De Belgische EU-big shot Herman van Rompuy zei dat de natie-staat voorbij is. Maar is dat zo? Daarover ging de TEIMUN-conferentie 2016. Als veteraan mocht ik spreken in de NATO-council die ging over ‘radicalism in Europe’. TEIMUN staat voor The European International Model United Nations en is een conferentie voor studenten van over de hele wereld. The theme of TEIMUN 2016 is “Pushing Boundaries: Pursuing a new state of mind” In the past year we have been confronted with ever growing problems that can only be solved through an international and cooperative effort. Herman Van Rompuy stated, ”the age of the nation state is over and the idea that countries can stand alone is an ‘illusion’ and a ‘lie’”.
The problems we face today, be it the current refugee crisis, global warming or extremist terrorism do not respect or recognize borders. Throughout history we have seen groups of people band together in order to survive, thrive; from the first early hunter-gatherer societies, to the great ancient civilizations and our modern nation state. This has helped the human race survive and prosper, but in order to solve these new, global, problems it is important for us to avoid the mistakes of the past, to grow beyond our national centric approaches and to cooperate in a truly international and collaborative effort.
At TEIMUN 2016 we will be discussing these and many other problems that we can only tackle as a global and united force. This is why we want to emphasize the need for cooperation and a new approach towards our fellow humans.
A solution for the problems of this day and age can only be found by abandoning the national centric approach of the last generations and by pursuing a new state of mind, an international state of mind…
Share some stories
I’d like to share some stories with you which I experienced during my time in Central-Bosnia in 1993. They’ll connect with the central theme… I hope… I’m pretty convinced it will lead to questions from your side. I’ll be glad to answer them at the same moment. But please, save the discussions for later. Because I’ll also give you a thought at the end.
I’m here as a veteran, asked by the Veterans Institute. What I’m going to tell you are my own experiences, my own observations and conclusions. They don’t represent the opinion of the Dutch Army.
The Bosnian civil war was the third domino stone in the collapsing of the Federal State of Yugoslavia which started in 1990. The Iron Curtain had just fallen in 1989 and nationalism emerged. That already began in Yugoslavia with the death of Josip Broz Tito in 1980, the strong man since the Second World War. Though Yugoslavia was a federal State, Serbia pulled the strings. Much to the reluctance of the other states.
Slovenia broke at first at 1991. Relatively peaceful. Directly followed by Croatia. The independence of Croatia was less peace full with heavy fighting in the north and southeast parts of the country (Krajina, Dubrovnik).
Third was Bosnia. Bosnia had the problem that it is a ethnical mosaic of Muslims, Serbs and Croats. The last two would create their own state or had the wish to join Serbia or Croatia.
The United Nations decided in 1992 due to the heavy fighting and escalation of the war, to establish the UN Protection Force. The mission was to prevent further escalation and to create conditions for peace talks. A part of the de-escalation was the 1 Dutch/ Belgium Transport battalion which task was to aid the local population.
Outcome of radical nationalism
The Bosnian civil war was the outcome of radical nationalism. Due to leaders as Milosevic and Tudjman. It didn’t pop up in a very short period. It took several years to develop and grow in such extremity. The leaders used nationalism for their rise to power, for their plans and politics.
Mobilize and unite the masses by using nationalism is a proven strategy. It still happens and it always will. Off course not with such devastating consequences as in the Bosnian civil war, but it is in our nature to be proud on our land, our culture, our national anthem, our flag, our collective history.
Mind you: it isn’t always bad: the national football team, Olympic athletes… A nation means an identity. Almost all people wants to belong to a group of people, a herd.
Though we have to work together in this age of globalisation and international problems because the solution can’t be found in a fragmented, divided Europe, I’m convinced that what mr Van Rompuy says is to radical. The age of the nation state isn’t over, because nations will work together but only till a certain point.
At a certain point nations will choose for their own interests. Doesn’t the government want to do that, then the people will force them to do so. You perhaps may call that populism. But ask yourself, why do the French
want keep Strassbourg as a centre of the European Union? Perhaps for the jobs, but certainly also for their image.
Look at the Brexit. ‘Identity’ was certainly involved as a part of the leave-campaign, same as nationalism. ‘Be proud again’, ‘the Empire’, to mention some slogans for example.
I don’t want to argue about mr Van Rompuy or the EU. All I wanted to do was to share my experiences and show you what radicalism can do with people and countries. So, for politicians it’s a huge responsibility to deal with identity and nationalism. And to manage it! Because radicalism is always lurking for an opportunity.