Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is an American living in Paris, and he’s just published an op-ed about Europe, the nation-state, and the stateless European nations for the British magazine The Week. With a broad academic background, he has published a wide range of articles in prestigious publications, including Forbes, The Atlantic, First Things, Commentary Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Federalist, and Quartz, as his dossier on the “The Week” website points out.
It is not at all difficult to gather this whole idea of “regional nationalisms” is not at all to the author’s taste. That might have clouded his analytical ability to the point that he would end up writing what can only be defined as an accumulation of commonplace mistakes and obviously erroneous preconceptions.
We could start with the image chosen to accompany his “thoughts,” showing a Europe guiding its citizens into the abyss. We’ll never tire of repeating this: it is not Europe leading its citizens to the abyss, but rather those who refuse to allow Europe to become a “United States of Europe” with a real parliament and government, chosen by the citiznes, to work for them without having to depend on governors or the bureaucratic structures of these antiquated “nation-states.”
He is wrong when he says these stateless nations in Europe want to become nation-states. No. What they want is to become nations with state. That is, nations who have the ability to set their own destiny.
Unfortunately, nation-states have been, and are, something else. They are political structures created, usually without the backing of their citizens, by forgetting or indeed trampling the cultures that make it up (by force) to come under their power, finishing off any and all who stand up to that march.
It would be a good idea for him to go over, even if just a bit, how the Jacobin France he lives in, apparently quite comfortably, was created; how the “Parisian revolutionary intelligence” decided that it had to turn the kingdom into a republic in the likeness of Paris; how they lost the opportunity to respect people as citizens and turn them, with fire and blood, into “citizens of Paris,” wherever they lived.
Another bit of history it would be a good idea to look over before discussing “nationalist fads” in Europe. We can imagine what this individual would write if he were watching the struggle for the independence of the Republic of Ireland, or if he had lived through the US Revolutionary War. Perhaps he would have been one of the Loyalists, calling the Founding Fathers and pro-independence soldiers “criminals.”
Catalonia, Scotland, the Basque Country, and other stateless nations still to be found in Europe have survived despite the intense (and even genocidal) pressure nation-states have put them under. Despite the pressure those governments have pushed on this nations to give up, or lose, their culture, their history, their language, their laws, and their customs, in benefit of the occupiers, this has still not happened.
It is true that the idea of Europe was born to finish off nationalisms, but not with those of the Basques, the Scots, the Corsicans, or the Catalans. It was born to contain and control the French, Prussian, Spanish, Italian, etc. nationalisms. That is, it was born to control those expansionist and conquering nationalisms that wanted to make Europe, and the world, their domain.
The idea of a united Europe started to become a reality at the end of the Second World War, thanks to people like Lehendakari Jose Antonio de Aguirre, and it is the consequence of a lot of hard work by idealists from the 1920s that the idea of a Europe of the Peoples was born as the only democratic option that was respectful towards individual freedoms and the rights of European nationalities.
It was also born at a time when the nation-states of Europe were in an extremely weak state with almost non-existant political organizations That would explain how they were able to take those first steps.
One thing Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry got right is the idea he shares in this paragraph:
And if competencies are simultaneously devolved down from the nation-state to regions, and up to the EU, nation-states will be hollowed out.
This is what has been known for years as the “Aguirre Doctrine,” in honor of the Lehendakari of the Basque Government. Nation-states, created as power-grabbing structures, denying any other reality that was not their own, and designed under the idea that “there can only remain one,” must disappear so that the citizens of Europe can recover all their individual and collective rights. And they must do so in benefit of both the natural national communities that existed before the nation-states beat them down and of a European democratic political structure that represents all Europeans and is in charge of governing common matters.
Mr. Gabry seems to be forgetting a fundamental thing: nation-states are not delegating or ceding anything. Rights and freedoms are owned by the citizens. Neverhteless, it is true that in the case of stateless nations, a significant part of those rights has been hijacked by the nation-states that conquered them.
Actually, this process, which is going to happen, will be nothing more than a “devolution” of those stolen and hijacked rights back to the citizens of those stateless nations.
The Week -1/10/2015 – Great Britain
The end of the European nation-state?
We live in anti-establishmentarian times. The biggest political sensations in the U.S. are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In the U.K., it’s the far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. France’s Marine Le Pen is riding high. But while Trump campaigns as a Republican to “Make America Great Again!”, in Europe this anti-establishmentarian fervor also takes the shape of independence movements in regional blocs. There was Scotland’s independence referendum which showed how out-of-touch European elites are, followed by the obliteration of Britain’s Unionist Labour Party in its former stronghold of Scotland by the Scottish National Party. And now in Spain’s region of Catalonia a pro-independence party has won a majority of seats in a regional election.