The European Union is a political union comprising 28 countries. Europe is a continent which contains about fifty countries. The two are not the same. The Swiss, Norwegians, Belarusians and Ukrainians are no less European than the Germans, French, and Poles. Being in favour of increasing the EU’s power does not make one pro-European, nor does one become anti-European by opposing the EU. For the same reason, the term “Euro-sceptic” is quite misleading.
It is perfectly consistent for a strong proponent of Europe to be an opponent of the EU. Indeed, a strong case can be made that the EU, in its efforts to unite, centralise, and homogenise its member states, runs counter to the history and culture of Europe. Europe has always been a fractured, diverse, and heterogenous continent that has never come close to being poltically unified.
Any genuine attempts at a European Empire (Napoleon’s and Hitler’s conquests come to mind) have been short-lived and unsuccessful. Although there have been various long-lived Empires based in Europe, these were either empires in name only (e.g. the Holy Roman Empire), confined to moderate size, or not genuinely European empires. The Roman Empire was originally based in Europe, but it was really a Mediterranean empire. The Spanish, French, Dutch, and British Empires were likewise based in Europe, but almost all of their territory was spread over the other continents.
Given the huge success that Europe has enjoyed while being such a fractured and divided continent, it seems rather presumptuous to assume that unification and harmonisation are obviously desirable. Indeed I would argue that it is the high degree of decentralisation prevailing in Europe, in particular during the zenith of European greatness and dominance from the 18th to the early 20th century, which made Europe so successful. The vigorous competition with their rivals and neighbours kept European powers on their toes and forced them into constant innovation.
If we want to make Europe great again, maybe we need to stop thinking of Europe as a unitary whole. We need to stop rooting out regional and national differences and we need to embrace diversity of ideas, political systems, and cultures. Divided we stand, united we fall.