As a general rule, identities are only widely discussed when we think there might be something wrong with them, or some kind of identity crisis is apparent.
In the last decade or two, there have many conferences organized and books published on the subject of European identity, and so it is safe to assume that there are some perceived problems in this area. In an attempt to illuminate such problems, and even to provide some answers, we shall deal here with definitions: what exactly is collective identity? How does it work? What might a European identity consist of? And how might it compete with national identity? In this way some of the confusion surrounding this issue can be cleared away.