Splitting up? The Renationalization of Europe

On February 10, 2011 Eurozine Debate Series in Lviv about the Importance and Variety of Nationalisms in Contemporary Europe took place at Center for Urban History.

From Brussels and Berlin to Warsaw and Budapest, Europe is experiencing a renationalization of political life, with countries clawing back the sovereignty they once willingly sacrificed in pursuit of a collective ideal. Belgium – a country that is so divided that, long after elections in June last year, a workable governing coalition has yet to emerge – has just handed over the EU presidency to Hungary, where hard-edged nationalism has gained momentum, aimed not only at minorities, but also at the loss of autonomy that accompanies political union. Many of the new EU members from Central Europe, who have enjoyed full sovereignty only since communism's collapse, are not keen to give it away. As Poland's late president, Lech Kaczynski, put it soon after taking office in 2005, "What interests the Poles is the future of Poland and not that of the EU."

From the point of view of European integration, these are deeply worrying developments. On the other hand, in the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union nationalism has been seen as a liberating force that has enabled "captive nations" to achieve greater control over their destiny. And in Ukraine nationalism is associated not only with the aim to break Russian influence, but also with a strong urge to join the European Union.

What explains nationalism's renewed importance and what distinguishes the various expressions of nationalism across Europe today? Why is nationalism associated with conflict in some cases and not in others? And does it make sense at all to talk in the same terms about contemporary nationalism in eastern and western Europe?

      Speakers:
      David Van Reybrouck (Belgium)
      Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)

      Chair: Sofia Dyak (Center for Urban History of East Central Europe)
      Introduction: Carl Henrik Fredriksson (Eurozine)
      and Harald Binder (Center for Urban History of East Central Europe)
      Language: English

      Time: Thursday 10 February, 6:30 p.m.
      Place: Center for Urban History of East Central Europe,
      Vul. Akad. Bohomoltsia 6, Lviv

David Van Reybrouck is a Flemish writer, playwright and cultural historian based in Brussels. He is regarded as the most versatile among the younger generation of Belgian writers and his latest book Congo. A History has been awarded several prizes, including the AKO Literature Prize, Netherland's most prestigious literary award. A longtime op-ed writer for the Flemish national newspaper De Morgen, Van Reybrouck edited a volume on the federal future of Belgium, Waar België voor staat, (Facing Belgium, 2007) and the thought-provoking pamphlet Pleidooi voor populisme (A Plea for Populism, 2008). Van Reybrouck is also the founder of the Brussels Poetry Collective and in 2009 he initiated the Collective's most ambitious project so far: The European Constitution in Verse.

Andriy Shevchenko is a Ukrainian journalist and politician. Under the Kuchma administration, Shevchenko was one of the leaders of the journalists' movement against censorship. In 2001, he left the television channel "Novyi Kanal" due to political pressure and as the Editor-in-Chief of the independent "5th Channel" he played a key role during the Orange Revolution in 2004. For a short period he was the vice-president of the national television broadcaster, but left his position after the government refused to transform the state broadcaster into a public broadcasting corporation. In 2005 Shevchenko received The Press Freedom Award from Reporters Without Borders. He has also received a number of Ukrainian journalistic awards, including Best News Presenter, Best News Program, and Best Documentary.