In recent years the moral authority of the European Union (EU) has been frequently called into question. Today it is the coalition of Italian political parties, who are about to form a government, who are critical of the behaviour of the EU. Matteo Salvini, head of one of these parties, the League has indicated that he is not prepared to be a ‘slave of Brussels’. Similar sentiments have been expressed throughout the European continent. In response to the criticism that it faces, the leaders of the EU have responded by launching a Kulturkampf against its opponents.

The most prominent focus of the Culture War in Europe is the issue of sovereignty and whether or not the nation should be valued or disparaged. However, it is not just the authority and status of the nation and of national borders that are under question: so is the authority of parents, the role of the family and of religion. The globalist and anti-traditionalist outlook, that pervades the institutions of the EU, regards the historical legacy of western civilisation as both out-dated and in need of modernisation. Their federalist inclinations have inspired a veritable crusade against political movements and parties who refuse to accept the EU’s globalist outlook.

The globalist outlook, that pervades the institutions of the EU, regards the historical legacy of western civilisation as out-dated

Ideological supporters of the EU oligarchy have no inhibition about lashing out political movements and parties who possess an attachment to their national traditions and values. Such movements and people are frequently denounced as xenophobes, homophobes and racist. In their vocabulary, populism has become a term of insult to be hurled at those who dare question the EU’s policies. The word populism is deployed a term of condemnation of people who are portrayed as morally inferior. Populists and Eurosceptics – that is people who call into question the policies or the authority of the institutions of the EU are not regarded as political adversaries but as enemies that need to be crushed.

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For example, in a speech delivered to a Berlin audience in November 2010, Herman van Rompuy, the then president of the EU Council Council argued that ‘Euroscepticism leads to war’ and concluded his statement with the rallying cry, ‘we have to fight the danger of the new Euroscepticism’ . The claim that euroscepticism represented an incitement to war was linked to the assertion that such an outlook inevitably encouraged the revival of aggressive nationalism. In this speech van Rompuy castigated nationalism as dangerous and repudiated the idea of national sovereignty as a ‘lie’.

During the past decade the EU leaders have launched a veritable Holy War against populism and its affirmation of national sensibilities. Leaders of the EU, such as Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, appear to believe that the fight against populism is akin to a religious obligation to wage a Holy War.  When he declares that ‘we have to fight nationalism’ and ‘block the avenue of populism’ he frequently evokes memories associated with the good fight against fascism.

One of the distinct feature of the EU’s Holy War against populism is the aggressive tone it adopts towards its critics. The British social anthropologist, Maryon Macdonald, who conducted interviews with EU operatives in Brussels noted that there were serious limits to the kind of criticisms that could be raised with them. Any critique of substance of the EU courted being condemned as by definition, right-wing extremist. She wrote that;

‘Since the 1970s especially, it has become increasingly difficult in Europe to criticize the EU without appearing to be some lunatic right-wing fascist, racist or nationalist, the one often eliding with the other, or simply the parochial idiot of Little Britain’.[i]

The histrionic tone adopted by the EU oligarchy is a expression of the fragility of the normative foundation on which this institution rests

The hostile reaction of Juncker to Eurosceptics today indicates that Macdonald’s observations published in 2005 is if anything even more pertinent for understanding the dynamics of the European Kulturkampf. It is essential to point out, that the unrestrained anti-populist rhetoric of EU operatives is symptomatic of their defensiveness and insecurity. The histrionic tone adopted by supporters of the cultural outlook of the EU oligarchy is a sublimated expression of the fragility of the normative foundation on which this institution rests.

Since the end of Second World War, the supporters of the European federalism have always been concerned about the weak normative foundation on which their project rested.. Aware of the legitimacy deficit of the EU, the leaders of this institution have become insecure and defensive about openly acknowledging the weak foundation of its authority. That is why they have adopted such an aggressive and hostile tone towards their critics. It is also why they regard the loyalty and attachment of European people to their different nations as a problem to be eliminated.

Targeting borders

For the EU oligarchy, mass migration into Europe is welcomed because it indirectly serves to support its crusade against the nation. It is important to note that one of the reasons why immigration to Europe has been encouraged by the EU bureaucracy, is because of its transformative effect on national cultures. The opening of borders devalues the privileged status of a citizen, which in turn weakens people’s pride and sense of  national affiliation and serves to denationalise public life.

One of the reasons why immigration to Europe has been encouraged by the EU bureaucracy, is because of its transformative effect on national cultures

The advocacy of immigration as an instrument of social engineering was clearly outlined by Juncker, when he declared that ‘borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians’. He coupled his condemnation of borders with a call to support migrants. The purpose of Juncker’s comment wasn’t simply about showing solidarity with migrants. His criticism of borders communicated his hostility towards the idea of the sovereignty of the nation and those who support it. ‘We have to fight against nationalism’, he said, ‘[and] block the avenue of populists’.

Juncker’s animosity towards borders is far more inspired by a loathing of the nation state than by a love of migrants. The EU immigration policy that emerged under his presidency has focused on depriving European nations of their right to determine their own approach to immigration. It involves imposing quotas on member states and depriving national governments of the authority to control the flow of migrants into their society. It is about diluting the sovereignty of the nation state.

Juncker’s animosity towards borders is far more inspired by a loathing of the nation state than by a love of migrants

The EU’s contempt for national borders is closely linked to its attempt to transform diversity into this institution’s fundamental value. Diversity and multi-culturalism  are promoted on the ground that a society open to immigration is likely to benefit from the mixing of cultures and ideas. There is an important truth in the claim that the interaction between cultures and ideas can have positive benefits for society. However, matters are entirely different when diversity is transformed into a standalone medium for change. In such circumstances, it can become a political weapon that is used to bypass the aspiration of the public and ultimately of the decision making role of citizens.

For Juncker, weakening national borders is beneficial because it serves his project of European federalism. From this perspective, diversity serves the antidote to nationalism. More specifically, diversity, which encourages the proliferation of identities, works towards the decomposition of the authority of the nation. Its principal accomplishment is what Brussels calls the Europeanisation of national identity. The Europeanisation of national identity is designed to distance people from their national affiliation, The goal of this project is de-nationalisation of political identity.

The EU bureaucracy has actively promoted the politics of identity. However, it is worth noting that the EU’s celebration of identity politics does not extend to people who express themselves through their national affiliations. Minorities, regions, genders, races and religions are continually encouraged to promote their identities. The only exception to this rule is that of national identity. This is the only identity which has no place in the EU’s diversity propaganda.

Minorities, regions, genders, races and religions are continually encouraged to promote their identities. The only exception to this rule is that of national identity

In the EU,the value of diversity does not extend to upholding the ideals associated with the affirmation of the diversity of nations. On the contrary the value of diversity is often explicitly weaponised to corrode national identity. Diversity is acceptable- as long as it not linked to the sensibility of nationhood. According to the EU’s playbook- every form of diversity is ok- other than the diversity of nations. And of course those of us who still possess a semblance of national sensibility will be denounced as unreconstructed populists.

The use of migration as a tool to weaken national sovereignty is wholly destructive, provoking cultural confusion and uncertainty

The transformation of diversity into an anti-national instrument for social engineering should make all Europeans wary of the rhetoric that surrounds the debate on the status of borders and nationhood today. The use of migration as a tool to weaken national sovereignty is wholly destructive, provoking cultural confusion and uncertainty.

Of course, it is possible to mount an enlightened argument for freedom of movement of people. But such an argument must also uphold national sovereignty, and recognise the status of the prevailing national culture. It must affirm the privileged status of citizenship and recognises that they and they alone have the authority to decide their nation’s policy on migration.

The EU’s disregard for the special status of national institutions and the distinct way of life of a nation is an invitation to a permanent war of culture . Borders are necessary not mainly to control people’s movements but because they mark out the space within which citizens can exercise their democratic rights. Democracy must have a territorial foundation otherwise the relationship between citizens and their representative ceases to have meaning. The stakes in this Culture War over the question of borders and national sovereignty are high, for ultimately it is about who gets to decide our future.

Sovereignty is deeply rooted in Europe’s history and constitutes one of its most important values. It is those who uphold this value who embody the spirit of Europe and not the technocratic oligarch that runs the institutions of the EU.

[i] ‘EU policy and destiny: A challenge for anthropology Guest editorial by Maryon McDonald’.,Anthropology Today, vol. 21, issue 1, February 2005, p.4.


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Frank Furedi
Soy profesor emérito de sociología en la University of Kent en Canterbury, Inglaterra y profesor visitante del Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction del University College London. También soy divulgador y autor de más de 20 libros. Durante los últimos 20 años he estudiado  los desarrollos culturales que influyen en la construcción de la conciencia del riesgo contemporáneo. Mi investigación se ha orientado hacia la forma en que la cultura actual gestiona el riesgo y la incertidumbre. He publicado muchos artículos sobre controversias relacionadas con la salud, la crianza de los hijos, el terrorismo y las nuevas tecnologías. Mis dos libros, The Culture of Fear y Paranoid Parenting, investigaron la interacción entre la conciencia del riesgo y las percepciones del miedo, las relaciones de confianza y el capital social en la sociedad contemporánea. Mis estudios sobre el problema del miedo se han desarrollado en paralelo con mi exploración de la autoridad cultural en Authority, A Sociological History (Cambridge University Press 2013). También he publicado un estudio sobre la Primera Guerra Mundial: The First World War Still No End In Sight, que interpreta este evento como precursor de las Guerras Culturales de hoy. Y acabo de terminar mi último estudio, Populism And The Culture Wars In Europe: the conflict of values between Hungary and the EU. Participo regularmente en radio y televisión y he publicado artículos para AEON, The American Interest New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Independent on Sunday, India Today, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Toronto Globe and Mail, The Christian Science Monitor, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Spiked-online, The Times Literary Supplement, Harvard Business Review, Die Welt y Die Zeit entre otros.