Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 January 2014
The prospect of l'Europe des régions, which appears to promise a simultaneous migration of power outward to a wider federal Europe and downward to the devolved regions — both goals to be achieved at the expense of the presently constituted national governments — has raised expectations in the periphery as well as concern in the established centers. The question of national identity is suddenly on the agenda and has evoked a response throughout the countries of Europe: an attempt to define a specifically European identity to accompany the little maroon passports carried by its citizens has also caused confusion in capital cities and thrown out a challenge to the peripheral nations and regions. In some respects such areas might already have arrived at the destination, for, unlike the English or the French, the Scots and the Welsh have for centuries sustained an identity without the protective buttressing of a state of their own. The Welsh, in particular, have survived despite the lack of a separate legal and educational system and a recent history that has witnessed massive immigration and integrationist pressures. A series of traditional identities of and for the Welsh has suddenly been rendered as redundant as a coal miner. The Welsh, nevertheless, are, in their contrasts and diversity, yma o hyd— “still here,” in the words of a popular song. It might be that there are pointers in the Welsh experience of national identity of how to move beyond the confines of that debate itself, a debate only just beginning among the English.
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