The Council of Finnish Academies hosted a seminar in ALLEA’s seminar series Europe on Testin Helsinki 14th November 2018. The headline for the seminar was Narratives of Union and Disunion – the Nordic Perspective. Seminar’s purpose was to analyse some deeply rooted narratives shaping the way we conceive Europe. All sectors, including the public and the policy-makers, the media, the scientists and the scholars, are deeply influenced by such narratives, which determine how we think, act and feel. While narratives are entrenched in long standing cultural, social and economic customs, traditions and institutions, they are not static. They move, overlap and transform over time and space, competing and often contradicting each other. The focus of the seminar was on the role of the Nordic societies in the European and global context.

Professor Jan Sundberg from the University of Helsinki opens the seminar. ”30 years ago, walls and fences divided Europe. Now 30 years later there are more democratic countries in the EU than there were countries building those walls. At the same time, democratic politics is very poisoned in some of those states that used to be world’s leading democratic and economic forces. Trump administration has weakened the democratic institutions in the U.S. and, at the same time, authoritarian China has become world’s leading economic force. The question is if European democratic countries can serve as an example for the developing countries. Nationalism in Europe has splintered the European Union. Friends of liberal democracy and European union must come together and make the Union stronger.”

 

Chancellor emerita Krista Varantola

Chancellor emerita Krista Varantola introduces the ALLEA seminar series. ”Today’s theme requires dialogue across disciplines, sects and most importantly across countries. Even though the idea developed in British academy after the Brexit, these narratives of European Union and disunion are not confined to one national context only – the idea is to provide a variety of perspectives and to foster a dialogue on what Europe means to us in different geographical and cultural contexts, what kind of Europe we would like to create and what kind of Europeans we would like to be.” Varantola also questions if it makes sense to talk about Nordic perspective in the first place. ”Nordic refers, after all, to different nations or states some of which are monarchies, some republics. Some are NATO members, some are not. Three of them are members of the EU, two are not. One of them is in the Eurozone, rest of them stick to their own currency. In other words: the Nordics are a typical family. They differ in words but nevertheless stick together when they feel their values or actions are being questioned or threatened from the outside.”

 

 

 

Session 1: Europe and the Nordics

Chair: Dr Juhana Aunesluoma, Centre for European Studies, University of Helsinki

Professor emeritus Bo Stråth, University of Helsinki

Professor Mary Hilson, Aarhus University

Professor Karl-Erik Michelsen, Lappeenranta University of Technology

From left to right: Karl-Erik Michelsen, Bo Stråth, Mary Hilson, Juhana Aunesluoma

Professor emeritus Bo Stråth from University of Helsinki starts with a statement that there is no Nordic unity regarding to relations to the European Union. ”Finland has been the most devoted of the Nordics to the European integration, Sweden and Denmark bit less devoted and Norway never entered the union.” Stråth gives six points to analyse the Nordic perspective on the European integration with. ”Firstly, in a long historical perspective, there is a continuum from country to Europe and from Europe to the rest of the World, starting from the Enlightenment to East Indian Trade and colonialism to Industrial revolution with emergence of Global markets, Scientific expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic and mass migration in the 19th century. All these global processes tied Nordics closer to Europe and to the World. However, the 1930’s and the two World Wars changed this. Convergence turned into Nordic isolationism and demarcation from Europe that was clouded with military threat. Image of protestant, progressive and social democratic Norden emerged in the 1930’s as opposed to dark catholic conservative capitalist Europe. Since 1945, trans-Atlantic connections became increasingly more and more important and especially Denmark was highly depended on export market. The new idea of Nordics as neutral peace-brokers emerged.”

With the end of the cold war and EU referendums Finland became more committed to Europe than its neighbours. Referendums in all Nordic countries were quite even, but the political atmosphere was not polarized – rather just indifferent. In 2008, the neoliberal bubble busted resulting in European crisis politics and growing north-south divide, and some years later what was called migration crisis developed an east-west divide. These two crises have underpinned strong right populist movements in the Nordics and more generally they have brought EU politics into existential crisis.”

The Nordics are as paralyzed as mainstream Europe. Political management and control of global migration, global capital flows and global pollution are the most urgent global problems for the next decade. The idea that these challenges would be better handled nationally is naive, at best. Therefore, it is important to re-establish these pre-1930’s axis of thinking the Nordics, Europe and the World as a continuum. It is impossible to bypass Europe and there is a need for strong European integration – but not in isolated European perspective.”

Professor Mary Hilson from Aarhus University describes the Nordics as a European mesoregion with an identity that has been constructed regarding larger European crisis. Nordic region is a classic example of a historical mesoregion in Europe. It is larger than a nation but smaller than a continent. Broader European or global crisis have always shaped the narrative of Nordic exceptionalism. There is a continuation from black death to eurozone crisis.”

The concept of Nordic model has become established only after the 1990’s. For the first time it appeared as a term in the 1980’s as an ex post factoto describe the Nordic society. But what does Nordic Model mean? It has been widely used, and there has been proliferation on meanings, but we can point to four main ones. Firstly, it refers to the Nordic welfare state that is comprehensive, universal, tax financed and gender equal. Secondly, there is the Nordic political model of consensual politics and mechanisms to compromise in multi-party politics. Until 1990’s it was, also, a system where social democratic parties were highly influential. Thirdly, Nordic Model points at an industrial triparty model of resolving conflicts with employers’ associations’ and labour unions at the round table meetings. Fourthly, there is the Nordic security community in international relations. Overlapping of these four aspects was especially visible in the Cold War era when the Nordic was positioned in between the east and the west and the idea of neutrality was constitutive to the Nordic foreign policy.”

Hilson says that the Nordic model acts as an external narrative. ”Historically, Nordic countries held up the democratic institutions all along the 1930’s despite the emergence of extremist movements and Coup D’étatin Finland. After the 2008’s financial crash Nordic countries seemed relatively stable compared to Southern Eurozone economies. This has again spurred a notion of Nordic political pragmatism, and the idea that there is a third way. This notion has been now becoming an internal narrative, too.” Hilson says that silence has surrounded issues such as Nordics as part of European colonialism and Norden as racialized construct for too long. ”The idea of the Nordics innocent bystanders is not sustainable.”

Professor Karl-Erik Michelsen from Technical University of Lappeenranta tells that Europe is much more closely knitted together than it might seem from the surface. The governance of flows of information, electricity and money depend on intergovernmental co-operation. ”Trust building has been the defining European idea since 1945”, Michelsen says. National governments do not have much power governing goods when they cross borders and this kind of governance necessitates trust between the agents. ”Lots of power has been allocated to transnational organizations”, says Michelsen. ”Brexit is an interesting case. It is a process of trying to politically disconnect from Europe, but hidden networks make it very difficult to get out of European system. The Nordic has also been very dependent on Europe, so it would be very hard to disconnect, and the consequences would be unprecedented.”

Dr Juhana Aunesluomaasks what kind of managers Nordic countries have been. ”The nature of flows is transnational. What kind of region Norden has been considering that in democracies politicians should be accountable for managing these flows?” Bo Stråth says that Nordic exceptionalism could be a new way of putting pressure on Europe and it should not be located outside of Europe but within it. Karl-Erik Michelsen notes that from central European perspective Nordic has been part of periphery and that networks are tighter in Central Europe.

Next Aunesluoma asks what kind of agency we do have in the Nordics. Mary Hilson notes that the populist argument is just that – we do not have agency. Stråth says agency follows from narrative. ”There is narrative resource in the Nordic that should be brought into European discourse. A narrative that does not fall into the trap of building on the presence of the Other but a narrative that bridges economy and ecology. In this narrative economy and ecology should be thought in planetarian perspective.” Hilson agrees with the importance on planetary scale but notes that agency makes only sense in local perspective. Michelsen says that there is a lot of institutional trust in the Nordics because civil servants have been a part of the civil society. ”Local perspective breeds trust. We don’t trust European institutions because they are distant. Trust builds up in personal networks.”

 

Session 2: Mobility, Migration and Refuge

Chair: Professor Jan Sundberg, University of Helsinki

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo

Director Tuomas Martikainen, Migration Institute of Finland

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Jan Sundberg introduces the theme of the second panel comparing the fertility rates in Europe with other continents. ”The fertility rate is low in Europe but high in Africa. This will have impact on Europe. Population is shrinking in Europe – in Finland the fertility rate is 1,5 and it is even lower in Southern Europe. We must ask if we want to have less people in Europe or rely on immigration.”

Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen from the University of Oslo says that we should look not only the relationship between ecology and economy and demography and migration but also the relationship between migration and ecology. ”The term ’Climate refuge’ has not yet been recognized by U.N. or leading global NGO’s because it’s a concept that is hard to get your head around. But there are climate refugees – many Syrian refugees started as climate refugees – and we are going to have more of this. This gives raise to the question who is entitled to be European. Physical boundaries are tested.”

There are major uncertainties about economy, climate and well-being. Young people in Southern Europe people cannot except to enjoy the same material conditions as their parents. Politicians sell fear rather than hope. Welfare states are membership organizations: who can we include and who are left outside? Immigrants can be Nordic citizens but still they and their children represent the Other. Social distance is short in the Nordics and there is a high level of trust because you think you know the people around you. There is a sense of familiarity and kinship between Nordic countries. There are two narratives revolving around immigrants in the Nordic society – they are either easy to accommodate in this sphere of trust or they are a danger to it.”

Director Tuomas Martikainen from the Migration Institute of Finland says that we are going to witness great international migration this century. There is population growth in African and Asian countries while in Europe population is decreasing. Another factor is urbanization – people move to larger cities and there’s a part that spills to other countries. The role of environmental degradation in migratory movements will be much greater than it is now. Also, people will move for the same reason as ever before i.e. looking for better opportunities. Only the possible scale of migrations will be different than before. The number of Muslims and the role of Islam will grow from what it has been thus far.”

3,5% of the world’s population are international migrants. In the OECD countries the number of immigrants is 14% and in Finland 7%. Migrants tend to move to larger cities and this causes the rise of majority minority cities where different ethnical minorities are becoming majority. This is a symbolic twist that fuels nativist fears. This changes the experienced realities of how people live in urban and rural areas and nationalist anti-immigrant repertoire uses these symbolic values.”

There is also diversification of diversity going on. In the 1990’s 90 % of Finnish immigrants were of European background, now the per cent is 66. People come not only from neighbouring countries or former colonies but basically from all over the globe. Multicultural approach doesn’t work if there are 50 or 100 different cultures that ought to be represented. We must find other kinds of solutions.”

Eriksen says that even though nativist arguments are not suitable for present problems nationalism was in the 19th century a positive force giving voice to disenfranchised people. ”It was a radical idea that Serbian prince should have anything in common with peasants. Nationalism is not only about hating immigrants, it is also about the welfare state and defining who are ’We’. We should relax about nationalism. It has its uses and it has its limitations. Like Daniel Bell said already in the 70’s: the problem of the nation states is that they are too big for problems regarding existential belonging but too small for others, like the challenges facing the humanity and the planet. French nationalism was not ethnic, German nationalism was ethno-cultural. In the new world nationalism was based on hybridity or colonialism not on common ancestry. It was future oriented – about something we are going to build together.”

Martikainen notes that about ten per cent of people in the Europe feel that society is not giving them hope. ”This causes sorrow, sadness and political legitimacy for certain projects accusing migrants of this. However, the big story of unsuccessful integration is false. Relying on this story you are going to fix a problem with a medicine that is does not work.”

 

Session 3: Politics, populism and extremist movements

Chair: Dr Ann-Cathrine Jungar, University of Södertörn

Professor Roger Eatwell, University of Bath

Professor Jukka Kekkonen, University of Helsinki

Professor Juha Herkman, University of Helsinki

Dr Ann-Cathrine Jungar

Professor Juha Herkman from the University of Helsinki starts with a disclaimer that populism is a hard concept to define but says that our present purpose Margaret Canovan’s definition of populism as a ‘shadow-cast of democracy’ is useful. ”Populism works as a mediator between parliamentary politics and radicalism or extremism. Populism as such is not an ideology nor a movement but rather a process of creating political identities, mobilization and to politicize various social demands.”

University of Bath professor Roger Eatwell says he is uncomfortable with labeling populist movements as fascistic. ”Donald Trump is called fascist by scholars and historians such as Timothy Snyder and Christopher Browning. But Donald Trump is not a fascist. He is a xenophobe and maybe a racist but not a fascist.” Eatwell gives the four D’s behind emergence of populism he has developed with Matthew Goodwinin their recent book National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (Pelican Books).

The first D comes from distrust of politicians and elites. “Nordic countries have strong institutional trust but e.g. in Britain, domestic political elites are losing their trust fast.” The second D’s stands for destruction of nation and identity. Eatwell says that increasing rates of immigration cause real concerns for many voters, and these concerns must be addressed head on. ”In western Europe anti-immigration populism is not as nativist and hostile to multiculturalism as in eastern Europe. The concern is about the newcomers and the burden they present for the commonly funded welfare state.” The third D stands for deprivation caused by neoliberalism that increases inequalities. The key element here is relative not absolute poverty. ”It’s about the self-respect of men who lost their job or whose fathers lost their jobs and were perhaps employed in service industry to jobs they feel are not ”manly” enough. The fourth D is de-alignment from traditional political parties. ”People sever life-long ties with traditional political parties and unions and this causes declining class identity and increases volatility.”

Dr Ann-Cathrine Jungar from University od Södertörn describes Nordic region as a laboratory for what is happening in Europe. ”Nordic right populist parties come from different backgrounds. The Sweden Democrats come from the extremist right and True Finns from more agrarian populist background”, she says, ”However, these parties have converged. There are common issues on their agenda regarding European Union, law and order, security issues, traditional family values, and religion as part of national identity. Socio-economic dimension has converged, too.” Jungar says the break-through of radical right can be seen on the agendas thorough the political party system. ”The old left and right division has become a measure of economics, and Nordic populist parties take voters from left- and right-wing conservatives.” There have been different reactions from the Nordic mainstream political parties to the populist parties. “In Finland the True Finns have been a government coalition party whereas in Sweden traditional parties try to keep distance to Sweden Democrats.”

Helsinki University professor Jukka Kekkonen starts highlighting the methodological necessities in the investigation of the rise of populism in Europe. He says that firstly, we must have a time frame that is long enough to see relevant causes and effects. Secondly, comparative approach is necessary. ”In 2010 Arab spring raised optimism in many, but then we have come to time of Trump and Brexit and things have changed.”

What Kekkonen sees common in all European populist movements are the critique of principles of democracies based on rule of law, conceptual contest on how democracy and its principles should be interpreted and the clear falsification of history. Kekkonen introduces a case study of Spain and Catalonian independence. ”It is self-evidently legitimate to strive for independence as separatists have done. But the means they chose in September and October 2017 were illegal according not only to Spanish judiciary and Spanish constitutional politics but also according to legal experts all over the world.” ”Catalonian right-wing populism has ingredients from extreme left. It is exclusive, supremacist, they falsify history and use victimization. They don’t even have majority support. Spain has become a laboratory of how European values can be defended.”

Jungar asks the panellists if they see populism as a threat to liberal democracy. Eatwell thinks so. ”They claim to speak on behalf of the people, but they have marginalized the people. This is dangerous for pluralism and minorities. However, they rightly point that politics have become distant socially and mentally and there is a massive disconnect or distrust. Political polarization is what is dangerous to political system.”

Herkman says populist movements may have different kinds of impacts in different societies. ”Different kind of histories and democracies affect a lot what kind of consequences these movements will have. In the Nordic countries our institutions and traditions of democracy are strong when compared to eastern Europe. The Nordic system of checks and balances secure the institutions quite well.”

Kekkonen says we should not stand idle facing the threat. ”We are being too kind, standing as spectators looking at how democracy is ending. We should react more actively. Danger of losing something in the democratic state based on rule of law and democratic principles is evident. Growing inequality caused by neoliberal politics has created democratic deficit that is one of the most important background factors in the rise of populism.”

 

Session 4: Reflections

Professor Józef Niżnik, Polish Academy of Sciences

Dr Ann-Cathrine Jungar, University of Södertörn

Professor Jan Sundberg, University of Helsinki

Dr Juhana Aunesluoma, Centre for European Studies, University of Helsinki

From left to right: Ann-Cathrine Jungar, Józef Niżnik, Jan Sundberg, Juhana Aunesluoma

Professor Józef Niżnik from the Polish Academy of Sciences recaps some of the conversation. ”We have right now a very paradoxical situation for Europe is facing existential threats but, despite that, everything shows that Europe is trying to ruin its 70 years of successful integration. ”

Sometimes, we make wrong diagnosis. Most popular thesis have been those of growing inequalities. Inequalities are growing but nevertheless, during the last few decades, the level of wealth has been rising. Maybe it is the rise of aspirations and development of communication tools that builds a false picture of reality. We should insist on changing priorities in European minds. After the war, people were thinking only about peaceful development, but current generations do not know war, and peace has stopped to be the most important task of European integration. The first-place priority is now identity. Populist politics point out migrants, corrupt elites and the EU. This is very difficult to understand. People take for granted something that is a result of a long-term European integration. Naturalization of European integration makes us blind to the process and the work for the integration that has produced these benefits.” Niżnik says European identity should be compatible with national identities: “The need for collective European identity is a problem if it excludes national identity. In fact, without action of EU toward to supporting national identities EU cannot survive. EU needs to show that common European identity doesn’t need to suppress national identities.” Next, Niżnik turns to the question what can be done to cope the polarization of society. “We can find polarization in not just all the EU member states but also in the Union itself. I would recommend work leading to awareness to global threats that demand unity. It’s a simple necessity of working together against mortal threats like ecological crisis, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and unhealthy global financial system.”

Jungar reflects the surprise of the social scientific community when they realized that liberal democracy was being challenged in Europe. ”In the nineties, most of us believed that history was ending, and that liberal democracy was the best way of organizing democracy. This believe made us blind, and even if we saw the Eurobarometer and the seeds of discontent, we didn’t see the that liberal democracy was being tested. In surveys we can see that people prefer democratic systems to authoritarian systems, but they are not satisfied with system we have now. We must be very worried when unliberal forces are taking over democratic institutions by limiting the media and affecting judiciary appointing lawyers that are loyal to the party. We should be very worried of what is happening to our institutions. I tend to be optimistic. There is increased interest in politics and we must engage in that debate. We must support liberal democratic institutions but also include those groups that feel betrayed by politicians.”

Juhana Aunesluoma closes the seminar presenting an analogy between the City of Detroit and European societies. ”City of Detroit was an industrial powerhouse but, a few years ago, it went bankrupt. It is now a place full of holes – parts of the city are vacant and old buildings are being left empty. Are our societies becoming like Detroit? Full of vacant places and issues no one wants to touch? We do not just have polarization but multipolarization – it would be easy if we had just two poles! People do not trust elites, but the elites do not trust the people either. How can we rebuild Detroit? How to discuss Islam? What to do with immigrant communities? Should we be nostalgic about consensus politics? We need new narratives. The narratives do not need to be aligned, we need counter narratives. Dialogue needs talking and listening. Detroit is not just an abomination but also an opportunity to recreate.”

The next Europe on Test seminar is organized by the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw on 11th October 2019.