This paper related to ANR-DFG Imageun contract takes place during the Deutscher Kongress für Geographie 2023 conference, in the « Critical political geographies of Europe and the EU » session animated by Veit Bachmann (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt) & Antoine Laporte (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon)
The EU is a producer of multiple semantic and spatial shape of Europe in the geopolitical imaginaries. By producing a discourse (in the Treaty or through its institutions like the Commision with in the texts produced by the EEAS for the ENP – (Beauguitte et al., 2015), the EU promote values that it is supposed to embody and that every state pretending to the statue of possible member or neighbour is suppose to be close or is considered to (Kelly, 2004 ; Manners, 2002).
For instance in the current Treaty, the EU define itself with values: “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”, etc. . These values play a role in the conditionality leading to the debate about the normative power (or imperialist power (Jones & Clark, 2008) of the EU on its neighbourhood. But beyond the value, the EU is also a set of area for the application of different dimensions of the transnational cooperation beyond states, relatively to different set of sectorial policy. For instance, the Schengen area, the Eurozone, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) are possible geometries representing Europe. Our approach assumes that the imaginaries supporting regional integration are based on a combination of spatial and semantic representations.
Paradoxically, the neighbourhood policy and the multiplication of EU territorialities blur the limits of the EU in terms of space and in terms of semantics (Christiansen et al. 2000). What dimension of these definition of Europe are currently dominant in the representations of EU citizens or inhabitant of its neighbourhood? Is it a definition by values (ethical dimension)? Or is it a definition through practices, the concrete belonging to existing territorialities?
In a perspective of popular geopolitics, we propose an approach through the analysis of social representations based on the result of an international survey conduced on 2031 students located in 5 countries (France, Germany, Ireland, Turkey and Tunisia). The questionnaire was designed in order to collect materials to investigate the representations about the macroregion of belonging of the students, in order to investigate the overarching questions about the “spatial and semantic shape of Europe”, using a methodology combining open ended questions and mental maps (Montello, 2014 ; Didelon & all., 2011). What are the conceptual framework used to describe Europe in students representations? Which area are related to these semantic definitions (EU, Eurozone, wider Europe, etc.)?
Normative discourse|European borders|Mental maps|Social representations