This summer will mark the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and the subsequent outbreak of the Great War. The catastrophic events that followed in the train of the two world wars left Europe in ruins and sparked a political project of integration that aimed, in the first instance, to make further war unthinkable. This project, which came to take form in the institutions and treaties of the European Union, remains precarious. From the outset, it has been a movement of elites and always at some distance from the emotional bonds and national loyalties of ordinary citizens.
Europe is again in crisis. The euro troubles continue, with double-digit unemployment rates across much of the continent. Immigration and assimilation, especially of the Muslim population, remains a volatile issue. Divisions are appearing or growing, both economic—between creditor and debtor, northern and southern countries—and political, with efforts at secession and the emergence of populist movements. Fears of losing national sovereignty and identity are common; popular disillusionment is widespread.
The crisis is raising old cultural questions of Europe and Europeanness with renewed urgency. If Europe as a union is to survive, what forms of solidarity and identity might hold it together?