What does it mean to be European?

On 4 May, the project Crossed Paths of Europe had its first workshop in Edinburgh, UK, at the premises of The Welcoming in Edinburgh, an organisation which supports migrants and refugees to settle in the city. The association’s ‘Conversation Cafe’ was offered to hold the project’s activity.

Participants attending the workshop in Edinburgh, UK

The workshop, run by the FutureLab Europe’s participant Emma Thomson, was oriented around the three core objectives of the project: raising awareness of European identity, breaking stereotypes and increasing social inclusion.

Beginning with an introduction to the Crossed Paths of Europe project and an ice breaker exercise, the workshop was split into three main sections. The first section focused on stereotypes of Europeans, the second explored the concept of identity, and the final section tackled specifically the notion of European identity.

During the first session, the group of about 50 participants split into smaller groups, and collectively drew a ‘stereotypical’ European. Participants came up with three words to describe the person they represented as the stereotypical European and the ideas were then all fed-back to the larger group. Ranging from “patriotic”, to “liking cheese”, the suggestions sparked both humor and in-depth discussions about the realities of Europeans. This section was incredibly insightful into the differences between stereotypical Europeans and real Europeans – particularly through the perspectives shared by the participants who didn’t consider themselves as Europeans.

Brainstorming session on stereotypes about Europeans

The second session was focused on what the concept of identity represents and what it means to different people. Again splitting off into smaller groups, and then coming back together, the participants provided incredibly interesting opinions on what identity really means to them. The notion was described as the aspect which makes people unique, a combination of values and beliefs, gender, unspoken energy, but also what it is stated on people’s birth certificates and passports. During this session, it was made clear that the European identity is a very subjective and personal concept, which includes multiple layers of people’s past, culture, but also expressed by their legal status.

The third and final session was less structured, with participants discussing as a whole whether or not they felt that being European was part of their identity. For many, being European was considered a key part of their identity and of themselves as people.  For others the concept of European identity was considered even more important than their national identity, while other participants did not feel that the European aspect was a part of their identity at all.

Final discussion on European identity

Outcome

The first workshop of the project Crossed Paths of Europe prompted interesting discussions between attendees and team members, providing excellent insights into the complex topics of identity and inclusion. The workshop recognised the importance of promoting inclusion of people regardless of their backgrounds, physical appearance, or accent, after acknowledging the need to break European stereotypes and raise awareness of the inclusiveness of the European identity. Thanks to this activity, the team had the possibility to collect different perspectives on the concept of identity and on the meaning of being European. Specifically, the workshop revealed the difficulty to provide a clear definition of European identity, a concept that most of the attendees attributed to feeling rather than to the identity status.

A second workshop will be held in Stockholm in August.

The workshops’ results will be presented during the FutureLab Europe Autumn Conference in September in Brussels.

Do you have questions or comments on the project?

Contact Emma Thomson and Kawthar Karout.

This event is part of FutureLab Europe’s Crossed Paths of Europe project.

About Crossed Paths of Europe

Crossed Paths of Europe is a project aimed at exploring the concept of European identity by inviting refugees and long-term members of the local community to take photos focusing on two main themes: how they see Europe and the things that are important to them. What does Europe mean for locals? What does it mean for refugees? How far apart are these two visions?