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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 47 | volume IX | March-April, 2006



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 47March-April, 2006
Essays

Reconstructing Europeanism?

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p. 1
Aleš Debeljak

    More than ten years after the Velvet Revolutions and the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, however, it has become clear that unquestioned coordination between “European” symbolic, moral, political, and social values, on one hand, and “European” capitalism, on the other, is no longer tenable. A Pandora’s box was opened after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it cannot be closed up again. As the eastern part of the continent witnesses the rise of fanatic nationalism and the birth of many new countries based on old (though not always discernible) ethnic traditions, Western Europe turns a blind eye to the return of a suppressed history, convinced that the “spring of nations” was something that happened long ago. It seems that the painful history of nineteenth century—the unification of the German Länder, the stitching together of the Italian provinces (“We have Italy, now we need Italians!” Massimo D’Azeglio notoriously exclaimed), and the brutal ethnic homogenization carried out by the French state—is nowadays completely forgotten. If these past nationalist movements had more clearly been integrated into the symbolic horizon of Europe, perhaps today one would not so easily get the impression that, whereas nationalism in the bigger countries is legitimate, nationalism in the new, smaller countries inevitably sets off alarm bells. In order for European integration to begin, it was imperative that the nationalist history of Western Europe be suppressed. Thus, erstwhile nationalistic countries have become enthusiastic Europeans under the cover of economic prosperity and a consensus on the inevitable progress of the “common market.” It was precisely in an effort to facilitate this progress, that Winston Churchill, in a famous speech at Zurich University in 1946, based the reconstruction of the European family on a prospective partnership between France and Germany.
    France and Germany—which together represent the leading force for European integration today and, indeed, have a great deal invested in the existence of a strong Europe (although for different reasons)—have more or less buried their nationalist animosities by facing the demons of their own totalitarian history (the Vichy regime, the Third Reich). While their visions of the E.U.’s future structure may differ, based as they are on the countries’ specific histories (the French republican tradition of a strong state and the German development of constitutional checks designed to preclude the possibility of another Holocaust), we nevertheless can discern a common denominator in all their essential European efforts, namely, the nationalism of a


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