Skip to content
CityLab
Government

Defining European Identity in a Divided Europe

A new museum, the House of European History, highlights the tensions between national identities and transnational belonging.
A visitor attends the inauguration of the House of European History in Brussels
A visitor attends the inauguration of the House of European History in BrusselsEric Vidal/Reuters

A fun map from 2014 suggests 20 different ways to divide Europe based on cultural habits and traditions. There is butter Europe and olive oil Europe; tea Europe and coffee Europe; tomato Europe and potato Europe. But, as the Brexit referendum highlighted, the biggest current division in Europe is the one between its cosmopolitan and national identities.

On May 6th, the European Parliament opened the House of European History in Brussels. This museum will dig into the topic of European identity, a concept that predates the European Union itself. A permanent exhibition—in all 24 of the EU’s official languages—shows the timeline of European history beginning with the 19th century, leading visitors through the events of the 20th century and ending with a search for a better, united Europe after the World Wars.