Jon Stone, Independent, August 23, 2018
The European Commission has marked the day honouring the victims of European totalitarianism with an attack on nationalism – claiming that the ideology leaves countries “weak, poor and morally insecure”.
In a video message put out through European Union social media channels, first vice president Frans Timmermans said war “used to be the European way” and that it had led to Europeans trying “to commit collective suicide” in the two world wars.
“Europe has learned this lesson, this is a mistake we need to avoid,” he said. “Nationalism is like alcoholism, a short period of exaltation, followed by a long period of headaches.”
The message comes as the continent’s political system is rocked by a nationalist insurgency, with Britain voting to leave the EU and far right and populist nationalist parties making gains and forming governments in countries from Italy and Austria to Hungary.
“Nationalism makes us poor because its Siamese twin, protectionism, will destroy the internal market and disrupt international trade,” Mr Timmermans said.
“Nationalism makes us weak because its eternal seeking of enemies, its disdain of others, its need to feel superior makes cooperation with other nations to collectively guarantee our freedom and security much more difficult.
“If nationalism makes us poor, weak and morally insecure, how can it claim to be patriotic? I maintain that nationalists are unpatriotic.”
In a broadside likely to infuriate Brexiteers, the senior EU official added: “To be a patriot is to be a European. To be a European is to be a patriot.”
Mr Timmermans made his comments on Black Ribbon Day, the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. It has been officially marked by the EU since 2009.
It is marked on the 23 August because it is the date of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the temporary alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that preceded their conflict.
Far-right populists are expected to make gains in the European Parliament elections next year, mirroring the gains they have made across the continent at a national level since the last elections to Brussels.