The European Parliament and The Notion of a Common European Historical Memory

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European Union remembrance policy

This essay will analyse the policies that the European Parliament has introduced to create and endorse the notion of a common European historical memory. The main institutions that have dealt with the issue are the European Council, European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education and the Directorate-General for Internal Policies.

First I shall discuss the reasons behind the necessity for a “historical memory” in the European context. I will then give an overview of current European Union practices on establishing a pan-European historical memory and of the existing political initiatives regarding a common European historical memory. The main emphasis shall be on the Europe for Citizens Programme, which was launched in 2006 and has been extended for 2014-2020. The updated programme has a greater emphasis on the role of remembrance. I will briefly address the contemporary scholarly debate on and interpretation of the concept of 'historical memory' and discuss the implications the construction of historical memory on a supranational level has for external affairs and the effect it has on thinking about security.

1. Introduction

With the establishment of history as a discipline in the 19th century, collective historical memory has developed in close interaction with individual state- or nation-building processes in light of the national-romantic moods of the era. Current European policies however have tried to foster a 'European historical memory' in order to add legitimacy to the European project and strengthen European identity. While traditional reference points had been European 'heritage' in a broad sense of the word, a new and more concrete focus has emerged from early 1990s by in...

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... economic project. Since the Europe for Citizens Programme was launched, it has been explicitly dedicated to historical remembrance and more generally, on normative concepts of European collective identity.

Europe’s past has shaped European core values such as humanism, tolerance and democracy. The necessity for establishing a European mnemonic “master narrative” can also be viewed as an effort for cohesion in order to incorporate post-communist nations into common discourse of European history. Renouncing the possibility of complete historical truth acknowledges the potential risks in legislating for a specific view on or memory of the past. This transnational approach can be thought of as a general policy which concerns primarily cultural and educational issues, but one can also see it security terms, since memory can potentially serve political interests.

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