By Steve York*
Open borders without restrictive controls have been a catalyst and created a rise in Right Wing nationalism with the rebirth of a nation-state mentality where xenophobia is institutionalized. Uncontrolled migrant gateways especially in Italy and Greece have created tension among European Union (EU) member states. In response, EU states have placed restrictions on border crossings testing the limits of the Schengen Agreement for open and free borders flows. These new restrictions on the open borders are biased and are based on a political discourse of hate.
The historic rise of the Right is founded upon a minority ideological political movement blaming the weakness of liberal democratic governance and the resulting economic uncertainty on ethnic minorities. The Right uses patriotic themed imagery to stereotype national identity as an ‘us’ against ‘them’ conflict portraying a migrant ethnic personality against a neo-national citizen. The Right uses this new identity to express dissatisfaction against globalism and international institutions. The Right’s manifestation of fear of ethnic change creates an antagonistic environment where protectionism is the policy, the minorities are the scapegoats, and violence is the consequence.
Anti-Migrant policy and politics create exclusions on the freedom of movement and directly affect the survival of Schengen where restrictions cause institutional racism. New nationalist policies of border management are based upon xenophobia and a national self-interest that uses hate or racism which is a mismanagement of the terms under Schengen agreements. Reckless state behavior fails to uphold the terms of Schengen while increased costs associated with time and productivity losses are passed on to consumers. Moreover, independently applied border controls are a leading cause of a decline in economic productivity in the EU. Discriminatory types of laws do nothing to encourage a diverse and globalized EU. These types of laws create a homogenous identity and create a myopic view of sovereignty. The whole idea of the EU was to create a shared and common border to become competitive against large economic forces like the United States. This creation of the EU was an In group and all nations had to meet certain standards to become a part this new institution.
The rise of Right Wing nationalism can be identified in some groups found in Austria (Austrian Freedom Party), France (National Front), Netherlands (Party for Freedom), Greece (Golden Dawn), or in Germany (Alternative for Deutschland Party) to name a few. Groups blame the economic problems on a crisis of a liberal democracy viewing the broken system as the institutions associated with linked economies, growing national debts, and unsustainable welfare systems. Groups use the immigrant as a cultural and economic threat to the nation. Groups also use multiculturalism and European integration as reason for protectionism. Groups use the negative imagery of race and religion creating a fear of ethnic minorities. The crisis of liberalism is seen as a rise in Right Wing nationalism and is based upon a loss of trust in the intuitions that govern a global civil society.
The Right creates the identity in the group as a social base to form a commonality for members. This affiliation is used as a social construct for nation building. This forms a self-deterministic ethnocentric personality of the minority Group. The rule of the minority over the governance of the majority. The trend moves away from globalism and the collective good of the EU. The failure of government and its role to provide stability and sovereignty allows the voice of hatred and emotions of fear to blossom. The rise in nationalism in the EU is really the use of fear, emotions, and images for a racist minority influence over the liberal-minded majority. The idea of the Right is to use a loss of identity to create a need for a growth in the Right Wing. As the world globalizes, the changing dynamics of the labor markets and the rising unemployment rates across Europe are the catalyst for this movement. The Right uses the perception of inequalities to create a new world order using the emotions of anger and fear to promote global threats. This is classic out group hostility as defined in Social identity Theory. Feeling and emotions are used by the Right to create isolationism and withdrawal in the name of nationalism. The Right challenges the global community and becomes a threat to international institutions. NATO and the UN will lose power as will the illusion of freedoms with a new nationalism. The Right-Wing movement seems to be driven by fear of globalization.
In addition, the huge growth in migrant populations after the Color Revolutions and Arab Spring can be used by hate politicians as a way of weakening the strong political bonds of current political leaders. Political leaders can use immigrants for both positive and negative political purposes. Immigrants are potential voters and can be added to a political base once they achieve citizenship. On the negative side, politicians can demonize migrants as criminals distracting people from other more serious problems like unemployment or rising inflation.
While the Schengen Agreement provided a common legal and financial system for shared security, an unequal minority/majority relationship among member states encourages institutionalized xenophobia. For instance, new laws are ethnocentric and discriminatory. Racist laws force oppressive assimilation, using an adopt-and-embrace culture technique. The French passed a law in 2010 prohibiting the burqa in public. The Swiss, who guarantee freedom of religion, have banned the construction of minarets used by Muslims in their call to prayer. Denmark and Sweden do border spot-checks profiling migrants. While in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz Party recently closed borders to asylum seekers as a political statement designed to help win a recent election in April (BBC 2018). The ethnocentric actions are in violation of the UNHRC, an institution responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
Psychology alone cannot adequately explain the behaviors of Right Wing nationalism without including the economic reality of globalization. Theory alone can only explain the symptoms of the changing economic landscape of the EU. Psychology in a way explains the negative side of the rise in nationalism. Some European nations have strong economies and low unemployment yet fear the huge growth of migrants from the Syrian conflict. This is a fear the Right uses to create a new reality.
The Right blames the growing migrant population for the financial crisis. When members join the EU they become economically dependent on each other. When strong and weak economies combine, the result was the European financial crisis arising from unsustainable debt levels and default fears from the nations of Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. European financial institutions held this debt, so any default would threaten the stability of the European financial industry and the common currency of the Euro. The financial fix in 2009 also included Anti-Migration Policies that reinforced institutionalized bias, including the use of proxy governance – limiting visas for migrants using the European Financial Stability Fund and other Stability Mechanisms based upon racial quotas. Limiting visas was an illusionary fix and the cause of significant institutional xenophobia and scapegoating.
The primary goal of future work is to identity ways to manage the use of fear as a political instrument. Members of the EU could create globalized legislation like a Common Asylum System where members are able to reinstate an open and free border program. The goal would be to foster cooperation among national police and customs authorities. States could manage the borders jointly and have a shared administrative and fiscal system of controls. This system can manage the flow of asylum seekers concentrating on areas where existing controls have failed. Moreover, a common system can focus resources on First-Entry Border Control Points and a Willing-Member States Program (WMSP). A further responsibility of the WMSP is a jobs training program that could help migrants adjust to new condition. In the end, what is needed most is a subtle, agile, and empathetic system of governance that knows how to fuse psychological fears and financial instability into a system of common prosperity and societal understanding. If leadership across the EU cannot do this or is unwilling to engage it, then the hate-mongers will only increase.
About the author:
*Steve York has a long and distinguished career serving his country and managing global security problems. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Global Security in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy