Decade of nationalism ahead?

Let’s tally up all the ways Europe is reversing gains made by decades of painful integration efforts:

  • Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia election clearly put German interests in front of European ones, and its vehement resentment towards Greek bail-out signals the country wants to come out of its WWII political backroom and function as a normal country.
  • The Dutch electorate had a clear preference for more right-winged talk this time around. Two of the three top parties ran on platforms that 1) railed against the EU bureaucracy, 2) railed against (real or imagined) Islamic threats in the country.
  • Belgians took it one step further than anyone else. Previously the golden child that saw itself the trailblazer in multiculturalism, the original mini-EU is now tearing itself apart at the seam.  The Flemish party which ran on a separatist platform won the election.  Although rumours have it that De Wever might very well let the Francophone Socialists run the country for a while, just so they can be the ones that nail the Belgian coffin shut for good.  In the meantime, this kind of stuff is happening.
  • Ring-winged and nationalist parties have always existed on the fringe, but the economic crisis, along with flagrant abuses/misuses of power in Brussels are now ruffling more mainstream feathers than usual.  It’s not just France and Switzerland that have the occasional flair-ups, eastern European countries like Hungary have also entered a period of nationalistic radicalism.

Nationalism can stand alone in a sea of otherwise indifference.  But when closely clustered countries start to one-up each other, we get into trouble.  A decade ago, Europe could’ve pointed to Turkey’s nationalistic turn and snickered.  Nowadays, the pot can’t call the kettle black without sounding like a hypocrite. After all, in 2010, what could be more European?

[W]hat we will see emerging in Turkey is not an Islamist foreign policy but a much more nationalist, defiant, independent, self-confident and self-centered strategic orientation in Ankara. Because of similarities between the French and Turkish political tradition, I think it helps to think of this new Turkish sense of self-confidence, nationalism, grandeur and frustration with traditional partners such as America, Europe and Israel as “Turkish Gaullism.” One should not underestimate the emergence of such a new Turkey that transcends the Islamic-secular divide because both the Kemalist neo-nationalist (ulusalcı) foreign policy and the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) neo-Ottomanism — the ideal of regional influence — share the traits of Turkish Gaullism.

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