Does Europe have a common culture?

European culture ministers and hundreds of artists and writers from the EU’s 25 member states have gathered in Paris this week for a major summit on European culture. French President Jacques Chirac inaugurated the summit. Chirac used the spotlight to present a stirring defense of the European Constitution, which the French will vote on in a referendum later this month. (How lucky for us Greeks that we ratified the European Constitution without even getting involved.) One of the major debates of the summit is bound to be whether there is a common European culture and what its defining features are. If there is such a thing, one is obliged to acknowledge that European values form part of a common Christian tradition, a continuation of the Greco-Roman world. This has been the consistent stance of the Vatican and particularly of the new pope, Benedict XVI. Such an outlook automatically excludes Turkey and several Balkan states, and even the Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe, from a common European culture. Perhaps the most realistic, if not the most optimistic, outlook would be to relinquish the concept of a common European culture – be it the equivalent or rival to a US-influenced «globalized culture» – and to accept the fact that each country has its own identity.