‘borders’ and understand why people feel disillusioned about the EU, analysing ‘invisible borders’ or divides creating contrasting views on Europe. It aims at producing an exhibition and a collection of essays on this subject.
    8. 89 Initiative
      The 89 Initiative is a pan-European “think-do tank” based at the LSE. It started as a student initiative in response to Timothy Garton Ash’s Guardian article of December 2014. Its goal is to revitalise Europe through new ideas and start-up solutions, by means of research programmes and projects, including “Generation Brexit” and “89 Connect”.
    9. EUSTORY
      The EUSTORY history network was set up by the Körber Foundation to inspire young Europeans to come together to address the crucial questions of the day in terms of European history. The network draws together civil society organisations in more than 20 European countries and organises national history competitions.
    10. Open Society Initiative for Europe
      The Open Society Initiative for Europe is a foundation which aims to empower European democracy and “contribute to more vibrant and legitimate democracies in the European Union” by providing grants to grass-root activists and civil society organisations “confronting Europe’s many challenges”.
    11. DiscoverEU
      With this initiative, the EC gives free InterRail tickets to 18-year old Europeans through an application procedure. This is something the European Parliament and some observers had long been advocating for (e.g. articles here and here), arguing that it would help create a sense of collective belonging in Europe.
    12. One heritage, one story: That’s not the Europe we know
      A text written by Thomas Serrier and Stéphane Michonneau, published in The Guardian in April 2019 and signed by more than 100 historians from across Europe. It proposes to embrace diversity as a way to reconstruct the European project.
  2. Descriptive and Analytical Projects

    1. European Stories
      In European Stories (2011), edited by Justine Lacroix and Kalypso Nicolaïdis, the authors explore the different ways in which public intellectuals have debated Europe within distinct epistemological, disciplinary, ideological and above all national traditions. The book focuses on the post-1989 era but with a view to the long history of the 'European idea' and its variants.
    2. Exhibiting Europe in Museums
      In Exhibiting Europe in Museums (2016), Wolfram Kaiser, Stefan Krakenhagen, and Kerstin Poehls examine narratives of European integration in museums across the continent. Their goal is to “help clarify present processes of Europeanisation in the field of museums”.
    3. Teaching European History in different Countries
      There is a wide spread of scholarly work on teaching European History, looking over the existing academic research as well as that conducted by the Georg-Eckert Institute (GEI) on this topic. Most work involves studies of regions and subregions within Europe and how their political or military conflicts have shaped historical narratives.
    4. The EuroPolis Deliberative Poll
      James S. Fishkin and colleagues have used deliberative polling in the European context with a randomly selected sample of citizens from the then 27 EU Member States. The project involved discussions on climate change and immigration. Several interviews were conducted before, during and after the deliberation and the European elections.
    5. Bodies Across Borders
      Bodies Across Borders was an oral history project that focused on migrants’ interactions with visual and material culture in their destination countries, though it considered social and economic questions too. It was led by Luisa Passerini from the European University Institute (EUI) and was completed in 2018.
    6. Europe’s 1968: Voice of Revolt - “Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories”
      Europe’s 1968: Voices of Revolt was published in 2013 as a result of the Oxford-based ‘Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories’ project conducted between 2007 and 2011. It brought together at least 14 researchers from across Europe and aimed to establish whether it is possible to talk of a ‘European’ experience of 1968.
    7. Permanent Exhibition at the House of European History
      The House of European History was inaugurated in 2017 by the European Parliament. In an attempt to find an overarching narrative of European integration, it exhibits artefacts and stories of European history, from the myth Europa until today.
    8. “Interactions” at the House of European History
      In this temporary exhibition of 2018, the House of European History attempted to create a narrative of continuous interactions between peoples in Europe throughout history, focusing on mobility. It included an interactive data collection, “Tracking my Europe”, in which visitors were asked to identify key locations related to their birth, home, roots, and music tastes.  
    9. Restless Youth Exhibition (House of European History)
      The temporary exhibition ‘Restless Youth’ of 2019 at the House of European History presents four European generations, respectively coming of age in the 1940’s, 60’s, 80’s and 2000s, with the aim to identify some common symbols and slogans of each generation.
    10. Mapping European Empire
      In Mapping European Empire (2015), Russell Foster argues that we are seeing an imperial renaissance in the EU. He examines Europe’s past, present, and future to demonstrate that empire is not a category of state but rather a collective imagination which reshapes history and appropriates an artificial past to validate the policies of the present and the ambitions of the future.
    11. The End of a Noble Narrative? European Integration Narratives after the Nobel Peace Prize
      In this article, Ian Manners and Philomena Murray create an analytical framework for analysing narratives from different theoretical perspectives. The authors argue that narrative analysis provides a means for understanding both EU institutional and non-institutional narratives of European integration.
    12. Europe Seen from the Outside
      Various projects and books have looked at external perceptions of the EU. Sonia Lucarelli’s relevant texts include ‘Beyond Self Perception: The Others’ View of the EU’, special issue of European Foreign Affairs Review, 12 (2007) and External Perceptions of the European Union as a Global Actor (2011). Martin Holland has edited two relevant collections: Communicating Europe in Times of Crisis: External Perceptions of the European Union (2014) and Shaping the EU Global Strategy: Partners and Perceptions (2018).
    13. Tribes of Europe
      The ‘Tribes of Europe’ project (Chatham House) is the culmination of a 10-country, 10,195-respondent public survey conducted in 2016-17. The survey used participants’ responses to discern six ‘tribes’ of Europe: hesitant Europeans, contended Europeans, EU Rejecters, frustrated pro-Europeans, austerity rebels, and federalists. The results are analysed in depth here and here.
    14. Eupinions surveys
      Eupinions is an independent platform for European public opinion. The Bertelsmann Stiftung team collects, analyses, and comments on what the European public thinks about current political issues and megatrends. Their report, “Supportive but wary: How Europeans feel about the EU 60 years after the Treaty of Rome” (2017) is accessible here.
    15. European University Institute Oral Histories
      The Oral History website of the EUI has collated a wide range of oral history projects about various EU institutions. Most of the interviews are with prominent EU diplomats and politicians, as well as officials working on specific EU projects. In total there are nine thematic projects.
    16. European Citizens’ Panels
      The Bertelsmann Stiftung regularly reports on panels joining European citizens to discuss key European issues. Among them are: the Europeana Citizens’ Panel on the future of Europe; the cross-border EU Citizens’ Dialogue with German and Polish citizens; the cross-border EU Citizens’ Dialogue with citizens from the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany; and the French Citizens’ Panel on the future of Europe. Their practical guide on inclusive participation is available here.
    17. The Spirit of Convivencia
      Ayşe Kadıoğlu argues that the distancing relations between the EU and Turkey go against the spirit of convivencia, a term used to describe the culture of tolerance in Medieval Spain, closely linked to the original objective of the European project. She observes that European identity, rather than values, increasingly motivate participation in the European project.
    18. What can European History teach us about Trump’s America?
      During this event, Timothy Snyder shares the idea that history “has to be political”. He differentiates “the politics of inevitability” from “the politics of eternity”, two non-historical ways of thinking about time that tend to be promoted under undemocratic regimes. He argues that our generation is slowly moving from the first one to the second.
    19. The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America
      At this event, Timothy Snyder presents the argument of his new book The Road to Unfreedom. He explains how Russia, Europe, and America are all experiencing a shift from the “politics of inevitability” to the “politics of eternity”. This shift, Snyder claims, is a general pattern that the Russian government has actively encouraged -- to its own benefit.
    20. EUmagine
      This project aimed at studying how Europe is perceived from outside the EU, and how these perceptions affect migration aspirations and decisions. It focuses on how people’s perceptions on democracy and human rights affect their perceptions on and attitudes to migration. The sample of study is made of people aged 18-39 in Morocco, Senegal, Turkey, and Ukraine.
    21. RAND Report: The Millenial Generation
      This report explores how the millennial generation will affect the intelligence and policy communities as producers of and advisors on intelligence and as policymakers. It is aimed at the US Armed Forces but addresses some issues relevant to our project related to millennials’ attitudes towards government.
    22. Telefónica Global Millenial Survey
      Telefónica and the Financial Times commissioned 12,171 online quantitative interviews among Millennials, aged 18-30, across 27 countries in six regions. Penn Schoen Berland conducted the 190-question survey in 2013. In Europe, Spain, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Poland were among the sample. The questionnaire includes some questions related to the broad topic areas of “Social Europe”, “Freedom & Diversity in Europe”, and “Europe & the Environment”.  
    23. Special Eurobarometer 436: Attitudes of Europeans towards Biodiversity
      This report aims at investigating public perceptions on the importance of biodiversity, seriousness of biodiversity loss (both local and global), biggest threats to biodiversity, the role of EU for biodiversity protection (both local and global), and personal efforts to protect biodiversity. The survey was conducted in May-June 2015.
    24. Special Eurobarometer 468: Attitudes of Europeans towards Environment
      This report aims at investigating general attitudes towards the environment, impact of environmental issues, ways of taking actions to tackle the environmental threat, role of the EU in protection of environment, awareness of and attitudes towards ecolabels, perceptions of air quality, and ways of tackling air pollution. The survey was conducted in September-October 2017.
    25. Special Eurobarometer 459: Attitudes of Europeans towards Climate Change
      This report aims at investigating European perceptions of climate change, responsibility for and personal actions to tackle climate change, attitudes towards fighting climate change and transition to clean energies. The survey was conducted in March 2017.
    26. Special Eurobarometer 355: Attitudes of Europeans towards Poverty and Social Exclusion
      This report aims at investigating Europeans’ definition and perceived extent of poverty and homelessness, perceived risk of poverty and social exclusion, consequences of poverty and reasons for poverty, economic situation of the Europeans, and the role of the EU in fighting poverty. The survey was conducted in August-September 2010.
    27. Julia De Clerck-Sachsse on the European Public Sphere
      In her MPhil and Dphil theses, Julia De Clerck-Sachsse highlights the crucial role that civil society organisations play in the emergence of a European Public Sphere and for the democratic legitimacy of the EU. Julia concentrates on the role that civil society organisations play in a process of bottom-up constitutionalism, looking at their involvement during the Convention on the Future of Europe (see report DPhil report and article published on the same topic).
  3. Outreach and Interactive Projects

    1. Websites

      The websites listed below are recent interactive experiments with organising and decluttering public discourse (Parli, Kialo, and Debating Europe) and uncovering alternative stories that challenge dominant narratives (AEN). In other words, they try to convert the cacophony of the digital age into a polyphony.

      • Parli: An online encyclopaedia of arguments, or a ‘Wikipedia of opinions’. It is a descriptive project, not a debating platform, that intends to catalogue all – yes, all! – relevant opinions, about any topic, in their best-articulated form.
      • Kialo: A debating platform structured in a way that allows users to read an overview of the best ‘claims’ and gain  a deeper and more nuanced understanding of debates (see here an introductory video).
      • African-European Narratives: A citizenship project aimed at building an online archive with personal and family stories of those whose lives are connected to Africa and Europe, thus transcending Europe’s national narratives.
      • Debating Europe: An e-platform where key European issues are discussed, involving both European citizens and leaders in debates (see an example here). An article published in 2014 described it as “a virtual public sphere”.
      • Europe Talks: A platform to bring together people with contrasting political views from across Europe for face-to-face debates (overview here). This project was inspired by similar national-level initiatives organised by Zeit Online
      • Forum.eu: a collaborative platform under development that will allow for the translation (in all European languages) of articles on European affairs from leading publishers.
    2. Podcasts

      Below is a small selection of podcasts that exemplify different approaches to storytelling. The list starts with academic podcasts focused on history and oral history, followed by a few non-academic very successful storytelling podcasts.

    3. Pan-European Citizens’ Movements