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Rolandas Naujokaitis

"On the European Identity and Turkey"

Vilnius University, Lithuania

What is identity? This is a philosophical question (in my opinion). Since I’m not a philosopher, I will present my own view in simple terms. Identity is something someone identifies himself with as well as the psychological feeling of “oneness” with the identified (my definition). When many individualities in the 20th century began raising the issue of the “identity crisis”, they felt that something, a certain basis they had identified themselves with, had disappeared and they had left alone facing the cold and alien unknown. Hence we’ve got many artists and writers who have searched and are searching for their identity.

If one speaks about a national identity crisis, then, presumably, in a certain nation there appear certain groups of people, who no longer feel to belong to the nation in question. But again, I would not rush to accuse “cosmopolitanism” for that, since cosmopolitans, indeed, do not feel any identity crisis, as they identify themselves with the entire world (in this respect, they have solved their identity problem).

Within the framework of this discussion, we come to the question of the European identity. Some people say: “Is it possible to feel that you belong to such and such nation, yet to feel that you belong to the entire Europe as well?” The answer is “yes”, since many participants in previous debates did express this feeling. Why is this so? Because there is something common to all Europeans: the diversity of cultures and languages unified by certain values (humanism first of all). (To do justice to economic and monetary ties among the European nations, yes, they unite us as well, yet our identity does not lie only in economy and money alone, however, the latter two, perhaps, are the most important unifying forces (in this respect I’m a realist)).

A possible way to strengthen the European identity is promotion of Latin and ancient Greek as classical subjects, which should be introduced (re-introduced) in all schools all over Europe (most European countries would choose Latin, while countries mostly affected by the Byzantine culture would, perhaps, choose ancient Greek, as, e.g. Greece or Bulgaria). This identity is also reflected on the banknotes of the common currency (euro is written in both Latin and Greek). Teaching of Latin or ancient Greek in their classical form does not create any theoretical problems but only practical ones (investments, preparation of teachers). Also, Latin and Greek as classical subjects will best reflect the European identity, i.e. something that unites us all.

However, Turkey does not fit into this scheme of the European identity. It does not have any traditions of humanism, nor is its culture based on ancient Greek or Latin cultures (in fact, it destroyed the Byzantine culture, for the most part). So, teaching of Latin or Greek in Turkish schools seems a ridiculous proposal. The adoption of Turkey will make the EU a mere economic club of states. And all the talks about the common European identity, I predict, will be forgotten. Because the European identity, in fact, rests in the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome (i.e. in their cultural heritage). I avoid mentioning the word “Christianity” here, to show that in fact, if the European identity is treated in the above terms, then it will become evident that Turkey has no place in the European identity. Of course, if Turkey is accepted, then Europe will stand on the road of very cosmopolitan conception of its identity: we will be clinging to our national identities and will be “citizens of the world” at the same time. Also, the enlargement of Europe will have no boundaries (because new and new countries will potentially be new candidates). What will happen to Europe as an entity then, it’s hard to tell. But the new unit will hardly be called Europe (the name of Europa itself comes from Greek mythology as well).

It's a pity, but many things are still decided by a political decision, disregarding long-term goals of Europe.

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