I had to do it again, I would begin with culture."
Historians specialized on European integration have uttered serious doubts on the authenticity of this very popular quotation of Jean Monnet. However, irrespectively of the question if Monnet uttered this phrase or not, we can state with some confidence that he had better not made this comment as it does not make any political sense. (see Barnavi 2002, 91) Culture is not a good starting point for a political project, at least not for a project of integration. The evocation of cultural differences strengthens antagonisms within or between states - or, as in our days, between whole parts of the world, world religions etc. (see Mokre 2000) while the building of a common political unity requires a combination of different ways of convergence and harmonization – so, a free trade area and the opening of political and economic borders seem to be a much more adequate way to integration than attempts to the creation of a common culture that, in the best case, could be an outcome of an integration project.
Still, culture plays an important role for political systems and, thus, also for the European Union. It is the aim of this paper to disentangle the various characteristics and functions of culture and cultural politics and to show their impact on European integration.
In 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was founded. This most influential predecessor of the EU should organize the production and distribution of two important basic materials in a co-operative way. Thus, the ECSC was a form of purely economic co-operation - but its goal was an eminently political one, namely to prevent war and fascism on a continent that had just triggered and experienced both. Economic co-operation and, later, integration was the single aim at the outset of the European integration project and it has remained the most important motif of the European Community up to our days. The idea behind this concept was a rather mechanistic capitalist one: A liberalized economy in Europe should automatically lead to a prosperous space of freedom and security.
The intrinsic problem of this concept is that there is nothing like a purely economic integration if we uphold some democratic standards. If democracy means that people can elect their representatives and hold them responsible for their political acts then we have to ask how a system fits into this scheme that solves crucial problems of society on a trans-national level that is not easily influenced or even understood by the citizens. This problem has become more urgent over time as more and more policy fields have been integrated and thus transferred from the national to the European level (Lodge 1994).
The progress of European integration has, thus, been a problem for national sovereignty and for democracy. At the outset, EUropean institutions were shaped according to the institutions of international organizations like the UNO or the WTO and not as institutions of a state-like polity. A first step towards recognizing the state-like qualities of the EC was the introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979. This is something unheard of in the world of international organizations where a direct link between its institutions and the citizens of the participating countries is not foreseen (Hummer 2002). But only since the 1990s, since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992 and the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1998, the question of the EU becoming a state, has really been in the focus of political and academic discussions (Puntscher Riekmann 1998 and 2001; Weiler 1995, Weidenfeld 2002). The discussion of a EUropean constitution can be understood as a further step towards a EUropean statehood.
This statehood develops in competition with existing national statehoods in the member states. The balance between the European level and the national level in Europe is always a fragile one. There is no question of dissolving or abandoning nation states in a European super-state but the two political levels, the European one and the national one, are, at the same time, co-operating and competing not only between themselves but also with regional institutions (Mokre 2002a).
Within this complex system of multi-level-governance cultural policy officially remained an exclusive domain of the member states until 1992 when, for the first time in the history of European integration, a paragraph on cultural policy was included in European primary law: The Treaty of Maastricht stated that the community shall "contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the member states, while respecting their national and regional diversity, and, at the same time, bring their common cultural heritage to the fore. (Article 151, Ex-Article 128)" The two conflicting objectives - diversity and common cultural heritage - that are tightly packed into one clause show again the tension between national and European level that becomes especially pronounced in EUropean cultural policies.
But why does the European Union need a cultural policy at all? To answer this question we have to come back to the problem of democracy. Democracy is the rule of the people, the demos. Who or what is the demos? Who belongs to it and who does not? This is the question for collective identity. Now, collective identity is a highly ambiguous and problematic concept. To define who belongs to us, i.e. with whom we share a collective identity, always means to define at the same time, who does not belong, who is excluded. To define a collective identity always means to draw a boundary between us and them. This is why some scholars claim that one should completely avoid the concept of collective identity (see e.g. Kaufmann/ Raunig 2002). However, this seems hardly possible - at least, as long as a polity shall be organised in a democratic way. A democratically organised political community needs per definitionem a demos who is the sovereign. And a precondition for a demos is some form of loyalty with a political entity, i.e. a collective political identity. This is not only a problem of definitions but also a practical political one: Only if I understand myself as belonging to a society I will be prepared to engage for it and to accept collective decisions that do not correlate with my individual interests.
Collective identities can emerge and can be constructed in different ways. In Europe, the concept of the nation as the demos of the nation state is the predominant model of a political collective identity - and this identity is foremost a cultural one (Thièsse 1999, Gellner 1983). The feeling of belonging of the individual citizen, the creation of a common identity has been achieved by the assumption of a common national culture. Cultural identity constructions of European nation states and their political structure are inextricably intertwined. (Mokre 2003). Thus, in Europe, collective identities are traditionally understood as cultural identities.
Although the EU did not have cultural competences before the Treaty of Maastricht, there is, in fact, a cultural programme that was started earlier than that, the Cultural Capital of the European Union. This programme was established in 1985, and is still in force. The initiative was brought forward by the then-Minister of Culture for Greece and former singer, Melina Mercouri, and strongly supported by the French Minister, Jack Lang. It was the declared aim of this program to "open up to the European public particular aspects of the culture of the (designated) city, region or country concerned, and (to) concentrate on the city concerned a number of cultural contributions from other member states" (quoted after Myerscough 1994, 2) From 1985 to 2003, 29 cities bore the title "European City of Culture". In 1992, a similar program, "European Cultural Month", started.
As Myerscough (1994, 1) aptly states: "The ECC program operates with simple rules and minimal central supervision. The objectives were deliberately kept as vague and wide as possible." Not quite as benevolently, one could sum up these activities as "being nice at low cost and low risk". Cultural Capitals of the European Union are nominated by the Council of the European Union and get some money from the Commission but the main shares of the budget come from the city itself, the respective member state and sometimes a regional entity (such as the province). There are no regulations of the EU as to what has to happen in a Cultural Capital. Thus, very different things happen and often, they are not very interesting. Usually, they do not have any relation to the European Union, its cultural policy or identity. Still, these events gain considerable attention, they are normally mildly positively accepted by the population and it is understood that the considerable budget for such an event has come to the city due to the nomination by the Council. In this vein, a positive but not a dramatic effect for the EU can be expected.
In the mid-90s, i.e. after the Treaty of Maastricht and the introduction of an article on cultural policies in EU primary law, some further programmes started that were organised accordingly to artistic sectors: Kaleidoscope for performing, visual, and applied arts as well as multimedia projects, Raphael for the cultural heritage, and Ariane for books and reading (http://europa.eu.int/comm/culture/eac/culture2000/historique/historic_en.html). In 1998, after the Treaty of Amsterdam, these programmes were unified under the header "Culture 2000". Also the Cultural Capitals of the EU became part of Culture 2000.
Without doubt, Culture 2000 was an important step of EU cultural policies. Still, some caveats have to be mentioned here. First, the financial amount of EU funding for culture and the arts is still negligible in comparison to national European programmes. Second, cultural policy is still one of those policy fields where all decisions have to be made unanimously by all Member States. Given the importance of cultural policies for EUropean Member States described above, this comes hardly as a surprise. However, practically, it means a serious impediment for the progress of EUropean cultural policies that every Member State has a veto right.
Up to 2004, the annual calls within “Culture 2000” were dedicated to a certain sector (e.g. in 2002, the visual arts were the focus of Culture 2000). “This system was justly criticised because of its clumsiness and the fact that cultural producers in a certain field could practically only apply at very large intervals (Minichbauer 2005, 92).” Since 2005, therefore, applications in all programme sectors are possible, a change that enhances the flexibility of the programme.
Besides these practical considerations, the (potential) impact of Culture 2000 on EUropean identity and, thus, EUropean democracy has to be looked for. In the programme itself, we can read:
"The aim of the Culture 2000 programme, (…), is to encourage creative activity and the knowledge and dissemination of the culture of the European peoples, notably in the field of music, literature, the performing arts, the fixed and movable heritage, and the new realms of culture, by fostering co-operation between cultural organisations and operators and the cultural institutions of the Member States, and by supporting measures which, by their European scope and character, promote the spread of European culture both inside and outside the Union."(Culture 2000, 1)
As Shore (2001, 115) rightly criticises the main message of these activities is "that 'we' Europeans, with our shared historical roots and common heritage, belong to a unified 'European culture area'. As one mass-circulation European Union pamphlet puts it: 'The city of Venice, the paintings of Rembrandt, the music of Beethoven or the plays of Shakespeare are an integral part of a common cultural heritage and are regarded as common property by the citizens of Europe (Quoted after: Shore 2001,115)."
It seems thus obvious that the aim of Culture 2000 lies in creating a EUropean identity. In a next step, we have, therefore, to ask, in which ways such a EUropean identity is conceived of.
Out of official statements on EUropean identity one can get the impression that collective identities work in the same way as Russian matroska dolls (Shore 2001, 117): Regional identities fit into national identities that, again, are or can be part of a EUropean identity. Quite obviously, this understanding is not compatible with the complexity of contemporary theories of identity. While it is not possible to find a common denominator for the abundance of thought on this theme that has been produced during the last decades (see. e.g. Butler/Laclau/Zizek 2000; Derrida 2000; Laclau/Mouffe 1985, de Lauretis 1984, Butler 1990) the following critique of such a simplified concept of identity can be found throughout contemporary literature:
Ernest Gellner described the complex relationship between culture and collective identity on the example of the nation:
"What then is this (...) idea of a nation? Discussion of two very makeshift, temporary definitions will help to pinpoint this elusive concept.
1. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating.
2. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognise each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words nations maketh man; nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities. (…) It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind which turns them into a nation, and not the other shared attributes, whatever they might be, which separate that category from non members.
Each of these provisional definitions, the cultural and the voluntaristic, has some merit. Each of them singles out an element which is of real importance in the understanding of nationalism. But neither is adequate." (Gellner 1983, pp 6-7)
While cultural identities are constructed out of cultural bits and pieces that could be combined in quite another way bringing other results these bits and pieces are not arbitrary historical inventions. There must be an "elective affinity" as Seyla Benhabib put it between "the works of art, the music, the paintings representing a nation and the past history and anticipated future of a group of men." (Benhabib 1999, 25) But, still, the assumption of a European cultural heritage consisting of Greek and Roman monuments, Beethoven and Cervantes is a voluntary enterprise.
The cultural part of national collective identities makes them "thick", i.e. not easily dissolvable. Cultural identity building was part of the process of political identity building and devolved from the necessity to build up loyalty in a fragmented society.
"(…) the role of culture in human life was totally transformed by that cluster of economic and scientific changes which have transformed the world since the seventeenth century. The prime role of culture in agrarian society was to underwrite people's status and people's identity. Its role was really to embed their position in a complex, usually hierarchical and relatively stable structure. The world as it is now is one where people have no stable position or structure. They are members of ephemeral professional bureaucracies which are not deeply internalised and which are temporary. They are members of increasingly loose family associations. What really matters is their incorporation and their mastery of high culture; I mean a literate codified culture which permits context-free communication. Their membership of such a community and their acceptability in it, that is a nation. It is the consequence of the mobility and anonymity of modern society and of the semantic non-physical nature of work that mastery of such culture and acceptability in it is the most valuable possession a man has. It is a precondition of all other privileges and participation. (…). Moreover, the maintenance of the kind of high culture, the kind of medium in which society operates, is politically precarious and expensive. It is linked to the state as a protector and usually the financier or at the very least the quality controller of the educational process which makes people members of this kind of culture." (Gellner 1995)
This description of the role of cultural identification in the nation state is of high interest when thinking about properties of a EUropean identity. It clearly shows that differences between people and groups of people are not an obstacle for the development of cultural identities but, quite on the contrary, the construction of cultural identities become only necessary because of the need to overcome these differences in order to create political participation.
6. Cultural Democracy
The motives for a European cultural policy are very similar to the ones for national cultural policies. It is therefore not really surprising that the cultural policy of the European Union is frequently suspected to aim at repeating the process of nation-state-formation on the supranational level (Shore 2001, Kaufmann/Raunig 2002, Nowotny 2000). Although national identity formations have, without any doubt, been an extremely successful political project, their repetition on the European level does not seem desirable. A concept of collective identity based upon the concept of one culture of all citizens is highly exclusionary and repressive drawing a sharp borderline between recognized and marginalized forms of cultural expression:
“Whose culture shall be the official one and whose shall be subordinated? What cultures shall be regarded as worthy of display and which shall be hidden? Whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten? What images of social life shall be projected and which shall be marginalized? What voices shall be heard and which be silenced? Who is representing whom and on what basis? This is the realm of cultural politics (Jordan/Weedon 1995, 4).”
Out of the perspective of this paper, however, the fear of a unified European culture does not seem plausible out of two reasons:
However, if EUropean identity building should not repeat national identity building the questions for an adequate EUropean cultural politics arises. In recent time (see e.g. www.culturaldemocracy.net) answers to this question have been summarized under the header “inclusive cultural democracy”.
Cultural Democracy is meant as a way of dealing with culture in a less repressive way. According to Webster’s World of Cultural Democracy (http://www.wwcd.org/), it “comprises
a set of related commitments:
In this understanding, the collective understanding of the commonalities of the demos cannot base itself on (always constructed or even imagined) common cultural roots but different cultures have to find their commonalities and deal with their diversities.
Without any doubt, this is an understanding better adapted to dynamic contemporary societies coined by (forced and voluntary) individual and collective mobility than a replication of national stratifications of the 19th century. However, the way in which many concepts of cultural democracy are formulated, could lead to the impression that there is a number of relatively fixed cultures that have only to be recognized in order to reach cultural democracy. While the recognition of minority cultures is, certainly, an important part of cultural democracy, we should not underestimate the dynamic of culture: Encounters of different cultures lead to difficult collective and individual struggles for cultural identity and to many hybrid ways of understanding one’s culture and, thus, one’s identity.
Therefore, cultural democracy cannot mean a balance between pre-existing claims of different cultures as neither individuals nor collectives have a pre-given identity and culture but identities are formed in and changed by discourses. It would be more precise to talk about different identifications that can be more or less stable, hold up over a longer or shorter span of time but are never a necessary and never an objective reality. In this understanding, cultural democracy has to open up different possibilities for identification, for cultural developments instead of being a mere protection of a pre-existing plurality.
Democracy is a form of organising power, not of abolishing it. This also holds true for cultural democracy. While not all differing cultures have to get into conflict with each other, once the idea of one common culture is abandoned, our understanding of culture also consists of values we define as universal – and the confrontation of these universal values with conflicting ones necessarily leads to struggle for the recognition of one set of values and the consequent repudiation of other ones. Tolerance and the will to engage in communication can do a lot to alleviate this problem without being able to solve it fundamentally. Struggles on fundamental values can only be avoided by an apartheid system that is, obviously, the contrary of cultural democracy. Thus, cultural democracy cannot offer a warranty for people of different cultures to live peacefully together, but has to develop a framework for cultural struggles to be carried out democratically.
Cultural democracy always stands in a certain tension to other ways of understanding democracy, above all classical liberal concepts that tend to see the individual as completely free of group bonds, and, thus, also cultural bonds. Out of this reduced understanding of human lives, forms of discrimination coming out of social and cultural affiliations have not been recognized and, thus, also not combated. However, individual rights can come into conflict with group rights and cultural democracy has to take into account the right of an individual to act against his or her cultural roots and the claims of a cultural group. In this regard, the rights and powers of representatives of cultural groups are of paramount impact and a balance between the right of a cultural group to self-representation and the rights of individual members of the same group has to be found. An understanding of cultural democracy as a mere negotiation process between different identifiable cultural groups, respectively their representatives, endangers individual rights.
On the other hand, an emphasis on cultural differences tends to neglect social and economic differences that, however, are of crucial impact on individual lives. While cultural discrimination often leads, in due course, to social and economic discrimination, cultural democracy alone is not enough to abolish social and economic discrimination.
Therefore, cultural democracy can only be one of several claims for democratisation and has, at the same time, to be conceptualised in a dynamic and non-essential way. Cultural policies meant to further cultural democracy should, thus, not focus on a common heritage or a plurality of cultural heritages but, instead, on the needs and lives of contemporary inhabitants, citizens as well as non-citizens. These people have or should have rights both individually and as members of cultural groups. Above all, it cannot suffice for cultural democracy to give equal cultural rights to pre-defined cultural groups but possibilities for cultural developments, for new hybrid cultural forms have to be held open.
The considerations on cultural democracy presented up to now encompass the claim for inclusiveness by recognizing different cultural claims as equal and legitimate. One could say that cultural democracy has, necessarily, to be inclusive. However, the term inclusiveness has various problematic connotations as it suggests that there is an existing system that should include something or someone who has been excluded up to now. This understanding, however, does not take its starting point from the equality of different cultural claims but defines instead one hegemonic system and several marginalised claims that can now enter the system – on the conditions of this system. This is not an abstract critique of a term but, in fact, what is often meant by integration of, e.g., immigrants: They are allowed to become part of a society that they have not been allowed to develop.
Besides these normative critique of inclusiveness an understanding of democracy as an open and never fully realized concept does also epistemologically not allow for an image of a fully constituted society able to include new elements. Instead, society itself and its ways of imagining its culture are constantly changed. Inclusiveness is, thus, rather the claim for openness of a political system than for integration of something new into existing structures.
Summarizing, we can state that an open and dynamic concept of cultural democracy is better adapted to the requirements of democracy in the European Union than every essentialist understanding of a pre-existing culture as the base of a EUropean demos. At the same time, such a concept requires highly ambitious cultural policies that do not have much in common with traditional way of preserving the cultural heritage and warranting a certain amount of freedom for the arts. Cultural Policy in this sense would mean to lay open existing forms of hegemony, to pave the way for new claims for hegemony, to give those groups and individuals a voice who – due to economic and political domination – have not had one up to now. In short, it means to enable democratic struggle on culture.
EUropean cultural policies devoted to this aim could mark their difference to national cultural policies and, in this vein, contribute to a EUropean identity that is not a duplication of national identities but deals in a clearly different way with the multiple contexts of human lives. Up to now, however, the cultural activities of the EU can be rather understood as a cautious repetition of national identity building without hurting national interests of the Member States. Still, the understanding of European culture delivered in the decision on Culture 2000 offers an interesting approach to EUropean identity defining common political values as basic of a common culture:
(5) If citizens give their full support to, and participate fully in, European integration, greater emphasis should be placed on their common cultural values and roots as a key element of their identity and their membership of a society founded on freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity; a better balance should be achieved between the economic and cultural aspects of the Community, so that these aspects can complement and sustain each other. (Decision establishing Culture 2002, 1)
By defining political values – freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity - as the fundamentals of a common EUropean identity an essential concept of cultural identity as given by common ethnic roots is avoided. However, at the same time, those political values are essentialised. Freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity are not political values of a community (or a community to-be like the EU) which are defined and re-defined in constant political struggles but clearly defined qualities you need to be part of this community, a mechanism of inclusion and exclusion instead of a field of discourse.
But democratic politics is precisely the conflict on values of the community and has, thus, to provide equal opportunities for different conflicting parties. This means, among other things, that politics has to balance political inequalities resulting from economic inequalities. It also means that politics has to create equality of opportunities for people of different cultures, whereas culture is not understood as a stable quality but as a form of identification an individual or a group chooses at a certain time. A cultural policy understood as a means to further democracy in this sense is thus a policy creating equal opportunities for different cultures – opportunities to present and represent themselves and their concepts, to create publicity and to contest differing cultural concepts.
A cultural policy that understands culture in the dynamic, precarious and hybrid sense as it has been conceived of in this paper must furthermore take care of not essentializing cultural identities, of opening up spaces for re-definitions and contestations of cultures rather than of preserving existing codes and norms. This means, among other things, that not the cultural heritage should be in the centre of attention but contemporary cultural utterances, representations and works. It furthermore means to critically scrutinize all individual or collective claims of talking for or in the name of a "whole culture" and to be especially sensitive for critical and dissenting voices.
All these issues are of special impact for the European Union dealing with various inequalities between cultures:
Concrete political measures to reach the aim of a democracy based on various forms of diversity, among them cultural diversity, will have to be flexible enough to meet the challenges of the fast developing EUropean polity. The following measures that have been taken out of a position paper on "Post Culture 2000" (eipcp 2003) are thus rather examples than a real action plan for EUropean cultural policy. Initiatives that should be supported according to this paper are:
The programme Culture 2000 will come to an end in 2006. The new programme Culture 2007 is under discussion now. While at the time this paper is written preparations have not come to an end, yet, some changes – to the better and worse – can already be mentioned.
In accordance with general efforts of the European Commission to improve transparency, Culture 2007 aims at clarifying decision rules in order to make cultural policies better understandable to the citizens. In this vein, debates on Culture 2007 were based on evaluations of all preceding programmes that were published and commented by the European Commission. Furthermore, evaluations figure prominently in the drafts for Culture 2007. Usual EU catchwords that can be found in every EU programme such as “European added value”, “cultural added value” and “socio-economic impacts” are more clearly defined for Culture 2007 than has been usual until now. Applications shall become less complicated and decision making processes more transparent. In this vein, e.g. the programme “European Capital of Culture shall be restructured by introducing obligatory competitions within the Member States and an accompanying monitoring system. While the actual effects of these aspirations remain to be seen, there seems to be a true will to improve transparency and accessibility of EUropean cultural policies.
In other aspects, however, the development of EU cultural policies seem to be rather ambiguous. For once, financial means for culture will in all probability remain very limited. “The budget proposed by the Commission for the new programme (408 million Euros for the entire seven years) would mean an increase of barely 15% in comparison with the preceding programme. In comparison with this, the ’70 Cents for Culture’ campaign initiated by the European Forum for the Cultural Heritage (EFAH) and the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) is based on a calculation of actual financial need from 2003, for which ten times the current budget would be required to cover them (Minichbauer 2005, 95).” Secondly, and probably due to this problem, political ambitions as well as subject matters will be reduced compared to Culture 2000. “The evaluations of the preceding programmes and the corresponding reports from the Commission point out (…) the discrepancy between the ambitious and manifold objectives of the programmes and the inadequate financial resources. The reaction in the program text of Culture 2007 is obviously to reduce the ambitiousness of the contents (Minichbauer 2005, 95).”
Interestingly (and deplorably out of the point of view of this paper), this reduction of ambitions goes hand in hand with a clearer acceptance of national prerogatives in the field of culture. Only those subject matters that are clearly only to be dealt with on a supranational level also remain on this level – transnational mobility of people, transnational circulation of works, intercultural dialogue. While these are, without any doubt, important and worthwhile aims, a confinement to these issues seems also to be a sign for a fundamental rejection of more ambitious aims that would be necessary for EUropean cultural policies to really promote EUropean identities.
“Continuing this train of thought into 2015, the result is an image of cultural policies that do not operate offensively within EU policies. On the contrary, we see instead a situation in which cultural support is increasingly under pressure for justification with the foreseeable consequences of more emphasis on functionality, on visibility, flagship projects etc. (Minichbauer 2005, 96-97).” Changes of the conditions for funding support this interpretation, above all the raising of several thresholds – a higher minimum financial support, higher financial participation, more partners for projects etc.
If this prognosis holds true, cultural policy measures adequate to the normative assumptions developed within this paper will not be implemented by Culture 2007, but, in fact, the situation will deteriorate in comparison to Culture 2000. However, much depends on the actual calls that will be issued within the programme. So, it can still be hoped that EUropean cultural policies will develop that are adapted to the rich cultural diversity of contemporary Europe and, thereby, the challenges and opportunities of a EUropean democracy.
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published in: The Journal of Arts, Management, Law,
and Society. Vol. 35, No. 4, Winter 2006
 This is one of the most important features of the so-called democratic deficit of the European Union, see e.g. Føllesdal and Koslowski 1998; Beetham and Lord 1998, Brzinski, Lancaster and Tuschhoff 1999; Jachtenfuchs 1994
 However, this qualification does not imply that it is an easy task to change identifications. The stability of the "imagined communities" of nation states proves the longevity of identity constructions.