Europeanizing Europe? The EU Commission’s Public Communication on Europe(-anness) in the Context of Membership

Ms. Annie Niessen

“Europe” and “Europeanness” are key notions in the construction process of the European Union. Indeed, Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union enshrines that a State must be “European” in order to be considered eligible for EU membership. Despite the various meanings that this qualifier may take on, the EEC/EU institutions have never provided a clear, official definition of what is intended by “European State”. However, they did provide some interpretations of what makes a State “European” within the framework of membership requests and enlargement processes. These interpretations are mostly found in the Commission’s public communication about membership and enlargement which are then taken up by the media and disseminated in the national public spheres. This paper first presents the various interpretations provided in the Commissions’ public documents such as opinions and communications, as well as in Commissioners’ speeches. It then discusses how these interpretations rely on and choose among some common representations of Europe and European identity, therefore legitimizing some representations over others and contributing to a new, “europeanized” vision of Europe. It eventually explores how these interpretations shape an institutional discourse on European identity which is normalized in some Member States – and therefore contributes to the “Europeanization of Europe(-anness)” - and polarized in some others that have been contesting this institutional conception of Europe(-anness).