The European Union’s (EU) mission to promote its idea of European-ness across the continent led to its eastern enlargements and later the Eastern Partnership of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Along the way, this mission encountered competing norms and regional integration efforts shaped by sociocultural and historical ties connecting state, society and territory. These ties inform the barriers to Europeanisation and the backsliding from EU-managed policy reforms. They can illuminate where the EU’s self-image and constructed European identity do not reflect perspectives abroad or those of EU member countries. Such inconsistencies in the EU-constructed identity that shaped related policy mechanisms prevented sustainable regional transformation and integration. Further policy integration and future EU enlargement remain strong possibilities, as does the risk of basing the next generation of policy mechanisms on a distorted image of the EU and its capacity to transform. In this article, I apply a novel critical theory perspective on the entwined processes of de- and reterritorialisation to this context, and argue that this perspective clarifies and informs the EU’s aim to transform and unite Europe.
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