The political importance of the European Union is constantly growing. Every step towards further coordination of its member states’ foreign and security policies and increasing communication among these states strengthens the EU’s influence in global politics. Admittedly, the efforts to bring this coordination to a qualitatively new level, namely by introducing the functions of a minister of foreign affairs and of a permanent president of the European Council in the framework of the “Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe” were seriously questioned by the French and Dutch “No.” This does not falsify my initial statement above on the political importance of the EU, however. The recent war in Lebanon and the measures undertaken to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah have, in fact, confirmed the importance of the EU: although in the end it was the United States and France that crafted UN-Resolution 1701 in New York, the European Union actively contributed to the preceding negotiations. For instance, its High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, traveled to Beirut on July 16, at the beginning of the conflict, and the French negotiations took place in close coordination with European partners.
However, this concerns only one of “the political dimensions of Europe,” the title of this third issue of EUROSTUDIA. Transatlantic Journal for European Studies. If the political importance of Europe is not to be reduced to a traditional understanding of the notion in terms of political actors and institutions, we must widen the scope of analysis by including the legitimatizing strategies of these players, the discursive dimension of their interventions and so forth. Reference to Europe as a synonym for a certain understanding of history, specific ideas on political order or particular cultural values plays a crucial role here.
It is this kind of consideration that called for the extension of the present issue’s thematic focus from the EU to Europe as such and to the concomitant wording “political dimensions” where the plural shall underline the multiple aspects of Europe’s political importance. First of all, Europe is not coextensive with the European Union though the above-mentioned treaty contends to speak for Europe as a whole even if only EU-member states are invited and allowed to vote on this treaty. Secondly, there is a long history of referring to Europe as legitimization of various political players’ power and interest politics, a history stretching over roughly five hundred years, as several of the articles in this issue will point out.
Thus understood, this subject was also the title of a workshop initiated and organized by Jens Badura and Andreas Niederberger on November 24 and 25, 2005, in Rüdesheim/Rhein. Political scientists, philosophers, lawyers, historians, and sociologists exchanged their views on the political dimension of the multiple references to Europe. Essays by five of these contributions now constitute the core of the present issue of EUROSTUDIA: Olaf Asbach traces the historical semantics of this reference to Europe, Burkhard Liebsch and Oliver Marchart highlight several paradoxical aspects of Europe’s discourse on itself, Andreas Niederberger questions the relationship between Europeanization and cosmopolitism, and my own article looks at the role this reference played in the framework of the colonization of New France, today’s Canada. These five texts are supplemented by an article by Alain Deneault regarding the Darwinian heritage of EU politics and by an essay by Thomas Dommange, who proposes an aesthetical interpretation and solution to the territorial indeterminacy of Europe’s frontiers - or, rather, of Europe’s lack of frontiers?