European Identity and the 21st Century EU: Steering the Political Project

The European Union (EU) has become an embodiment of Europe's success in establishing integration and unity within its concept of nation-building.

The European Union (EU) has become an embodiment of Europe’s success in establishing integration and unity within its concept of nation-building. Reflecting upon the historical contexts of the European region with how identity is established as a prominent role in their interplay and stance about politics, it has driven the EU to exercise many regional enhancements through politics, economics, social, and many other aspects. With the idea mentioned above, the assemblance of ideas and principles of the EU itself can be considered a “distinct” concept, which can be supported by how the fundamental interest of this organization is to project the significance of identity as a political pillar. Over time, this unique method of discourse from the EU has led to a fractured image and loopholes as to how their concept of a regional organization is normatively unaligned with the international image. Assessing the evolution of power and the socio-political and socio-economic capabilities of the EU, its tenacious constraints and coexisting perceptions of the EU encompass that the power of the EU is declining (Webber, 2016). In examining the determination of the European identity and its pursuit shown by the formulation of the EU, implications and drawbacks occurred in the 21st century internally within the EU’s regulatory framework of identity-shaping and externally through relational interconnections with other countries and associations. The progress of the EU per the European region and their construction and development of identity will be further examined, especially the dynamics of European politics and the international community.

Problem Formulation

With the efforts to comprehend the relevance of European politics and the EU as a platform for identity unification in Europe and in trying to uphold the efforts of the EU in the 21st century, the paper sought the research question,

“How does the European political order being projected through the EU to commodify the pertinence of identity and uphold the perceived identity of European Politics, considering the challenges and implications set through the dynamics of the EU in the 21st century?”

Conceptual Framework

By inspecting the analytical process of the EU and its approaches toward political, economic, and dynamic circumstances that affect the prominence of identity, the derivative framework of Supranationalism can be sufficiently elaborated through the theory of Neoliberalism. Robert Keohane (2012) posits that the acknowledgment of the international system is feasible in maintaining cooperation and sustaining interests or ideas to be maneuvered through institutional frameworks, with the premise to support interdependence in many aspects of proximity developments. Furthermore, by magnifying the lens of supranational, it can be referred to as a collective unanimity that corresponds to the acquiescence of sovereignty throughout member states as a form of commitment towards regional integration (Pérez, 2009).

As mentioned, we can see the alignment of ideas, principles, and interests, which led to the unification of shared identity, emphasizing that equal power distribution proves the EU’s commonality. Especially with supranationalism still relevant to the status quo, these concepts above will be utilized in assessing the EU’s capability to relay identity in a two-way dimension. Recognizing that Neoliberalism is associated with the progression of the EU, that is, to make sense of European politics towards prioritizing collaboration and interconnectivity throughout the region. As a continuation of this, the uniqueness of the EU in being aligned with the idea of supranationalism can be explained by the branch theory of Neoliberalism, for it has the same focus of reference, cooperation through integration.

Main Arguments

As stated previously, the analytical process and argument will be split according to the chronological timeline of the events and how the interplay of European identity affects how the EU is being regulated as an integration arena, which will further be elaborated accordingly to the phenomenon and how identity affects the EU’s principles, decision-making, and its stance within the status quo. The formulation of the EU was to integrate the whole of Europe, which became an apparent topic for contesting ideas in the European political order.

Nevertheless, this discourse has undergone different maneuvers, and the European region’s dynamic identity has heavily impacted the EU’s successful creation. In examining the precise determination of identity and the need for integration, the EU can be considered a multi-dimensional access for East Europe and Central Europe to encourage cooperation. Despite the EU’s potential collapse after acknowledging the region’s reunification, especially towards Western Europe, it has been reinforced through the EU’s efforts.

On behalf of integration and promoting the growth of identity, the parameter of the European political order is following the progressivity of economic growth and social welfare, which has created unified and robust relationships among EU state members (Stefanova, 2007).

From this, the role of Western Europe is pivotal because of its drive to set cohesive ideals within the European region, primarily through the phase of post-communist governance that mainly occurred in most East and Central European countries.

The conspicuousness of politics and socioeconomics in the region calls for commonality and is imbued with geopolitical considerations (Huddleston, 1999). Reverberating from that statement, the efforts made by Western countries to institutionalize legal and political administrations, expand market embeddedness, and normalize democratic values are the embodiment of European identity’s reconceptualization.

Moreover, this form of collaboration through the EU has shifted the ideas of the majority of the countries in not only Western Europe but also East and Central Europe and has been a new instrument for the European region to function as a representation of European identity, proven by the fixated orientations and the introduced concept of supranationalism; declaring for one identity and interest, be it from security, economy, political system, or other schemes that involve the international community.

The Brexit Dilemma: A tipping point or an ending point for the EU? (2016 – 2020)

Becoming one of the main concerns determining the EU’s prominence and stance within the European region, ricochets speculated after the growing negotiations of the UK in exiting the EU, continued by the verdict of the UK’s abandonment of the EU. Within the context of nation-building, the UK referendum on the EU has resulted in hesitations on the distribution of power and a slip of an unaligned national identity. The variable of the UK in the EU became an apparent pivot on why identity and politics within the region are sustained. However, it became an apparent reason why the UK’s retrieval towards the EU gave birth to Euroscepticism, which is now embedded in the EU as a whole (Usherwood, 2013). Starting from the phenomenon of Euroscepticism, which is classified as a political position that emphasizes hostility towards the integration of Europe and declines the notion of why the EU was established in the first place. In its nature, the term Europscepticism and its heavy drawbacks after the British exit were inflicted on both EU member states and the international community.

Speaking from the diaspora that occurred after the British exit, it resulted in a fragmentation of values and a decreasing sense of Europeanization between other member states; rather than the collapse of the EU, a crack on the EU in relation to the need for integration blurs (Huang, 2021) As aforementioned, the clash of identities and a change within the identity itself have gone through many courses within and out of the EU.

Internally among the member states, the phenomenon of Brexit reduces the urgency of European integration that is caused by the contestation of identity; in this case, the UK’s prominence of identity can be considered as one of the pivotal engines in setting the stage and mutuality for other European countries inside the EU. EU’s inter-legality after Brexit has shifted the EU’s tendency to scale its capabilities in minimizing distortions and maximizing its integrative potential, recognizing that the identity of the UK holds hierarchical importance in the structure of the EU that still resonates towards other member states after the exit (Banakar, 2019)

Geopolitical Landscape and its Realignment with Identity in the EU: Ukraine And/VS/Or Russia? (2023)

In addressing the indirect drawbacks caused by the tensions through the Ukraine and Russia conflict, there lies the failure of regional externalities and the clash of ideologies, specifically through examining Russia’s behavior in the EU’s premise of integration. Moreover, this phenomenon will lead to the point that economic ties and political instability may result in the collapse of the geopolitical landscape in the European region. Reflecting upon the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the solid external threat by Russia causes an overall increase in European identity, especially among EU member states, as heterogeneity within the region assumes that the intensity caused by the conflict is diverse. Resulting from the parameters of the EU’s identity, economic perceptions, political supports, and branches of alternative identity levels that are examined through the Ukraine-Russia conflict, it has confiscated the proximity through the power dynamics of East Europe, as reflected by the conflict in the overview of EU and European countries that are actively involved in Ukraine-Russia conflict (Gehring, 2022)

Conversely, the relationship between the EU with Ukraine and Russia gave birth to many transformations within the interplay of security interests and values, primarily the separation of the East in terms of its status quo before the conflict above. While the interaction between the EU and Russia has been conjointed as a geopolitical competition, the contestation of ideas and international perceptions has pushed ideological determinations into geopolitical conflicts.

As supported by Niţoiu’s argument (2019), the isolation of interest and values scattered to Russia, Ukraine, and other eastern neighborhood countries has become resilient and unaligned with the EU’s symmetricalism after the conflict. Consequently, this has caused the EU’s identity to change correspondingly to how they want to restructure the structure of identity in East Europe. In making sense of this, interpret the seesaw model to visualize the dynamics of EU and Eastern neighborhood countries:

From the interpretation, the EU’s motive through maneuvering identity and integrational values throughout the European region was put to test when the Ukraine-Russia conflict occurred, varying from economic sanctions, restricted parameters, etc; in which the unanimity of EU member states failed to gradually consider the similarities and stances of the respective countries to Russia, Ukraine, and other Eastern European countries.

Therefore, this correlates with the spectrum of identity, especially the perceived identity in the EU and towards Eastern Europe, which became relevant after the Russia-Ukraine conflict. To end, the identity of European politics has first fractured the deterministic stance of values and principles, specifically in the interconnection between EU member states and Eastern European neighbors. The post-Russia-Ukraine conflict calls for a dangerous zero-sum game, leading to conflict and the deepening of identity within the region (Niţoiu, 2016)

EU’s Political Externalities in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: Determination of Identity In the Spectacle of International Armageddon (2023–Now)

To better understand the multifaceted structure and dynamics of identity within European politics, specifically the EU, we can see the correspondence of the EU’s political stance and interconnectivity with other external powers through the rise of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Historically speaking, the involvement of the EU in the Israel-Palestine conflict has been called upon since 1967 and, until now, remains a constructive role in playing significant roles, be it through resolving the conflict with the assistance of humanitarian aid, political participation, or economic cooperation in the future.

Through the lens of identity and the EU as a diversified stance of politics among its member states, the EU holds a normative position in conflict (Persson, 2017). However, the initiatives and practices the EU has implemented during the conflict show complexity and unalignment. According to the Diplomatic Service of the EU in 2022, the EU supports a two-state solution, which emphasizes both Israel and Palestine having independent acquisitions of their respective territories.

 The rising issue here is that the EU’s stance in this conflict is divided into two spectrums; firstly, the stance for Israel, where they support the notion of Israel protecting their interests through the vicinity of Palestinian territory. Secondly, the stance of Palestinians is vivid, declaring their construction of stance by providing humanitarian assistance for those who are vulnerable, and this affects the European identity in the public image of the international community. Through this discourse, the identity of European politics has been affiliated with the historical values and integration of the great powers, one of which is connectivity with the United States. In accordance with the international community, the political stance of the EU and the US has sought the idea that these significant powers are central contributors to Israel, thereby implying that the coexistence of influential roles of great powers has become significant for the European region to embody their collective identity, which was eventually poured into the EU’s functionality as a political project.


 In essence, the contestation of identities within the European region has sought its credibility and applicability under the European Union (EU), and it is reflected in how they shaped, continued, and improved the standard of values through the collective identity they envision. On the other hand, it is evident that the “black box” of the EU, European member states, and the majority of European nations arose from a variety of phenomena, including the Brexit conundrum, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the geopolitical realignment within the status quo.

Throughout the fluctuancies of challenges and opportunities taken by the EU, the domino effects are inputted into how identities, goals, and values drive identity as a central component for the European region, specifically the EU, in keeping up with the flowage of contemporary international politics. Identities push European countries into integrity; consequently, the EU serves as a prominent case for embodying consensus on cultivating identity throughout every aspect of nation-building. Overall, the dynamics and role that the EU wields as a projection of Europe’s political order have helped propel European identity, specifically within the process of policy arrangement, where the contestation of identities may be reduced because of the incorporation of European identities within the framework of the EU.

Rayhan Faiq
Rayhan Faiq
Muhammad Rayhan Faiq Athalla is an undergraduate student at the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) who excels in the approach major of International Relations. One that piques interest in social expansion and gaining beneficial knowledge through academic, professional, and personal matters. Prioritizes being adaptive whilst being niche in the environment provided. Talented in creating social and dynamic possibilities into an efficient agreement, fulfilled with the character to focus towards a certain problem using the ability of a priority list. High sense of professionalism in work ethics, the capability to receive feedback, critics, and evaluations with an open mindset for it is necessary to progress.