European political identity and democratic solidarity after 9/11: the Spanish case.

Author:Guittet, Emmanuel-Pierre

The attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, have given new urgency to calls for political cooperation. With the fight against terrorism having been elevated to the highest priority and "terrorism" presented as a threat for all democracies, the rhetoric of democratic solidarity against terrorism has become very clear and widely shared as a common discourse. My specific concern in this article is to examine the official discourse of antiterrorist cooperation as it has emerged in Europe and to analyze the extent to which it has had an effect on the process of forming a common European identity. (1)

The attacks of September 11 seem to have made all political actors aware that any domestic security policy must be assured at the global level, or be not assured at all. Moreover, the supposedly natural solidarity of democratic societies against terrorism has become a rhetorical commonplace that can hardly be questioned, though it is clear that the precise relationship between democracy and resistance to terror has become a troubling problem once again. The idea of a "terrorism that exceeds national borders" requiring mutual assistance and cooperation is certainly not an issue that can be restricted to its functional effectiveness or merely technical aspects, still less to matters of intelligence aimed at the elimination of clandestine organizations.

Governmental policies against "terrorism" are the results of political decisions made possible by "terrorist" events. (2) They depend on the emotional mobilization that these events create and the memory of historical precedents. They also depend on the means, histories, repertoires, and struggles inside and between the institutions in charge of the fight against "terrorism," both on a national and international scale. (3)

My primary concern in this examination of recent and prospective trends in European antiterrorist cooperation is to connect two topics that tend to be considered in mutually exclusive ways. The struggle against "terrorism" is simultaneously a diplomatic process of identity formation beyond the national political arena. My analysis of the relationship between responses to "terrorism" and collective identity formation at the European level will especially focus on the post-9/11 period, but in the context of some comments on the beginning of European antiterrorist cooperation in the early 1980s, a time when cooperation and solidarity between states were not so well developed.

The core of my project consists of demonstrating how the antiterrorist fight in Europe was initially shaped by the problem of the recognition of each and every member state as an inter pares member of this "Europe of democracies." From this angle, cooperation among member states, understood as a hyperbolic discourse of "always more, never enough" and structured on the official history of a long-standing security deficit in Europe, also offered a site at which national characteristics could be converted into a common European identity. While the history of antiterrorism in Europe had been understood traditionally as the domain of raison d'etat and positive exchanges between governments, the progressive formation of ad hoc European institutions through police coordination and legal cooperation could also be understood as an opportunity to develop a network of exchanges ensuring the circulation of strong representations of a collective identity.

The Spanish case is emblematic in this respect, for three reasons. Firstly, because of the several political, judicial, and police antiterrorist measures developed on Spanish national ground after the 9/11 attacks; in my judgment, Spain has seized the opportunity presented by the attacks of September 11, 2001, like no other member state, in order to improve its proper antiterrorist laws to cope with its specifically national concerns in the Basque country.

Secondly, one of the most important marks of Spanish foreignpolicy identity as far as "terrorism" is concerned has always been a claim for a frank and mutual antiterrorist cooperation inside the European Union. When the EU Council decided, on December 22, 2003, to update the EU list of "terrorist organizations and persons linked to terrorist activities," which was first adopted in December 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Spanish authorities posted more persons (almost 45%, or 19 out of a list of 45; members, or supposed members, of the Basque clandestine organization ETA) on the European list of wanted individuals than any other member state. (4) One should also bear in mind that the EU Council decision to put the European Arrest Warrant into effect (5) is in keeping with an old Spanish wish.

Thirdly, after the attacks of September 11, the government of Jose Maria Aznar never stopped claiming that the fight against "terrorism" was their first priority in their conflict with ETA. Spain's political call for more cooperation within the European Union dates back to their appeal to join the European Economic Community (EEC), which since 1970 has been a strong element of the normative context of Spanish foreign policy. (6)

The changing nature of EU policymaking meant that decisions and developments in any member state increasingly became part of the domestic policy arena; at the same time, domestic policy influenced the foreign policy of the European Union. The Spanish authorities accepted the U.S. concept of "war against terrorism" all the more easily because it enabled them to develop new antiterrorist measures on their national ground and to justify them by claiming to be a democracy that knows the tragedy of terrorism and the importance of international solidarity against it. Consequently, while the Aznar government remained in office, the U.S. authorities found a precious European ally in the Spanish authorities, while Spain found an international discourse that permitted the legitimation of Spain's handling of its domestic Basque problem.

The Question of Identity

Before going further, it is necessary to address some issues of definition and methodology regarding the concept of identity, a concept that is especially difficult because its meaning is so imprecise, but especially because it is simultaneously an analytical term and a term of common social and political discourse.

Collective identity is not the fixed nature of a given community but the product of a complex social and historical identification process from which social borders emerge as natural for their members. It is the common "definition of a situation" that serves as a mutual link and creates solidarity. Identity is thus founded on "spiritual ties"; it can be grasped in a "core of shared meanings" in consensually sharing a common universe of symbols and relevancies. (7) We do not only speak a common language; we also agree about the things that must be talked about as well as the things that are important without words. A common "world of meanings" is one thing that we need in order to find our collective identity; another is the delimitation as an element of identity. Knowing about ourselves also implies that we are able to distinguish ourselves from others; identity is always based on negations. Collective identity needs the distinction between "us" and "them." Nothing leads more effectively to the formation of a group identity than a common enemy, and the construction of social frontiers is not only a symbolic activity. National institutions and national antiterrorist laws are not symbolic: They are effective and deeply rooted to historical and cultural factors. (8)

A third element is needed to constitute collective identity in the full sense of the word identity: Collective identity calls for, and implies, authorization, which enables the collective group to conduct collective action. In a nutshell, identity is a process of identification that creates a fictional self-understanding linked to a self-representation of who the collective is. Even democracies, no matter where, what, or how young or old they are, are threatened by "terrorism"; indeed, "terrorism" is now often said to be uniquely threatening for democracies, and likely to remain so into an indefinite future.

The European Political Democratic Norm

The concepts "European identity" and "national identity" have been introduced into the political discourse in the last three decades. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 reinforced the debate on these two concepts and their relationship. With the recent accession of new member states to the European Union, the issue is again at the forefront. European and national identities have been the subject of treaties and other official EU documents. On both the European and the national level, politicians have made use of these concepts in order to promote either European integration or a Euro-skeptic attitude.

The first official citation of European political identity may be found in a document from the early 1970s. On December 17, 1973, in Copenhagen, the nine foreign ministers of the European Community adopted the so-called Document on "European Identity." (9) This document stated:

The Nine Member Countries of the European Communities have decided that the time has come to draw up a document on European identity. This will enable them to achieve a better definition of their relations with other countries and of their responsibilities and the place which they occupy in world affairs. They decided to define the European Identity with the dynamic nature of the Community in mind.... The European Identity will evolve as a function of the dynamic construction of a United Europe. In their external relations, the Nine propose progressively to undertake the definition of their identity in relation to other countries or groups of countries. As Christopher Hill and Karen Smith have noted with respect to this declaration, "the term 'identity' is a misleadingly rhetorical title for what is little more than a list of...

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