Nationalist Discourses in Europe beyond Euro-Skepticism and Isolationism

Dr. Mila Mikalay
Panel Code
Closed Panel

Nationalist discourses work by highlighting the specificity of a nation or an ethnos, as different from others. Historic, cultural, political or religious differences, emphasized in such discourses, are used for drawing lines between in-groups and out-groups, eventually justifying privileged access of the in-group to political institutions and to the processes of decision-making.

Nationalist parties, movements and public opinion have been particularly active and expanding across Europe, finding the level of support in elections and referenda previously deemed impossible. Discourses and practices on Europe predominant since the 1990s have been contested by nationalist discourses. Identitary and political choices, such as deeper Integration and open definitions of identity, have been increasingly politicized and questioned. The refugee crisis since 2015, the Brexit vote in 2016 and increasing political tensions in and over the post-Soviet space between the European Union and Russia are recent political outcomes of and occasions for questioning European identity, borders and regional order.

However, this contestation does not always lead to an outright rejection of Europe. Nationalist discourses are formulated in the context of high interdependence and embeddedness in regional institutional frameworks. When advocating for policies or political change, they need to offer a vision of Europe, international relations and European integration compatible with their focus on the in-group specificity and fundamental difference between the in- and the out-groups. This vision can manifest itself through isolationism and Euro-skepticism, but also through more nuanced arguments, such as laying claim to the “true” essence of regional or cultural units their country can participate in, such as “true Europe” or “true Christian civilization”. Thus, Europe can be a vehicle for nationalist parties’ ideas, across national borders.

Against this background, this panel examines the relationship between the inward-oriented perspective of nationalist discourses and its international dimension, in a comparative way. We propose a collection of papers analyzing domestic nationalist discourse in wider Europe to uncover similarities and differences in the argumentation and rhetoric within and across national boundaries. The panel encourages theoretical and empirical papers and aims to contribute to scientific debates on the contestation of European identity, borders and regional order.