Identities, migrations and Europe- a sometimes explosive relationship

Who are the real “Europeans” today? The bureaucrats, officials and parliamentarians of the European institutions, in their somewhat isolated “Brussels bubble”? A few distinguished philosophers and other intellectuals who firmly reject nationalism? Or the “bobos” (bourgeois-bohémiens), rather highly educated middle-class big city inhabitants, who might feel culturally more similar to their counterparts in equivalent cities across the continent than to their compatriots in seemingly remote provinces of their own countries? Migratory movements have certainly influenced, for several decades, mentalities and national identities, and European integration has, at least for some time, contributed to bringing governments, countries and even peoples closer. But with the Euro crisis of recent years, that trend has started to go in the opposite direction. While intra-European migrations alone do not appear to bring about much more mutual understanding, extra-European migration pressure in 2015, certainly already present for decades, has become one factor which particularly threatens to undo much of what past decades have achieved in terms of promoting pro-European feelings and identities. The fault lies not in those who are coming, but in the contradictions of the countries they are coming to…

For an observer (such as the author) who is himself or herself a long-term, multiple intra-European migrant and has been living, studying and working for decades in several European and possibly other countries, recent events in the field of migration can hardly be seen as minor problems. If the Schengen system falls apart and the ill-managed euro-zone goes bankrupt, two obviously very real dangers, what will be left of the “European dream” described so optimistically, but not without realism, twelve years ago by Jeremy Rifkin? Is it thinkable that such giant steps backward would leave the rest of the European project’s foundations unshaken? How can we expect that European leaders will be able to resolve these problems tomorrow, if they have been failing so disastrously in recent months to reach an agreement in their ever-repeating, pathetic Eurozone and migration summits? Surely it is far easier for analysts to criticize them than it is for the leaders themselves to launch adequate policies.  Granted, these challenges are not at all easy to address, but it is also obvious that the current leadership is hardly up to the task of finding real and lasting solutions.

Separatist tendencies in several countries do not contribute to making these problems more manageable. Their roots are of course different, but they have something in common—a somewhat egoistic rejection of the “other” who have, up until now, been compatriots. There is also a connection between the way the European Union functions—or doesn’t function—and globalisation, which tends to make the lives of most citizens more precarious and to deepen social, as well as the regional, inequalities. If “Europe” has failed to diminish the Italian North-South divide, this is also a logical consequence of its regional dynamics, even if the main responsibility for the structural weaknesses of the South lies in internal Italian politics. If half of the Catalans want independence, centralist rigidity is likely to blame, but also historical and cultural resentments and the fact that Catalans—who outlawed bullfights recently—are, like the Basques, geographically, and maybe culturally, closer to the rest of Western Europe than are other Spaniards. If many Scots want independence after centuries of UK membership, it might mainly be due to the Thatcher legacy but also to their oil wealth and to Britain’s increased North-South divide, in this case favouring the southern part of the country. And Belgian centrifugal forces have not been stopped by the fact that Brussels has become the increasingly influential “capital of Europe”. Even the old Corsican nationalism, which just received a boost in the French regional elections, is certainly related to cultural factors as well as to history, geography and the complicated relations between the natives and the holiday “invaders” from the continent.

But what about “European identity” in these crisis-stricken “Brexit” and “Grexit” scenarios, disintegration prospects in four EU member states and a seemingly unstoppable rightwing populism in most countries, which thrives on a furiously anti-immigrant and anti-EU demagogy? It is too easy to answer that “more Europe” is necessary to save the EU; many citizens see the Union in fact more as the problem than the solution, and they can hardly be blamed for their simplified perception, given the EU’s many years of incapacity to find solutions for its acute economic, social and political problems. On top of all this, one million new immigrants in 2015 put heavy strains on even a big country like Germany, and not only hardline xenophobes fear that the immigrant flows, if they continue for several years, could potentially upset their society, already shaken by racist attacks. Anyway, the notorious lack of solidarity among countries in this field gives little optimism about the EU’s coherence. On the other hand, election results in all southern EU countries clearly confirm what everybody should have known for years, namely that German and Brussels-inspired austerity recipes don’t work and need urgent rectifications. What is clear is that both the Eurozone crisis and migration represent heavy challenges to a “European identity” which was, at best, in an embryonic stage for the majority of the French, German, and Greek citizens, an opinion bolstered by many in other EU member states as well.

Terrorism has become another huge challenge in 2015 and one more boost for right-wing populism. Particularly in France, which had a Ministry for Immigration and National Identity between 2007 and 2010, it is obvious that a crucial component of today’s agenda includes how to deal with home-grown terrorism and religious fanaticism, as well as how to counter simplifications which link them directly to immigration and to Muslims in general, in France and elsewhere.

Solidarity is inseparable from identity, and normally citizens of more prosperous regions of national states accept to pay for their fellow citizens of poorer or structurally disadvantaged regions, like Bavaria uses to pay for the Eastern länder, Bremen or Berlin. Now Catalans refuse to pay for Andalusians, as do the Flemish for Francophone Belgians and Northern Italians for their Southern countrymen. Even in Germany, recent years have witnessed a growing rejection of solidarity through national Finanzausgleich or compensation payments. As the Eurozone crisis shows, such solidarity is, not surprisingly, largely absent when people are asked to pay for other countries. This is especially the case if those who are asked to pay are misinformed about the reality of the situation, which has little relation to the story of the responsible and hard-working brothers “helping” their irresponsible and spendthrift siblings. Italian Prime Minister Renzi was partly right when, in a recent European summit, he told Chancellor Merkel that Germany should not see itself as the generous financier of the southern member states There is still a serious North-South divide largely along the borders of the Roman Empire, with often quite diverging mentalities and very few cross-country language knowledge and real understanding.

Today, many people view themselves as citizens of their city (or region), their native country, their country of residence (if it is a different one) and to some extent of Europe, and even as citizens of the world. Britons and Irish believe often, not illogically, that they are closer to other Anglophone people than to their continental neighbours, as do Spaniards and Portuguese related to Hispanic and Lusophone countries, and even French people might feel more at home in countries where their language is widely spoken. If the above-mentioned challenges, and those of the long-term economic downturn and accompanying mass unemployment, are not met adequately, it is obvious that the fragile European component of their identity will become weaker and weaker, with potentially disastrous consequences for the entire European project.



Analyst on European and international affairs, author of several books including Europa y la globalización (Buenos Aires, 1998), visiting lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires and former public servant at the European Commission.

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Legal note

1.    Terms and Conditions

2.    Privacy Policy

3.    Cookies Policy


1.    Terms and Conditions

Contact data for the web owner

This website has been created by KATOIKOS to promote their products and services.

– Name: Katoikos, S.L

– Co. tax Code:  B87123162

– Address:  Calle Campomanes 10, 28013  Madrid (SPAIN)

Registration details: Registered in the Commercial Register of Madrid.

Intellectual and Industrial Property

The various elements of this page, and website as a whole, are protected by Spanish legislation on intellectual and industrial property. The trademarks, trade names or logos appearing on this website are the property of the company, or, where appropriate, of third parties, and are protected by Trademarks Law, and of which KATOIKOS holds the legitimate license.

The information provided may not be used for commercial or public purposes, or modified. If the user downloads materials for personal and non-commercial use, warnings shall be kept about copyright and trademarks. To download and use the company logo that appears on the website, prior authorization is required.

Any unauthorised use of the images may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity, and communications regulations and statutes.

Liability for Damage

KATOIKOS assumes no liability for damages you may suffer when browsing the web or in the use of computer applications that are part of it. Neither are warranties given as to the correction of malfunctions or updating of content.

Content you share with us

We may include features on this website that allow you to share your content with us and other users of the site. Please note that by sharing content it may become publicly accessible. You grant to Katoikos a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license, without compensation to you:

 (a) to use, reproduce, distribute, adapt (including without limitation edit, modify, translate, and reformat), derive, transmit, display and perform, publicly or otherwise, such content, in any media now known or hereafter developed, for Kaotikos’ business purposes, and

 (b) to sublicense the foregoing rights, through multiple tiers, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. The foregoing licenses shall survive any termination of your use of the site, as further described below.

For all of the content you share through the site, you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary for you to grant these licenses, and that such content, and your provision or creation thereof through the site, complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations and does not infringe or otherwise violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party, and is furthermore free from viruses and other malware.

Rules of Conduct

When using this website and/or sharing content with us, you are prohibited from posting or transmitting :

1. any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, racist, obscene, scandalous, deceptive, false, fraudulent, inflammatory or profane material or any material that could constitute or encourage conduct that would be considered a criminal offence, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any law.
2. Any virus, worm, Trojan horse, Easter egg, time bomb, spyware or other computer code, file, or program that is harmful or invasive or may or is intended to damage or hijack the operation of, or to monitor the use of, any hardware, software or equipment;
3. Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation; and
4. Any material non-public information about a person or a company without the proper authorization to do so.

In addition, you will not:

1. Use this website for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose;
2. Interfere with or disrupt the operation of the website or the servers or networks used to make the website available; or violate any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of such networks;
3. Access or use this website through any technology or means other than those expressly designated by us.
4. Restrict or inhibit any other person from using this website (including by hacking or defacing any portion of the website);
5. Except as expressly permitted by applicable law, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of this website.
6. Remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notice from this website.
7. Frame or mirror any part of the webiste without our express prior written consent;
8. Create a database by systematically downloading and storing all or any content;
9. Use any robot, spider, site search/retrieval application or other manual or automatic device to retrieve, index, “scrape,” “data mine” or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of this website, without our express prior written consent.


Kaotikos  reserves the right to remove any messages or statements or cancel any links.

This site may include hyperlinks to other web sites that are not owned or controlled by Katoikos. Katoikos has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices of any third party websites.

Content may be hosted on YouTube or other social media. Those operate their own set of terms and conditions and privacy policy which are separate to the ones presented on this website. Katoikos no control over and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices on YouTube or other social media.

 The right to terminate your access

Katoikos reserves the right to terminate your access to this website at any time if you do not comply with these Terms and Conditions or you infringe Kaotikos’ rights in the content provided on this website.

Governing Law

These Terms and Conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Spain, without regard to its choice of law provisions.  You agree to the exclusive jurisdiction by the courts of Spain.

Changes to the Terms

Katoikos reserves the right to make changes to the Terms and Conditions from time to time. You acknowledge and agree that your continued access to or use of this website will constitute your acceptance of such changes.

2.    Privacy Policy

Kaotikos takes the protection of your personal data very seriously and collects, processes and uses your data only in accordance with the standards of the legal data protection regulations.

Data is collected, processed and used with technologyes of the provider web trends for marketing and optimisation purposes and also for sending news and information you may be interested in by any electronic services, such as email or SMS.

Our website user’s database is registered at the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. You have the rights of access, rectification, deletion and opposition, regulated in articles 14 to 16 of the LOPD.

For this, please write to:

KATOIKOS (Data Protection) Calle Campomanes 10, 28013, Madrid (SPAIN)

Or send an email to Your ID will be requested for these issues.

3.    Cookies Policy

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customise your experience. Find out more about cookies and how you can control them.

This page contains information on what ‘cookies’ are, the cookies used by the Kaotikos’ website and how to switch cookies off in your browser.

If it does not provide the information you were looking for, or you have any further questions about the use of cookies on the Katoikos’s website, please email

What are ‘cookies’?

‘Cookies’ are small text files that are stored by the browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Safari) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store things like user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a ‘memory’ for the website, so that it can recognise you when you come back and respond appropriately.

How does the Katoikos’s website use cookies?

A visit to a page on the Kaotikos’s website may generate the following type of cookies: Anonymous analytics cookies.

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc., a Delaware company whose main office is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View (California), CA 94043, USA (“Google”).

Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information on our behalf in order to track your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

Anonymous analytics cookies

Cookier Name Origin Aim End
__utma Google Analysis 2 years since set –up or update
__utmb Google Analysis 30 minutes since set –up or update
__utmc Google Analysis When browser sesión ends
_utmt Google Analysis 10 minutes since set –up or update
__utmz Google Analysis 6 months since set –up or update

How do I turn cookies off?

It is usually possible to stop your browser accepting cookies, or to stop it accepting cookies from a particular website. All modern browsers allow you to change your cookie settings. You can usually find these settings in the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu of your browser. To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use the ‘Help’ option in your browser for more details.

Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari web and iOS.


© 2020 Katoikos, all rights are reserved. Developed by eMutation | New Media

Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Your information will never shared with a third party.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)
Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
Your information will never shared with a third party.
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)