Interesting reading

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.      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”.

2.      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”.

3.      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.

4.      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.

5.      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.

6.      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.

7.      The Limits of EUrope
In a divided Europe, The Limits of EUrope offers a platform for Europhiles and Eurosceptics from all professional and disciplinary backgrounds to come together and address the crisis of European integration. Focussing on the growing gulf between populism and technocracy, the project aims to find practical solutions for EUropean decision-making to become more legitimate.

8.      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.

9.      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.

10.      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.

11.      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”.

12.      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).

13.      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.

14.      YourEurope
Did you know that the architecture on Euro banknotes is unreal? Did you ever pay attention to the map drawn on every Euro coins? These designs were adopted by a committee of Heads of State in 1994 – quite a while ago. Even back then, surveys showed Europeans were unhappy with the chosen designs. 26 years later, the YourEurope by Russell Foster is your chance to shape the redesign of Euro coins and banknotes. It’s your currency, have your say.


2.   Descriptive and Analytical Projects

1.      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.

2.     “Documenting Covid” and “Covid Makes History” at the House of European History
In early 2020, the House of European History started collecting evidence of life in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic. They collected a wide range of objects, documents and testimonies, available to consult on the House’s Documenting Covid webpage. In addition, Covid Makes History initiative brings together 22 museums developing exhibitions on the pandemic across Europe.

3.      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.

4.      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.

5.     Eurochildren
Brexit is not only a geopolitical crisis. It is also an emotional one for the the EU families residing in the UK and their children, many of whom were born in the UK and hold a British passport. Eurochildren looks at how these families experienced and responded to Brexit, portraying many EU families leaving the UK as a consequence of Brexit. Eurochildren is a research project led by Professor Nando Sigona from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity of the University of Birmingham.

6.      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).

7.      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.

8.      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.

9.      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.

10.      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.

11.       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”.

12.      “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.  

13.      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).

14.      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.

15.     Odeuropa
Have you ever wondered how it felt to walk down the streets of medieval London? How did Berlin, Brussels and Paris smell before World War I? Odeuropa combines cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology with comprehensive archive research to identify and recreate the smells of Europe between the 16th and early 20th centuries. We are one step closer to time travel.

16.      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.

17.      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.

18.     REMINDER – Role of European Mobility and its Impacts in Narratives, Debates and EU Reforms
14 organisations came together between 2017 and 2019 to document free movement in Europe. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, the REMINDER project looked into the nature and impacts of intra-EU mobility, on the one hand, and the political and media narratives about intra-EU mobility, on the other hand.

19.      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.

20.      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.

21.      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.

22.      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.

23.      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.

24.      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.

25.      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”.  

26.      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.

27.      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.

28.      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.

29.      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.

30.      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.

31.      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.


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.

  • 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
  • a collaborative platform under development that will allow for the translation (in all European languages) of articles on European affairs from leading publishers.
  • 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).
  • 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.


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