This is an essay that Eco was asked to write some years back concerning how he viewed the current state of the European Union. Not surprising, it seemed kind of dated and irrelevant to me, for the most part. That said, there are still some interesting points that are worth considering.
Eco asserts that there is a noticeable movement toward a European identity as opposed to being identified by a particular nationality.
In the meantime, a European identity is growing more and more noticeable. Perhaps this identity is not evident when we Europeans visit another European country, because the visit triggers rather a perception of the differences—but differences are also perceived by a Milanese who goes to Palermo or by a Calabrian who visits Turin. The sense of identity prevails, however, when we come into contact with a non-European culture, American culture included: there are moments, during a conference, in an evening spent with friends from different countries, or even in the course of a tourist outing, in which we sense a common sentiment. The points of view, behavior, and tastes of a Frenchman, a Spaniard, or a German are more familiar to us than those of non-Europeans.
(Turning Back the Clock: pp. 38 – 39)
While I have not traveled extensively in Europe (so far I have visited England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Germany), I am inclined to agree with Eco. While I recognize the difference in cultures, the people all share a definite European-ness, for lack of a better word. In fact, I notice more differences between regional cultures in the United States. The differences between people in New York and Mississippi are stark, as are those between Mid-Westerners and residents of the Pacific Northwest. But that said, there is still a shared American identity, and this is similar to the shared European identity that Eco points out.
The other assertion that Eco makes which is interesting is his projection that American attention will shift from the Atlantic region to the Pacific as a result of the economic connection with Asian countries.
America’s attention will shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific, just as for years now the great centers of production and research have been moved to, or have arisen on, the Californian coast. Eventually New York will become an American Florence, still a center of fashion and culture but less and less a place where decisions are made.
(ibid: p. 41)
As much as I don’t want to accept this, I have to concede there is a bit of truth here. It certainly seems like there are currently more business and employment opportunities on the West Coast of the US. And if Eco’s prophesy is fulfilled, then this shift may have an economic impact on Europe.