The Brotherhood and Unity Highway
Several times in history, the Balkans were a predictor of the future in Europe: the First World War in a way started on the territory of later Yugoslavia, while the breakup of this multiethnic and multi-religious country heralded the growing nationalism and fundamentalism in other parts of Europe as well as the Middle East, from where millions of refugees want now to come to the increasingly xenophobic Europe. Such processes of division and hostility are in the West often described as Balkanization, a term that some use also to describe the current developments in Syria. At least in recent years, however, these processes have been undoubtedly due also to the increasing interference of international financial capital in the economic and political situations in the region.
One of the main routes of the mass exodus from the Middle East has until recently cut across the Balkans, starting in Greece. What do the Balkans herald today?
Just before the EU and Turkey concluded what has been termed a shady deal (an additional €3 billion in financial assistance, abolition of the visa system, one-on-one exchange of Syrian refugees in Turkey for Syrians in Greece), the governments in the region decided to close the Balkan route for refugees.The closing of the Balkan route precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe in Greece and the expulsion of refugees back to Turkey.
The general attitude of all governments in the European Union seems to be that such great numbers of refugees are unmanageable, that borders should be closed, and that even more restrictive asylum policies and security measures should be introduced. On the other hand we also witness numerous protests, analyses, and art projects that are severely critical of the new European borders, the growing xenophobia, lack of empathy, and bureaucratic treatment of the refugees. We often hear that the official procedures and media reports completely depersonalize the refugees. Journalists who oppose this portray the poignant stories of individuals and families, and artists paint the refugees’ portraits in order to individualize them. In this way they all emphasize the fact that refugees are people just like us, people who used to have jobs and homes, that there are intellectuals and artists among them, in short, that they are people who could contribute greatly to the development of our European society and become its useful members by integrating in it. Their integration in the existing society seems to be Europe’s bright future.
It is of course right to see an individual with his or her own story in every refugee, but this concern often does not go beyond a simple humanitarian gesture, overlooking for the most part the refugees’ political potential. This lies in their collectivity, and to an even greater extent, in the collectivization of their and our problem. Recognizing the common interest shared by the refugees and the deprivileged Europeans could lead to mobilizing demands for more radical changes of European society, a society that has lost the idea of community based on solidarity and equality.