In the 1990s, "Europe" has come to assume a particular significance in the construction of national identity. Within the European Community (the EC, which is now being transformed into a political European Union, the EU), debates rage over the meaning and future of this association of nation states and peoples. This is occurring, not only among academics and politicians but also on the ground, as the EU assumes an increasing role in people's lives. In those countries of the continent of Europe, but not in the EU, membership sometimes signifies an entry into "the West," and all of the economic, political, and social promise that the West has claimed to offer. Meanwhile, in western Europe, attitudes (official and otherwise) toward the continent's "east" and "south" are clearly ambivalent. The European Union aspires to expand its horizons outward, for example, to the former Communist states (the "widening" of the EU). At the same time, many European states are constructed as the EU's other.
The relationship of Europe as an identity to its others will be the focus of this chapter. Europe today is both dependent on, yet also seeks in some sense to transcend the historical construction of, the European nation state and its product, nationalism. This tension proves to be at the heart of the newly emerging political and legal order. The European Union is a product of the history of the Western nation state. Moreover, Europe as a political identity produces its own nationalist discourse through which it differentiates itself from "other" nations (both within and outside the geography of Europe). But it has also been argued that the new European order might serve as a forum for the reimagining of the nation state, if not to transcend at least to reduce the dependence of identity on the construction of the national other. Europe might represent the opportunity for accommodation with cultural, national, and other "difference."
This opposition between the invocation of nationalism, and