A new morning…is the weather changing?

Chapter 1: Latest Rumours

Good:Certainly, Europe has NO FRONTIERS or BORDERS; perhaps boundaries, because in essence and in geography it is a continent.

Bad:  However, the European Union does have borders because:
a. it is a polity and even though in the making is meant to be committed to the liberal democratic principles;
b. it inherited the state borders of countries who recently or not-so-recently joined the Union.

Don’t know:
  I hope the European Union has no frontiers in the sense of a line dividing the conquered from the as yet unconquered lands (e.g., Indian Frontier in the 18th century America). Had Europe had such frontiers, by now new films would have appeared, featuring Western yellow-and-blue cowboys fighting Easterners to a
loud soundtrack of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Chapter 2: Dissemination towards No Borders

In recent years, the issue of borders has been arisen to the public, especially through debates around border control and migration. Not necessarily having a fortunate approach, these debates ignored or sometimes superficially touched upon political science debates on borders, and generally upon the broad legal-political contexts that enforce or weaken borders. In the following paragraphs I outline briefly the theoretical arguments that underpin borders, and bring in some general issues of justice which might fit into place a different sort of rhetoric on borders from the already familiar one in mass media.

Photo by Tell_1_vision. Courtesy the artists

The concept of the border is a political one. In political theory, borders cannot be dissociated from governance. Ironically however, no political theory confers to borders more than an instrumental grounding as opposed to a moral one. For instance, the existence of a border between Poland and Ukraine may be a bad thing, however because Poland and Ukraine are two separate sovereign states having different governments, the border between the two countries marks where the jurisdiction of the first ends and of the second starts.  The border between Ukraine and Poland is bad, but what could one do about it?
 To start with, one could look into the theories of liberal democracy and nationalism, the two frameworks which largely inspired the legal order of our times. Liberal theorists of democracy define democracy as a method of making collective decisions, which in fact often translates as: a) all affected individuals should participate; and b) collective decision making means that no decision should be taken if the majority does not consent to it. The trouble is that in order to work, this theory presumes an already defined group of individuals. In fact, this means that a boundary between those who are within the democratic body and those who are outside needs to be drawn. How were then these boundaries drawn?

Rumour 1: Before erecting police stations and schools, the Liberal Democrat lands somewhere, gathers the men who own property, puts their property together and defines it as the TERRITORY, and whoever falls inside the fences is part of the democratic body and must follow the rules. If he does not, he can leave.

Rumour 2: A Republican fellow, good mate with the first, lands in France during the 1789 Revolution. Oops! Times are difficult and those who own land are the bad guys. So he decides to stay on the safe side and join the side of the many, but the many are just French living in France. Therefore, his new democratic body gets to be called LE PEUPLE and later or NATION. If you are not French from France, sorry…find yourself another polity in which to live!

Rumour 3: The Germans hear what French people did, so they decide to take the French idea of LE PEUPLE and turn it into DAS VOLK. So blood tests are done all around the empire and only those whose blood type is G-erman are selected for the finals. It is only after the finalists complete the Sturm und Drang course that they actually become members of the democratic body and get to be called an ETHNIC NATION.

Perhaps voluntaristic in the beginning, the association between democracy, territory and nationality remains largely fortuitous. At the end of the day, both the nationality and territory principles are non-voluntaristic which means they are undemocratic. None of us chose to be born in the country where we were born and no one was asked what nationality s/he would like to have.  
Despite all these, the French and German models of a nation gave the liberal democratic state a strong fundament. Nationalism gave the liberal state a well-defined homogenous community to govern, while liberal democracy became a method of collective decision-making for the nation. However, the Second World War and the Communist alternative of the Soviet Union put an end to the supportive friendship between nationalists and liberals. 
An interesting development which marked the legal divorce between nationalism and liberal democracy came after the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrined two rights which made borders more permeable by weakening the bond between the state and its citizens: the right to leave any country including his own (Art. 13(2)) and the right to change one’s nationality (Art. 15 (2)). Later on, while re-shelving poor old Kant, a great discovery was made. Halt! The guy actually sketched an incipient right to immigration within his cosmopolitan right!

I would say that by now, quite a lot of work to weaken borders has already been done by liberals. Moreover, as social and cosmopolitan liberals, they have already worked overtime to sketch a couple of principles of global justice. In addition, many Marxist theorists brought into the discussion pertinent issues which can only entail a global solution: poverty, gender inequalities etc. They also showed that the principle of equality, a basic principle of justice, is devoid of its moral value if it is not upheld globally.
While work is left to be done with Kant’s texts and some pressure to be put on the EU so that either its Constitution will include all Human Rights, and not only those deemed valuable for the Single Market or the European Court of Justice recognises the authority of the European Court of Human Rights, at this moment in time, one has enough arguments to build a strong case for weak borders and not necessarily for the EU only. However, an argument for no borders would require more than this. It would require transforming the opening of borders from a matter of virtue or charity into a duty. Instead of applauding Poland for opening up its border to Ukraine, it should be blameworthy if Romania closes its border to Moldavians.

Still lots to be done, but 1st January 2007 is certainly a new morning…Could the weather be changing though? 

This article was posted in Europe without frontiers and tagged .

Comments are closed.

^ top