Saturday 19 October 2019

Not one fragment of logic in a new broken-down Europe

Kevin Myers

Opinions vary on the question of independent Kosovo. My gut feeling is to dislike it. Europe is disintegrating into shapeless and powerless principalities, as managers of international soccer teams tear out their hair in frustration: one day Marzipania in the Urals, or the Marmite Republic somewhere in the Pyrenees the next, all to be faced in even more preliminary rounds in every competition.

And the EU is encouraging this fissiparousness, which means that it must be a bad thing (on the grounds that almost anything the EU does these days is a bad thing). It's clear why the EU likes lots of new states: because in the mass of little flags and the babble of competing tongues in Brussels, the circle of stars on the EU flag grows proportionately more powerful. So naturally, the EU is now effectively administering the new state of Kosovo, which is one of the poorest countries in the developed world, and which, being largely Islamic, is likely to remain one.

Now, I want to trade with mainland Europe, I want to visit its cities, I want Irish people to go and work there, and Europeans to come and work here. But I do not want automatic rights for entire populations to move. I simply don't. I think Germans should have the right to limit the number of Irish going to live in Germany, just as we should have the right to limit the numbers of Kosavars moving here. That's it. That's the way I feel: I believe in the old fashioned definition of a state as one which controls its borders. But the EU has defined itself as the guardian of the borders, and most member states -- being continental countries-- have surrendered control over population movements.

Yet even as Brussels extends its powers, fissures spread within boundaries. Today Kosovo, tomorrow Catalonia, Navarre, Galicia, Asturia, Andalucia, Valencia. Who knows what separatist passions linger within Piedmont in Italy, or the ancient and Norman and insular kingdom of Sicily; and who can speak of its strange Albanian-speaking minority, who might then want to secede from the secessionist island?

Belgium, a bumblebee of a country whose existence, like that of the apiarian denizen of our meadowlands, defies the laws of nature, by these standards is doomed. Walloons will look south to France, the Flemish north to Holland. But even these magnet states are themselves amalgams of identities. How long before the United Province of the Netherlands becomes disunited? What if Normandy, Brittany, the Vendee, Aquitaine and Languedoc discover they owe more allegiance

to their (largely mythic) forefathers than they do to France?

We are seeing that process at work in our neighbouring isle. Britain, one of the founders of the nation-state principle, is dividing into three separate countries, aided by Tony Blair's lunatic project to encourage devolution. There are now 7,000 foreigners serving in the British army: and they are probably taking the places of all the disgruntled, fried-Mars-bar-eating Scotsmen who have decided not to be British any more.

Bizarrely, Irish nationalists -- who argue so forcefully the logic of an island retaining its integrity and being naturally united -- invariably support Welsh and Scottish nationalists, which rather shows their hand a little. What they are, at bottom, are Anglophobes. Either way, Scotland is about to slink off into a hundred-year sulk, and effectively vanish from the pages of world history: though it will, like other inconsequential territories, still be a member of the EU. No doubt it will invent a language, and create fresh grammars to distinguish its Lallans from English, rather as the Serbs and Croats are doing to their largely common tongue, while the Czechs and Slovaks are dismantling areas of commonality between their separate languages.

Now of course, there is no logic to nationalism: it is in one sense a group silliness, a submission to illogical and often contradictory beliefs. This was splendidly exemplified some years ago, when hurlers offered to play a charity game to raise money for the all-Ireland hockey team going to the Olympics. The GAA thought for half a second or so, and then forbade the hurlers from participating, because the hockey team would not be playing under the tricolour, nor would Amhran na bhFiann be played. So the GAA officials didn't actually just want a united Ireland, but a triumph of their symbols as well. Which -- since they were supposedly courting the unionists -- was hardly a technique likely to result in pelvic consummation.

And if today, the unionists said to Bertie Ahern, yes, well, we've looked at things in the UK, and they're not too hot, and to be truthful, no-one really wants us there, but you say you do, so what about this? If you abandon all this dreary folderol over the 1916 Rising -- which we find loathsome and bloody and pagan -- we'll agree to a united Ireland. Would Fianna Fail say Yes? The illogic of petty nationalism would probably insist on a resounding No!

kmyers@independent.ie

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