The Corner

On Taking the Nation Out of the State

Bored, bored on a recent flight to Finland I turned to the Finnair magazine in the desperate hope of something. What I found was a piece (“Invest in Finland!”), by the country’s foreign minister, Alexander Stubb. Most of the article was pretty standard (convenient location, good logistics, highly qualified work force, lakes, forests and so on), but this caught my attention:

The number of foreigners in Finland is growing rapidly. By 2020 there will be more than 250,000 immigrants [Finland’s population is currently 5.4 million people]. Give it another ten years and ten percent of the population will be international. Great stuff!

Quite why such a development would be “great stuff” is never explained. A little unluckily for Mr. Stubb he wrote his article just a few weeks before the riots broke out on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia. But even had he been writing after the events in Sweden, I doubt he would have added much more beyond, perhaps, some pabulum about the need for speedier (yet respectful) integration, paid for by the taxpayer, of course. Quite why Mr. Stubb feels that Finland should not be satisfied with the Finns it already has must remain a matter of deduction. In part, it may be that he subscribes to the delusion that mass immigration is the way to combat the threat supposedly posed by declining birth rates to the welfare state, and in part it may be that he has bought into the conventional pieties of the EU’s governing class.

Here he is (quoted in Helsingin Sanomat) back in 2010:

“Finland needs to be international and multicultural”, says Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party). In his view, Finland’s current debate on immigration has taken on a negative slant.       

“The point of view that is critical to immigration, the extreme part of it, dominates debate. The debate is excessively one-sided. It reeks of racism, nationalism, populism, and xenophobia. It is very unpleasant”.

That Finland needs to be “international and multicultural” is, you see, a given.

And perhaps if you are, like Mr. Stubb, a eurofundamentalist, it does. The persistence of distinct national identities is something that stands in the way of the new technocratic Europe that Stubb and his ilk are attempting to build, and in this respect mass immigration can be a very handy ally indeed.A year or two back, one of today’s philosophers of European union, Germany’s Jurgen Habermas, turned to his always nimble prose to describe how this was working out:

 A dangerous asymmetry has developed because to date the European Union has been sustained and monopolised only by political elites – an asymmetry between the democratic participation of the peoples in what their governments obtain for them on the subjectively remote Brussels stage and the indifference, even apathy, of the citizens of the union regarding the decisions of their parliament in Strasbourg. However, this observation does not justify substantialising “the people” or “the nation”.

The caricature of national macrosubjects shutting themselves off from each other and blocking any cross-border democratic will-formation has become the preserve of rightwing populism. After half a century of labour immigration, even the European peoples, given their growing ethnic, linguistic, and religious pluralism, can no longer be conceived as culturally homogenous entities.

 And then were the rather more direct comments from Peter Sutherland, a former EU commissioner (and much more besides) to a sub-committee of the British House of Lords in 2012. The BBC report is here, but this is the gist:

The EU should “do its best to undermine” the “homogeneity” of its member states, the UN’s special representative for migration has said. Peter Sutherland told peers the future prosperity of many EU states depended on them becoming multicultural.

On the topic of what the voters might think about that, the BBC report was silent. Well, who cares, they don’t have much say in these matters anyway

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