I’ve actually read David Abulafia’s book, quite interesting. Which doesn’t make him an oracle on European issues, as his opinion piece clearly shows, as he tends to make a merry mishmash of big and small issues, to prove his point. If you dig deep enough, each country has lots of aspects which make it unique – even the newly formed ones, like the USA, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Italy or Israel. But then, each region has aspects which make it different from every other region within the same country – including its own language and history, like Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Sardinia, Corsica, South Tyrol, Catalunya – just to name a few off the top of my head. Some of them want to secede, while other ones are happy within a larger nation. You can argue about it ’till the cows come home, but I choose to believe that our glass is half full: each nation has more points in common with the rest of Europe than divisive elements. If we consider every regional and national peculiarity a reason to claim superiority and demand privileges, we stumble into a minefield of extremism and nationalism – of the sort which, as Abulafia should well know as a historian, evolved into the toxic -isms of the 1920-30s: fascism, nazism with, at the other end, the no less toxic communism.
If you walk down Piccadilly in London you will see one European flag — on the Maltese High Commission — whereas on the continent it seems to be everywhere: at prime ministerial press conferences, on public buildings and on car number plates.