Novak O.Y., Samoilova O.I, Vozniuk E.V. Nationalism as a threat to European security

Выпуск журнала: 

УДК 327(4):329.17



Novak O.Y., Samoilova O.I., Vozniuk E.V.

The article focuses on the most prominent features of the nationalism raise within the European political environment and underlines its influence on the security state of the region. The article determines the factors and goals of the nationalist parties’ activity. The authors also analyse the main external and internal threats to European security. Nationalism is defined as an internal threat to European security. The authors reviewed modern examples of European nationalism and described changes that have taken place since the last elections in certain European countries.

Keywords: international security, the European Union, nationalism, threat, political party.




Новак А.Ю., Самойлова О.И, Вознюк Е.В.

В статье рассматриваются наиболее заметные черты роста национализма в европейской политической среде, и подчеркивается его влияние на состояние безопасности в регионе. Охарактеризованы факторы и цели деятельности националистических партий. Проанализированы основные внешние и внутренние угрозы европейской безопасности. Национализм определен как внутренняя угроза для европейской безопасности. Авторами рассмотрены и проанализированы современные примеры европейского национализма и охарактеризованы имеющиеся изменения после последних выборов определенных стран Европы.


Ключевые слова: международная безопасность, Европейский Союз, национализм, угроза, политическая партия.


In the recent decades European nations face a big number of new threats and challenge to their stability and security despite great efforts to stabilize situation. This unity established by democratic countries primarily to promote peace and prosperity in post-war Europe is facing a nationalist and populist rush that threatens the democratic principles at the very heart of the EU. Capitalizing on the European sovereign debt crisis, the backlash against refugees streaming in from the Middle East, and public angst over the growing terror threat, previously not popular political parties that are growing with alarming speed is an actual issue of scientific research.

The problems of nationalism raise in Europe in the recent years are explored by such scholars as Anthony D. Smith, Barry Buzan, James N. Rosenau, Richard H. Ullman, Herman Van Rompuy and others. In particular, Anthony D. Smith [3] forms the basis of nationalism as a theory; Barry Buzan [4] considers the new concept of international security within the state and its influence on the citizens. James N. Rosenau [2] analyses the interdependence between global and national security systems. Richard H. Ullman [14] and Herman Van Rompuy [15] discuss the impact of external threats on the European security. 

The purpose of the article is analysis of the nationalism spread in European states in the recent years and special features of its influence on the European security. The main objectives are:

– To define international security and nationalism in terms of the international relations;

– To analyse the features and factors of the nationalism development in Europe;

– To characterize nationalism as a threat to European security.

International security is a state of international relations, which creates the conditions necessary for the existence and functioning of states, ensuring their full sovereignty, political and economic independence, and equal relations with other countries. At the same time, international security should be seen as a policy that promotes the creation of effective peace guarantees for both the individual country and the entire world community [2].

In order to secure and strengthen the external security of the members of the world community, primarily states, a system of international security is created. It is based on a system of obligations, guarantees and opportunities of its subjects.

Among the various systems of international security it is expedient to distinguish:

– Global (an example of such a system was the bipolar world with a system of confrontation and restraint that existed on the part of the USSR and the United States);

– Regional, based on specific institutions in a particular region (in Europe, there are three institutions: the EU, the OSCE, NATO, although they have different potentialities, can be the real basis for the regional security system, differ by the participants and the main goals and activities);

– Sub-regional, where the main interest in joint security of military security is replaced with the need to develop economic ties (for example, the Visegrad Group, the Central European Initiative, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Baltic Cooperation, the Euroregion project);

– Bilateral agreements covering military, political and economic problems and serving as a lower base level of the security system in Europe [14].

In general, the effectiveness of any international security system depends on several key factors:

1) The state and trends of the current geostrategic situation, international realities at the regional and sub-regional levels;

2) The internal situation of the states and their real possibilities in a long-term perspective;

3) The existence of current threats, which have the most significant impact on the stability of states at the regional and sub-regional levels;

4) The effectiveness of existing security systems and their ability to change in the light of new tasks;

5) The real possibilities of creating new security systems and the nature of their interaction with existing ones [2].

Barry Buzan believed that state itself can be the main source of danger to certain people who live there [4]. Globalization as a factor of world change and development put the basic traditional thoughts about the place of nation in the international relations to the question. So before studying the main threats that nationalism create for European security system, it is necessary to define and consider nationalism as a term.

Nationalism is an ideology and policy direction the basic principle of which is the thesis of the value of the nation as the highest form of social cohesion and its primacy in the state process [1]. It promotes loyalty and devotion to the nation, political independence, and national idea for protecting the living conditions of the nation, its territory, economic resources and spiritual values. Also it contains elements of ethnic, cultural and religious intolerance.

Loyalty and attachment to a national unity are more significant than any other attachment in the question of nationalism. Other characteristics of nationalism are pride in the achievements of one’s nation, a deep belief in the distinction of one’s nation and even its superiority over other nations [3]. Belief that one should defend a compatriot against a foreigner, whether the former is in the right or not creates the basis for nationalism ideology. At the same time it causes the greatest hatred due to the mass immigrants flow to Europe. Nowadays there are a lot of signs that nationalism, its ideas and activity of nationalist movements are close to its new age of development in the majority of European states. This eventually creates conditions in which there is a high risk and threat to modern unity of states and security in Europe. 

In September 2015 the body of a Syrian child Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach and became a symbol for the Syrian refugee crisis. He and at least six others died when their boat capsized while attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece [9]. Three months later on New Year’s Eve 2015 scores of women were assaulted by a group of more than 1,000 migrant men in Cologne, Germany [11]. Then on 22 March 2016, coordinated suicide attacks at the Brussels international airport and on a metro train killed 32 civilians, including four Americans, and wounded more than 200. The attack later claimed by the Islamic State was the worst terrorist attack committed on Belgian territory in the country’s modern history [15]. These separate events are representative of three of the most pressing European security challenges, namely: the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from war zones in the Middle East; crime, including violence, allegedly committed by burgeoning migrant and refugee populations; and continued Islamist terrorist attacks in European cities.

These challenges are in the list of most dangerous threats to European security that come outside. However, they cause the insecure situation among the European nations which now start facing a rise in anti-EU, nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment inside the EU itself [10]. This meant that populations were turning inward and rejecting the idea of integration. These challenges are included in the list of internal threats which are no less dangerous. 

The victory of Donald Trump in US President Elections with his claims about making “America great again” and policies directed against Mexicans and Muslims showed an example of success of such political campaigns to many European far-right politicians; especially in the countries that were behind their own major elections [13]. As a result, after elections in the countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany which represent the most developed and powerful states within the European Union there were a few prominent achievements of nationalist parties and their leaders in political sphere. 

Marine Le Pen, the National Front party leader running for president of France, embraced anti-globalization and anti-immigration policies and is also known for promising to “take back” France by withdrawing from the EU. As a result of her pre-election Presidential campaign she gained 21.3% and took second place comparing with 24.01% of Emmanuel Macron in the first round thus going into a run-off election. The second round resulted in 33.9% for Marine Le Pen against 66.1% for Emanuel Macron [8]. Even so she didn’t become the President of France; it showed unprecedented support of far-right nationalist party among the French.

German politics has been shaken up by Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing party launched in 2013 by economists opposed to the euro. Under leader Frauke Petry it has drawn ever more support by rallying against immigration. The AfD’s success has been interpreted as a sign of discontent with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for Syrian refugees.

According to the results of the elections held in September 2017 the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has entered parliament in Germany for the first time, winning 12.6% of the vote and more than 90 seats [7]. Since the vote Alexander Gauland has talked of fighting an “invasion of foreigners” and their campaign openly focused on Islam and migration. AfD sees Islam as alien to German society. Some of their rhetoric has been tinged with Nazi overtones. 

In Austria the candidate of the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) Norbert Hofer swept the initial round of the small country’s presidential elections with a comfortable 35% of the vote. After a humiliating defeat of the candidates put forth by the current government’s two leading coalition members – the centrist Social Democrats and the People’s Party – the Social Democratic Chancellor Werner Faymann resigned. Current polls consistently show that the Freedom Party, a descendant of the old Austrian Nazi party, is now the most popular party in Austria [6]. 

In the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte won re-election after a closely-watched challenge from anti-immigrant Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom slightly underperformed polls leading up to the election. Rutte’s centre-right VVD party lost eight seats in the parliamentary election, while Wilders’ party gained five and became the second-largest part in the Netherlands’ Parliament [5].

In Europe the nationalist threat comes principally from the East. Less than a decade after joining the European Union, most Eastern European countries are now ruled by nationalist populist parties that openly flout the rule of law and explicitly reject the values of liberal democracy. In such countries as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic political liberalism is being challenged as candidates and elected officials openly flirt with illiberal and authoritarian forms of government. Spearheading this trend is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whom EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker half-jokingly called a “dictator” [6]. Orbán has denounced the West as decadent and obsessed with money, and outlined a future Hungarian state – a “work based society” – of a resolutely non-liberal nature. The Orbán’s government has transformed Hungary into a semi-authoritarian regime that limits freedom of speech and assembly, media pluralism, and the protection of minorities. Orbán has also curbed the independence of the courts, the civil services, and other institutions essential to the rule of law. 

In some states of Eastern Europe the actions of far-right movements and parties turn into the forms of mass marches. The most recent example is Poland where tens of thousands of nationalists marched in a demonstration organised by far-right groups in Warsaw, as Poles celebrated their country’s Independence Day. The march on 11th of November, 2017 has become the largest Independence Day event in recent years, overshadowing official state observances and other patriotic events. Some participants expressed sympathy for xenophobic or white supremacist ideas, with one banner reading “White Europe of brotherly nations”. A participant who was interviewed on state television station TVP said he was taking part “to remove Jewry from power”. Participants marched under the slogan “We want God”, words from an old Polish religious song that President Donald Trump quoted from during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year. Speakers spoke of standing against liberals and defending Christian values [12].

The European Union is facing a political crisis unprecedented in its 60-year history. The external threats to European security such as migration crisis, raising of violence and crime, Islamic terroristic attacks and its spread all over the Western Europe led to unprecedented raise of nationalist moods among European nations and as a result many of nationalist far-right movements and parties faced great political success and came into the power to different extent and what is more important got more and more support from citizens of the most democratic states. In the Eastern European states there is an obvious turnover to pro-nationalist and xenophobic directions of internal and external policies that causes different forms of expressing national support by means of mass marches, parades and provocations. 

All these events give a basis to affirm nationalism as a recently formed and quickly developed and spread threat to European security that goes from the inside that makes it even more dangerous. 



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Data about the authors:

Voznyuk Eugenia Vasylivna – Candidate of Political Sciences, Associate Professor of International Relations and Regional Studies Department, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University (Lutsk, Ukraine).

Novak Oleksandr Yuriyovych – graduate student of International Communications and Political Analysis Department, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University (Lutsk, Ukraine).

Samoilova Olga Igorivna – master student of the Faculty of International Relations, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University (Lutsk, Ukraine).

Сведения об авторах:

Вознюк Евгения Васильевна – кандидат политических наук, доцент кафедры международных отношений и региональных исследований Восточноевропейского национального университета имени Леси Украинки (Луцк, Украина).

Новак Александр Юрьевич – аспирант кафедры международных коммуникаций и политического анализа Восточноевропейского национального университета им. Леси Украинки (Луцк, Украина).

Самойлова Ольга Игоревна – магистрант факультета международных отношений Восточноевропейского национального университета им. Леси Украинки (Луцк, Украина).