Referring to a nation that joins the political entity of a state to the cultural entity of a nation, the Nation State has been understood since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and has been seen as a defining feature of modernity.
It, therefore, begs the question as to whether regionalism, the practice in which the central control of the state is taken beyond the Nation State is the new face of modernity. Many types of regionalism exist, such as the Arab League, the African Union, ASEAN, yet none have proven to be as ‘successful’ as the European Union. Whilst other forms of regionalism focus more upon economic integration, the EU has an ambition to expand politically. What was once consider the fundamental duties of a sovereign state, have been gradually replaced with this concept of ‘community’ powers. Yet, the rise of nationalist parties across Europe and demands from European countries keen to reclaim control over their laws, have shown that regional cooperation beyond economics is a failing concept.
Beginning as a union to promote peace across Europe, the EU has transformed itself beyond what any country could have imagined. Countries that reinstated their independence after the fall of the USSR soon had their nation taken over by bureaucrats in Brussels. Under regionalism, the Nation State is fading. The government is no longer the key decider in policy making for their country, instead, they must discuss changes with people who have never lived in their country or experienced their culture. Countries differences are no longer celebrated but are being ignored. After all, if you share a continent, under regionalism you must have the same policies about how your taxes are spent, where you would like to trade and what laws you should enforce. To be part of this region, you must give up your borders and allow people with no skills to work within your country, whilst those outside this specialised club have to wait.
Nevertheless, despite what many may think our attitude towards regionalism is changing. Since 2007, trust in the European Union has declined, and those parties dedicated to reinstating the Nation State have grown stronger. This support is not limited to those of a certain generation, but those people that see their differences as important. President Juncker stated that an ever closer union is the ambition of the EU. However, since this statement was made the EU has witnessed the loss of its key member- the United Kingdom and a significant rise in Eurosceptic parties across Europe. In September 2016, the Eurosceptic AFD in Germany has gained representation in ten of the 16 German state parliaments, and within hours of the Brexit result, both French and Dutch Eurosceptic parties cried for their own referendums. When asked if this was the death of the European Union, President Juncker simply stated “No”.
Regionalism is not a concept that works with our understanding of a Nation State; instead, it forces countries with opposing ideological, cultural and historical backgrounds to work under one government. As the EU has become more integrated, more nations are crying out to be heard, and as a result members are rebelling. These are the same countries that have fought for their independence, and whose people have fought to be heard. The EU has failed to listen to the people it claims to represent, and with many stating it is the most ‘successful’ form of regionalism, it has become apparent that the concept is failing.
Sophie Feary is an Intern at the Bow Group