Transnational Minority Rights Activism and European Integration

Thursday, July 13, 2017
East Quad Lecture Theatre (University of Glasgow)
David J Smith , School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow
Over the course of the past five decades, a revival of ethnically-based political mobilisation across European societies has called into question the prior modernist claim that particular ethnic identities were set to disappear within a world of nation-states and has demonstrated the importance of accommodating cultural diversity within projects of political community-building. While ‘United in Diversity’ has also been established as an official motto and guiding principle of European integration, the EU remains in most important respects a union of national states. Within this context, any ethnically-based collective action, particularly if it reaches across state borders, is still widely viewed as inimical to positive concepts of security, stability, democracy, equality and justice. There are, of course, good reasons for this suspicion, which is grounded not least in historic and contemporary instances of state-led ‘homeland nationalisms’ seeking to ‘diasporise’ the identity of so-called ‘ethnic kin’ living in neighbouring states. A more nuanced picture emerges, however, if one looks at more horizontal transnational initiatives led by ethnic minority groups themselves, such as the present-day Federal Union of European Nationalities and (in the 1920s, at least) the European Nationalities Congress from which FUEN has at times claimed continuity. Through a brief examination of these two organizations, this paper will consider how they have conceptualised the relationship between ethnic diversity, statehood, security and democracy, as well as their overall relationship to the project of European integration and the extent to which this has enabled them to exert agency at the international level.