Millions of people look to ‘Europe’ with hope. Despite developments to the contrary, they see ‘Europe’ as offering them protection from war and persecution. Every day, the people who cross our militarised borders reinforce the fact that that the perspective of another future for Europe remains open. ‘Europe’ also includes the millions who welcome the people arriving on this continent in search of refuge. In welcoming refugees, people in Europe were and are calling for a caring and democratic way of life, and are making a political stand against an individualised competitive society and ‘post-democracy’. Furthermore, ‘Europe’ also includes opponents of the view that there is no alternative to austerity and its authoritarian regime of governance, as well as campaigners for housing, health and education, a healthy environment and guaranteed social and labour rights for all. This Europe, however, is currently being overlooked due to the polarisation between the authoritarian ruling power bloc and increasing levels of radical right-wing populism, the latter radicalising itself as we can see in the Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD). We need to make this ‘third pole’ within Europe more visible and politically effective.
Europe is not something that exists beyond the horizon, nor is it merely a possibility. In fact, many people are already experiencing the reality of ‘real- existing’ Europe. The EU’s institutions and politicians have systematically impoverished entire societies, and they have eroded parliamentary democracy and organised and reinstated the outward isolation of the EU. Moreover, even if its internal conflicts and the variable geography of European processes were to be resolved, Europe still does not seem to be in particularly good shape. For many people, ‘Europe’ has become synonymous with impoverishment and reductions to social and democratic rights. It is therefore clear that Europe does not represent hope for everyone: it also stands for less democracy, fewer social rights and more neoliberalism.
The summer of migration has deepened the political fissures in the European power bloc, and the UK referendum has produced further mistrust. New and variable alliances are emerging; European countries are forming new groupings depending on the issue at hand, and diverse institutional arrangements continue to exist (Schengen, the Eurogroup and the EU etc.). Moreover, they are becoming increasingly fragile. At the same time, a situation has developed in which political camps are divided throughout the entire continent along the lines of certain European questions: ‘What do you think about the EU and the people seeking refuge?’ The European member states, respectively the governments, follow different lines in this regard – with some governments openly rejecting European decisions. These are not the only questions
that are currently causing a rift among diverse political camps, and they are also creating strange new connections. So what does this actually mean?
Europe’s political development, it is claimed, is characterised by a single trend: the choice between right-wing populist isolationism and authoritarian neoliberalism. This trend is said to require nothing less than a transnational response and to mean that the left will have to rely on internationalism in order to be well positioned against the new right-wing populist International. But is this really the case?
In general, we do need to be open to rapid societal shifts. The European crisis is far from being solved, and dramatic twists are continually taking place: the coup against the Greek government last summer, the reaction to the summer of migration and the establishment of strong radical right-wing parties in many European countries and in the European Parliament. But against expectations, events showing resistance and democratic renewal and reorganisation are also occurring, and these range from the social democratic winds blowing through Britain to the anti-austerity government in Portugal, the welcome refugee initiatives remaining in place, the protests in France, the municipalist movements and government from Barcelona to Naples etc. These developments are further expressions of the ‘real democracy’ movements of 2011. It seems the ‘third pole’ is still active.
There is no point in deluding ourselves; what will happen in the future is still unclear. Although the inhumane closure of the Balkan route has reduced the domestic pressure on the German government, the deal with Turkey can and probably will unfold with explosive force. Moreover, the Brexit debate is fuelling tendencies towards EU disintegration, and the Catalan independence movement is revealing a crisis within the Spanish state and its role within the authoritarian European austerity regime. As this paper will show, the neoliberal ‘Hegemony project’ and its migration and border regime has entered into crisis. It unclear as to which direction it will be redirected towards; into a closed Euro-nationalistic authoritarian regime with militarised borders and no respect for human rights, or into a more (neo) liberal model of selective migration and minimum human rights (but also with militarised borders), into further fragmentation of the European Union or into a democratic re-foundation of Europe.
This study gives us the theoretical instruments and methods to understand these processes and reveals the process that led to the actual migration and border regime and its crisis.
Head of the Institute for Critical Social Analysis Berlin, November 2017