Thursday, 9 August 2012

Dutch historian on Europe: Nationalism makes democracy possible

"You cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state"
Václav Klaus

The Dutch historian and lawyer Thierry Baudet has written a thought-provoking article about empire and nationalism in Europe. Baudet´s case for nation states and nationalism instead of Brussels empire is rather convincing: 

Partisans of the European project invariably argue that nationalism leads to war and while the development of Europe will safeguard peace – a noble objective that is more than sufficient compensation for any loss in democracy, sovereignty and transparency caused by Brussels. However, this theory is fundamentally flawed.
Nationalism does not lead to war. Attempts to build European empires lead to war. The urge to impose a straitjacket on the will of peoples will leads to war. In short, the European project will lead to war.
Fascism and Nazism were both focused on the creation of Europe. As early as 1933, Mussolini declared that Europe could once again exert its power in the world if it succeeded in establishing a certain political unity.
Oppression exerted by a centralised regime is a source of tension, and one of the major lessons of the First World War was the “principle of self-determination” – most notably promoted by Woodrow Wilson, who advocated respect for different nationalities, arguing that they should not be dissolved and integrated in larger entities.
If we look further back in history, once again we see that it was not “nationalism” but imperialism and the desire to unify Europe that led to wars. Take for example the Napoleonic Wars. For the well-being of Europe, Napoleon wanted the same principles to apply throughout the continent: a European law, a high court of European justice, a common currency, the same units of measurement, the same laws, and so on. Napoleon expected that thereafter Europe would rapidly become a single united nation.
The idea that nationalism leads to war while European unification promotes peace is therefore false. And let’s not forget that Europe has not been at “peace” over the last 50 years. During most of that period, the countries of Europe were engaged in a fight to the death with the Soviet Union, which was once again the expression of yet another anti-national philosophy – in this case communism. As the Communist Manifesto insisted, “Working men have no country.”
As you might expect, today’s attempt to bring about political unity in Europe is a major source of tensions. The political landscape in virtually every country in Europe has now been marked by the emergence of increasingly powerful parties that are opposed to the established order.

Nationalism makes democracy possible

Distrust of the South is increasingly prevalent in Northern Europe, and vice-versa. Here again, it is not nationalism but the European project which is the source of the conflict. It follows that we should seek to create a Europe that is radically different to the current EU.
What we need is a Europe without a central regime: a Europe comprised of nation states, which are not afraid of national differences, and willing to cooperate with each other. The authority of nation states over their own borders should be restored, so that they themselves can decide who they want to allow in their territory.
In the service of their economic interest, they should opt for flexible visa regimes, which will nonetheless allow them to keep control of crime and immigration. We will also have to dissolve the euro to give nation states some monetary breathing space so that they can once again set their own interest rates in response to local conditions. Finally, we will have to get rid of harmonisation which undermines diversity.
Far from being a source of conflict, nationalism is the force that makes democracy possible. Without this unifying force, parliaments would be unable to take legitimate decisions. As the example of Belgium has shown, a lack of national unity can make the administration of a country extremely difficult. The irrational fear of nationalism could ultimately result in the establishment of a restrictive empire in Brussels. The time has come to call a halt and restore the nation state.
Read the entire article here

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