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									Orientations of Young Men and Young Women to Citizenship and European Identity.
                              Workpackage No. 44

                                  WPD 44
Preliminary Report on added value of interviews
for understanding variation in European identity
                                in Spain.

                       María Ros¹ & Héctor Grad²
  Gema García², Miryam Rodríguez¹, Javier Rodríguez², Jesús Saiz¹
                             and Alberto Sanz²
          (¹University Complutense & ²University Autónoma).
WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                         Madrid & Basque Country

   • Results of the Interviews carried out in Madrid.
     1. Sample Characteristics.                                                                                2
     2. Identification with Europe.                                                                            2
            2.1 Importance of regional, national and European identity.                                        2
            2.2 Reasons for European identification and lack of                                                3
     3. Meaning and borders of Europe.                                                                         3
            3.1 More and less European countries and “reasons” for                                             5
            including them or excluding them.
            3.2 Distinction between Europe and the European Union.                                             6
     4. Impact of the EU.                                                                                      7
     5. Future of Europe.                                                                                      8
     6. Mobility.                                                                                              8
     7. European Citizenship: Rights and Duties.                                                               9
   • Results of the Interviews carried out in Bilbao.
     1. Sample Characteristics.                                                                              11
     2. Identification with Europe.                                                                          11
            2.1 Identification with Europe.                                                                  11
            2.2 Relationship between European Spanish and regional                                           12
            2.3 Situations that elicit that feeling of belonging Europe.                                     13
     3. Meaning and borders of Europe.                                                                       14
            3.1 Perception of border countries as belonging to Europe.                                       15
            3.2 Countries considered more or less European.                                                  15
            3.3 Distinction between Europe and the EU.                                                       16
            3.4 Links with other countries.                                                                  16
     4. Impact of the EU.                                                                                    17
     5. Future of Europe.                                                                                    18
            5.1 Enlargement and its effects.                                                                 18
     6. Mobility.                                                                                            19
     7. European Citizenship: Rights and Duties.                                                             19
   • European Identity: a comparison between Madrid and Basque                                               20
   • Conclusions.                                                                                            23

    WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                             Madrid & Basque Country



The final sample of interviews held in Madrid and used for this analysis is made up of a
total of 21 interviewees (12 from the general sample and 9 from the pro-European
sample, 10 with high European identification and 11 with low identification), with a
mean age of 21 years. There are 9 men and 12 women. Of these, three are in full-time
employment, two work part-time as well as being students, and the rest study only.
These interviewees were selected according to their mean level of identification with
Europe1, from zero to two being considered as low identification, and from three to
four, high identification.

The results obtained with thus sub-sample coincide with the data from the survey2,
except in the case of the question referring to “countries considered European.” In that
question, although Russia was considered a European country by 61.2% of respondents,
the majority of those interviewed in Madrid reject it as a member of Europe. Below is a
summary of the results obtained in the qualitative analysis of the Madrid interviews.


2.1 Importance of regional, national and European identity

We observed a preference for the Madrid identity (madrileño for men, madrileña for
women), followed by the Spanish identity, and finally the European identity. There does
not appear to be a conflict between these three identities: on the contrary, these
interviewees spontaneously express the continuity between the three, which are seen as
fitting together logically as nested categories: “Myself, being madrileña, I consider
myself Spanish, and as Spain is in Europe, I consider myself European” (I 14, 4)3.
These results are similar to those found in the survey carried out with young people in
Madrid. The majority of those interviewed see as viable the compatibility between the
regional, national and European identities, and no differences were found in this respect
between those with high and low identification with Europe. The only four interviewees
that considered the three identities to be incompatible were those showing low
identification with Europe.

In the interviews, respondents mention several times that identifying oneself as Spanish
is synonymous with identification with Europe. In some cases the interviewees
identify Spain with the right and this may be an obstacle to European identification:
“Perhaps some people are reluctant to feel Spanish because they associate it with the
right, and that might be an obstacle to feeling Spanish and European: Either you feel
European or you feel Spanish” (I 17, 10).

Some young people recognize that national identity becomes more important than
European identity when national interests are threatened “You might find a situation

  According to answers to question Q68c in the previous survey, on a scale of 0 “no feeling at all” to 4
“very strong feeling”.
  Survey carried out with a representative sample of 1000 young people (500 in Madrid and 500 in the
Basque Country).
  Number of Interview and page.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

whereby half of Europe decides on a policy that is totally opposed to the United
Kingdom... I think that in that respect, states have to have a certain degree of
freedom…in some ways it limits them a lot (I 12, 11).

Others consider that European identity seems to become activated when they travel to
cities in other parts of Europe. Following the theory of social identity (Tajfel, 1978
Turner, et al., 1989), it is in these situations of inter-group contact when they realize that
they perceive themselves not as an independent person, but as having a national or
European collective identity. “Yes, in cities like Barcelona or London, where you see
people from so many different places… for me that’s what Europe is, not just people
that have been born in European countries geographically speaking, but people from all
parts. And it is there that I feel most European, both in Barcelona and London.” (I 17,

2.2 Reasons for European identification and lack of identification

Interviewees offer little explanation of their identification with Europe, and when they
do so they refer to their pride on feeling themselves members of a political category
with a long history of achievements in the world (conquests, political success, etc) .
They are much more explicit about their lack of identification, and provide a wider
range of reasons: it is not a necessary identity because the national identity is sufficient;
Europe is associated only with France and Germany, and not being citizens of either of
those countries they don’t feel included in Europe; some mention their lack of mobility
around Europe as one of the reasons for this lack of identification with Europe; in other
cases, Europe is seen as a supranational identity far removed from their lives and their
personal interests; for some interviewees, this lack of identification is attributable to the
fact that Europe is perceived not as having its own character or status, but rather as a
diversity of nations, so that this European identity is basically the product of the identity
of the nations of which it is made up; finally this lack of European identification is seen
as the result of a past full of wars and conflicts between nations: “There have been so
many struggles, so many problems between us that feeling as one right now is
impossible. First, language is an incredible barrier. And then, totally different ways of
life” (I11, 9).


Europe means different things for our interviewees. Among the most positive meanings
is a perception of Europe as an environment of cooperation and union that favours
peace. Some believe that the euro has helped this European awareness. In a similar line,
Europe is perceived as an environment of security and economic welfare that produces
social well-being; in other cases, this environment of economic relationships is
perceived as a negative thing, since “Europe is just something purely economic, a set of
commercial relationships” (I 11, 5). Some young people consider Europe as a political
model to imitate, an example of political organization, an historical reference: “Europe,
I see it as the Old Continent..., it’s been kind of the director of history in the world,
always... even though civilizations have emerged in Asia, Arabia... I think it has been
the driving force of the world in general, and that’s something to be proud of... so, I
mean, historically we’re a reference, and we’ve always been a starting point for
everything” (I 22,4). However, for an even larger number of interviewees, Europe is

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

just a geographical reality, which in some cases involves a similarity of cultures and in
others a cooperation between the countries that make it up.

These four meanings of Europe corroborate the results of the survey, but other
meanings are also identified. Europe is also perceived as having an important role as a
counter-weight to the USA in the world: “For me, Europe is the solution against the
North-American empire with the massive globalization that’s happening right now” (I
20, 7). Others believe that Europe has lost its sense of unity due to the situation over the
Iraq War: “Right now, with the Iraq conflict, they have ruined what Europe was
before... but if Europe were united, we would be a power to be reckoned with: we would
be important” (I 15, 5).

Despite the existence of integrational opinions, “I think we’re all… as European as
each other”(I 19, 7), the majority of interviewees coincide in concentrating on just a
few countries for showing their rating of greater or lesser “European-ness”. In order to
make this distinction, interviewees use different criteria: political and economic power,
history, tradition, proximity, and even popularity. The historical criterion is the most
commonly mentioned, and on which they express themselves most fully. The countries
considered most European because of their economic power are Germany, France and
Great Britain. This leaves out of Europe a large number of countries, especially those of
Eastern Europe, which for some young people do not seem so European because,
among other reasons, of their lack of economic development: “Eastern European
countries, above all the countries of the Baltic..., when you talk about Estonia,
Lithuania and all those, maybe it doesn’t seem so much like Europe. Europe or the
European Union is the countries that are doing well economically” (I 17, 7). Others
mention England as a less European country because of its independence with respect to
the adoption of the euro, and Greece because of its lesser economic development.

Reasons of history and tradition are those most commonly mentioned for justifying the
distinction between European and non-European countries. But within these types of
reason there are five clearly differentiated aspects: political marriages, forming part of
Western Europe, being in the middle of Europe, belonging to the group of 12, and
having participated in European wars. Spain, Germany, England and the Benelux
countries, are those considered most European, for contributing to forming political
marriages, and the Eastern European countries are those seen as least European. Causes
related to war are mentioned: “The most European of us would be those who have been
through most crises with others in the same Union, years or centuries ago, and have
evolved… so you know what it is to be at war with a neighbour and to be at peace…
Spain with France, for example... Italy as well, because it’s been the cradle of many
good things” (I 16, 6). For reasons of tradition, the Eastern countries are once more
mentioned as the least European.

Because of their proximity, interviewees see as more European those countries that
coincide with Western Europe: “I consider as very European those countries that are
more towards the west: Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy,
Portugal... Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland..., Switzerland, Sweden, Norway... Greece
also seems to me very European” (I 22, 5). On the other hand, we can read opinions that
use the same logic to talk about the opposite: “I differentiate strongly between the
centre and the periphery... Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bosnia, Rumania… I see them
as, you know, really distant from what would be Europe” (I 7, 6). It is worth

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

emphasising that the vast majority of interviewees showing low identification with
Europe consider that there are countries which are less European, and the criterion used
for making this distinction was precisely that of proximity.

Finally, there are some countries that are more popular than others. Mentioned as more
typically European are France, Germany, Italy and England, so that, for some
interviewees, these represent more closely the idea or “stereotype” of Europe: “I think
that from the outside the stereotype people have of Europe... is France; when they
imagine a European, they think more of the French stereotype” (I 8, 13). Interviewees
admit that this greater popularity is due in part to the greater presence of these countries
in the national mass media.

3.1 More and less European countries, and “reasons” for including them or
excluding them

In the course of the interviews there was a special section on specific countries. This
information was also collected previously by means of the survey, and the data showed
that, for young Spaniards, Turkey was the only country they did not include in Europe
(54.5%), and that countries such as Russia or the United Kingdom were considered
European (61.2% and 87.4%, respectively). With the results of the interviews we can
identify the reasons why Turkey, for example, is not considered European, or the
“reservations” over the acceptance of the United Kingdom and Russia. The
interviewees’ opinions can be summarized as follows:

Turkey was one of the countries about which most doubts were generated in relation to
its position in Europe. Those reasons adduced by those who supported its belonging
were related to humanitarian aspects, Europeanization or modernity: “Turkey is
European… it’s not living under the same... Islamic extremism..., there’s more
rationalization, more openness... more moderation” (I 6, 6). “The majority of the
women don’t dress in the Islamic way any more, they dress like Europeans” (I 14, 10).
Nevertheless, there is a predominance of reasons against it being considered European.
Among those cited are its geographical proximity to Asia or the Middle East, its Islamic
culture and tradition – “I associate Turkey more with an Islamic culture” (I 1, 8) – and
its lack of democracy. There are also more complex opinions that attempt to consider
the factors in favour and against: “Now more or less I think that it’s becoming
Europeanized. Previously no, and I understand that many people say that Turkey isn’t a
European country, because it’s bound up with Islam, and above all if you look at it from
Spain people are wary of Islam, they don’t have a good opinion of it. All that about
relations with Morocco, the relations of Arabs with Spain… there have always been
problems” (I 5, 8).

Russia is another country for which there are clearly differentiated positions in favour
and against. The young people in favour of its inclusion in Europe mention its
participation in European history, and its desire for change despite its precarious
conditions: “I think that people do want to be European and open up, and above all
start to leave (the country), because they are living in situations... which are precarious,
and so they come here. A lot of mafia men do come... but also a lot of people come who
are working here, and they don’t get involved in trouble" (I 5,9). Even so, many reasons
are expressed for being against its belonging to Europe. The majority of those
consulted, in clear contrast to the results of the survey, turn to political and economic

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

reasons for ruling it out of the European group: “Russia, having always been a
communist country, has seen Europe… as its competitor” (I 20, 9); The question of
being a European country has a lot to do with economic aspects, and Russia, as far as I
understand it, is starving to death” (I 4,12); or to reasons of distance or geographical
justifications: “No, because to the right of the Urals it’s Asia” (I11, 7); and finally, to
the fact that it doesn’t share a European culture from the point of view of history or

More reasons are expressed for including Bosnia in Europe than for excluding it. Those
who consider it European indicate that it is for reasons of geography and of influence on
European life, and above all because it shares a history with the other European
countries: “Yes, I think they’ve had a (common) history... which is what shapes a
continent, and besides, in geographical terms,… it clearly forms part of Europe” (I 1,
7). The young people who do not consider it European justify this because of its
situation of conflict and war –“Bosnia has always sounded to me like a non-European
country... It’s a country of war” (I 18, 8); because of its lack of economic development;
and because of its lack of democratic values of liberty and equality. Some even express
their opposition to its forming part of the EU for now.

In the case of the United Kingdom, the majority of interviewees are in favour of
considering it as European. The reasons adduced refer to the relations that have always
existed with the rest of Europe, its trade with other countries, its characteristics in
common with Western Europe and its openness to other cultures. Just three reasons for
not considering it European emerge: its independence and peculiarity – “I see it as
believing itself as a little bit independent, as though they were better than Europe” (I 9,
5); its policy of alliances with the USA; and its geographical isolation because of the
fact that it is an island. There are also more complex opinions with arguments in favour
and against: “They should be outside, because of their reluctant over the currency, but
yes, it is a very important part of Europe” (I 11, 7).

3.2 Distinction between Europe and the European Union

For the great majority of interviewees, Europe has become synonymous with the EU: “I
think there’s more and more, like,... an idea of identification of the European Union
with Europe” (I 4, 10). In other cases, Europe is defined using geographical criteria
limited to Western Europe: “I think Europe is understood as the western countries” (I
20, 7). Some disagree with this simplification – “Europe is more than the EU, it is also
Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic” (I 11, 6) –, and others consider that it would
not be good for the EU to absorb Europe, and are therefore in favour of the EU limiting
the number of member countries. The controversy over this issue becomes more
focused when the question is raised of whether a 25-member EU is a good thing. The
positive aspects of this enlargement are strength, unity, ease of movement within the
continent, an increase in trade and business, a reduction in the relative weight of France
and Germany, and economic progress for the new members, as well as the fact that
Europe would be more socially-oriented in political terms. It is interesting to point out
that interviewees see an additional advantage with this 25-member EU: it would
contribute to the disappearance of immigration from Central Europe. Although the
positive aspects outweigh the negative ones, the latter are also worthy of mention. Thus,
the disadvantages of enlarging the EU to 25 members might be that it will be more
difficult to reach decisions, that efficiency will be reduced, and that there would be a

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

loss of subsidies to some of those already in it, such as Spain. It is also claimed that
there is a lack of information on the implications of this enlargement.

Interviewees’ perceptions about the limits of Europe are based primarily on three
criteria: economic, which refer to level of development and type of economy prevailing
in the European countries – “(Europe) is quite limited by the European Union and by
Capitalist Economics” (I 1, 7); political, which mark a special division from the
countries of the old Soviet-communist bloc – “[…] to the right of Austria are the old
satellites of the USSR, and when all’s said and done I see them as countries that have
been communist (I 20, 7); and geographical, which constitute the majority of the
responses, and tend to refer to the limits established on maps –“the geographical limits,
those of the map, the ones they taught us at school” (I 15, 5). In the opinion of the
interviewees there is a greater tendency to conceptualize Europe in a geographical way
than on a political, economic, historical or cultural basis. For this very reason, a large
number of responses revolve around the geographical composition of Europe, and
situate its limits according to geographical features such as the Urals, the Mediterranean
Sea or the Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand, many interviewees avoided offering more
explanation in this question, arguing that the limits are perfectly defined by the political
frontiers of the European countries.


It is interesting to note the interviewees’ opinion on how they perceive the impact of the
EU on the nation and on them as a person. While at a national level they see a clear
influence of the EU, especially in areas such as economic and political development,
infrastructure, markets, and even tourism, at a personal level their perception of its
impact is more related to the way the EU acts as an intermediary so that the country
finances social welfare. For example: “the Spanish government has neglected a lot of
social policies... as regards welfare, for me… what most affects me: unemployment,
training and education..., it’s left it totally to the money we receive from the European
Social Fund...” ( I4, 19). Likewise, we should note the importance attributed to the
advantages of mobility within Europe: “When I go to England or France... freedom of
movement..., it’s easier now for me to go and study or work abroad...” (I 16, 8).

Thus, what is interesting is the contradiction whereby the interviewed (often the same
ones) are not aware of the impact the EU has on their lives, but are aware of the
influence it has on the country: “At a personal level I don’t see… that I’d be influenced
by belonging or not belonging (to the EU)..., if they decide to leave now... and we’re no
longer Europeans... as an individual person I wouldn’t notice any change” (I 19, 12).
This is in contrast to other opinions, such as: “Spain has received a lot of things from
Europe... a lot of (positive) influences... exports, imports...” (I 19, 13). In general terms,
the way interviewees perceive the impact of the EU in their personal context can be
considered as direct or indirect. The direct form corresponds to highly reduced
conceptions that coincide with the “high European identification” interviewees: “I can’t
imagine not being in the European Union” (I 22, 119); “(in the case of separation from
the EU) [...] it would be like breaking... the union there is right now,… even breaking
the union I have with my uncle and aunt in Sweden” (I 5, 18). The indirect form of
perceiving the impact of the EU, on the other hand, corresponds to an emphasis on the
benefits the EU brings to the country (in the economic, employment and political
spheres), and which in turn affect its citizens.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

This is supported by the results of the survey, which show that perceived impact is more
intense when the reference is more distant (nation). Thus, on a scale of 0 (“no, it hasn’t
had any impact”) to 4 (“yes, it has had some impact”), the means show that the greatest
impact is perceived on the nation, with a mean of 2.56, followed by the region, 2.07,
and finally the person, 1.46.


The future of the EU was also extensively commented on by the interviewees. Attitudes
towards the future of the EU observed in the responses vary among positive, negative
and neutral. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the majority of comments
made on this issue reflect a positive and optimistic attitude: “the EU will be the whole
of Europe, and it will be like a single country, which will be what makes the decisions,
all with the same currency and all as one” (I 14, 6). There are responses in favour of
development, openness and cultural exchange: “I see a Europe... multicultural... an
incredible magnet for other cultures that will bring great richness...” (I 6, 7). And
others that predict a reduction of the differences between countries: “The more
developed countries will become closer and closer to the less developed ones, and vice
versa” (I 17, 8). Another constant aspect that should be noted among the positive
responses is the tendency to think of an enlarged European Union, which with the
passage of time will take in more and more countries, and acquire more and more
strength and union among its members. As regards negative attitudes about the future of
Europe, the most noteworthy are those referring to the fear that it will be impossible to
reach understandings in an enlarged Europe: “If we continue like this it’ll be a failure,
because if all this Iraq business has in some way called into question the whole
European Union... there’s a weakness in it…, in the end the European Union will break
up, like so many organizations throughout history.” (I 4, 21). Thus, there are responses
that allude to an economic weakening of the EU because of the new countries coming
in, considering that this is a serious mistake for the EU. On the other hand, there are
those who think Europe will not change at all, at least in the short term: “I think in 5
years’ time things will be more or less the same; but within 50 years I think things will
evolve a lot” (I 8, 14). High identification subjects had more positive attitudes towards
the future of the EU, whilst the majority of the negative and neutral attitudes were
maintained by those with low European identification.

The question on the future of Europe permitted us to obtain information we did not have
from the survey. Thus, we were able to observe that the young people from Madrid are
relatively optimistic about Europe’s future.


The majority of the young people interviewed in Madrid focus their expectations of
mobility on European countries, mainly England, Italy, France and Germany. The
reasons for going to these places basically revolve around learning the language or
simply the desire to see the country. While Europe is the destination most frequently
named, places like Canada or Japan are also mentioned, though only occasionally. To a
lesser extent there are interviewees who mention work as a reason for moving abroad:
“[...] I would like to move around Europe working, as I do now around Spain [...]”. (I
22, 6). On the other hand, there is reluctance to move to places such as Russia,

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

Afghanistan or Asia in general. The reasons for this reluctance are not explained in
detail, but are related to cultural differences, the distance involved or personal taste:
“Well, I don’t think I’d go to Asia and those places because I just don’t think I’ve got
any reason to go there [...] I don’t think they’re very clean countries, I see them as
different, and I’ve still got a lot left to see here in Europe” (I 12, 25);“Russia..., well, it
doesn’t attract me at all” (I 6, 15);“[...] if I had to say now, well, Afghanistan, [...] I
mean, well, it’s a culture that’s really far removed from my culture [...]”. (I 8, 37).

The main reason given by our interviewees for not going to another country, apart from
time and money, is their personal situation of convenience and comfort in Spain, which
they do not want to give up: “[...] I feel good here,… I have everything I think I need
[...]” (I 13, 11); “[...] I think I’d be going with heavy heart, because I wouldn’t want
to” (I 12, 14); “[...] I’m really rooted in the customs of my country” (I20, 21). Length
of stay abroad for those who do express the expectation of moving would be no more
than two or three years; those who, for reasons of work or study, consider going to live
outside Spain would need to come back a few times a year: “A short period, yes. Two
years, or three, perfect” (I 12, 24); “To spend a short period abroad, yes, but not to
live” (I 16, 15); “Working or studying for short periods, to get to know and open up to
other countries... yes, that’s it, short periods, but staying there, no” (I 6, 15); “[...]
since what I want to do is International Relations, well, I suppose that if all goes well,
my whole life. But, well, the truth is I would always need to come back here a couple of
times a year” (I 5, 18).

The responses obtained follow a similar line to the results of the questionnaire. More
than 50% of young Spaniards had visited some European country since age 16, mainly
France, the United Kingdom or Italy. As regards the reasons for going to other
countries, the main ones were holidays or cultural trips (64.8%) and to learn the
language (14.6%) – the same as those given in the interviews.

Finally, it should be pointed out that expectations of mobility around Europe were
similar in high European identification interviewees and those with low identification,
which may suggest that other factors are responsible for this attitude. In this regard it is
interesting to note that a majority in both of these groups also rejected the idea of living
outside Spain, the idea of returning being prevalent in both cases. As regards the
quantitative data obtained, these showed that young people from Madrid generally
planned to be living in the same region 30 years from now.


Interviewees’ knowledge on their rights and duties as European citizens is scant and
inaccurate: “I don’t think there are any European laws and rights as such” (I 7, 11); “I
suppose... there must be certain rights and obligations, but I don’t know” (I 9, 10). In
fact, in many cases they believe that the rights and obligations are determined by the
member countries, rather than by the EU. Thus, they mention freedom of expression, or
equality between men and women, which can be found in all the member countries,
believing that these are European rights as such.

On the other hand, the vast majority of interviewees, even though in an implicit way, do
recognize their right to free circulation around the member countries, and thus, the
existence of certain rights as citizens of the EU: “…understanding the European Union

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

as a supranational entity... the European Union also needs its rules, its laws and its
rights... I mean, for example, about the currency, about the conditions for going to work
in other countries, about... well, celebrations by different cultures that you are obliged
to respect,… about free circulation, for example” (I 16, 11). As for the duties or
obligations implied by being a member of the EU, voting in European elections was
mentioned just once, with responses concentrating on more abstract or “moral”
obligations, such as respecting other EU members, or knowing about the European
policies carried out.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country



The sample of interviews from Bilbao included in this analysis is made up of 17
interviewees. These interviewees were selected from among the participants in the
previous survey, according to their level of identification with Europe (Q68c of the
survey). According to this criterion, 11 interviewees were gathered from the high
identification group and 6 from the low identification group (11 from the general
sample and 6 from the pro-European sample). Eleven interviewees were women; 8 were
aged between 18 and 21, and 9 between 22 and 24 (mean: 21 years). Eight were
employed (of these, four were also students), and 9 were just students.

The sub-sample of interviews analyzed has a slightly higher level of identification with
Europe than the total sample from Bilbao. However, as a result of the selection, the
interviewees clustered in two clearly differentiated groups in all aspects of European
identity: whilst the group selected for its high identification with Europe in the survey
presented values slightly higher than the Bilbao mean in all aspects of identity, the
group selected for its low identification is significantly below the total mean. We shall
refer to these differences where relevant in order to contextualize the following analysis
of the interviews in Bilbao.


2.1 Identification with Europe

Since interviewees for this research stage were selected according to their survey
answer regarding weak or strong feelings about being European, they present two
clearly distinguishable profiles in their answers. The weak identification group
presented much lower level while the group showing strong identification with Europe
presented very high level of identification for every aspect of European identity. In the
high identification group from Bilbao, the level of European identity is even higher than
the regional identity (otherwise the first).

In the in-depth interviews, the majority of interviewees perceived themselves as
European or to have felt European at some time. Three of these interviewees (those who
in the previous survey had reported feeling low identification as Europeans) provided
explanations for their response, in some cases pointing out that this identification had
been reinforced by the European position in the Iraq War, the perception of common
values (on comparison with other continents, and despite the inter-European
differences), and attribution of the feeling of being European to the fact of being

Likewise, three of the five interviewees who indicated a low identification with the idea
of being European explained their response. The following quotation exemplifies this
situation: “At the moment, no,… well, I mean, when you have the euro in your hand you
say, OK, this is the European currency, eh, supposedly, but for the time being you don’t
really see it,… I think in a few years’ time you’ll see it more, and if you travel..., I think
that people who travel maybe notice it more, they’re more European and that, but I

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

think that for now we don’t feel, like, really, really European, as it were.” (Bilbao 34,
female, 18-21, target sample, high EU idf. in the survey).

Finally, another of these interviewees drew a parallel between belonging to Spain and
belonging to Europe (as geographical and political categories) and the lack of
identification with these categories. This response summarizes the gap – already
observed in the survey results of the Basque Country – between the regional/national
[Basque] identification and a lack of identification with higher levels [Spain or Europe]:
“I don’t know, I mean, well, I know we’re in Europe, I mean,… I don’t know, it’s like
the thing with Spain, for example: I know I’m Spanish, but no, I’m Basque, I mean, I
don’t deny it (laughing), but, well, I don’t feel as though I’m Spanish.” (Bilbao 466,
female, 22-24, general sample, low EU idf. in the survey).

2.2 Relationship between European, Spanish and regional identities

The majority of the interviewees saw the three identities as compatible. This
compatibility appears in three different kinds of discourse: the first is more frequent in
the low European identification group, and conceives three nested categories from the
geographical and political point of view. The following quotation reflects this discourse:

       “Because..., well, you were born in the Basque Country so you’re Basque, up to
now the Basque Country is in Spain, so..., whether you like it or not..., you’re Spanish...,
your ID card says it, your documents say it, ...so you have to…, and in all sorts of
circumstances, you know, in bureaucratic situations… when you go abroad you show
your Spanish passport, so I mean,… whether you like it or not, it does affect you,… and
then, European, I feel European because I’ve always believed in the European Union,
in creating a State...” (Bilbao 67, female, 22-24, target sample, high EU idf in the

The next quotation introduces a second type of discourse, which acknowledges
compatibility from a psychosocial-identitary perspective (even pointing to local identity
as the basic level of identification), and appears only in the high European identification
        “If... because I suppose that if you’re born here, you’re Basque, if at the same
time you feel Spanish, you’re Spanish, ....and...., I think the thing about European
identity ..., in my case at least – because I do feel European, ..., I think it is possible, it’s
just that...., but, yes, they’re compatible, I think. (Bilbao 69, female, 22-24, target
sample, high EU idf in the survey).

A more complex discourse may perceive a contradiction in the case of a conflict of
        “...in my case I don’t think there’s any problem..., it depends on...[...] if, for
example…[...] you find there’s a clash on an issue, between the interests of the Basque
Country and the interests that Spain has, well, there could be a conflict, or maybe the
interests of Europe, [...] but me, on the issue of different levels, errr, I mean, of
nationality or citizenship, or...[...] I don’t see any problem… I mean, I don’t believe in
the hierarchical level whereby …, first you have to feel as though you’re from one
place, then from the other, I mean, first Basque, and then... Spanish, and then
European,… I feel Basque, Spanish and European..., but I don’t like all that stuff of
prioritizing, because then it means that when there’s a clash between different

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

interests..., you’re always going to give priority to the Basque side..., and it’s a good
thing… that you defend the Basque side, but you’ll also have to look at whether in some
contexts it’s worth it, or it’s not worth it [...] if you’re going to get something more...,if
whether for the common good [...] of the European Union, well, there might be some
things..., I mean, I think all three should be at the same level, but that you shouldn’t
renounce any of them. (Bilbao 70, low Europe idf.).

Finally, the third type of discourse acknowledges different possibilities of compatibility
or incompatibility depending on the type of identity (nationalist, cosmopolitan):
       “...being Basque is not being just Basque and not Spanish, I mean, there are a
lot of people who consider themselves Basque and Spanish.... and therefore
European;… others of us don’t consider ourselves Spanish... but do consider ourselves
European, and others, nothing, you know, citizens of the world.(Bilbao 486, male 22-24,
random sample, high Europe idf.).

A minority of interviews reflect a conditional (three cases) or a negative opinion (two
cases) regarding compatibility – with similar relative frequency in the low and high
European identification groups. The conditional view has emerged, mainly, in
interviewees that have made an impersonal reference – associating compatibility with
cosmopolitan postures, and the incompatibility with nationalist and ethnocentric
postures: “I think that if you have an open mentality you feel Basque, mmmm, Spanish,
European, of the world,… you can even feel American if you want...” (Bilbao 34, high
Europe idf.), and “Yes and no, if you can feel the three things at the same time, well,
because it’s all the same to you to be European, to be Spanish or to be Basque,… and if
you can’t... then nationalisms are surrounding…being Spanish, Basque,…” (Bilbao 58,
female, 22-24, target sample, high Europe idf.).

Incompatibility is perceived by just by one low and one high European identification
interviewees. Following the logic of the conditional cases, the former perceives
contradiction between the Spanish nationality and European cosmopolitanism: “Oohh, I
mean, the idea of being European...., well, frankly, no… I’m in Spain and the rest, well,
it’s not that I don’t care about them, but,...” (Bilbao 279, female, 18-21, random
sample, low European idf.).

The second case emerges from a cosmopolitan discourse that rejects any type of
nationalism, this discourse may also lead to the conclusion of compatibility: “... if we’re
all going to…. there’ll be no border and stuff… well, it’s all the same whether you feel
one thing or another: in the end it’ll all be the same, won’t it..., that’s the stage we want
to reach.” (Bilbao 181, male, 18-21, random sample, high Europe idf.).

2.3 Situations that elicit the feeling of belonging to Europe

Following the Social Identity Theory, the majority of interviewees reported to feel
European especially in interaction with foreigners and when they travel abroad (“well,
when travelling abroad… you know, especially in certain situations, when you go
through a border and you see it there, eh? And you realize that you belong to another
group, with which you have a lot of affinities, or things that identify you with them” -
Bilbao 69, high Europe idf.). This interviewee also reflects surprise due to the discovery
of shared traits with other European national groups (against her previous beliefs).

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

In this regard, interviewees from the high European identification group also referred to
the European position on the Iraq War: “...for example, when the Iraq War was on, with
everyone scrapping and pulling in different directions, ugh! What a disgrace, … I’m
European, ha!” (Bilbao 13, male, 22-24, target sample, high Europe idf.). Other
situations – such as parliamentary elections, the signing of important treaties and sports
events – were mentioned in Bilbao on just one occasion.

Likewise, some interviewees stress the contextual nature of the salience of the European
identity: salience of the regional, national or European identity depends on the
intergroup situation: “...it’s really strange, because it also depends where you are and
who you’re with, because it changes things in my head, I think. If I’m in Madrid with
people from different places in Spain..., well, I say I’m from Cantabria, and if I’m in
Europe with people from different EU countries, I’m from Spain, but if I’m in Europe
with people from other continents, yes, you can say it and assert it...” (Bilbao 70, low
Europe idf.).


The interviews suggest different perceptions of the definition and objectives of the EU.
The first meaning focused on geographical aspects (Europe as a continent). In some
cases this conception emerges as associated with economic welfare or cultural aspects
(such “the old continent”- Bilbao 69 and 262, both high Europe idf.).

A second type of responses refers to the EU as a set of countries. These conceptions
emerge associated with geographical aspects, and also with the mention of other
characteristics of the EU (such as supra-national political unity, the transference of
power, economic union and solidarity, and its own currency). These meanings are
present in both the low and high European identification groups, but, whilst in the
former group the reference to the supra-national character is compared with
membership of the UN, in the latter group this meaning likens the EU to a national

       “I don’t know, since we’re also in the UN and that, and we more or less get on
       well, and more and more countries are joining, I think that at the moment it’s
       working fairly well.” (Bilbao 399, low Europe idf.).

       “Initially, I thought of a Europe that was just like a country...., a supra national
       country, a union..., but right, now, the way things are, Europe is, errr, just a
       grouping for economic matters, to reap the profits,… that’s how I see it at the
       moment...” (Bilbao 67, high Europe idf.).

Reservations about the priority of the economic (as against the social) Europe are also
found in low identification interviewees, who underline the economic union in contrast
to the internal political split:

       “... you were talking about foreign policy, which isn’t coordinated in the
       European Union, either [...] each state can do what it likes..., I think that if things
       were to progress in this regard..., because there still doesn’t exist a European
       Union, I mean, in terms of trade policy, I mean, as a union... In terms of an

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

       economic market and all that, well, yes, it’s really united, and..., you hardly see
       the differences between territories, [...] but I think now we’re going to need more,
       to bring together the aspects of foreign policy [...] of the European Community,
       [...] because the European Union envisages a common foreign policy that all the
       States sign, but then Spain and the United Kingdom go off and do something
       totally different, I mean,… I don’t understand that, and I think it’s dangerous.”
       (Bilbao 70, low Europe idf.).

Despite these qualifications, these responses stress the internal harmony, whilst one
describes a vision of political conflict - the confrontation between the European Union
and other political and economic powers (the United States, Japan, China) : “Europe, I
think it’s, mmmm, they’re,… for me, they’re, politically speaking and economically
speaking, a group of countries that are trying to fight against the great powers that are
the United States, Japan and China, and as they’ve seen that one alone, England,
cannot do it on its own, they’ve tried to join together, at least to grow a bit...” (Bilbao
34, high Europe idf.).

Finally, some responses stress the union within a cultural diversity (“a union of
cultures” - Bilbao 44, high Europe idf.).

3.1 Perception of border countries as belonging to Europe

According to Q45 in the survey, Great Britain (more in the pro-European sample),
Estonia, the Czech Republic (more in Bilbao), and Slovakia were the countries that the
greatest number of respondents included in Europe, followed by Iceland and Russia
(more by women and the pro-European sample). Finally, Turkey is the only presented
country most young people do not include in Europe.

The qualitative data indicate that the majority included the UK, Bosnia, Russia and
Slovenia in Europe. Likewise, in accordance with the quantitative analyses, a majority
considered Turkey as a non-European country. The responses about Turkey define as
problems the cultural difference (Islam, lack of adaptation to western culture), lack of
fulfilment of the EU’s requirements (in some cases explicitly seen as more of a problem
than the geographical distance), and its geographical location: “...it’s in Asia, and it has
a culture..., apart from, well, human rights issues in Turkey and all that. I think their
culture tends more towards Muslim countries..., but anyway.” (Bilbao 67, high Europe

3.2 Countries considered more or less European

The reasons for considering a country as more European were basically related to its
geographical position (“... I think countries sort of in the middle, like, well, France,
Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg...” - Bilbao 262, high Europe idf.), to its power (“well,
it seems as though they’re, like, the most powerful in the Union,...” - Bilbao 327, high
Europe idf.), and to the idea of “civilization and progress” with respect to the country in
question (“... it’s the most deep-rooted culture in the whole of Europe, I mean, and also
at an ecological, political level, and...” - Bilbao 29, high Europe idf.; “... I’ve got the
idea that it’s more progressive, I don’t know...” - Bilbao 416, low Europe idf; “...they’re
much more civilized” - Bilbao 486, male, 22-24, random sample, EU high). France,
Belgium and Germany were the countries frequently considered most European.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

The reasons for considering countries as less European were: peripheral geographical
position and distance in terms of culture or economic development (applied to countries
from the ex-USSR, Turkey, Portugal, etc.), “... or those that are away up there...”
(Bilbao 70, low Europe idf.), “... I don’t know, perhaps, because of the distance,...
Portugal...” (Bilbao 262, high Europe idf.); political independence (England),
“England, because even though it’s joined, whether you like it or not it always wants its
independent part, for example, the euro” (Bilbao 34, high Europe idf.); the presence of
a salient sense of nationality (France and England), “those with an exaggerated idea of
their nationality, such as France, the French, the English,.., the English are maybe the
least European of all” (Bilbao 486, high Europe idf.).

A significant group of interviewees rejected to consider any country as more or less
European (more frequently in the high identification group)

3.3 Distinction between Europe and the EU

Three types of responses were obtained on this topic: those who expressed a wider
notion of Europe and affirmed that Europe includes more countries than those of the EU
(“Europe includes other countries, the European Union is those that are in it, they’re
the 15, and now 25” - Bilbao 486, high Europe idf.); those whose assimilated Europe
and EU (the EU was their reference when they spoke about Europe: “The thing is, when
I think of Europe now, I no longer have the conception I had before of the European
Continent... I mean, for me, Europe is… us, I mean... the European Union” - Bilbao 70,
low Europe idf.); and those who stated confusion about the question (“people might say
a country and I think it’s in Europe, and then it’s not, because, I mean, I know, but I
have to think which countries are part of Europe”. Bilbao 416, low Europe idf.).

3.4 Links with other countries

Some interviewees maintained not to feel emotional links with any European country
(more frequently in the group of weak identification with the EU). Reasons for feeling a
link with a European country were related to having been in the country and to cultural
proximity (all the latter in the strong identification group). Portugal, Italy, Holland,
England, France, Luxembourg, Ireland and Greece were among the European countries
frequently cited in this context.

Some interviewees also mentioned links with non-European countries. The reasons for
feeling linked to a non-European country were the culture, the language, or attraction
because of the cultural difference (“exoticism”): “[Australia] well, because I think it’s a
totally different culture, and when it comes to… well, fitting in there, I don’t think you
have many problems...” (Bilbao 29, high Europe idf.).

Other interviewees expressed a contrast to the latter view - feeling links to countries
according to geographical, socio-cultural or linguistic proximity: “... I think France,
Italy,.., because of the climate, because of the people, and the language, which, whether
you like it or not, you can understand a bit, France is close, and Portugal, I think
they’re the closest” (Bilbao 34, high Europe idf.).

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

The link with Latin America is based on sharing a language and having a similar
culture, and on the relationship due to emigration to these countries, whilst the link with
the USA and Canada emerges from the interest in academic institutions.


First of all, both the high and low identification groups presented general opinions,
many times confuse, indicating the null or positive impact of the EU (“No, everything
that…, I don’t know, well, … I think so”, Bilbao 69, vs. “No, ooh, the truth is I don’t
know, I don’t think so, maybe… I think not.”, Bilbao 58, both high Europe idf.).

Three levels of EU impact were found in the explained responses: personal, social-
general, and national-international. References to the three levels had similar frequency.
In the first level, interviewees (most frequently in the low identification group) claim no
impact for the EU, even though they may perceive it on the other domains (“Personally
no, I suppose so... but in relation to everyone, I mean, some subsidy given by the
European Union or one of those things that we are supposed to reap more benefit from
because we’re in the European Union, ... but personally, no”, Bilbao 416, low Europe
idf., and also “..., if they’re going to leave me as I am, I don’t care one way or the other,
… but, well, of course, if they bring advantages, such as in terms of employment – not
just for me but for my whole family, or for my friends – and then at a regional level,
then of course...”, Bilbao 29, high Europe idf.).

The responses referring to the second and third levels mainly refer to benefits derived
from European citizenship, and are more frequent in the high identification group.
Paradoxically, the positive effects found on the social-general level do have real impact
for individual citizens, as consequence of freedom of circulation and the single currency
(these advantages are cited exclusively in the high identification group), employment
benefits (job opportunities) and economic benefits (setting-up of European companies,
elimination of tariffs, and subsidies (for neighbourhood renewal – in the low
identification group). The impacts of freedom of movement (elimination of frontiers,
customs posts) and of the shared currency are frequently cited together. Nevertheless,
some interviewees express their perception of the benefits as limited to those who travel
outside of Spain: “For a person living in Spain who doesn’t move…, I don’t think it’s
changed their life much,… in fact for elderly people the euro has been a disadvantage…
but at the same time people have benefited, because whether you like it or not,
companies from abroad, with no borders and the same currency, have found it easier to
come to Spain and open their business here, and for a person who has to move in the
world it’s a total advantage, I think, because it opens all the doors.” (Bilbao 34, high
Europe idf.).

This excerpt also reflects the ambivalent perception of some effects, which may be
positive for some sections of the population and negative for others. While this case
presents the possible negative effect of the introduction of the euro (policies of
budgetary containment, rising prices of basic goods, and the difficulty of converting
pesetas, especially for the elderly), other interviewees perceive employment threats in
the freedom of movement and work because of possible competition with citizens from
other EU countries (better qualified) in the job market (in Spain and in the rest of the

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

At the national level, interviewees from the high identification group stress the
economic (and in some cases, political) benefits for Spain – both general (how to
overcome the isolation of Spain, the transposition of European legislation, and
economic development) and specific (the commercial benefits and the receipt of
subsidies): “Well, I think so, I mean, errr...., I don’t know, I mean, apart from giving...,
(laughing) .. throwing money in general at almost everything that moves, so to speak…,
I mean, Spain has received millions from Cohesion Funds and Structural Funds and
that,… I mean, for everything to do with roads, projects, structures, and so on… the
majority or a large part of that has been done with European money, err, … I don’t
know, laws that have been absorbed directly, … err, from the European Union, I mean,
transpositions en bloc of Legislation that didn’t exist before.” (Bilbao 13, high Europe

Some people would acknowledge that this benefit for Spain (as recipient) maybe
prejudicial to the contributing states: “...Germans or Danish, which are high income
countries, might complainm more, seeing as they’re, you know, countries that have had
to subsidize others like Spain, eh? ... but in principle Spain, as far as disadvantages go,
I don’t think it’s had any...” (Bilbao 262, high Europe idf.).

Common legislation may also present possible disadvantages for some countries:
“...when a law comes out for all, and often there may be particular countries which that
law doesn’t benefit them in some domain, or in the way it’s applied, but as it’s there
they have to abide by it...” (Bilbao 424, low Europe idf.).

Finally, in the low identification group, positive effects were mentioned at the
international level, such as the unity of peoples, cooperation and mutual support
between European countries, containment of the policies of the USA as the sole global
power (for example, the confrontation with the United States’ position on the Iraq war),
and the defence of human rights in other countries (“...everything related to the defence
of human rights in other countries, I think the strength Europe has in this respect is
really important, and all the work that’s been done, yes”, Bilbao 416, low Europe idf.).


5.1 Enlargement and its effects

The interview analysis showed a majority of interviewees pointing out that the
forthcoming process of enlargement of the EU will bring some changes. Contrasting
opinions about these changes were found: For some interviewees, this process will lead
to arguments and conflicts; for others, it will have beneficial effects for all and generate
new ideas.

Most of the mentioned changes pertain to the economic domain (all came from the high
identification group). Economic resources were seen as a conflicting area in relation to
the enlargement of the EU. The inclusion of countries with lower economic
development implies help for these countries (“we’ll have to help them” - Bilbao 44,
high Europe idf.), unequal economic growth (“... some will cease to grow so much
economically, but others will grow” - Bilbao 486, high Europe idf.), or a reduction in
the Spanish funding levels from the EU (“Spain will have to stop receiving what it
receives now... “ - Bilbao 67, high Europe idf.).

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

Some interviewees suggested that the discrepancies over the power distribution with the
new members would lead to tensions between countries.

Among the beneficial changes are a general improvement in all the countries, more
openness to new ideas, and changes in decision-making (more democratic) (all of these
changes mentioned by high identification interviewees)


Six of a total of 17 interviewees indicated that they would not like to move abroad. This
attitude disposition was more frequent among the weak European identification group.

Identification with Europe also seems to affect the mobility disposition of the rest of the
interviewees. Among those indicating a destination, all the high identification
interviewees identified Europe as their preference, while the low identification group
presented the only interviewee that preferred exclusively a non-European destination (in
the high identification group, this type of destination was indicated only in addition to
European destinations).

As for length of stay, although all of those preferring a short stay chose European
destinations, no differences were found with regard to length of stay according to high
or low European identification. Although less frequent, the disposition to move abroad
permanently was equally frequent in the high identification group and that of low


The perception of rights and duties derived from European citizenship was affected, in
Bilbao, by the lack of information on the issue – with no distinction according to level
of identification with Europe. This was reflected both in responses reporting ignorance
and in the inability to elicit specific rights or duties (when their existence was
recognized). Extreme cases in this regard would be “Well, respect for everyone, I mean,
simply that” (Bilbao 29, high Europe idf.), or “Obligations always, and rights, well,
those too” (Bilbao 424, low Europe idf.).

The rights most frequently mentioned were the right to participate in elections to the
European Parliament (on some occasions this vote is suggested as a duty that is not
enough promoted) and in local government elections. Also mentioned are rights such as
freedom of expression, property, education, travelling, working or living in any EU
country, and help from the EU in extreme situations abroad in which the rights of the
European citizen are threatened. It was frequently noted that these rights were not
specific to the EU, but were human and civil rights previously enjoyed in the member

Interviewees found it even more difficult to list duties derived from European
citizenship. The few specified were: being subject to legislation and taxes, and “the
moral obligation to open up” (Bilbao 34, high Europe idf.). Quite frequently,
obligations were plainly perceived as an unspecific, automatic (and even preceding)
correspondence to the existence of rights.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

EUROPEAN IDENTITY: a comparison between Madrid and the Basque Country

1. Sample

There is a slight difference of four more interviews more in Madrid than in the Basque
Country; in Madrid, the sample is balanced by the “identification with Europe” groups
(high and low); in both regions there are more women than men, and in the Basque
Country there are more with high European identification than with low. Mean age of
interviewees in the two regions is 21 years.

2. European Identity: importance and meaning, impact of Europe, European
citizenship and mobility

In both regions we find among interviewees the acceptance of compatibility between
regional, national and European identity. In Madrid, interviewees spontaneously express
continuity between the three identities in a logical way, as nested categories, though it is
observed that the Madrid identity is the basic one. In Bilbao there emerges a second
type of argument, whereby people may identify themselves or not with each category
(perceiving them as compatible or not). In this case, we relatively frequently find
identification with the Basque Country and with Europe but not with Spain, or even
incompatibility. In this regard, the previous survey questionnaire included several
questions related to local, regional, Spanish and European identity. The pattern of
responses regarding Europe was similar in most of the identity aspects (attachment,
strength of affect, importance as a personal value, and importance for self-identity).
Mean sense of belonging to Europe was moderate, the lowest level of the three. This
attachment was stronger among women and among interviewees from Madrid (vs. those
from Bilbao – where the answer levels for Europe and Spain were similar, and
European identity came out as “of little importance” for the self and as a personal value;
the latter effect was stronger in the general sample). Finally, interviewees considered
themselves only “sometimes” as a “European citizen”; there was no significant
difference by region.

As regards the situations and reasons that lead interviewees to identify with Europe,
those from Madrid and those from the Basque Country coincide in that travelling is a
situation that produces a greater sense of European identity. However, the other reasons
adduced are different: whilst in Madrid interviewees mention historical reasons (a past
of common achievements), those in the Basque Country refer to the experience of
interaction with foreigners; from this it is clear that the salience depends on the
intergroup comparison involved in each situation. As for lack of identification with
Europe, in Madrid the young people are more explicit when adducing reasons; they
argue that it is not a necessary identity, that the national one is sufficient, that Europe is
associated only with certain countries, that it is an entity removed from their lives, or
that a past filled with historical conflicts does not facilitate identification.

As far as the meaning of Europe is concerned, both those in the Basque Country and
those in Madrid consider Europe as a geographical reality, also perceiving it has having
a role as a competitor with other powers, such as the USA. In the Basque Country the
geographical argument is frequently used by those with high identification, whilst those
of low identification perceive Europe as a political and economic alliance. Moreover,
the idea of Europe is associated with economic welfare or cultural aspects; in the same

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

line, in Madrid, Europe is perceived as an environment of welfare, peace and security.
Even though we can appreciate (with some qualifications) a common idea of the
meaning of Europe in both places, the results obtained contrast with those of the survey,
especially for Madrid. The meaning of the EU, first and foremost, is economic and
political alliances, followed by geographical location and, finally, by the sharing of
certain values and traditions. Economic and political alliances received more
importance in Madrid than in Bilbao.

With respect to the future of Europe in 5 or 10 years’ time, we can observe positive and
negative opinions in both regions; the most favourable opinions are found in Madrid,
based on the idea that the EU will gain strength with the incorporation of more
countries, and will at the same time eliminate the differences between its members;
those in the Basque Country mention aspects such as greater democracy and more
openness of ideas. The negative aspects of the EU’s future are perceived in relation to
economic issues and potential breakdowns in understanding in an enlarged Europe.

On listing in a spontaneous way the countries that are considered more European or less
European, in general for the Basque interviewees the most European countries are
France, Belgium and Germany. Those from Madrid also name France and Germany, in
addition to Great Britain. The predominant criteria in each region are different; while in
Madrid the first criterion was historical stature, followed by economic power,
geographical proximity (to Western Europe), and finally popularity, in Bilbao the first
criterion was geographical, followed by power, sociocultural proximity, independence
of policies and the presence of a marked national character.

On being asked directly about the “European-ness” of Great Britain, Bosnia, Russia and
Turkey, differences were observed between the young Basques and those from Madrid.
While in the Basque Country the majority considered Great Britain, Bosnia and Russia
as European countries, those from Madrid gave more reasons for excluding Russia. For
Madrid, the results of the interviews show a contrast with the results obtained in the
survey, in which both Great Britain and Russia were included in Europe by the majority
of respondents. As in the survey, interviewees from neither region included Turkey as a
European country. This rejection was justified for reasons of cultural differences
(Islamic tradition), geographical distance and, in the case of the Basque Country, lack of
fulfilment of the EU’s political requirements.

As regards the distinction between Europe and the European Union, the interviews
provided important information we did not have previously, as this question was not
included in the questionnaire. There are interviewees in both regions that consider
Europe and the European Union as synonymous. Nevertheless, what was notable in the
Basque Country were the opinions of those that considered Europe to include more
countries than those of the UE, and those that were unsure on this issue. In Madrid,
respondents were more likely to use geographical criteria, though limited to Western
Europe, for defining Europe, and there are negative opinions on the enlargement of the
UE. In this regard, we can appreciate different opinions with respect to the process of
enlargement (the Europe of the 25); both in Madrid and in Bilbao we find positive and
negative aspects related to this idea. The negative aspects coincide in the two regions,
and are related to economic aspects such as the loss of subsidies, the difficulty of
reaching decisions, the lack of understanding, and disagreements over the sharing-out of
power. The positive aspects of enlargement are seen differently; in the Basque Country

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

these basically include more openness to new ideas and more democracy in decision-
making; for those from Madrid, the positive aspects of enlargement are seen as greater
strength and unity, facility of movement, economic progress and a reduction in Central
European immigration.

As for the impact of the EU at a personal level, in Madrid we can find interviewees that
do notice effects in this regard, whether directly or indirectly, that is, through the
benefits the EU provides to the country; in the Basque Country, on the other hand, the
interviewees do not perceive any direct effect of the EU on their lives, even though they
do notice indirect effects of the UE at a more general or social level, such as
employment advantages or freedom of movement. We can also see the ambivalent
perception of some effects, which may be positive for some of the interviewees and
negative for others. One example in this regard is the possible negative effect of the
introduction of the euro, but other interviewees perceive threats in the job market
because of free circulation, given the possible competition from citizens of other
countries. At a national level, those from both regions see a clear influence of the EU on
Spain in areas such economic and political development and markets; in Madrid
interviewees also mention benefits related to tourism or infrastructure. These results
confirm what we saw in the questionnaire, in which a majority of interviewees
expressed the positive nature of this impact on the three levels (nation, region and the
person), though 90% still thought that the impact of the EU on the nation was the most
positive of all.

As regards the perception of rights and duties as a European citizen, this is characterized
primarily by a lack of information and an inaccurate perception on the part of our
interviewees. In both regions, ignorance was the predominant characteristic; different
rights were mentioned, including: participating in elections to the European Parliament
(considered as an obligation in the case of Madrid and as a non-enforced duty in the
Basque Country), freedom of movement, freedom of expression and work (in the
Basque Country) and equality between the sexes (in Madrid). In the Basque Country it
was frequently added that these rights were not specific to the EU, but were human and
civil rights previously enjoyed already by member states. As for duties, all the
interviewees found it more difficult to name any type of obligation derived from
European citizenship; in Madrid the responses were more associated with abstract or
moral obligations.

Finally, as regards travelling outside Spain, we can see different results between the two
regions. While the majority certainly prefer Europe as a destination, in the Basque
Country there are some prepared to go and live abroad permanently – quite the opposite
from the case of the Madrid group, for whom the maximum desired length of stay was
around three years, and where the image of returning is constant, regardless of type of
identification and sample. This idea links in with the low mobility reflected in the
survey, in which 70% of respondents planned to be living in the same city when they
were 30 years old.

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country


The analysis of the qualitative interviews has helped us to gain a deeper understanding
of the meaning and argumentational mechanisms of European identity and of its
compatibility with other nested social identities. Likewise, it has provided interesting
information on the limits and stereotypes in relation to membership and exclusion from
this category and the perception of the impact of the European Union.

With regard to European identification, interviewees in Madrid offer little explanation
about their European identification, and focus mainly on their pride at belonging to this
category. On the one hand, the Bilbao interviewees did give reasons for their European
identification, like the Iraq War, the perception of common values and policies and the
link with Europe due to the fact of being Spanish. This last reason is also frequently
mentioned among interviewees from Madrid.

On the other hand, the Madrid interviewees provided plenty of explanations for their
lack of identification with Europe: Some of them associated Europe exclusively with
France and Germany, perceive Europe as a set of nations with no identity of its own, or
simply see no need for a European identity. Other reasons adduced are the distance
between Europe and their personal interests, and their lack of mobility around the

As we would expect from Social Identity Theory, European identity is especially salient
in two typical situations: when interviewees compare themselves with non-Europeans
and find differences; and when they compare themselves with Europeans and, despite
the national differences, find elements in common.

The majority of interviewees perceive the European, Spanish and regional identities as
compatible. Perceptions of compatibility between identities emerge in relation to two
basic argumentational mechanisms: the first involves an automatic compatibility
following a logic of nested geographical or political categories, whose basic identity is
the local one (in Madrid the local identification overlaps with the Spanish one); the
second mechanism is psychosocial, and it is related to the individual identification with
each of these categories. This latter mechanism may result both in compatibility or in
incompatibility between identities, depending on the dominant type of social identity in
the person (according to some interviewees, cosmopolitan orientations would facilitate
compatibility, whilst certain types of excluding nationalism may hinder it).

The relationships between identities present a different pattern in the Basque Country,
given that, for a large portion of interviewees, the national identity is not Spanish but
Basque. In these cases we find both explicit and implicit references to the lack of
identification with Spain.

The qualitative data also revealed other meanings of Europe, related to culture, to
cooperation between countries or to social and economic welfare. Europe is also
characterized as a power that can compete with other political and economic powers,
especially the United States, whose political hegemony it can question and contain. The
future enlargement of the EU is seen as both positive and negative. Among the positive
connotations are easier mobility, an increase in trade, economic progress and
interculturality. The negative connotations include potential difficulties for reaching

 WPD44 Preliminary report on added value of interviews for understanding variation in European identity in Spain.
                                          Madrid & Basque Country

decisions, lack of understanding, loss of subsidies, arguments over the distribution of
powers and economic weakening of the Union due to the admission of new members.

The interviews also provided interesting and detailed information on the stereotypes
involved in perceptions of whether or not countries are perceived as part of Europe and
of which countries are most and least representative of Europe. In response to direct
questions on the inclusion in Europe of Turkey, the United Kingdom, Russia and
Bosnia, both favourable and disfavourable arguments emerged. The references to the
United Kingdom were its traditional relationship with the rest of Europe (in favour) and
its isolationism and alliance with the United States (against); the references against the
inclusion of Russia, Bosnia and Turkey emerged in association with their lower social
prestige (less economic and political development, their proximity to the Middle East
and Islamic tradition), as well as the failure to fulfil the political conditions of admission
in the case of Turkey or the situation of conflict in Bosnia (which was perceived as part
of Europe anyway).

Despite the fact that the criterion most frequently used by interviewees for considering a
country as more or less European differs between Madrid (historical criterion) and
Bilbao (geographical criterion), the reasons referred to are common, and based on
cultural and/or economic distance, the independent policies of some countries (e.g.,
Britain with the euro, or the stance of Spain and the UK on the Iraq War) and the
presence of marked nationalism (the UK, France, Spain).

As regards the impact of the European Union, it should be pointed out that interviewees
perceive greater impact on the region or the nation than on them as a person (to the
extreme of no direct effects but only indirect effects: social/general or at national level
measures that effect the individual). The effects perceived refer, basically, to economic
(common market, infrastructures and tourism) social (job market, freedom of
movement) and political aspects (environment or consumer legislation). Finally, it
should be underlined that the same effects can be perceived as positive by some
interviewees and negative by others.

The interviews confirm the low disposition to mobility around Europe among young
people interviewed in Spain. Convenience and comfort were the most frequent among
the reasons against mobility (not even to other parts of the region). Those prepared to
move abroad to live would do so mainly for employment reasons or to learn a language.

Finally, interviewees showed ignorance of the rights and obligations associated with
European citizenship, indicating the lack of information readily available on this aspect.
In some cases, it was noticed that many of the rights mentioned were already recognized
by the individual member states. Interviewees found it especially difficult to name
obligations, and mentioned abstract or moral obligations such as respect for other
countries, knowledge of European policies or openness to other cultures and countries,
as well the fulfilment of European legislation.


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