At the crossroads of cultural geography and political geography (more specifically critical geopolitics) issues of identity, meaning and representation have increasingly been addressed. Similarly, the importance of culture and the construction of identities are increasingly being addressed in International Relations and European Studies. These literatures seek to understand both Merrell Sandal the ways cultural identities inform geopolitical choices and the ways geopolitical processes shape identities. A considerable part of this literature deals with Europe and the EU. The meaning of 'Europe' in this context is a much debated issue, as are European identities and borders.
Next to immigration and globalization the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which ended the imposed post-World War II division of Europe, was one of the main challenges to established geographical imaginations of 'Europe.' Twenty years later, the transition to liberal democracy and (neoliberal) capitalism is advanced in many Central and Eastern European countries alongside accession to NATO and the EU. This reunification of Europe and the EU-accession process brought about the renegotiation of national and other territorial identities, especially (but not only) in the former state-socialist countries.
Two dimensions of the (re)construction of 'Europe' are crucial in this context. The first is the horizontal dimension of the construction of the borders of Europe and inclusion and exclusion processes at its borderlands. In the past European identity was constructed with reference to several significant 'Others,' namely the Ottoman Empire, Russia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, while the European project can also be conceived of as defined against its own past as Merrell Boots a significant 'Other'. The reunification of Western and Eastern Europe through the integration of the latter into the EU is full of contradictions, as it continues to reproduce Central and Eastern European countries as 'less European' and the new EU-members challenge established European identities. Alternative representations of the 'old continent' have also been proposed by US foreign policy makers, especially the division between 'old' and 'new' Europe introduced by Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 to discredit French and German opposition to the US invasion in Iraq and to underline the importance of the new NATO members in the US led "Coalition of the Willing".
The second axis is the vertical dimension of the construction of a European scale of governance and identification and its relations to existing scales of territorial identities and governments. In this case the significant Other is national identity. Such representations of 'Europe' contribute not only to the creation of a European identity that competes with or complements existing national, regional and local identities, but also to the conceptualization of territorial identities as hierarchical and nested, and of national identities as exclusive and hegemonic. In this paper the Construction of Europe is explored by analysing debates about reform of its main political institution: the EU. The need for an agreement over institutional reforms and debates surrounding such political decision-making processes are an important context in which visions of 'Europe' are constructed. They are important events which generate new questions and ideas and help shape new visions of 'Europe'.