A generation of ‘New Europeans’ - united in diversity yet?

By Victoria Volossov | 12 April 2011

To quote this document: Victoria Volossov, “A generation of ‘New Europeans’ - united in diversity yet?”, Nouvelle Europe [en ligne], Tuesday 12 April 2011, http://www.nouvelle-europe.eu/node/1094, displayed on 02 April 2023

Are you under 30, have a university degree and live in a big European city? In that case, chances are you might be a ‘New European’. In April 2011 Eurobarometer published a special survey entitled ‘New Europeans’, examining indicators of European cohesion.

This term does not refer to ‘old’ and ‘new’ EU member states (having joined before or after 2004); rather, the survey seems to point to an altogether different concept. It defines ‘New Europeans’ as people who live in the EU and have connections with more than just the country where they live (whether this is another Member State, a European country outside the EU, or a non-European country); as opposed to ‘Old Europeans’ who are centered on their country of origin.

This sort of cross-border connectedness is very topical, if we consider for example cross-border migration, be it intra-European or on a global scale. ‘New Europeans’ are children of migrants, mixed couples, international students, retirement migrants or expatriates for example. At the same time, this connectedness is hard to study.

The survey breaks the respondents down into three distinct categories, the biggest of which consists of ‘Old Europeans’ (64%), or Europeans by ancestry. All of their parents and grandparents have been born in the same country, and have lived there for all of their lives. They have become EU citizens because their country of origin has become an EU member. Furthermore, they have no strong links to any other country (not studied abroad, not lived with a partner from another country, do not own property abroad).

The second category is labeled 'New Europeans by ancestry' (8%). They have a migrant background, that is, at least one parent or grandparent comes from a country other than the interviewee’s country of residence and not all of their four grandparents held citizenship of this country at birth.

Finally, 'New Europeans by openness' developed strong ties to a country other than their country of residence: either because they have worked or studied abroad, have a partner from another country, or because they own property abroad. They made an active step towards opening themselves to a foreign country (be it inside or outside the EU).

Identity and connectedness are fleeting concepts. In an effort to pin down ‘connectedness’, the survey examines four different factors: foreign family background, personal relationships, personal experience, and socio-cultural links.

Questions on the family background compared the respondents’ place of birth with the place of birth of their parents and grandparents, supplemented with the citizenship of their grandparents at birth. According to the survey, such a migrant background is more widespread among young, higher educated citizens of large towns. In the cross-EU comparison (see Map) Luxembourg, followed by Austria, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have the highest percentage of mixed family backgrounds. Estonia and Latvia equally have a very high share of mixed-origins, in their case correlating with their Soviet past.




















Concerning personal relationships, Luxembourg stands out again. It has the highest ratio of respondents having close friends in another country, most of the surveyed citizens have family abroad and / or lived with a partner from a foreign country. The Irish, Swedes, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Maltese and Cypriotes also have friends or relatives coming from / living in a foreign country. What is more, Sweden stands out because it has the highest number of respondents who live(d) with a partner of a different nationality. On average, almost one in ten EU citizens (8%) has experienced this. Four in ten Europeans have close friends living in another country; more than one in four have close personal relationships (be it family or friends) from abroad, or living abroad. Again, young citizens with higher education stand out as the most likely to entertain such relations.

When examining personal experience abroad, the survey included respondents’ own experience of living in another country in the past because of work, education (12% stayed abroad for at least half an academic year) or owning property.

The survey gathers the most fleeting of all indicators for connectedness under ‘socio-cultural links’. They can take various forms, such as a preference for foreign cuisine, an interest in news, cultural life or sports of another country, spending leisure time abroad or having foreign language skills. For example, 36% of Europeans regularly eat food which is typical of another country; Eurobarometer found this to be the most common type of socio-cultural connectedness.

How likely do you think it is that you will move to another country within the next ten years, to live there?

A more radical form of connectedness moves citizens to move to another country: Latvian respondents are the most likely to move abroad (34%), followed by Lithuanians (24%), Luxemburger (20%), the Irish (18%), Danes and Swedes (each 17%). To the contrary, citizens of the Czech Republic (80%), Italy (76%), Cyprus (75%) and Hungary (74%) see themselves as ‘not at all likely’ to move abroad.

eurobarometer2.jpgMany Europeans like to spend their leisure time abroad (30%) and having personal relationships with a foreign country (friends 28% and/or close relatives 24%). Thus, half of us (51%) feel attachment to at least one foreign country in the EU (France, Italy and Spain each 8%), or outside (USA 5%). According to Eurobarometer this attachment is likely to simply reflect historical-cultural similarities (language) or geographical proximity.

What do these results show us? Across the board, a slow but steady increase in connectedness. The term ‘New Europeans’ has never been used before, and it remains to be seen whether it will carry on in academia. Furthermore, it would be interesting to link the results of different countries to their levels of euroscepticism: are citizens more skeptical because of a low level of connectedness to a foreign country, or, on the contrary, because of a high level of connectedness (migration)? Results could yield insightful policy implications, for national governments as well as the EU.


Source: Special Eurobarometer 346 - http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm

Since 1973 Eurobarometer regularly publishes surveys on behalf of the European Commission, reporting on public opinion of issues relating to the EU across member states. Eurobarometer surveys are confined to 27.500 respondents. Furthermore, only citizens aged fifteen or above are being interviewed. Especially for this survey this may have a limiting impact.


Source photo : Network community structure, par Nog 33, sur flickr