Among the many negative consequences of Putin’s move in the Crimea, one has remained somehow under the radar: the shift from interactions in which the people – the activists of the maidan, the protesters – were active participants, to a game of high politics. To a certain extent and when we think of the much needed readjustment of perspective on Russia, this is welcome. As Techau noted in an insightful commentary, the EU noticed too late that it was in a geopolitics game and brought the low politics toolbox that it uses for Association agreement negotiations to a high politics construction site. After Putin brought Russia back into the picture with the help of the so-called volunteers and the actions of the Crimean parliament, the voice of the people is being drowned in the new propaganda war. The problem with this is not only that there has been so much disinformation around that we are really coming to a Cold War-like fog of confusion. The bigger problem, as far as I am concerned, is that the ethnic politics aspect of Ukrainian politics has come too much to the fore and obscures the drive of Ukrainian citizens of all ethnicities towards a less oligarchic, more transparent, more pluralistic and equal political regime. As Chrystia Freedland has written in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s NYT and as I have written in my commentary at Crooked Timber, the struggle of Ukrainians to depose President Yanukovich was not primarily an ethno-cultural fight, it was a political struggle against corruption and the fusion between oligarchic economic power and political power. In moving our attention to ethnicity, we – and those advising the new Ukrainian government – lose sight of the demands and energy of the people that kept the Ukrainian revolution going when everyone thought Yanukovich’s decision not to sign the Association agreement was the end of closer Ukrainian-European ties. The people were really the ones that disrupted the predetermined scenario last time and their desire for a more just democracy in which rule of law prevails should not be forgotten. I believe that what many Ukrainians liked about the EU agreement was not primarily the trade or the adoption of EU’s regulatory approach, but the EU’s insistence that formal rules and institutions be observed and enforced. The short term implications of my argument may not be great, except for the need to look more carefully at the appointment of business entrepreneurs as political appointees of the new government. In the long term, any support measures from the EU or the US should not target the economy without consulting and empowering those who started the changes and wanted a different kind of democracy in Ukraine.
Only last November, the most dramatic picture of the EU’s failure to bring its message to the Ukrainian leadership was a YouTube video showing Angela Merkel telling President Yanukovich in Vilnius, ‘We expected more’. A mild, civilized and diplomatic rebuke. After the failure to sign the long negotiated Association Agreement in Vilnius and a few more days of rescue attempts, Commissioner Füle was criticized for ‘losing his cool’ and being undiplomatic when he commented on twitter that the ‘words and deeds of Ukraine’s leadership were further and further apart’. Today, the internet and news agencies are alive with shocking images of violence from the centre of Kiev. In the last weeks the Ukrainian parliament passed, with lightning speed, legislation ‘stipulating jail terms for offenses such as driving in columns of more than 5 cars, people wearing hard hats and demonstrating in uniforms and ‘not complying with the demands of legal authorities’. In an even more bizarre Orwellian twist, those near the central square in Kiev were reported to have received an sms message ‘Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance’.
How could things go so wrong so rapidly: for Ukraine but also in terms of the ability of EU policy makers to influence events there? A small, rational part of the answer is that political regimes where the distance between informal rules and formal legislation is substantial are difficult to understand by studying only the formal legislative rules and the configuration of formal veto players. A gut feeling response suggests that the President and the opposition feel they have nothing to lose and therefore will not look for a compromise. Last but not least, the violence – which is, even in these curcumstances – not the wish of the majority of people protesting in the streets of Kiev these days – may be a sign that no one has any trust in President Yanukovich’s words any more. So Mr. Füle was right after all. One cannot help but wish that the realities of Ukraine’s political system of neopatrimonialism, a form of governance characterized by nearly complete state capture and power monopolies, (as defined by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi in a recent article in the Journal of Democracy) had been understood and acknowledged earlier.
Met Evert-Jan Mulder, Principal Consultant Europa/Internationaal PBLQ
Recent heeft de Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur advies uitgebracht over de relatie tussen Europa en decentrale overheden. De ROB constateert in dit advies dat Europa (lees de Europese Unie) een steeds grotere invloed heeft op decentrale overheden. Enerzijds “moeten” overheden steeds meer van Brussel, als gevolg van toenemende wet- en regelgeving. Anderzijds biedt Europa ook diverse kansen, in termen van samenwerking, kennisontwikkeling en financiering. Kortom, decentrale overheden zijn en worden steeds meer met Europa verbonden. Dat is dan ook de titel van het ROB-advies.
“Met Europa verbonden” kijkt vooral naar de bestuurlijk-juridische gevolgen van deze toenemende vervlechting tussen Europa en de decentrale overheden. Met name de interbestuurlijke verhoudingen tussen rijk en decentrale overheden binnen de Europese context komen aan bod. De ROB constateert hier een interessante ontwikkeling. Enerzijds neemt de bemoeienis van de EU met nationaal beleid toe, anderzijds is er sprake van een afnemende verantwoordelijkheid van het rijk als gevolg van allerlei decentralisaties. Wat zijn hiervan de gevolgen voor de bestuurlijke verhouding tussen Europa en de Nederlandse overheid, en wat zijn de gevolgen voor de Nederlandse interbestuurlijke verhoudingen? Voeren straks bijvoorbeeld de provincies de onderhandelingen over het milieubeleid—dat steeds meer een verantwoordelijkheid van de provincies is geworden—in plaats van het ministerie van I&M?
Het ROB-advies gaat niet in op de vraag wat de effecten zijn van de toenemende Europeanisering van decentrale overheden en welke factoren daarop van invloed zijn. Het Instituut Bestuurskunde van de Universiteit Leiden (Campus Den Haag) heeft in 2012, in samenwerking met PBLQ, deze vraag onderzocht voor gemeenten. Het onderzoek, uitgevoerd door een aantal Master studenten, was gebaseerd op diepteonderzoek in 8 gemeenten (op basis van verschillende kenmerken geselecteerd) en een survey waarop 147 van de 418 gemeenten hebben gereageerd (respons van 35,4%). Het onderzoek is daarmee een goede graadmeter van de wijze waarmee Nederlandse gemeenten met de EU omgaan. Hoofdconclusie is dat gemeenten nog (lang) niet alle kansen pakken die de EU ze biedt.
De onderzoekers hebben gekeken in hoeverre verschillende gemeentelijke kenmerken van invloed zijn op de wijze waarop gemeenten met de Europese Unie omgaan. Het blijkt dat bevolkingsdichtheid en gemeentegrootte inderdaad invloed hebben op de verhouding die de gemeente heeft met Europa. Zo hebben landelijke gemeenten minder vaak een specifieke Europa-strategie en achten de ambtenaren van die gemeenten de EU minder relevant voor hun organisatie. Ook vinden landelijke gemeenten het lastiger om Europese subsidies te verkrijgen. Grotere (en vaak niet-landelijke) gemeenten komen makkelijker aan Europese fondsen, althans naar het oordeel van de onderzochte gemeenteambtenaren.
Mogelijke verklaringen hiervoor liggen in het feit dat in grotere gemeenten meer aandacht wordt besteed aan het ontwikkelen van een Europa-strategie, zoals uit het onderzoek blijkt. Daarnaast is er in grote gemeenten meer capaciteit om met Europese zaken om te gaan en voor het verspreiden en borgen van relevante kennis. In kleine gemeenten geven ambtenaren aan dat er onvoldoende kennis aanwezig is om actief met de EU om te gaan.
Wellicht belangrijker nog dan de beschikbare capaciteit is het feit dat grote gemeenten vaker een proactieve houding hebben ten aanzien van de EU. Grote gemeenten zien de EU eerder als een kans om gemeentelijke doelstellingen te realiseren dan kleine gemeenten. In het verlengde daarvan werken grotere gemeenten vaker samen met andere gemeenten en lobbyen actief in Brussel, wat de kans op toewijzing van een subsidie vergroot. Zodra een gemeente eerder een subsidie heeft ontvangen zijn ambtenaren aanzienlijk positiever over de mogelijkheden die Europese subsidieregelgeving schept voor lokale overheden.
Succesvolle “europeanisering” is voor een belangrijk deel gestoeld op het verzamelen van kennis en het vervolgens integreren van die kennis in de gemeentelijke organisatie. Of zoals een ambtenaar van één van de vijf grootste gemeenten hierover zegt: “Kennis over meer actuele ontwikkelingen is beperkt aanwezig, terwijl daar juist de belangrijke aanknopingspunten zitten om invloed uit de oefenen op wat er in Brussel, maar ook op wat bij het Rijk, gebeurt, en te sturen op de gevolgen voor de gemeente”. Kleinere gemeenten geven aan dat zij die kennis in onvoldoende mate hebben. Ook worden ambtenaren in kleine gemeenten nauwelijks gestimuleerd om hun kennis over Europa up-to-date te houden. Ongeveer 70 procent van de onderzochte ambtenaren gaf aan dat dit een verbeterpunt is. Wel geven sommige kleinere gemeenten aan dat wanneer meer complexe kennis nodig is, deze extern wordt aangetrokken.
Interessant punt is ook de wijze waarop gemeenten met Europees geld omgaan. In veel gevallen zijn de huidige werkzaamheden en doelen van de gemeenten niet het vertrekpunt om subsidies te zoeken, maar wordt eerst gekeken naar de programma’s voor Europese subsidies, waar vervolgens weer projecten bij gezocht worden. Daarnaast blijkt uit het onderzoek dat er een groep ambtenaren bestaat die niet eens op de hoogte is van het feit dat hun gemeente een Europese subsidie ontvangt.
Het onderzoek laat zien dat er duidelijke verschillen bestaan tussen grote en kleine gemeenten als het gaat om hun houding ten aanzien van Europa. Grote gemeenten blijken vaker een ‘Europa-strategie’ te hebben, beter op de hoogte te zijn van Europese wet- en regelgeving en succesvoller te zijn in het verkrijgen van Europese subsidies. Voor een deel is dit te verklaren door de grotere capaciteit en financiële middelen die grote gemeenten hebben. Nog belangrijker is dat grote gemeenten Europa als meer relevant ervaren en dus een meer actieve houding hebben ten aanzien van de EU.
Het hebben van een proactieve houding ten aanzien van Europa blijkt alle betrekkingen met de EU ten goede te komen, of het nu gaat om kennis van Europese wet- en regelgeving (en daarmee kosteneffectiever omgaan) of het verwerven van Europese subsidies. Bij grote gemeenten ontstaat deze bewustwording en actieve houding wat makkelijker doordat men bijvoorbeeld een speciale Europa-afdeling kan opzetten.
Kleine gemeenten kunnen op dit vlak echter ook hun voordeel doen. Het onderzoek laat zien dat kleine gemeenten vaak externe partijen aantrekken bij complexere problematiek. Het nadeel hiervan is dat die kennis vervolgens niet binnen de organisatie wordt geborgd. Anderen zoeken een oplossing gevonden door het opzetten van samenwerkingsverbanden met andere gemeenten. Deze oplossing bespaart capaciteit bij de betrokken gemeenten en zorgt er tegelijkertijd voor dat kennis uitgewisseld en geborgd wordt in de organisatie. Dat bevordert tevens de houding die ambtenaren hebben ten aanzien van de EU. Bovendien zijn gemeenten die al samen lobbyen voor subsidies vaker succesvol hierin.
Samenwerking kan ook op een hoger, bestuurlijk niveau. In plaats van ‘ieder voor zich’ zou een overkoepelende organisatie vooral kleinere gemeenten kunnen steunen, zowel in kennis als belangenbehartiging. De VNG of het Kenniscentrum Europa Decentraal zouden deze rol (meer) op zich kunnen nemen en uitwisseling van ervaringen tussen alle gemeenten kunnen stimuleren. Dat biedt mogelijkheden tot uitwisseling tussen gemeenten, maar ook om met anderen een sterkere positie te verwerven ten aanzien van vraagstukken die in Europa worden bepaald.
De conclusies uit het onderzoek van de Universiteit Leiden en PBLQ laat een aardige discrepantie zien met de conclusie van de ROB uit “Met Europa verbonden”. De ROB constateert terecht een onmiskenbare groeiende beleidsimpact van de Europese Unie op decentrale overheden. Tegelijkertijd laat het onderzoek van Leiden en PBLQ zien dat deze beleidsimpact zich niet meteen vertaalt in adequate organisatorische aandacht voor de EU. Er is bij gemeenten nog veel te winnen waar het gaat om onder meer bewustzijn van het belang van de EU, het ontwikkelen en borgen van EU-expertise, het formuleren van een concrete EU-strategie en het benutten van EU-subsidies. Deze conclusie spoort met uitkomsten uit eerder onderzoek dat PBLQ heeft verricht onder een groot aantal ambtenaren van zowel centrale als decentrale overheden (Europa, wat doe je ermee?). Voor gemeenten betekent dit dat de komende tijd meer zal moeten worden geïnvesteerd in de relatie met Europa. Daar kunnen en moeten landelijke organisaties zoals de VNG en Europa Decentraal een entamerende en faciliterende rol bij vervullen.
Uiteindelijk zijn gemeenten echter zelf verantwoordelijk voor de concretisering van de relatie met Europa. Dat betekent dat zij op zijn minst aandacht moeten schenken aan de volgende drie onderwerpen:
- In de eerste plaats moeten zij zelf op de hoogte zijn van wat er speelt op Europees niveau. Dat betekent dat monitoring van de EU moet plaatsvinden vanuit de verschillende taken en verantwoordelijkheden van de gemeente.
- In de tweede plaats moeten gemeenten beleidsmatig hun relatie met Europa definiëren. Hoe raakt Europa de gemeente? Waar liggen de kansen, waar liggen verplichtingen, en waar liggen samenwerkingsmogelijkheden met Europa maar ook met de buurgemeenten en de provincie?
- Tot slot moeten gemeenten een EU strategie hebben, die de geformuleerde Europese doelen vertaalt in een concreet handelingsperspectief, met ‘namen en rugnummers’.
Alleen op deze manier kunnen gemeenten daadwerkelijk invulling geven aan hun verbinding met Europa.
A guest post from our colleagues from Birmingham Dr. Rilka Dragneva and Dr. Kataryna Wolczuk, who have investigated the Eurasian Customs Union, the purported alternative to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. First published in Edward Elgar’s blog.
”Ukraine is again at the centre of global attention after its government failed to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. This failure was interpreted as succumbing to Putin’s pressure to join the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus instead of re-orienting westward. There is little doubt that Ukraine’s full accession to this Union would be a major trophy for Putin, both domestically and internationally. The details of this volte-face remain obscure, but after years of negotiation, it was unexpected to say the least.
Ukraine has faced a dichotomy: Eurasia or Europe? Either choice carries hefty implications. Not signing was seen in the West as evidence of Ukrainian ruling elites acting on their old rent-seeking inclinations, fearful of the costs of EU-style modernisation. In contrast, Russia viewed the decision as a valiant refusal to submit to EU pressure and a pragmatic rejection of a deal with ephemeral, long-term benefits in favour of current and visible gains.
However, does the rejection of the EU deal in Vilnius mean that membership of the Eurasian Customs Union is Kyiv’s best option? How clear is the commitment and how credible is the Customs Union’s promise?
‘The Road Map’
No formal decision to accede to the Customs Union has been made by the Ukrainian government. We know that Kyiv is keen to restore ‘normal trade relations’ with Moscow and is considering a ‘Road Map’ for cooperation with the Customs Union (interestingly, the same phrase used to name the accession instruments of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan). In the case of Ukraine, detail as to this ‘Road Map’ is absent – other than Prime Minister Azarov’s cryptic message (‘we have many plans’, zn.ua, 1 December). Putin-Yanukovych’s meeting failed to shed further light either. The Ukrainian government’s priority appears to be the return of the status quo i.e. the situation before Russia woke up to the reality of the EU option.
Ukraine has been a reluctant participant in Post-Soviet integration regimes, exhibiting a preference for ‘pick and mix’ formats (the Commonwealth of Independent States), observer status (the Eurasian Economic Community of 2000) or general, declarative frameworks (the Common Economic Space of 2003). In 2011, it joined the revamped CIS free trade area, a non-institutionalised treaty regime. Thus, since independence Ukraine has demonstrated an on-going recalcitrance to submit to a binding, asymmetric integration regime. However, it may be that the political tensions in Ukraine, underpinned by Russia’s pressures, will force the issue.
Certainly, President Yanukovich has declared his ‘dream of European integration’. As the post-Vilnius flurry of activity to extract a better deal from the EU has shown, there is some substance to his assurances that Europe remains the geopolitical choice of Ukraine. Yet, his room for manoeuvre is becoming ever more circumscribed, meaning that he may well ‘sit on the fence’ as long as possible. This is at best a strategy for avoiding decision-making rather than looking to the future.
Joining which Union?
Perplexingly, it is unclear which Eurasian integration regime Ukraine might join? Currently, there is the Customs Union which has no legal personality: it is an institutionalised treaty regime within the Eurasian Economic Community. As this status complicates rules on membership, accession is a function of signing the numerous agreements establishing the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space.
A new Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union is currently in preparation with the official draft likely to be publicly available in the spring 2014. The Eurasian Economic Union will incorporate the Customs Union and disband the Eurasian Economic Community. The Treaty is likely to have several chapters distinguishing commitments within the Customs Union, the Single Economic Space and other areas of cooperation. It is thought that some countries, like Kyrgyzstan, are to join only the Customs Union. Therefore, there are likely to be several membership categories. It is unclear whether the different degree of integration will translate into different terms of participation in the bodies of the Eurasian Economic Union. At present, institutional uncertainty prevails.
How real is the promise of the Customs Union?
The Eurasian Development Bank has highlighted the systemic as well as sector-specific economic advantages of Ukraine’s membership in the Customs Union. Other economic analyses are not as optimistic. While this is a complex issue, several points stand out.
The Eurasian choice might benefit sectors in Ukraine with strong dependencies on the Russian market. Yet, it will not be a costless option. Ukraine has relatively low trade tariffs and imports technologically sophisticated goods from the EU. These goods are important for Ukraine’s modernisation. Because of trade diversion, the Eurasian choice would result in a decrease of EU imports and increase (of lower quality items) from the Eurasian market, and above all, Russia.
More importantly, the Customs Union fails to address the modernisation of domestic institutions. Underestimated by many observers, the Customs Union has led to the adoption of new customs regulation aligned with international norms and has thus been an important vehicle for domestic legal reform. Yet, as many years of transition studies show, changing laws on the books does not necessarily lead to improved business practices and implementation. The Customs Union does not purport to change the nature of domestic institutions in the manner that the EU does. The powers and functioning of customs authorities, for example, remains a domestic matter. The Customs Union strives for improved coordination and exchange of information, but it is coordination of what is in place. Additional agreements aiming at capacity building might be put in place but they are clearly the subject of a process of separate negotiations with its own (geo)political dynamics.
While the importance of rule-compliance is noted (at least by experts in the permanent regulator of the Union, the Eurasian Economic Commission) it has been insufficiently addressed. The prevailing view is that if a high political decision is made, the authority of the Presidents will ensure its implementation. Clearly, despite the various monitoring powers granted to the Commission and the Court of the Eurasian Economic Community, access to the highest political level is the best way to getting things done. It is direct access to the top that will ensure discipline rather than dependence on rule-based compliance by domestic institutions, as is the case in the West. Thus, the inescapable fact is that the Customs Union is based on (and perpetuates) the politically centralised model prevailing in most post-Soviet states.
The speed with which the Eurasian project has developed is noteworthy – often, the quality of the institutional and legal design has been sacrificed to ensure that deadlines are met. Its current legal regime is over-complex and fragmented (see our book Eurasian Economic Integration: Law, Policy and Politics). There is the promise of the codification and simplification of that regime going on in parallel to the drafting of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, itself subject to tight deadlines and an ambitious agenda for cooperation.
Finally, particularly as far as sensitive issues are concerned, it is consensus at the highest level that determines decisions. Asymmetries in bargaining power may be somewhat constrained, yet Russia ultimately remains able to shape trade-offs. In areas which remain subject to bilateral cooperation, such as energy, the multilateral framework is very ‘thin’ at present: in that field, Ukraine would remain one-on-one with Russia.
Thus, even if one accepts the optimistic scenarios emanating from Ukraine’s membership of the Customs Union, the realisation of the predicted benefits is far from guaranteed. Whether the current Ukrainian government realises this remains to be seen.”
Caspar van den Berg
Whenever the European Union does not function the way we would hope a political community would function, there is a temptation turn to the absence of a shared European culture or identity as an explanation. If only Europeans would have a stronger sense of an European-wide “imagined community” (Anderson, 1991; 2006), there would be more popular support for the EU’s political system, there would be a greater economic and financial solidarity across member states, and an EU systems of taxation and defense would be less sensitive and problematic. Amitai Ezioni recently phrased the argument as follows: “[t]he insufficient sharing of values and bonds – not the poor representative mechanism – is a major cause of alienation from ‘Brussels’ and limits the normative commitment to make sacrifices for the common good” (Etzioni, 2013: 312).
In this discussion, the comparison is often made with the US, the only other political community that roughly resembles the EU in terms of population and territorial size and liberal-democratic principles. The US is often thought of as a polity with a strong sense of “imagined community” that is internally coherent and externally unique, and one which newcomers relatively easily buy into (Wright, 2011). That shared cultural identity is all the more admirable given that America’s ethnic and religious diversity is arguably larger than the EU’s is.
The stronger internal solidarity and implicit support for the political system in the US is for instance illustrated by the fact that wealth transfers through the federal tax system and spending programs take place on a large scale from the North to the South and Midwest, but they are seldom cited as problematic, let alone protested (The Economist, 2011). These wealth transfers are rarely mentioned as troubling, let alone protested (Etzioni, 2013: 314.).
By contrast, much smaller transfers within the EU, for instance from Northern countries to Southern ones and to Ireland, are currently rousing storms of protest and work towards the advantage of the anti-EU parties in the national arena’s of the member states and probably also in the European election of next year (see Mueller, 2013). Whereas these wealth transfers are seen as relatively normal in the US, in the EU they raise questions about the legitimacy of the polity as such. Apparently, the US, despite its polarization along partisan lines and despite its generally greater popular anti-government culture, succeeds in mobilizing greater internal solidarity and greater diffuse support for federal-level governing institutions than does the EU.
In this contribution, we explore how different or alike the US and the EU are in terms of their sense of “imagined community”, i.e. a “socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group” (Anderson, 1991: 224). How strong should such a community be in order to sustain either a federal union in the case of the US, or an economically integrated polity in the case of the EU? Is an insufficient sense of imagined community the cause of the EU’s lack of popular support and effectiveness in certain policy areas? Is worrying about the EU’s democratic deficit therefore pointless if not first the “communitarian deficit”, as Etzioni puts it, is addressed?
In order to answer these questions, some conceptual grounding is helpful. Firstly, it is generally accepted that a well-functioning political system needs to be underpinned by the diffuse support of the population over which it exerts authority (Easton, 1965; Moravcsik, 2002). Diffuse support is distinguished from specific support for any given policy, and understood as “allegiance, attachment or loyalty to governing institutions” (Gabel, 1998: 17). That diffuse support is to a considerable extent, but not exclusively, driven by the sense among the population that they together form a community (Hooghe and Marks, 2004), and are “engaged in a shared enterprise” (Mitchell, 2013: 2). For political systems of continental scale and which demand large transfers of wealth from one part of the territory to another, there is an additional complication: the functioning of the system depends on a substantial degree of internal solidarity. That internal solidarity is in turn strongly dependent on the degree to which the population feels they together form a community engaged in a shared enterprise (Fligstein, 2008).
Secondly, when we talk about imagined communities, the opposing analytical constructs of “Diversity within Unity” and “Unity in Diversity” are useful. Both constructs reflect a view on cultural and political community, where the former places greater stress on unity and the latter more on diversity. “Diversity within Unity” signifies that there is a collective baseline of respect for and adherence to basic values and institutions that are considered part of the shared framework of society. At the same time, every group in society is free to main its distinct subculture – those values, traditions, habits, and institutions that do not conflict with the shared core. In short, the unifying set core values must always trump the particular cultures of the sub-groupings in order for the community to be thick and robust, but beyond that, diversity is generously accepted. (Ignatieff, 1993; Geddes, 1996).
By contrast, the model of “Unity in Diversity” signifies a type of integration in which diversity is taken as the collective’s starting point and which assumes that in creating a shared identity, diversity is not the problem but rather the solution. A shared commitment to preserving the subgroupings’ cultural heritages is considered to be enough to constitute a new community. In this cosmopolitan view, “Europe must be understood as plural – as societies, it must be understood in additive, or, at best, comparative terms” (Beck, 2005: 109). European unity should not be sought in an idea of a European nation. Rather, this view contends that the persistence of the member states’ nations is the condition of a cosmopolitan Europe; and that “the more secure and confirmed Europeans feel in their national dignity, the less they will shut themselves off in their nation-states” (Beck, 2005: 116).
At face value, the United States seems to be built on a sufficiently strong internal solidarity to sustain large scale interregional transfers of wealth. But to what extent do Americans of different parts of the country perceive themselves really as part of the same community, engaged in a shared enterprise? Recent research suggests that regional variety in terms of political and social values is stark to the extent that the US should in political and cultural terms not be seen as one nation, but as a conglomerate of 11 distinct nations (Woodard, 2012).
The idea that there has never been an America, but rather several Americas is relatively old (Philips, 1969; Garreau, 1982; Hacket Fisher, 1989; Shorto, 2005). Yet Woodard’s book shows that when looking at a set of relevant variables at the county level – rather than the state level – including the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the breakdown of voting in virtually very hotly contested presidential race in the history of the US, the borders of eleven American nations become clearly visible. That is not to say that each region has one exclusive culture, but that each region has a dominant culture, which embeds its residents within a cultural framework of deep-seated preferences and attitudes. The lasting cultural cleavages can be explained based on historical settlement patterns.  According to Woodard, the 11 nations are Yankeedom, New Netherland, the Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, Deep South, El Norte, the Left Coast, the Far West and New France. They will be described in key phrases below, taken from Woodard’s work.
Source: Tufts Magazine http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/features/up-in-arms.html#sthash.UMTzePWB.dpuf
Yankeedom was founded by radical Calvinists as a new Zion, and has cultural traits related to perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good, assimilation of outsiders, and a greater tolerance of government regulation and public sector social projects that many of the other nations. New Netherland was established by the Dutch and has cultural straits related to a global commerce: materialistic, with profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity, a center of publishing, trade and finance, a magnet for immigrants and a refuge for those persecuted by other regional cultures.
The Midlands was founded by English Quakers, and has cultural traits related to humans’ inherent goodness, welcoming people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. Tidewater was built by the younger sons of southern English gentry and has cultural traits related to semi-feudal society of the countryside they had left behind. Tidewater places a high value on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics.
Greater Appalachia was founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands. It transplanted a culture formed in a state of near constant danger and upheaval, characterized by a warrior ethic and a commitment to personal sovereignty and individual liberty. Intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike, Greater Appalachia has shifted alliances depending on who appeared to be the greatest threat to their freedom. The Deep South was established by English slave lords from Barbados, and meant as a West Indies–style slave society, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor, and consumer regulations.
El Norte is the oldest of the American nations, and consists of the borderlands of the Spanish American empire. Hispanic language, culture, and societal norms dominate. Norteños have a reputation for being exceptionally independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and focused on work. The Left Coast culture is a hybrid of Yankee utopianism and Appalachian self-expression and exploration—traits recognizable in its cultural production, from the Summer of Love to the iPad. The Far West’s people are often resentful of their dependent status, feeling that they have been exploited as an internal colony for the benefit of the seaboard nations. Of late, Far Westerners have focused their anger on the federal government, rather than their corporate masters.
New France blends the folkways of ancien régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people they encountered in northeastern North America. Its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy. First Nation is populated by native American groups that generally never gave up their land by treaty and have largely retained cultural practices and knowledge that allow them to survive in this hostile region on their own terms.
These historically ingrained regional-national differences play out in values and attitudes towards issues including violence, capital punishment, taxation, regulations, social services, marriage equality, federal powers and general government intervention in social and economic life. Woodard sees the cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland as too large and divisive to reach consensus on these issues. Yet apparently, none of this stands in the way of a shared civic-nationalist identity and sense of imagined community holding up the federal state.
What do we see when we project this onto the European continent? While the stakes and the content of the differences and rivalries between the nations are markedly different in Europe compared to the US, at a constellation-level the analogy is quite striking: Woodard’s study and others suggest that the US is, much more than one nation, “a patchwork of separate nations, each with its own origins and prevailing values”. That already sounds reasonably similar to what the EU is.
But a deeper discussion of the political implications of the politically and culturally separate US nations reveals that the various regions find each other in changing coalitions and alliances vis-à-vis different political topics. “Among the eleven regional cultures, there are two superpowers, nations with the identity, mission and number to shape continental debate: Yankeedom and Deep South” (Woodard, 2012). It goes further in discerning Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast in opposition to a bloc that contains the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater and the Far West. A European analogy would probably talk about the two superpowers as Germany and France, with a Germany-led bloc that also included the Benelux and the Scandinavian countries in opposition to a Southern bloc including the countries formerly referred to as the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).
So, it seems that the US and the EU are both patchworks of separate nations with markedly different values and political viewpoints across its regions. Then the question remains why the Americans find enough that binds them together to maintain a reasonably uncontested political community and to accept large interregional fiscal transfers, while the Europeans do not.
While the American melting pot model in its ideal form seems to conform to the “Diversity within Unity” model, Woodard’s research shows that in reality the core of cultural and political values, to which all Americans adhere may be smaller than the doctrine would like us to believe. But without this shared sense of imagined community the US would probably not be a country. So notwithstanding the regionally defined national cultures of the US, there is another layer of cultural identity that unites all 11 nations, and which guarantees the functioning of the Union. Woodard focusses on the differences, and underemphasizes the commonalities, let alone the multi-layered nature of cultural identity. Woodard sees 11 distinct national cultures, whereas it would probably be more accurate to talk about 11 distinct subnational cultures or 11 distinct national subcultures. In other words, the construct of “Diversity within Unity” does seem a justified way to typify the US reality.
This reality is nicely illustrated by the culinary choices during the holiday of Thanksgiving this weekend. While the basic dishes and ingredients are the same from East to West en from North to South, tastes differ as to how they are prepared (Economist, 2013).
Source: The Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/11/daily-chart-16
Where does this leave Europe? Certainly the US-type “Diversity within Unity” does not apply to Europe. The latest Eurobarometer results show that only 62 percent of the population of the EU feel they are a citizens of the EU, and 38 percent of the population of the EU still identify exclusively as the nationality of their member state. Moreover, 60 percent of the Europeans “tend to not trust” the European Union. In addition, large cross-national differences persist when asked about the values which are the most important for them (Eurobarometer79, 2013: 48-51). Other indicators of a sense of European community point to a similarly low degree: Less than half of Europeans have socialized with people from another EU country during the twelve months preceding the survey, the proportion of Europeans who have visited another EU country during the last twelve months is 39 percent and the 22 percent of Europeans have used the Internet to buy a product or service in another EU country in the past year. Based on these figures, it is perhaps even doubtful whether “Unity in Diversity” applies, the phrase that nominally is the EU’s motto. While the “Unity in Diversity” model claims to be able to combine the call for the recognition of differences and the call for integration of divergencies, whether the latter is happening at the moment is up for debate.
So, while it seems fair to suggest that both the US and the EU are a patchwork of nations under an overarching political system, the threads and seams that hold the patches together are of a quite different nature. The American models resembles the “Diversity within Unity” model more closely if not as closely as the national doctrine would suggest, in the sense that over and above the national-regional cultures, there is a sense of shared civic citizenship, based on adherence to legal norms and a minimum of shared moral values and affective ties. The European model is more grounded in persistent high levels of diversity.
This discussion has shown that the US political system would unlikely be able to stand on diversity alone. Especially if some parts of the country have to make sacrifices for the community and the common good, a core of unity and belief in a shared destiny seems instrumental. Also, we know that European integration does by no means automatically give rise to supranational identity, and a more robust European imagined community seems necessary before deeper or wider integration should be undertaken.
On a more optimistic note, the fact that the relatively strong national-regional cultures in the US do not inherently or systematically seem to undermine the strength of the federal political system, neither through low levels of diffuse support for the idea of federal governing institutions or low internal solidarity, supports the notion that a strong member-state national identification in European does not necessarily preclude European identification or support, and that the key to a stronger imagined European community is in the kindling of a layered and inclusive “European-plus-national” identity roughly similar to the layered and inclusive “American-plus-regional” identity has taken shape.
Anderson, B (1991; 2006) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
Beck, U. (2005) “Re-Inventing Europe: A Cosmopolitan Vision’, Quaderns de la Mediterrania 10: 109-116.
Bishop, B. and R. Cushing (2008) The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Houghton Mifflin
Economist (2011) ‘America’s Fiscal Union: The Red And The Black’, The Economist http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union
Economist (2013) ‘Gobble, Gobble: How The Thanksgiving Day Plate Varies Across America’, The Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/11/daily-chart-16
Etzioni, A. (2013) “The EU: The Communitarian Deficit”, in: European Societies, 15:3, 312-330.
Easton, D. (1965) A Systems Analysis of Political Life. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Eurobarometer (2013) Standard Eurobarometer 79, Spring 2013. Public Opinion in the European Union. Report.
Fligstein, N. (2008) Euro-clash: The EU, European Identity and the Future of Europe. New York: OUP
Garreau, J. (1982) The Nine Nations of North America. Avon Books
Gabel M. (1998) “Public Support for European Integration: An Empirical Test of Five Theories”. In: Journal of Politics: 60:2, 333-354.
Geddes, Andrew. The Politics of Immigration and Race. Baseline Books (1996).
Hackett Fisher, D. (1989) Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hooghe, L. and G. Marks (2004) “Does Identity of Economic Rationality Drive Public Opinion on European Integration?” Political Science and Politics 37:3 415-420
Ignatieff, Michael. (1993) Blood and Belonging: journeys into new nationalism. BBC Books and Chatto and Windus.
Mitchell, K. (2013) “European identity and the Eurozone Crisis: Diffuse Support for the EU and Specific Support for Integrative Economic Policies”, Paper presented at the 13th Biennial Conference of the EUSA, Mya 9-11, 2013, Baltimore, Maryland.
Moravcsik (2002), “In Defence of the ‘Democratic Deficit’: Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union” Journal of Common Market Studies 40:4 603-624
Mueller, J.W. (2013) “How Europe Could Face its on Shutdown: Just as the Tea Party has Paralyzed Congress, an Alliance of Populist Anti-EU Parties Could Force Europe into Gridlock” The Guardian, 21 October 2013.
Philips, K. (1969) The Emerging Republican Majority. Arlington House
Public Tableau (2013) ‘A Nation Divided: The U.S. Can’t Agree on a Pie Flavor, But Everyone Loves Cranberry Sauce’ http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/allrecipes_thanksgiving/MostPopularRecipes?%3Aembed=y&%3Adisplay_count=no#1
Sharpf, F. (2009) “Legitimacy in the Multilevel European Polity” European Political Science Review 1:2 173-204
Shorto, R. (2005) The Island at the Center of the World. Vintage
Woodard, C. (2012) American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. Penguin Books.
Wright, M. (2011) “Diversity and the Imagined Community: Immigrant Diversity and Conceptions of National Identity”, In: Political Psychology, 32:5 837-862.
 Other factors being e.g. perception of representation and institutional fairness and justice (see Scharpf, 2009).
 While it seems plausible that the US’ high degree of cross-regional mobility would over time dissolve at least some these regional differences, in effect mobility has over time reinforced the differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities, a phenomenon analyzed by Bill bishop and Robert Cushing in The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (2008).
 For a fuller description of each nation, see http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2013/features/up-in-arms.html#sthash.UMTzePWB.dpuf
 For the full interactive chart, see http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/allrecipes_thanksgiving/MostPopularRecipes?%3Aembed=y&%3Adisplay_count=no#1
Some excellent commentaries on Ukraine, setting the decision not to sign the AA with the EU in a broader context
James Sherr on Yanukovich’s motivation in the context of the political system that he has built in the last few years in the Ukraine. The most insightful piece I have read so far. Favourite quote: “Since his election in 2010 he has built a personalized and predatory system that penalizes entrepreneurship, disenfranchises talent and seizes the assets of the defiant and vulnerable. No greater contrast can be imagined with the Central European countries that secured admission to the EU in three enlargements.”
…and Anders Aslund on Ukraine’s impending collapse. Powerful and worrying.
Apologies that we have left the blog without new posts for quite a while. As a compensation, the last post on Russian pressure on Ukraine not to sign the Association agreement with the EU this month flagged developments which only got more dramatic in the meantime. It is worth another post to recap the comments and arguments on what was behind President Yanukovich’s decision. Roughly two sets of arguments seem to highlight, on the one hand, the failure of the EU and – much less frequently – the positive lessons of the Ukraine debacle.
Critical of the EU: Andrew Rettman’s summary of what went wrong in the EU observer: the EU’s accession promise never came when Ukrainian pro-European politicians needed it, instead the EU kept playing its usual technocratic game and Russia marshalled its ‘hard’ (in Georgia and Ukraine through the gas delivery issue) power to get neighbourhood countries back in its sphere of influence. Ukrainian elites undoubtedly also to blame. EU member states, in the meantime, made it humiliatingly hard for Ukrainians to get EU visas, so people felt not welcome at a very basic level (this sounds familiar to anyone who has ever queued at an EU embassy). The Economist’s Eastern Approaches blog has another appalling visa story illustrating how EU member states are really sending the wrong signal. Most seem to agree that regardless of all else, President Yanukovich was playing the EU against Russia and vice-versa to get concessions from both sides (a majority of commentators among diplomats and the Lithuanian Presidency have confirmed that impression).
A lot more optimistic on the outcome for the EU: Techau in the StrategicEurope blog: Russian actions forced the EU to see that the ENP is a play for influence and not a technocratic exercise, the EU stood firm against Russian pressure, Germany took the lead on a difficult foreign policy issue, so all in all not such a bad outcome. Russia showed that the only way it can succeed in its neighbourhood is through blackmail and coercion and not attractiveness and its blackmail is not an EU foreign policy failure (I like that one).
Another set of commentators such as Gvosdev here claim that Yanukovich and the government simply were guarding Ukraine’s best trade interests by bowing to Russian blackmail.
In the absence of research on this, all of the above sound plausible, a bit like ‘a-glass-half-full’ or ‘glass-half-empty’ perspectives. The people on my mind, however, are Ukrainian citizens who hoped getting closer to the EU would make their country more democratic. The people demonstrating, the #EuroMeidan movement are trying hard to gain support for a Ukraine committed to European values. They certainly cannot be blamed for anyone’s geopolitical failure, so I hope they succeed convincing their fellow citizens and government that a European, democratic Ukraine will have a better future than the next member of a Customs Union including Russia and Belarus. They hope the EU would support them. Considering a friendlier visa regime for Ukrainians would prove the EU is not about to punish Ukrainians for the decisions of their leaders as Polish MEP Saryusz-Wolski has urged. I doubt that it will happen, but it would be a move that could really make a difference.