Fortress Europe in Africa: EU’s silence on Ceuta and Melilla

By Rick Terpstra

While the hotspots of the so-called migration crisis in the EU can be found in the south-east of the continent, thousands of migrants are jumping the fences of Europe’s only territorial border with Africa in the Spanish cities Ceuta and Melilla in the north of Morocco. And the EU? They seem to stand back while the Spanish Guardia Civil violently govern the border territory without restrictions.

Viva España, boza, boza!” Hundreds of African migrants storm the fences of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast shouting out their popular war cry. It gives them hope, it gives them power, and there is faith that God will help them in their first, second or even tenth attempt in reaching the Spanish territory. Hoping they will manage to climb the high fence, wishing that the Spanish border police do not literally kick them back to Moroccan territory. Continue reading “Fortress Europe in Africa: EU’s silence on Ceuta and Melilla”

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“They just have a different culture!” Disguised racism in right-wing rhetoric of the 21st century

 

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PEGIDA march in Dresden

 Sabine Volk

In spring 2016, the German nationalist movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) founded a coalition together with nationalist and xenophobic movements and parties from other European countries. Their alliance, the so-called Fortress Europe (read also “Patriotic Europeans United in Fortress Europe”), poses a theoretical paradox: how is it possible that nationalist groups work together at a European level?

Historical analysis shows that transnational collaboration between right groups is not a new phenomenon. First, one might think of the (attempts of) collaboration by the fascist parties from various European countries in the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays, a visible manifestation of right-wing collaboration consists in coalition-building in the European Parliament (EP). Fortress Europe is thus yet another example of how even nationalists can unite at supranational level. What ideology binds the contemporary right-wing groups together?

At first sight, blunt Islamophobia is the common ground for right-wing transnational collaboration in contemporary Europe. The fear of “Muslim invasion” was not only eponymous for the German Pegida movement, but is expressed in all their publications and at their demos.

What’s more, right-wing groups constantly evoke a mystic common ancestry of all Europeans. When Fortress Europe speaks of the “European peoples” with their “common European roots, traditions and values,” their discourse strikingly reminds of the writings by the French right-wing intellectual Alain De Benoist. De Benoist is regarded as the founding father of an ideology called ethno-pluralism.

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Alain De Benoist

 

According to ethno-pluralism, the world is separated in distinct cultural communities. These communities are pictured as internally homogeneous and externally closed, impermeable territorial entities. The mixing of members originating from different cultural communities is perceived as a threat for cultural tradition, purity, and identity. Therefore, differences between the incommensurable cultural communities should rather be maintained.

Officially, ethno-pluralist thinkers reject the idea of a hierarchy between different cultures, but claim them to be of equal worth. In Fortress Europe’s rhetoric, however, “European culture” is clearly depicted as superior, especially vis-à-vis “Muslim culture” (“Scharia paradises”). This depiction is not really surprising. In 2003 already, researcher Alberto Spektorowski criticized ethno-pluralism for promoting a form of European cultural nationalism.

It does not seem far-fetched to establish that in ethno-pluralism, an essential and fundamentalist understanding of culture replaces the race category used in the older fascist discourse. The aim of introducing the cultural category remains the same as in traditional racist thinking: the strict exclusion and degradation of a certain group of people. It is apparent that ethno-pluralism serves the European New Right as a mere disguise for racism. One should thus be aware that although the rhetoric of contemporary right-wing groups may lack overtly racist vocabulary, their ideas remain the same.

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The Euroculturer Recommends:

For more Muslims in Europe, read Julia Mason’s wonderful discussion of the Burkini ban here

For more on right-wing extremist groups, read Eric Hartshorne’s excellent dissection of extremist groups here

If you want to learn more about European identity politics, read about the EU Ireland-Apple tax ruling and its effect on Irish politics here

 

Patriotic Europeans United in Fortress Europe

Sabine Volk

On February 6, 2016, people demonstrated all over Europe. In cities as diverse as Dresden, Prague, Warsaw, Bratislava, Krakow, Copenhagen, Dublin, Graz, Tartu, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Montpellier, and Bordeaux, up to 9,000 people held banners in the air declaring ‘Nein zur Einwanderung – Stoppt die Merkelisierung,’ or ‘Non au grand remplacement, Non au changement de peuple, Nous sommes le peuple.’ On April 9, 300 people participated in a blockade of a part of the Czech-German border. On May 16, 2,500 people gathered in Dresden with a similar message. All three events were organized by a recent political movement, the so-called Fortress Europe. The movement’s spokesperson advocated the demos on her webpage with the following words:

“[It’s] about identity, appreciation and mutual forgiveness for everything that ever separated us, the European peoples. This event shall be the starting point for real cohesion, for a European sense of community and a strong, European esprit de corps – to fight together as united Europeans for the preservation of our continent.”

Reading this statement, a student of Euroculture gets alerted. Fortress Europe apparently seeks to strengthen a collective European identity; a concept that is usually considered a possible solution to the current challenges in the process of European integration. Yet, Fortress Europe is an openly xenophobic and EU-skeptic movement. EU-skeptics that aim at the creation of European identity? It’s definitely time to have a closer look at Fortress Europe.

Origins in Dresden 

Fortress Europe was initiated and is still dominated by the German political movement Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida). Pegida emerged in October 2014. At that time, citizens of Dresden in East Germany created a Facebook group for discussing public protests against the municipality’s plans for the construction of a new home for asylum seekers. Since then, Pegida has been organizing weekly demonstrations against an alleged Muslim invasion and for the preservation of vague and unspecified Western values. In the beginning, Pegida was very successful, attracting up to 25,000 demonstrators in January 2015 and 20,000 participants at their first anniversary in October 2015. Currently around 3,000 people participate in Pegida’s demonstrations every Monday.

Europeanization and Transnational Cooperation

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Pegida’s “patriotic Europeans” have always claimed to be a pan-European movement. The foundation of Fortress Europe can thus be regarded as the solidification of Europeanization within the movement. In the process, direct offshoots of Pegida were founded (e.g. Legida, the Pegida group in the German city of Leipzig, Pegida Austria, or Pegida Netherlands). On the other hand, ties with separate but like-minded political groups were also established across Europe.

Finally, on January 23, 2016, Fortress Europe was founded with the solemn signature of the so-called Prague Declaration. The manifesto was signed by 20 representatives of ten anti-Islam groups and parties from nine European countries, namely the Czech Blok proti islámu (Bloc Against Islam), the Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia), the Italian Lega Nord, the Slovakian Odvaha (Courage), Pegida Austria, Pegida Bulgaria, Pegida Germany, Pegida Netherlands, the Polish Ruch Narodowy (National Movement) and the Czech Úsvit – Národní Koalice (Dawn – National Coalition).

European Identity Constructed by Pegida and Its European Allies 

Fortress Europe is named after the famous metaphor of Europe becoming a fortress through the closing of external borders. Not surprisingly, the restriction of immigration is among the alliance’s primary goals. Fortress Europe regards immigrants to Europe, and those of the Islamic faith in particular, as a threat to European culture and values. Consequently, it depicts the EU and its institutions that advocate a certain Willkommenskultur as illegitimate.

In turn, Fortress Europe presents itself as the legitimate representative of the “true,” patriotic Europeans. In the Prague Declaration, the parties claim to “not surrender Europe to our enemies,” but to “stand up and oppose political, extreme Islamic regimes, and their European collaborators.” The movement apparently aims to construct an alternative European identity – i.e. an illiberal identity that excludes immigrants. Fortress Europe’s extreme political positions, especially its clearly pronounced xenophobia and Islamophobia, give reason to assume this sense of community primarily builds upon the supposed ethnic and cultural ties between the European peoples.

Fortress Europe in the Making?

Will Fortress Europe succeed in establishing a fortress through the closing of borders? So far, their demos have not attracted a significant number of participants. Yet, their ideas and attitudes seem to have spread and become more mainstream in European societies. How can the construction of Fortress Europe be stopped? First, one has to show that cultures are permeable social systems that have always benefitted from mixing processes. Then, it must be clarified that a Muslim refugee is not first and foremost a follower of Islam, but a human being who enjoys equal human rights as every European citizen. Hopefully Europeans will understand that the so-called migrant crisis (isn’t it rather a migrant protection crisis?) bears more opportunities than risks to European culture, values and identity.

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