The influence of EU enlargement processes on the changes of European contemporary frontiers
The Influence of EU Enlargement Processes on the changes of European Contemporary Frontiers
“But the human being is agitated in all directions,
dreams of freedoms, competes with the wind,
till one day the burn is erased, turning to be stone
in nobody’s way”
European contemporary frontiers have been deeply affected by the different enlargement process of the EU, especially in its Mediterranean and Eastern direction, since these two areas have been conceived both as a sort of “lesser Europe” or as part of the European mainstream depending on changing uses and needs.
In this sense, in recent times, the Eastward enlargement of the European Union has proved to be a key catalyser for physical, political and socioeconomic border changes in Europe, also because it deepens the question of dispersed minority populations and transnational border management, as we will see in the next section with the case of Kaliningrad, to an extent rarely seen before.
Going beyond territorial and geographical borders, we find a not less important theoretical delimitation of Central and Eastern Europe, that is, identity borders, which are deeply associated to a supposed mental and cultural gap between the two sides of the continent. This mental, economic, social and political boundary can be more or less a reality, according to different perceptions or motivations, but I will not go deeper into the question of measuring the real frontier of difference in any term. On the contrary, I will focus on the discourse on such supposed boundary, which is an interest-driven one and subject to change depending on the also changing political context and objectives. After all, identity is not an essence but a discourse and the identity borders successively depicted over the European continent correspond to changing political contexts that play with these profound lines according to pendulum-like needs.
Hence, the Europeanness-Otherness debate concerning the CEECs seems to remain in latent life through the history of European integration. Whenever there is a high degree of coincidence between EC/EU objectives and those of the CEECs, that is, a mutual interest that would be fulfilled, even if it is promoted through very different arguments, the discourse on the Europeanness of the CEECs gains in strength and presence. Nonetheless, whenever the objectives of the EC/EU diverge from those of the CEECs, the discourse on the Otherness of the CEECs becomes the key one, outlining the insolvable gap between those which appear to be two parallel universes. If we would have to choose a field in which the mechanic of these moving discourses would be evident, that would be clearly European citizenship. European citizenship could hopefully be a catalyser for a balance. However, the analysis of this topic has so far been a major battlefield for the discourse of the Europeanness-Otherness debate. European citizenship is also a boundary-making device and serves therefore to the purpose of structuring the internal and external identity borders with regard to the CEECs.
I will first analyse the symbolic implications of territoriality to focus then on the Eueopeanness-Otherness debate. Furthermore, I will continue exploring the different internal and external borders of European Citizenship in the CEECs, observing to what extent the idea of European Citizenship could be a cure for a troubling division.
Once the subject matter of this important historiographical debate is determined, I would like to refer back to the geographical- metaphorical moment of the post- Cold war context where Europe is portrayed as a “Europe without borders, a geographical space where territory, membership and identity are sites of contestation and renegotiation”. We should keep in mind that territory has three dimensions in which this political recalibration of the European geographical space is taking place. First and foremost, territory has a social dimension because, independent of scale, people inhabit it collectively. On the other hand, it is also political, because different groups struggle to preserve as well as to enlarge their space. Finally, it is cultural because it contains the collective memories of the inhabitants and it is subject to successive self-definitions that delimitates group’s identity. As Mabel Berezin affirmed, “territory is also mental as well as physical and its capacity to demarcate social, political and cultural boundaries makes it in the core of public and private identity projects”.
In this sense, territory unites the issues of membership and identity in the same physical space, falling into the continuous dialectic of inclusion and exclusion. The redrawing of the CEECs nation-state borders in post-1989, coupled with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, forced into full view issues and movements that have been beneath the surface of individual national polities. This context paved the way for the recalibration of the European physical space, mapping the terrain not only by political delimitations, but also by means of conceptual strategies to establish different degrees of access to people, things and relationships. Citizenship appears as one of the main manifestations of this re-dimensioned territoriality. According to Sack, the controlling of access “is accomplished in three strategies: first, classification; second, communication and third, enforcement”. In this sense, territoriality is depicted as an indispensable means to power at all levels. However, we should keep in mind that “territories are socially and politically constructed forms of spatial relations and their effects depend upon who is controlling whom and for what purposes”.
In the case of the CEECs, the nineties are the moment in which the debate on the regained national sovereignty and the supposed “return to Europe”, understood mainly as EU integration, met and the reflection on the meaning of territoriality acquires special relevance. In any case, the main question narrows down to the application of an identity temporal feeling to a space suddenly open and available for different self-definition materialisations. In short, we could argue that territory was being understood then as the congealed identity that embeds relations of social, political, cultural and cognitive power in physical space. Territory is identity to the extent it gives physical place to the iterations of the self or arenas of identity that constitute social, political and economic life. Identity is inextricable from the understanding of the self and central to participation in meaningful patterns of social and political action.
Nevertheless, identity might change when territorial boundaries change and this is again the case of the CEECs after the end of the Cold War. Identity suggests similarity and demands acknowledgement of what Taylor terms a “defining community”. Whether the EU could be a defining community would depend on the development of a common European identity that could very difficultly be created through a pre-designed idea of citizenship. The discussion about the capability of institutions to constitute identity becomes essential in the case of the CEECs, because European Citizenship could derive in a source of internal exclusion within the EU and would therefore be more an obstacle than a benefit in the search for a common defining community that would guarantee stability and mutual recognition. Conceptually, citizenship has evolved from a conception of rights attached to persons, to a discussion of rules of inclusion, relational processes and rights attached to groups. The concept of membership, on the other hand, expands to include the cultural, as well as the legal, valorisation of the group and stretches the limits of democratic practices and institutions. Finally, it is necessary to quote Soysal’s work Limits of Citizenship, where the idea of a “post-national citizenship”, that could be more adjusted to the concept of an inclusive European Citizenship, is fully developed. She shows how a new form of citizenship has emerged that decouples territory from legal membership. In sum, “post-national citizenship” points to a new form of trans-territorial membership that is based upon human rights -the rights of persons, rather than persons as member of nation states. Hence, we can observe that citizenship entails today more than a simply juridical dimension for it also signals an emotional bond that arouses feeling of mixed loyalties and belonging in a politically bounded geographical space.
Whenever we study of the impact of the end of the Cold War on the relationship between the EU -which has been increasingly assimilated to a synonym of Western Europe- and the CEECs, we can observe this paradoxical resurrection of two opposed ways of understanding the particular nature of Eastern Europe, both by the EU and by these countries themselves. The main underlying question of the new scholar debate is identity, but an ambivalent and ductile identity, whose nature can be defined either by the Europeaness or by the Otherness of the CEECs. On the one hand, we witnessed the claim for the Europeanness of the CEECs, exemplified in the so-called “Return to Europe” slogan, used first by the these countries and then by the EU communication strategy to promote the enlargement project, which defends that they were always part of Europe, that without them the EU would not be fully European and that, through Enlargement, they are returning to their real matrix after the unnatural parenthesis of communism. On the other hand, the opposed tendency is represented by the stress on the Otherness of the CEECs. The approach to their otherness can focus on criticising the oblivion of Western Europe for the Other Europe or on pointing out that their political culture, values and mentality differ too much from what some scholars consider core European values, which make them inassimilable to Western European standards. In any case, the emphasis in their otherness tries to recreate a practical and theoretical abyss between the two Europes, making explicit that the centuries-old division is still present despite aesthetic arrangements.
The study of the Otherness of the CEECs since the nineties has focused on the perceptions of threat awaken by the real or potential confrontation with Russia, which led towards the consideration to establish a territorial glacis between Russia and the Eastern border of the EU through the Eastward enlargement of the EU. Within such considerations, they were tacitly accepting that Russia, a great other, will never become a EU member as Castells maintains. A positive conception of Otherness has been, however, developed by authors like Danilevskii who already in the first half of the 20th century defended the so-called Eurasian idea and Slavic virtues which “oppose to the history of domination, violence and greed present in the inherent flaws of European society. On the contrary, the Slavs, and among them chiefly the Russians, are characterised by their unity, peacefulness and justice”.
The emphasis in the Otherness of the CEECs has also been defended by Anthony Smith who has distinguished between the basis for the Western and Eastern model of political community:
“The Western model is characterised by the historic territory, the legal political community, the legal-political equality of the members and common civic culture and ideology.
This is contrasted with the Eastern model, which emphasises genealogy and presumed descent ties, popular mobilisation, vernacular languages, customs and traditions”.
Regarding the new question of the delimitation of what a European identity implies, we can also observe another differentiation between Western and Eastern European approaches. As Helen Wallace has affirmed, “the core values of Europeanness are democracy, the rule of law, the military will to defend pluralism, a sense of political community and practices of consensus building”.
In similar vein, Pierre Hassner has written of the countries of the former communist block reclaiming their European identity, which he describes as “adopting democratic and parliamentarian institutions, private property and the market and expecting their standard of living to rise, in turn, to Western standards”.
On the other hand, Iver Neumann affirmed that the so-called “Return to Europe” slogan is a mere example of the manipulation of European identity by these countries. In his opinion,“the manipulation of collective identity mainly consists in the claim of the CEECs to belong not only to geographical Europe, but also the European international community”. This claim is then linked to the formal membership rules of the EU in order to back up their demand for accession to the EU. In Neumanns view, the CEECs “put forward that they have traditionally shared the values and norms of Western culture and civilisation, have always aspired to belong to the West during the years of Soviet dominance and the artificial division of the continent, and have demonstrated their adherence to the European standard of legitimacy during and after the revolutions of 1989 and 1991”, which he considers a mere political manipulation.
In any case, the insistence of such academic debate on the Otherness of the CEECs is also closely linked, for instance, to the theories on Otherness developed by Jean-François Lyotard since the beginning of the nineties, who has affirmed that “the closure of the Other is the post-modern illness par excellence”. This debate between the two possible Europes is based, therefore, since 1989, on the dialectic between two discourses: The Pan-European one that emphasises the Europeanness of the CEECs and analyses the ideas of “Returning to Europe” and the “reunification of Europe” and the discourse on the Otherness of Central and Eastern Europe, which refers to their relegated presence and role through history, to positive and differentiating “Slavic virtues” and to some insolvable differences of the CEECs with Western Europe.
Leaving now the question of the Europeanness-Otherness of the CEECs, I will concentrate on the debates on the very related issue of a European Citizenship and on how they affect the CEECs re-elaboration of the meaning of physical space in contemporary Europe.
After 1989, the content of the concept of European Citizenship, civic participation and of involvement within the community’s life became on of the most investigated and controversial. The technical introduction of the concept generically entitled European Citizenship took place in Maastricht in 1992, on the occasion of the adoption of the Treaty of the European Union. According to this document, any citizen of each member state is considered also a citizen of the EU. The stated goal of such a concept was to consolidate a new European identity through a more active involvement of citizens in the integration process. Beginning with the addition of civil rights stipulated by the Amsterdam Treaty, the EU appeared to make a great effort to fulfil a closer and coherent construction towards its subjects, the European Citizens. These efforts were mainly directed to a “legalistic and instrumentalist approach to correct in some way the previous neo-functionalistic and pro-Single Market attitude on the European Community”. In this sense, the apparent adoption of the Constitutional Treaty was analysed as a guarantee of the principles of unity in diversity and of an enlarged meaning of European solidarity and subsidiarity, having the “merit” of providing supplementary guarantees in order to avoid any type of discrimination. This would have meant that, according to Avram and Zamfirescu, “for a majority of European Citizens, their participation in such a collective adventure has to be based on their membership of a new collective identity, made up of the connected values of freedom, solidarity and responsibility”. Nevertheless, we should not forget the parallel debate on the tendency to refer to the population of a state in terms of clients, users or customers of the public sector, rather than as political citizens. Eriksen and Weigard, who follow this line of analysis have affirmed that “if one understands politics as having an irreducible collectivistic core, based on the ability to separate legitimate from illegitimate interests through discourse in the public sphere, these new relations might be seen as a threatening privatisation of the citizenry”.
Such consideration serves us to contextualise the discussions on European Citizenship in the framework of globalisation, which add new complexities to the idea of citizenship as a boundary-making device. Depolitisation is studies as a direct consequence of globalisation since there is an increasing incongruence between economic and political life. Decisions affecting people’s life and welfare appear to be made in contexts beyond democratic control. This derives in a decoupling between the citizens as equals among equals in the public sphere and citizens as private persons in the market sphere. In this sense, Eriksen and Weigard provide a very optimistic perspective about the scope of European Citizenship as an instrument for an equalitarian balance. They affirm that “for the purpose of rescuing what originally was a European idea of securing both the private and the public autonomy of the people, the developments towards European Citizenship are promising. Citizenship status is based on the idea that all members of a society function in two capacities: as private and as public actors. This is the quintessence of modern democracy”. Following this approach, Follesdal also defends the view that European Citizenship was introduced as a solution to the perceived need for greater mutual trust in future compliance with Community level practices. However, “insofar European Citizenship highlights the legitimacy lacunae in the EU, it might threaten European’s support of their common institutions”.
On the other hand, a very different approach to the issue of European citizenship was developed by authors like Preuss, who asserts that “European Citizenship has an anaemic content, and its future remains unclear and contested, beyond the explicit claim that it should complement rather than replace national citizenship”.
The debates on the issue of Eastward enlargement as an identity challenger also address the question of the search for a self-definition of the continent that became especially remarked in the post-communist years. As Fossum affirms, “the quest for internal unity would be pursued in conjunction with a similar quest for delineating the unique features of Europe so as to distinguish between Europeans and non-Europeans of “the Others”. Among the most important concepts related to an “otherisation” of the Central and Eastern Europe, we find that of the so-called “Fortress Europe”. The dialectic of inclusion and exclusion, of constant division between citizens and those considered as barbarians, poses again a challenge for the legitimacy of the progressive construction of a European citizenship. In this sense, Joseph Fontana also reminds us that European identity “was built against «the others», against the barbarians of all types and origins”.
The principles ruling the defence of the “Fortress Europe” in the mentioned “Europeanness vs. Otherness debate” have a determinate theoretical framework that would need to be clarified in order to fully understand the concept. The search for a common European identity is attached to a context marked by the study of the so-called globalisation process, where European integration could be seen a reaction to this process and its most advanced expression. It is, precisely, in this context where the so-called “post-national democracies” are said to arise, manifesting the apparent exhaustion of the Nation-State, so that power is being progressively channelled to the global and local level. In this way, ethnic identities appear as sources of symbolic affirmation, as safe refuges to escape from ontological insecurity and contingency and configuring what has been named as “neo-tribalism”. These views connect with the post-modern theories, according to which new potential spaces of olerance with any “otherness” are being opened, for the multiplication of identities could, from their perspective, offer a path towards the dissolution of xenophobia. Phenomena like international investments, multinational production, migrations, mass tourism and mass media, contribute to erode the frontiers that nineteen-century governments built the national and the foreigner. ìIt is precisely this decline in the state capability of managing national politics and the internal social order what has generated a new search for identities based on regional, ethnical and religious perspectives or even on those lining towards extreme nationalism. We can also see an emphasis in the study of a certain “identity panic”, accompanied by a new focus on the analysis of identities associated to sub-state nationalities, combined with new forms of trans-national citizenship, like the mentioned European citizenship, which some scholars have defined as supranational nationalism.
The concept of “Fortress Europe” goes back to the ideas expressed by authors like Umberto Eco, Furio Colombo, Francesco Alberoni and Giuseppe Sacco, in their collective work The New Middle Ages, in which they mention an exclusivist withdrawal or Neo-feudal cells of the great powers. As Eco affirms, “the centre of the world encompasses the whole planet: nowadays, civilisations and cultures in different stages of development live together”. He wonders what would characterise a neo-feudal system and replies: “Above all, a great Peace that is destroyed, a great state international power that had unified the world in terms of language, traditions, ideologies, religion, art and technology and which, in a determinate moment, due to its own ungovernable complexity, falls. And it falls because the “barbarians” are pushing the frontiers. Those barbarians are not necessarily uneducated, but they bring new traditions and new worldviews. They can penetrate with violence, because they want to appropriate of a wealth that has been denied to them, or they can infiltrate in the cultural and social body of the dominant Pax, making new faiths and ways of life circulate”. In this context, Eco reminds us that “insecurity is the key word (...) war is not declared any more and nobody knows if they are in a state of belligerence or not”.
There is another interesting analysis that Eco describes when examingn this New Middle Ages as “a permanent transition period, in which we will have to use new methods of adaptation. The problem will be not to scientifically preserve the past but to elaborate hypothesis about the use of chaos and to enter a logic of dispute. A culture of continuous re-adaptation, fed by utopia, will be born (...). The heritage of the past was only an immense operation to find a balance between nostalgia, hope and desperation”. In fact, “the phenomenon of neo-feudalism consists of the privatisation of entire blocks of human activity that have been separated from the juridical and organising structure of the modern state modern and that have been re-organised in an autonomous way”. It implies that the new groups seem to have lost the symbols, the government, the centre, the institutional defences and the protection by delegation. This void lies in the essential base for survival and evokes again the need of continuous reinventions in our contemporary Europe. Hence, in this situation, the consensus, fundament of the democratic state, appears, under this perspective, as devaluated, reduced to an opinion acquired under pressure and used as a decision. At the end of such process, that decision is as irrelevant as a consultative comment and as a private point of view.
Despite fragmentation, some authors consider that new forms of tolerance and acceptation can be guaranteed. Held y McGrew relate the benefits of such attitude with a new concept of citizenship when they uphold “citizenship, in the future democratic system will probably assume a mediating role: a role that encompasses the dialogue with tradition and the discourses of the others with the aim of expanding the horizons of the frameworks of meaning, increasing the dimensions of a mutual understanding. Those political agents able to reason from the point of view of the others will be better equipped to solve new and challenging trans-national affairs which create overlapping identities”.
The fact is that Eastward Enlargement itself does not guarantee that the historical and geographical reconciliation of Europe will be achieved. It is possible that the future of the EU will have an inner circle of mighty member states that will make the most important decisions without paying much attention to their own citizens and the other smaller and less powerful member states. In this sense, some scholars, like Sedelmeier have maintained that this is a potential danger that European Citizenship could resolve, as it could bind the Europeans with a common interest and could take power from the strong nation states and their political elites and shift it to the European Citizens. Sedelmeier also upholds the valorisation of the CEECs role in the building of the principles of a European Citizenship. This scholar then maintained that “EU’s Enlargement policy practice itself is a case of EU identity formation that has a causal impact on European foreign policy. Eastward Enlargement has contributed to the formation of an EU collective identity as a promoter and protector of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy”. Hence by spelling out the criteria for membership, equivalent to those stated in the Copenhagen criteria, he considers that the EU explicitly articulated the fundamental characteristics that it ascribed to itself, configuring common identity borders for all member states: old, new and prospective ones. The active promotion of such inclusive and self-identifying principles, internally and externally, shows , in his opinion, how the contribution of the CEECs and their process of negotiation with the EU enriches the self and reactivates the value of the aquis communitaire instead of disrupting it, as the defenders of the “Fortress Europe” might have claimed. This concept has been complemented with the idea of a “plurality of belonging of the polity” mentioned by Fossum, who argues in favour of multiples conceptions of citizenship which co-exist within the same policy or space. Applied to the EU, European Citizenship is then understood by these authors as derived from and made subject to the multitude of conceptions of citizenship that co-exist within Europe and which sustain a range of different senses of attachment.
Last but not least, one of the most interesting analysis on the issue of Eastward enlargement as an identity challenge is again provided by Sedelmeier, who maintains that the discourse on the Otherness on the CEECs is an instrumental and fluctuant frontier that changes according to moving priorities, interests and objectives of also changing political and mental contexts. The increase or decrease of its presence in the academic debate, the media or the political debate depends on the degree of convergence between Western and Eastern European objectives. When they converge, the discourse remains in latent life and turns to emphasise the obvious Europeaness of the CEECs. But the argument of the difference continues to exist beneath the surface of consensus and mutual recognition, always ready to enter the scene if any uncomfortable divergence arises.
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 Traditional misconsideration of the CEECs. For a wider explanation of the term “The Other Europe”, refer to Landau, A. and Whitman, R. (1997) Rethinking the European Union. Institutions, Interests and Identities. Basingstoke: MacMillan.
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 Sedelmeier, U. (2003) “EU Enlargement, Identity and the Analysis of European Foreign Policy: Identity Formation through Policy Practice”. European University Institute Working Papers. European Paper Series. Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies No. 2003/13, p. 1.
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