No Union without Nations

An answer to M. Ferghane Azihari

, by Guillaume Bucherer

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

No Union without Nations
In front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, flags of the Nation-States fly in the wind - Emiliano

« Construire l’Europe, c’est déconstruire les nations ». Guillaume Bucherer n’est pas de cet avis et répond par le présent article à un article de Ferghane Azihari, opposant l’Europe fédérale au fait national.

One must salute the courage of Mr. Ferghane Azihari, who in a November 8th article in Le Taurillon titled Europe: A denationalization project for the best, declared: “Constructing Europe means deconstructing the nations” The article proposes a bold point of view: the European federal project has to be rational, but European nations are founded on irrationality; therefore, in order to create a truly federal Europe, we should make nations disappear.

Such an opinion is daring but, it is no less dangerous for pro-European positions . Such a proposition, which some describe as extremist (it calls for the destruction of nation-states, after all) will pit the people against the idea of a European Union and will pose difficulty for the proponents of a federal, democratic and subsidiary Europe.

Nations Are Indispensable to the Union

“National activities are incompatible with the European project..” But who signed the founding treaties that gave birth to the EU? If the Union asks its nations “Who made you duke?” they will answer “Who made you king?” Nations are not eternal, certainly, but their disappearance has always been the result of military defeat or natural disasters. Go tell the people that their “irrational” nation is incompatible with the European project and they will make a quick decision.

The third partition of Poland, the annexation of Zaporozhian Ukraine or the creation of the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire destroyed the state structures and humiliated the nations. Today, the nations rushed to the European model. Why? Because besides bringing prosperity, this model fundamentally respects the nations and their institutional expression: the States.W hatever the level of integration of the European civil society, it will remain founded on the nations of which it is composed. History is dotted with examples of empires who tried to crush the system of nations. Empires disappeared while nations live on. The European revolution is precisely the construction of an empire hand in hand with the nations (The Council), the people (The Parliament) and the general interest of the Union (the Commission). Achieving success as such is an arduous task, but it is possible if we remember that each part of the triptych is essential to the others.

“Europe will never be a nation,” otherwise we will inevitably reignite the tragic epoch of nationalism. If the EU is not a nation, it will be a federation, but borders will be an imperative. This notion seems to scare Mr. Ferghane Azihari, who sees in it a resurgence of nationalism and thus necessarily xenophobia. But the only way to define ourselves is to compare with the Other. When we are afraid to exclude people, we do not define ourselves and tit is a terrible mistake: when people don’t know who they are, they either suffer from amnesia or schizophrenia . Would the EU then be the only entity in the world not able to define itself? We might as well say that such an identity crisis would not prompt any new membership. Who would adhere to a ghost? Defining oneself means choosing… and excluding… but at least it means existing.

The European Union is not only a rational project, and that’s for the best!

Here, it is about “constitutional patriotism” where notions such as “democracy,” “rule of law” and “human rights” would be the common values which Mr. Ferghane Azihari thinks are universal. Again, we must understand that these values are artificial: they are the product of millennia of civilization and the Europeans are attached to them. But to believe for a moment that these will suffice in conquering the hearts of millions reveals a “touching naiveté". It is tantamount to denying the crucial part of symbols, traditions, history – in short, culture – which requires more than the sole “reason” or “rationality.” If we remove the irrationality of a human being, we reduce him, we deny him. When we build a political project, we actually become ourselves irrational. We get out of the Human field. A commitment to the Union will come through symbols, strong actions and our history. It will also come through prosperity, without which the project is meaningless. It’s not the States that should change, but rather the mentalities of the EU citizens, those who will feel proud in front of the English and European flags floating together on the basis of our military, scientific and economic successes.

Empires and nations can and must coexist

The nation would be an irrational construction and we should go beyond it in order to keep only Reason, which is the driving force behind the European project. However, the nation is precisely the product of reason, admittedly primitive, which emancipates a territory and its people from the political trusteeship of an entity considered as external-. The nation is the product, historically parallel and consubstantial, of the creation of a State. It is everything except an ideology – it is the pure “Reason of State.” Reason is what prevents us from going to a higher degree of European integration.

Even when it transformed into an empire, Rome prospered by keeping and guarding the gods, the institutions and the rights of the peoples it conquered. The durability of Roman institutions is the result of a subtle equilibrium between the Empire and its nations. As commendable as the imperial concept was, however, Rome ended up putting the Romani at the same level of importance as other peoples such as the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Bulgarians and the Franks. The emperor, origin of all honors , distributed the title of “rex” to all the leaders who, notably after Constantine, bowed themselves to Roman might. So was born the first imperial world, which rested on a foundation of “nationhood.” Today, Nations are the bearers/carriers of this new kind of peaceful Empire. . The imperial concept only dies from the absence of vision and ideals: notions that are not only sustained/rooted/based on reason, for reason stifles idealism.

But the proponents of a closer Europe are idealists. And that is a good thing. Considering the State as “vulgar instruments” and the nations as “runts” is not enough to demonstrate the uselessness of an entity that paradoxically gave birth to human rights and the state of law, values which would only have a link with the EU. And saying the contrary would be like not grasping the meaning of flags, armies and sport teams.

With such a stand Mr Ferghane Azihariyou will pit all the peoples against their civilization. When you ask to make a choice between Europe and nations, you oppose the “part” to the “whole”, the component to the structure, daughter “culture” to her mother “civilization”. Europe is nations; nations are Europe. You try to divide what is one.

Nations will not destroy the European project based on reason and institutions alone… a dull, insignificant Europe, terribly empty with so little humanity. Such a project will die of its own doing. Indeed, an organism needs a brain, but it also needs a heart. For you, Mr Azihari, hearts do not have a place in the European project. And the nations to which these last few clung? They must disappear. We would be left with a Europe that is a sufficient intellectual hypothesis of which we can discuss in forums but that is inconsistent for the people. Not a single word about the unity of civilization, the only one able to transcend our cultural differences. Not a single word about our borders, our symbols, nor our common destiny. Destroying the nations? This would be destroying the project of a unified Europe.

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