The European Union: Unity in Diversity or Unity vs Diversity? (I)

The concept of globalization is one of those concepts which is widely used in academic writings, debates in politics and sociology, and the media during the last three decades. Before the end of the Cold War in 1989/1990, even the term and notion of “globalization” have been relatively unknown but today it is one of the most discussed phenomena of post-modernity. In essence, globalization is referring to the very fact that mankind lives in one (united) world, and consequently, peoples, nations, and all other kinds of groups became in one or other ways interdependent.

Globalization is usually presented solely as an economic phenomenon and much is written and told about the role of transnational corporations whose global operations stretch across national borders. In such a way, they are influencing worldwide production processes and the international distribution of the labor force. It can not be forgotten among other phenomena of globalization the electronic integration of world financial markets followed by the enormous volume of global flows of capital and investments, the immense scope of global trade, involving a much broader range of goods and services compared to previous historical periods.

Globalization and its features

As a matter of fact, speaking about globalization, economics comes in the first place. Politics comes next, and cultural aspects seem only to get what remains of the attention. In this article, I am analyzing how well the European Union (the EU) is taking care of what it claims to. “Unity in Diversity” is the slogan, the cultural policy, that the EU states to lead. However, the reality is of a different kind. Samuel P. Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations seems to work perfectly because opening all geographic and cultural borders catalyze cultural mixture and cultural conflicts both in multicultural societies and between different states in Europe. Besides, the older and more influential Member States feel like not always obey common rules and often fail in making their own citizens do that. In this way, small nations get trapped in the cultural mix without the possibility to get out or preserve their own culture properly. The cultural face of Europe, which we are so proud of, is of dramatic changes.

Globalization was and is mainly driven forward by the integration of the global economy. Compared to previous periods, the basis of the global economy is no longer primarily agricultural or industrial activities but rather it is more and more dominated by activity that is intangible and weightless. It means this new type of economy is of such kind in which products have their foundation in information, for instance, computer software, media, entertainment products, and services based on the Internet. Such new types of economy are marks of post-industrial society or the information age. Another feature of globalization is the emergence of the knowledge society that is linked to the development of a broad base of technologically literate consumers.

It is noticed a clear tendency of most works about globalization are being written about economic issues. This is not surprising or unbelievable, as we all know, that economics is one of the most debated and important topics in worldwide discussions. Besides, globalizing economics is the quickest and most prominent process (opening of new markets for multi- and transnational corporations), then – politics goes, and just after that social and national aspects follow. However, speaking about globalization as such, it is vital to define the term itself. The definition is varied and arguable. But still, all descriptions of the same phenomenon – globalization – are indeed different sides of the same coin. It only depends on what issue is globalization going to be analyzed on – to choose the length, particularity, and direction of the definition.

The theory of Samuel P. Huntington[i] can be one of the most acceptable. He claims that globalization is a contradictory process when all geographic, social, and cultural borders disappear and so, civilizations are forced to get too close to each other; that is where they clash. This happens more and more often, causing national and international conflicts which are getting bigger and bigger.[ii]

As it is already mentioned, an economic feature of globalization is most analyzed in world literature among all other features. Consequently, it gets more and more important to see other aspects of the process, which are getting to seem more of the consequence-kind. It is true that the giant corporation is interested in getting better profits, but not getting closer acquaintance to other cultures or population possibilities (although, if lacking the labor power – it might be an issue of interest as well). But, as modern history shows, the globalizing economy is the same as globalizing all peoples’ life – the labor movement, a cultural mixture of whole generations, erasing the borders and creating a completely new society, which, not leaving its problems aside, seemed to get not enough attention from the all “bigs”: be it corporative administrations or state governments.

Nevertheless, social and most important national issues cannot and are not ignored anymore because they grew too much to be overseen. Social differences grew too remarkable in the same country, the structure of societies suffers from getting too multicultural. A well-concentrated and easily defined model of this problematic issue of globalization is the European Union. It is a part or even a tool of globalizing Europe. It involves many quite different countries (today 27) and it claims to take care of all aspects of uniting the continent or at least its biggest part.

“Unity in Diversity”: Sounds great, but… 

The European Union, starting as an economic community, lasted not so long as such. It happens so that very soon changes in economics start to influence other issues of both social and personal life, and it is impossible to avoid them. That is why as soon as West European politicians started realizing the fact, the European Union turned to be the economic, political, and social organization or at least pretending to be as such with the final political task of uniting Europe. The most difficult aim here is to organize the commonwealth fare by having in mind all members together and each member separately taking into account huge general and particular differences across Europe especially on the relations West-East and North-South.

Unity in diversityWe can read, for instance, …the stability of the EU’s political authority depends upon the voluntary compliance of national governing institutions …and, ultimately, of citizens – writes Matthew J. Gabel.[iii]

The EU’s policy was quite stable and trusted for over thirty years, and all that it concerns seems to be done well. The conditions for every new candidate state to become a full Member State are to accomplish all political, social, legal, and economic demands by Brussels. Legal stability is achieved by common laws (acquis communautaire). It does not mean that each Member State lost the right of its own legal system, but still, M. J. Gabel says that: 

The political institutions of the European Union decide laws that are binding on the EU’s citizens and that override any conflict laws in the Member States. 

At a first glance, no legal or political conflicts – no problems. That sounds logical but doesn’t it? Besides, the inspiringly sounding of the EU’s slogan “Unity in Diversity” is followed by piles of papers and documents of the same exalted tone.

In the European Union, we respect different cultures. I think it is even fair to say that we are built on different cultures – talked Michael Reiterer in the EU-Japan Fest – 10th Anniversary Commemorative Symposium in 2005.[iv] His opening remarks gave a wide range of warmth and arguments for the close cultural communication: we learn to accept, to share, and teach each other. In this way, the EU becomes an economic, political, social, national, and cultural organization (in fact, state), which shall only contribute to the flowering of the various cultures.[v] However, everything sounds so good on the paper to be implemented on the ground as a possible reality. That is where S. P. Huntington’s theory gets some practical pieces of evidence.

George Friedman says that the democracy theory itself makes both integration and assimilation of immigrants complicated because is based on nationalism.[vi] Well, nowadays situation shows that he is not wrong by stating that. And no matter how well sounding M. Reiterer’s speech was, he also admitted that diversity of confronting cultures can also turn negative if used as a source of chauvinism, exclusion, or xenophobia.[vii] 

Garton Ash in one of his lectures on the EU reveals the documentary – proved fact that there were the grand old men who led Europe’s major powers at this time: all of them very much products of the pre-1914 world, thinking almost instinctively in terms of national interest.[viii] It could be completely usual and logical, but the truth is that older Member States and bigger countries with more powerful political influence-skills do not obey the common tolerance and equality laws, which they signed themselves.

All states are equal, but some of them are more equal than others 

There appear to be different reasons for national conflict situations in the EU’s Member States, both nations, living in one country and nations, fighting for their own rights and rights of the country they appear to live in. The reality is such that the theoretical equality of Member States stays only theoretical. Speaking on May 14th, 1947, about united Europe, Winston Churchill said: 

We (Bretons) ourselves are content, in the first instance, to present the idea of United Europe, in which our country will play a decisive part, as a moral, cultural and spiritual conception to which all can rally without being disturbed by divergencies about structure.[ix]

That was the beginning of the idea of varied, but united Europe. One nation as a more equal one – to be a leading example for others. An example to follow.

It gets more and more obvious that the smaller and economically or politically weaker countries suffer a syndrome of “a younger sister”. There is the new Member States in the first place here. The old members are more developed in most issues, that is where the national–patriotic standpoint appears to be switched off. When the borders opened, “the leakage of mind” quite painfully started. The phenomenon that many experienced themselves: most of the families in their environment have at least one family member who left East and Central European countries, seeking a better job and life in some other European countries. Usually, they plan to come back, but afterward, the plan changes dramatically – they create families, get an education, start a career and stay abroad for good. There is nothing wrong with it, one can say? Maybe not. For one, or probably two generations.

EU leadersThen we get entire national communities formed in other countries – the most painfully, forgetting their identity, assimilating with locals, and confronting their culture as well. What we have now are numerous East and Central European communities in West Europe.

Turks in Germany: The other is always foreign

Germany became during the last 30 years the focal absorber of the East and Central European workers following the acceptance of the Gastarbeiters since 1961. Nevertheless, in perspective, serious social problems the Germans have to face. In 1961, the German borders were opened for the Turkish workers. They were accepted with some enthusiasm. Most of those planned to earn money and go back and many did. But others stayed and were followed by their families. The high birthrate, and so – 2+ million Turks – four generations in all Germany today. The serious problem appeared when Germany got into economic crises, locals suffered numerous unemployment, and there were immigrants to blame – as taking all possible job opportunities as a low-cost labor force. That was the moment for those to leave. But they did not. Instead, being blamed for unemployment and lack of asylum, and getting attacked for that, the Turks got to defend their name and communities. No doubt that ones, who were born and grew up in Germany, feel like home there – and it is no wonder. But the Turkish society for that reason lives in a new identity-forming situation. Most of the young German–Turks were about to forget their homeland and origin, but the other is always foreign – attitude awakened their national character even more radically than the one local Turks in Turkey have.

As a solution, we can read:

One response has been a withdrawal from German culture and consolidation and defense of community boundaries. Turkish working-class youth gangs, for instance, set aside their differences and vowed to work together to defend their neighborhoods.[x] 

William Wallace in his article states that: 

Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities…[xi] 

That means, that the legal system, which all Member States, let us say “volunteering” (but only theoretically – again) to obey, get involved in people’s life, even most personal cultural traditions. For example, the same German–Turk’s situation: Turkish girls can seek the help of German social institution if they are dissatisfied with the restrictions, that their parents give or marriages they arrange (which is completely understandable from the standpoint of the Westerners, and the fact, that the girl is a third-generation German Turk). According to the historical traditional Turkish family law, it is exactly family, which decides for the girl. But in Germany, social workers do their job to defend the girl’s rights according to German law. Jenny B. White claims that this example:

…illustrate German hostility toward family life and efforts by the German state to break up the Turkish family.[xii]

To be continued

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.


[i] Karen T. Muraoka, Survey of Globalization Theories:

[ii] See more in: [James Killoran, Stuart Zimmer, Mark Jarrett, The Key to Understanding Global Studies, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY: A Jarret Publication, 1990].

[iii] Matthew J. Gabel, “The Endurance of Supranational Governance: A Consociational Interpretation of the European Union”, Comparative Politics, Vol. 30, No. 4. (July, 1998), pp. 463–475.

[iv] Michael Reiterer, Deputy Head of the EU’s Delegation, The Role of Culture in the Age of Advancing Globalization:

[v] Ibid.

[vi]George Friedman, translated by Justina Žeižytė, Integracijos klausimas:

[vii] Michael Reiterer, Deputy Head of the EU’s Delegation, The Role of Culture in the Age of Advancing Globalization:

[viii] Garton Ash, “Is Europe Becoming Europe?”, Sanford S. Elberg Lecture, Institute of International Studies, UC, Berkeley,

[ix] Arthur N. Holcombe, “An American View of European Union”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 47, No. 2. (June, 1953), pp. 417–430.

[x] Jenny B. White, “Turks in the New Germany”, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 4 (December, 1997), pp. 754−769.

[xi] William Wallace, “From the Atlantic to the Bug, from the Arctic to the Tigris? The transformation of the EU and NATO”, International Affairs, Vol.76, No. 3, (July, 2000), pp. 475–493.

[xii] Jenny B. White, “Turks in the New Germany”, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 4 (December, 1997), pp. 754−769.

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