Editorial - Fortress Europe

Originally published in September 2010.

“A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of movement?” Movement and migration have again become the topic of parliamentary debates, pub conversations and street protests. They have become the challenge to the social, democratic and liberal veneer of European reality. That is, the continuous movement of migrants making a mockery of the idea of Europe as an impenetrable fortress, as well as the social and political movements that resist securitisation and precarity from within its borders, sometimes in solidarity with immigrants, sometimes not. The point of the collection of articles in this issue is then to start taking seriously the proposition ‘no borders’, also in the context of international no border camps such as this years’ camp at the heart of the EU’s administration in Brussels.

Europe is far more than a collection of borders. As crisis deepens, the up-scaling of the management of capital and populations is forced to intensify. Increasingly, this is justified through a quasi-nationalist reference to the idea of ‘Europe’. “We (Europeans) are all in this together.” It is an idea which garners support from both the left and the right of the political spectrum, both seeing it as insulation from a predatory outside, be that predatory capital or dangerous foreigners.

Europe is a site of conflict. There is struggle not just about where to dra¬w its borders or how open they should be. At stake is the very identity of the continent and what form of governance this should entail. Some, such as Antonio Negri, put in a claim for a left-wing, social and democratic European Union. Others, such as numerous trade union campaigns, reject the idea of the European Union altogether. Sometimes it seems like the achievements of the labour movements are protected more easily in the national setting than in a globalised, supranational one. Ben Lear argues for a way out of this conundrum that is neither national(ist), nor international(ist).

Sociologist Saskia Sassen (in an interview with Shift Magazine of which we publish an extract in this issue) spells out how the question of globalisation cannot be answered with a return to the nation. Instead she argues for an understanding of the complex and interdependent relations between global(ised) actors and migration flows. We need to comprehend the reasons behind migrations, which often lie in the policies of nation-states themselves.

Angela Mitropoulos, in another interview in this issue, goes further than that. Her understanding of a no border politics entails support for the autonomy of movement across borders. Questions are not asked as to why people migrate, but their right and ability to do so becomes a political act in itself.
Markus Euskirchen, Henrik Lebuhn, and Gene Ray identify the European Borderland as a new site of struggle for anti-capitalists fighting for the abolition of immigration controls. However, Europe throws up new obstacles for campaigners and migrants attempting to subvert it from both inside and out. Acknowledging the disparity of these efforts within and beyond Europe they question the role of ‘bordercamps’ and ‘EuroMayDay’ marches as manifestations of these struggles.

Such campaigns or instances of activism need to go beyond a mere criticism of individual national or European policies. Fortress Europe would hardly be a better place to live without its surveillance networks, data banks and border guards. What is at stake is a critique of European totality, one that questions its construction as a space that is deemed somehow more inclusive, democratic and social, ignoring the fact that capitalist reality does not allow for any of these things.