Europe after the nation state


Picture of Jean-Pierre Lehmann
Jean-Pierre Lehmann

Professor Emeritus of International Political Economy at IMD

It has been argued that Europe is seeking to achieve globalisation while promoting democracy and preserving the nation state. This isn’t possible; one can have two of the three together, perhaps globalisation and democracy, or globalisation and the nation state, or the nation state and democracy, but not globalisation + nation state + democracy.

So a major question for Europe in the 21st century is whether we might strive for a post-Westphalian paradigm and the dismantling of Europe’s nation states to create something that would be more along the lines of the “Europe des régions”.

Another big challenge for Europe is demographics. While different regions of the world are experiencing different demographic forces and trends, Europe is ageing and diminishing so much that it is rapidly turning into a large geriatric ward. I was struck a few years ago after a few days in Morocco and then a few days in Andalucía that their topography, architecture and human types are very similar, but the Moroccan countryside is booming with people, and especially kids, while Andalucía (apart from seasonal workers from Morocco) consists of old age widows.

This is not the Europe we should wish on the future generations. It is too depressing. So rather than resist it, Europe should openly seek immigration. A new Europe can be constructed out of a melting pot of races, beliefs and so on. We could call it the “Cordoba vision of a rejuvenated and re-energised Europe”, for the openness of borders and minds will be essential for a healthy and dynamic Europe.

If we could dismantle our nation states, there might also be a greater chance of achieving that which is most fundamentally lacking in Europe: not a fiscal union or a political union, but an emotional union, a feeling of common empathy and engagement.

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