Frontiers have had a mythical and practical function in the era of modernity: in the former they are means of legitimation; in the latter they are a mechanism of control. This paper mobilises historical sociology to explore the temporal sequences in post-war development that have shaped the frontier politics of the European Union (EU). In doing so, it draws a distinction between colonial frontiers, which embrace violence as a necessity of civilisation, and post-colonial frontier politics, which define borders through citizenship rights and tend to disavowal the violence that they generate. The historical emergence of this conception of the frontier was defined through two aspects of Europe’s combined development with the outside world; the relationship of Western European polities to their colonies in Africa between 1945 and 1962; and the establishment of a highly securitised, ‘ideological frontier’ in the Cold War era. The long-term effects of this was the ‘othering’ of Eastern Europe and Africa, establishing a domain of ‘nearly Europe’ (where the frontier would expand through tutelage) and a ‘not Europe’ (which was excluded from membership of the union). EU citizenship confers powers and privileges that are far greater in their scope than the citizenship regimes beyond the securitised European frontier. ‘Fortress Europe’ can thus be seen as a mechanism to protect these privileges. It renders excluded communities abject, lacking the rights and security that derive from EU citizenship.
Luke Cooper is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Anglia Ruskin University and a director of Another Europe Is Possible, a civil society organisation working for a reformed European Union. He is currently a Europe’s Futures Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Comments by Ivan Vejvoda (IWM Permanent Fellow)