The Return of Borders
Borders are back! After 60 years of peace in Europe and the gradual abolition of its internal borders, Europe is now experiencing the full force of the backlash. National borders are once again being heralded as the essential panacea for the multiple crises which have shaken Europe right down to the depths of its foundations.
The following poem was originally published as a chapter of Krzystof Czyżewski’s book 'The Path of the Borderland' published in bilingual English-Polish edition by Sitka Center for Art & Ecology (USA) and Borderland Foundation (Poland).
Despite the recent proliferation of strategies and instruments, a common European approach is lacking in response to the arrival of refugees on an almost unprecedented scale. But what responses are being prescribed by Greens who hold office in places heavily affected by these developments? Didem Akbaş asked Franziska Brantner, a member of the German Bundestag, how Greens there view the issue and what paths they are suggesting, or already taking, towards a humane response in line with Green principles.
The right to asylum is not a numbers game, it is a human right. In their handling of the arrival of refugees, Europe’s leaders should be guided by this simple fact, rather than shifting the responsibility to others outside, or on the fringes of, Europe. Yet they must also honestly acknowledge that integration is a long and difficult process. If we are to weather the serious challenges confronting us in this new phase of European construction, we will need not only patience but also imagination.
National borders are a reality - and for most people, they are something that is taken for granted and indeed necessary. But are they really the normal state of affairs? A critical and historical approach suggests this is in fact a very recent development. By recognising this, we can start to open our minds to imagine new ways of including 'Others' within our own borders. A radical futuristic plan for a borderless Europe.
The approach of European states to the surrounding waters has so far been inscribed in a logic of colonisation and conquering new territories in the name of national interest. Today, national borders criss-cross the ocean, carving it up in the same way as the land. But with globalisation giving rise to new ways of thinking beyond traditional approaches to territorial sovereignty, we should start to view the ocean in a new light – as both a common good and a nation in its own right.
Europe promotes migration and mobility but new or 'different' Europeans are still stigmatised and marginalised in our societies. Today, neither refugee status nor citizenship can tear down the mental borders between people who inhabit the same cities or neighbourhoods. Sociology professor Nira Yuval-Davis writes about the meaning of borders, and how they make us differentiate between 'us' and 'the other' in our daily lives. (Note: This text is an edited compilation of Professor Nira Yuval-Davis' answers to questions by the Green European Journal.)
Not only has the political Left in Europe failed to take the lead on how to handle the refugee question with humanity, but it appears to have given up on trying to put forward a positive picture of migration as a social reality that can be a progressive influence in society. Despite the fact that we have seen how showing political courage in this direction can change the tone of the debate and change mind-sets, the Left panders to the unfounded fears of those who believe in the illusory solution of closed borders.
Over the past year, Europe, besides the economic crisis, has had to face another big challenge: the largest refugee flow since the Second World War. As a result, the concept of borders has been revived across Europe. Displacement on this scale, cannot simply be stopped at the borders. In this interview, Antonis Galanopoulos asks Anna Triandafyllidou about the crisis and how the EU can find solutions.
Confronted with the obscene images that have been reaching us ever since the influx of refugees entered new dimensions in the summer 2015, we may wonder: why is it that Germany behaves with much more dignity and efficiency than France, let alone the UK or Hungary?
The borders that criss-cross our maps, and the notions of national unity that they connote, belie the fact that within and across these neatly delineated units there are communities whose very existence is a challenge to this territorial division. The case of the Roma people, spread throughout Europe and beyond, is an apt illustration of this.
The idea of Europe becomes much more than simply an idea when people, overcoming the uncertainty – if not outright hostility – of states, act according to borderless solidarity. A historical perspective can show us cases where this has occured, such as a little-known series of events from the period after World War One, when various European countries offered refuge to thousands of undernourished children from Vienna who were exposed to illness and disease. We can identify a common link between these events and our times; for example in the work Italian civil society is undertaking for refugees by experimenting with innovative types of borderless solidarity.
When we imagine a "green utopia", an ideal world to live in, one thing is certain - that such a place is free of oppressive and restricting borders. The irrationality of borders is illustrated by nature itself, in which all elements are interlinked to form a circle of constant movement; it knows no boundaries made by people. Yet the idea that the social world might one day leave behind the human borders remains a utopian dream.
Professor Bronisław Geremek was a Father Figure to Europe. He carried his dream of a free Poland in a re-united Europe from the Gdansk shipyards to the Polish national assembly and then Foreign Ministry. As a Member of the European Parliament, he dedicated his mandate to "make Europe and Europeans" a daily reality. In December 2007, on the occasion of the accession to the Schengen area of nine of the ten new members states of the 2004 EU-enlargement, Geremek was invited to deliver a speech in Luxembourg to celebrate this historical moment. This is the written text from which he spoke.