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Is a pan-European nationalism or continentalism possible?

History shows us that European borders are largely transient , Germany only came into being on January 18, 1871, when Otto von Bismarck read out the proclamation of the Emperor of Prussia in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The German Reich was founded after Germany won the 1870-1871 war against France.

Those that wrap themselves in the flags of decaying nation states and close borders are swimming against the tide of history

Here a thought provoking guest article from Paul Wood

Technology and the decline of the nation state

Most people nowadays no longer live in villages, towns or cities but on the internet.

On the internet nations are an abstract idea.

Some states restrict internet use (China, Vietnam, Russia, countries in the Middle East and in the future the European Union) but only three that I know of (Turkmenistan, Cuba and North Korea) more or less ban it altogether.

In the democratic countries so far the internet is not linked to territory.

I could be writing these lines from Bucharest, Bukhara or Timbuktoo. In fact, I am writing this in Bodrum in Turkey.

Distance has been abolished. Have nations?

Abolishing distance creates many problems. Only the naive imagined that this might not be so.

People are happy now to work at home, not realising that if they can do their jobs remotely so can people in poorer countries for less money.

An Englishman in Bucharest can live there for decades, speak English at work, with his friends, in shops and restaurants, inform himself through English language sites on the internet and through English language television and never learn Romanian.

I know hundreds of such people.

Americans do the same in Paris.

So do many Arabs in London, perhaps attending a local Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosque, though not speaking English it is more limiting than only speaking English.

This state of affairs predates the internet, by the way. Major-General Richard Clutterbuck, the only sociologist I ever came across who was not left-wing, pointed out in the 1980s that because of satellite television and many other things there was no longer a culture in England to which immigrants could be hoped to assimilate.

It was also back in the 1980s that Steve Cohen, a leading English immigration lawyer and author of several books about racism “from a Marxist perspective”, said that countries do not belong to the people living in them.

Yet not long ago the world was not globalised. From the first to the nineteenth century the Catholic Church was the only institution in the world that was universal.

Many people in the nineteenth century were detached from their nation or didn’t know they belonged to one (like the villagers near Lake Ohrid who told Bulgarian nationalists that they were simply Christian and that was it) but they were people who rarely left their village and did not read or write.

Technology, i.e. printing, led to literacy, produced national consciousness and in time nation states, which had formerly been confined to the British Isles, the western edge of Europe and Scandinavia.

Books also created a supranational elite. Dr Johnson said all educated men were of the same nation. He was partly right.

By educated he meant educated in Greek and Latin. As he said,

Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.

In the twentieth century English replaced Latin and Greek as the parole of educated men and women. Still the nation was still almost everything in the old days, the days when most people read the paper, went to the cinema for a treat or on a date and spent their evenings watching television.