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  • “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged”: Identity, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Europe
  • Jacqueline Bhabha (bio)

I. Introduction

The symbols of statehood of the European Union (EU) are increasingly prominent across Europe. The EU flag is displayed widely. The EU Parliament not only has been established but subsequently has enlarged its power. 1 Legislative, judicial, and executive activity is extensive. Union citizenship is now available for the peoples of member states. Furthermore, [End Page 592] the prospect of a common currency, as well as an internal market, promise to actualize in the near future. 2 The exponential increase in cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (European Court), a pan-European institution, indicates the collective recognition of a European jurisdiction and further adds to the semblance of statehood. However, these powerful indicators of supranational cohesion belie urgent and contested questions of belonging and inclusion within the new European polity. Such questions relate to territorial boundaries, cultural attributes, legal rights, and the various fora in which a line between Europe and non-Europe, or Europeans and non-Europeans, is drawn. This article purposes to explore some of these contested dividing lines.

To claim that belonging within Europe is a matter of uncertainty might seem surprising. The existence and confines of an area, entity, or construct called “Europe” are generally taken as givens. Europe is not a product of colonial geography or imagination in the way that the Middle East, the Far East, or the Americas were. Nor is Europe defined relational to a point of departure originating outside of itself. As a result, Europe has not been susceptible to the same anxiety about its definitional coherence as have some other areas. 3

Moreover, the notion of a cohesive, powerful, and dynamic Europe is reflected increasingly in terms of contemporary, political, and economic developments. The postwar experiment in European collaboration has evolved from an economic community of six states in the 1950s to the current union of fifteen states, united not only by economic concerns, but also by social, monetary, and foreign policy. The EU also has cohered on the issue of human rights, as discussed in Part III, below. Pan-European institutions, notably the Council of Europe (originator of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 4 and home to the European Commission of Human Rights) 5 and the European Court, 6 now have clear global [End Page 593] significance, visibility, and impact as trendsetters in the development and enforcement of universal human rights norms. 7

The diversification and expansion of EU concerns and activities are paralleled by the diversification and expansion of the EU’s citizenry. With the iron curtain firmly drawn back, Eastern European states are queuing up [End Page 594] anxiously at the portals of the EU. 8 All are keen to access the material and ideological gains that membership to the EU appears to offer. Even Russia has signalled strongly its interest in future inclusion in the EU. 9 NATO expansion and the prospect of significant Marshall Plan aid will accelerate and deepen this process of integrating Eastern states into the EU. 10

The vision of a Union stretching from the Urals to the Atlantic Ocean is real. However, questions about who and what should be included in Europe abound. To some extent these uncertainties are the product of postwar globalization, reflecting an awareness of the interconnections between formerly disparate entities and challenging established notions of center and periphery. These uncertainties also reflect the escalation in labor, refugee, and other forms of diasporic movements that impact on traditional notions of national belonging and complicate the assumed correspondence between territory and population, and between culture, ethnicity, and nationality.

Other uncertainties relate primarily to Europe’s external boundaries. Where should Europe’s margins be drawn? Should the criteria for such a decision include territorial, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic factors? For [End Page 595] example, can a predominantly Muslim country like Turkey be part of Europe? Could the Balkan states commit to becoming full-fledged European states? Could Russia ever be included? Additional questions focus on internal distinctions and the complex “braiding” of these distinctions into a common concept of citizenship. 11 Distinctions between Union citizens, third country...

Additional Information

ISSN
1085-794X
Print ISSN
0275-0392
Pages
pp. 592-627
Launched on MUSE
1998-08-01
Open Access
No
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