An identity called 'diversity’

I am a post-Maastricht baby: I was born in the European Union just a few days prior to the official introduction of the single currency, attended a high school that offered a curriculum in European studies (inspired by the Maastricht Treaty itself), never needed a passport to travel abroad, have countless international friends and won an Erasmus+ scholarship to study in a country other than my own for a year (this plan sunk, but for reasons that are less relevant to world history and for which it’s not the EU to be held accountable).

This means that, although it took quite some time to learn how the EU machinery works and what comes with it, growing up I didn’t go a single day without knowing that I’m a European citizen, just as I have always known I’m Italian. At the end of the day, when I was a child and my late grandpa used to give me pocket money, that “piece of paper” introduced itself as Euro and was nicely decorated with the 12-stars flag alongside the map of the continent, and the "Ode to Joy" is one of the few symphonies I actually learned how to play well in music class at the age of 11.

In order to explain what being European means, it is common for people of my generation to reference personal life experiences because being a part of the European Union has a direct impact on our identities and lifestyles. However, I believe that we need to work on how we steer this feeling of belonging and what we turn it into. It should never become a mere European double of national patriotism, nor some kind of European nationalism if we ever manage to foster EU political integration and finally establish a federation.

The destiny of our common feeling of belonging can be unfolded through an analysis of our motto, "United in diversity". As it perfectly summarises, our States and their respective peoples who are both united and diverse. When this motto was phrased, its aim was to emphasise that, regardless of the existing differences among our cultures, traditions and languages and, at same time, thanks to said differences, we the Europeans managed to come together to make the continent peaceful and prosperous [1].

This primarily shows that we will never bond over the typical elements that a national identity is built around, namely language, culture and traditions (even though I believe it is not to be excluded that over the recent decades the Union and the civil society have started producing symbols that will later become our common heritage). Additionally, in my opinion, the interpretation of the concept of diversity should be extended in order to also highlight the variety of cultures and social conditions that exist within each individual member State.

I see several reasons to do so: minority cultural and social groups are often invisibilized in the homologating mainstream narration of one country as a monolite and they could find their way towards emancipation on the European scene; following the migration fluxes that have taken place over the same decades in which the Union has become what it currently is, extra-European cultures settled inside EU borders and they deserve to be safeguarded and included (not merely integrated) in European society and common history; some communities (e.g., the LGBTQIA+ community) with their peculiar characteristics and needs exist transnationally, which means that, in a diverse Union, similarities can be found even across national borders and this can open the door to working on finding joint solutions to address shared issues.

Being able to recognise all of the existing nuances of diversity inside the Union and within each and every member State is the only way to effectively recognise all of the existing forms of discrimination and the phenomena that this may initiate in order to prevent them: with reference to the digital world, online hate speech can be taken as an example.

No discrimination can be tolerated in a political Union that’s based on the proud recognition that we are united despite being diverse, but some recent political and legal chronicles show that we are starting to move in the opposite direction.

Quoting the outcome of a debate that my History of European Integration professor recently launched, if not yet a common identity, so far EU States have found common ground in respect of fundamental rights and democratic values, but they should now work on bringing back Governments to genuinely follow and apply them, before the Union moves towards enlargement and advocates as human rights defender in its external action. "It is with this premise that I wish for the civil society to influence the European political arena, especially in sight of the 2024 European Parliament Elections."