Jürgen Habermas on immigration in Europe

An interesting article, translated into English, by Jürgen Habermas on the problem exercising Europe these days (cf. Belgium’s current anti-immigration moves spearheaded by the resurgence of their old Flemish fascist party). Thanks for the invaluable work signandsight are doing in offering English translations of such useful pieces. Below the opening paragraphs; the whole essay can be read here:

Opening up Fortress Europe

As a student, I often looked from the other side of the Rhine over here to the seat of the four high commissioners. Today I enter the Petersberg for the first time. The historic surroundings recall the deep roots that the old Bundesrepublik sank into the Rhine and Ruhr landscapes. I was always proud of a homeland characterised by a civil spirit, a certain Rhine-Prussian distance from Berlin, an openness to the West and the liberal influence of republican France. From here, the Bundesrepublik achieved its goal of sovereignty only in conjunction with the political unification of Europe; we only achieved national unity within the European framework.The genius loci invites us to consider the irritating fact that this benedictory European dynamic is flagging today.

In many countries, the return of the nation-state has caused an introverted mood; the theme of Europe has been devalued, the national agenda has taken priority. In our talk-shows, grandfathers and grandchildren hug each other, swelling with feel-good patriotism. The security of undamaged national roots should make a population that’s been pampered by the welfare state “compatible with the future” in the competive global environment. This rhetoric fits with the current state of global politics which have lost all their inhibitions in social darwinistic terms.

Now we Europe alarmists are being instructed that an intensification of European institutions is neither necessary nor possible. It is being claimed that the drive behind European unification has vanished and for good reason, since the objectives of peace between the European peoples and the creation of a common market have been met. In addition, the ongoing rivalries between nation states are said to demonstrate the impossibility of a political collectivisation that extends beyond national boundaries. I hold both objections for wrong. Allow me to name the most urgent and potentially risky problems that will remain unsolved if we stay stuck along the way to a Europe that is politically capable of action and bound in a democratic constitutional framework.

The first problem, which has long since been identified, is a result of this half-heartedness: the European member states have lost democratic substance as a result of European unification. Decisions, ever greater in number and importance, are being made in Brussels and simply “applied” at home through national law. The entire process takes place beyond the political public of the member states, even though European citizens can only place their votes here – there is no European public space. This democratic deficit can be explained by Europe’s lack of an internal political constitution. The next problem is European’s inability to present themselves to the world as one.

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