Is there a future for stateless nations?

Antonello Nasone reflects on the current crisis and a possible future

News / 28.8.18

A hundred years after the end of the First World War

Many national movements and stateless nations were born after the end of the Great War as veterans, those who had experienced the first “modern” war in the trenches, but also those who experienced from home the destructive effects of a war that had no precedent, intended to rebel against the slaughter and above all to question the political architecture of the time.

The birth of these movements, in all their diversity, was linked to a common idea: that a peaceful Europe could have been possible with the disintegration of the archaic ‘national-state’ model, and by giving new life to the communities of peoples. These old nation-states – a denomination frequently used by historians and political scientists – were, and are, a form of political architecture based on the hegemony of a certain ethnic group over all others on the territory of a given state.

This hegemony has reproduced itself by subordinating other ethnic groups to the hegemonic language, culture, and customs of the hegemonic group.

But what has changed for stateless nations since then? The answer to this question could be negative, especially after the European Union closed its eyes to the situation in Catalonia and political elites attempted to contain grassroots challenges to the old political order. A European community of peoples, as the fore-bearers of these movements had imagined it, has not yet been born. Today’s Europe is quite far from this vision.

Is a common objective possible for diverse social and political movements?

Our conference on “Ideas and protagonists of European independence movements” attempted to identify possible future perspectives for our diverse movements, but what emerged from our discussions is the reflection that while national movements of stateless nations are the result of specific historical circumstances, and hence are not politically homogeneous, but they are nevertheless united in their common objective: their self-determination.

Is it possible for self-governance to become a political category in itself within the European context? Can it transcend the right/left and conservative/progressive divisions upon which European politics is organised? The answer to this question is fraught with difficulties, since it often concerns meta-political values, individual and collective world views.

What is possible and necessary is the recognition that diverse cultures in Europe have characteristics that have matured over the centuries and that they are all worthy of equal dignity. We must detach ourselves from the forced homogenization and the suppression of minority cultures, which the European Union has followed.

The current crisis and a possible future

In the last five years the European crisis has become extreme with events like the Brexit and the Catalan question, but also with less known developments, which point to a dark and doubtful present. Despite a weak economy and widespread distrust in the European Union, the European institutions, continue to consider themselves as immune to criticism.

National and cultural movements of minorities and stateless nations fit into this debate, because in many ways they have a closer relationship to the needs of the communities.

In today’s uncertain times, as the speakers of the conference reiterated frequently, we should develop a common platform and rethink Europe, especially since traditional state-wide parties are going through a moment of enormous difficulty and incapable of gather electoral consensus on issues, which have made them protagonists for decades.

What our movements can contribute to this process is the deconstruction of the “old nation-states” as the most genuine form of governance and bringing democratic relationships with citizens, which the current structure of the European Union is no longer able to guarantee.

Antonello Nasone is a researcher at the Istituto Camillo Bellieni, curator of the Sesuja magazine, and Bureau member of the Coppieters Foundation.

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This conference is a joint initiative of the Istituto Camillo Bellieni and Coppieters Foundation.

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This conference is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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