The concept of a single-market economy in the European Community will bring many changes to its participating nations, a British diplomat said Friday, but it will not rob countries of their cultural identities.
Ray Mingay, British consul general stationed in Chicago, told a small audience in the Kansas Union that one does not have to look past Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales the four countries that constitute the United Kingdom to see that national culture can withstand a common leadership.
"The four nations have maintained a cultural identity that is very real," he said. "The durability of a sense of who you are and of your cultural tradition is very strong indeed. It can endure a very considerable amount of change . . . but the core sense of the culture remains."
MINGAY WAS speaking on the effects the European Community may have on culture in the United Kingdom. The European Community, or EC, is moving to establish a single-market economy among its member nations by Jan. 1, 1993. The member nations are Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The EC's economic uniformity will be the catalyst for the greatest influence for cultural change, he said. Mingay illustrated his point by saying people with skills ranging from a bricklayer to a doctor would be allowed to freely move from one member nation to another to practice their trade.
"I suggest it will be the movement of people, particularly the movement of professionals and possibly the substantial movement of students, which will be the biggest direct driver of cultural change as a result of the creation of the European Community," he said.
GREAT BRITAIN'S role in moving toward the realization of the EC may have picked up after Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister last month and was replaced by fellow Conservative John Major.
"If there is a perception that it will help, and if fellow member states feel it will help, then that has to be positive," Mingay said. "The change in leadership was immediately related to a style of approach to Europe. I think the new prime minister has made it clear that the UK will be participating positively, and it will be negotiating positively."
But as Great Britain's leadership has changed, and each day brings the EC closer to reality, Mingay said that certain cultural aspects of each member nation, such as its language, sense of history and form of government, would remain the same.
"Cultural change must be put in perspective," he said. "It's not the end of the world, and it's not the end of a people."