BERLIN – Europe is made up of its nations, and has been for hundreds of years. That is what makes the continent’s unification such a difficult political task, even today. But nationalism is not Europe’s principle of construction; on the contrary, it has been, and remains, Europe’s principle of deconstruction. That is the main lesson to be drawn from the dramatic gains made by anti-European populist parties in last weekend’s European Parliament election.
It is a lesson that all Europeans should have learned by now. Europe’s twentieth-century wars, after all, were fought under the banner of nationalism – and almost completely destroyed the continent. In his farewell address to the European Parliament, François Mitterrand distilled a lifetime of political experience into a single sentence: “Nationalism means war.”