On the notion of European space

N. Lygeros

Translation: Paola Vagioni

The evolution of the structure of the European Union through successive expansions leads us to think the notion of European space. Should we see it as a vital space (Lebensraum according to Friedrich Ratzel’s terminology), as a geographical space (factual in short), as a historical space (diachronic) or as a cultural space (civilization)?

What is a truism is that the European Union cannot be considered as a strictly economic space despite the goodwill of its critics. It is not even a strictly monetary space since the Euro is no longer simply a currency, even by the constitution of the Eurogroup. Moreover, even if the European Constitution is not yet truly in place, the political phase is well underway. We come therefore to a real problem of identity that encompasses the side effect that the notion of border represents.

The examination of the notion of Europe seems simpler because its nature comes directly from terminology even if we do not observe the same phenomenon with the notion of the Balkans. However, with the successive expansions of the European Union we have put in place a process of identification of these two notions. Indeed, the European Union as a notion is always included in Europe. Only through time, the initial distinction gradually reaches its limits even if the difference is still clear. As long as there is no exception in this inclusion, it will be possible to use the European basin in the broader sense of the term, as an attractor of the European Union.

One point is therefore indisputable. And on the actual state of things on the geopolitical map, we have at least a concordance of notions. If we examine Europe like Sir Halford Mackinder, it is possible seeing big tendencies without reminding us of certain mathematical properties that we have analyzed previously about the European Union. The notion of Europe emerges through Greek civilization and the initial role of Crete as a central maritime knot. The coming of the Achaeans will reinforce this last point even if it absorbs it in a framework with a more terrestrial view. This will be considerably extended by the Roman civilization, which sets up the notion of Mediterranean enclosure. The asymmetric character of the latter will be brought out by the Carolingian example. Subsequently, we can consider the Crusades as an attempt to restore this tendency, which will be undermined by the Muslim conquests and occupations. It is not until the 15th century that Europe truly extends itself and on a world scale even if it is blocked by the Arabs and the Ottomans. Anyhow, Venice and Austria are now able to resist the onslaught of the Turks. Then the rise of the Iberian Peninsula gave a new impetus to Europe with a resounding return of the navy. Then came the turn of the English and French but also the Germans for reconstructing the map of Europe not without the diachronic presence of Russia. This set of strategic outlines brings out the existence of an open structure that represents the substrate of the European Union. And it is precisely this substrate that we consider as European space. It is not therefore a formal extension but a real configuration of a knot and any reconfiguration could not but alter its nature.

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