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Reflections on the European State of Mind

The Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Project on European Memory and Identity

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What is Europe? Geography shows us that Europe has never been a clearly defined space. The continent’s name comes from the ancient Greek myth of Europa, a story about the (dis)adventures of a beautiful Phoenician princess. Europa was abducted and then seduced by Zeus, the high God of the Greeks, who approached her in the form of a white bull. Zeus carried Europa away from Phoenicia to Crete, and she later became the first queen of Crete. There is no real end to the story of Europa. Of course, Europa, as a mortal died, but her name undoubtedly lives on, as this girl gave her name to the whole continent of Europe.

Nowadays, Europe is described through its achievements and traditions, but what distinguishes it from other continents? Who are “We the People of the United Europe”? What binds us together? Do we share a common European identity? What are its essential elements? Do we really share a common European memory? Why European memory is of crucial importance for the Future of Europe?

The Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Project “We, the People of the United Europe: Reflections on the European State of Mind” (acronym: WE-UE) re-launches questions positioned at the heart of the process of European integration in a time in which the rise of nationalism and historical revisionism in the EU member states, candidate countries and potential candidates are threatening the future of the European project. Our goal is to offer a positive antidote to nationalistic dangerous trends by promoting an understanding of Europe as a state of mind rooted in shared values of peace, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

On 19 September 2019, the European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the importance of European Remembrance for the future of Europe. It pays tribute to the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and calls for a “common culture of remembrance” as a way of fostering Europeans’ resilience to modern threats to democracy. It recalls that European integration has, from the start, been a response to the suffering inflicted by two world wars, and built as a model of peace and reconciliation founded on the values common to all member states. The European Union is therefore particularly responsible for safeguarding democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Finally, the European Parliament condemns the fact that extremist and xenophobic political forces in Europe are increasingly resorting to distortion of historical facts, and employ symbolism and rhetoric that echoes aspects of totalitarian propaganda, including racism, anti-Semitism and hatred towards sexual and other minorities.

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