Fighting Nationalism

Europeans Need More Europe

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Nationalists are on the rise across Europe, helping to win the Brexit vote and leading in French polls.

  • Facts


    • The author is a pro-E.U. former Green Party leader.
    • He argues that the West is currently experiencing a feeling of decline and losing ground to Russia and China.
    • He says a stronger Europe is the best way of addressing the continent’s internal and external problems.
  • Audio


  • Pdf
Helmut Kohl mit Francois Mitterand
Convinced of the need for European cooperation. Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterand. Source: DPA/Picture Alliance [M].

In his final address to the European Parliament in 1995, then-French President François Mitterrand, whose failing health was evident to all, found the following indelible words to characterize Europe’s great scourge: “Le nationalisme, c’est la guerre!

Nationalism and war were the defining experiences of Mitterrand’s political career, and he was referring not only to the dreadful past – the first half of the 20th century, with its two World Wars, dictatorships and the Holocaust. He viewed nationalism as the greatest future threat to European peace, democracy and security.

Although nationalist war was tearing apart Yugoslavia at the time, few of those who listened to Mitterrand in Strasbourg that day could have imagined that, 21 years later, nationalism would be experiencing a Europe-wide revival. But nationalist politicians whose declared goal is to destroy Europe’s unity and peaceful integration have now won in major democratic elections and referenda.

The United Kingdom’s decision in June to leave the European Union marked a momentary climax for resurgent nationalism, but one can also see it on the march in Hungary, Poland and France, where Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front have been gaining strength in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.

How could it have come to this, given Europe’s first-hand experience with nationalism’s destructive power in the twentieth century, when it caused millions of deaths and devastated the entire continent?

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.