“Cultegration and Bordoom : New Frontiers of Democracy in the EU”

Yann Moulier Boutang

Europe has practiced very restrictive migration policies since 1974. Various justifications have been put forth for barring certain categories of people: 1) The rationale for closing the borders to a new influx of permanent workers was predominantly an economic one. 2) The repatriation, relegation and transportation of undocumented migrants (active population soon followed by families including children) relies upon political reaffirmation of the sovereignty of the nation-state and of Europe as a confederation of nation-states (Schengen Agreement) or the recent call for interstate cooperation with the European administration to cope with waves of Sub-Saharan African migrants (in Spain or in Italy). 3) Third, and last but not least, closing Europe to further migration has been justified by culture. This has taken the shape of neo-populism (a sort of European nativism), which has always been present at the far right wing of the political spectrum. However it soon overlapped with the debate on extending the boundaries of the European Union, mainly in conjunction with the proposed membership of Turkey and the referendum on the constitution of 2005. Riots in the suburbs in France and bombers in England have been read as the common failure of the two opposite models (the French republican monocultural and melting pot model and the integration through pluriculturalist cultural policies in Britain). In the international context of warfare and the so-called clash of civilizations between the Western world and Islamic fundamentalism, Turkey's membership has become a divisive question on both the left and the right wing of the political arena.

Questions regarding culture in the Anglo-Saxon (anthropological) sense of the word and in the French sense (of values, civilization) have been raised about a presumed Christian or Enlightened “nature” or “identity” of Europe and the logical, ethical or political incompatibility of the expansion of the EU to include Turkey and soon any other countries that will increase its diversity (the Slavic world [Ukraine], the Muslim world with any country of the Maghreb).

The cultural argument will play a predominant role in the coming years inasmuch as the economic argument has been virtually abandoned due to strong pressures for a return to a more dynamic growth. The discussion is not about closing the borders to an active work force, but about how to re-open the doors selectively. Although an inevitable tendency to federalization on the part of the EU seemed to be a threat for some time, following the “no” to the Constitutional Treaty in two member States, “sovereignism” is now a dwindling force.

How has the cultural issue shaped and will continue to shape the future of migration policies within the EU? Is the “culturization” of the question of opening, scrutinizing and integrating present and future migration, of the question of the expansion and deepening of European integration, a bad, neutral or good thing? In what ways can it be used? In what respect are translation strategies a valuable response? Is there a particular regime of boundaries that would be compatible with a deepening of democracy and could escape the new kind of serfdom that we can call “Bordoom”?