Book Review: New Xenophobia in Europe. By Bernd Baumgartl & Adrian Favell. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1995.

4 Colum. J. Eur. L. 205 (1998)

reviewed by Juliet M. Hanna.

A tender heart has he, who loves his homeland;
strong is he, to whom all lands are home;
perfect is he only, to whom the whole world is strange.
–Hugh of Saint Victor, 12th Century

With this quote Bernd Baumgartl and Adrian Favell lead the reader into New Xenophobia in Europe, a collection of reports on xenophobia in 27 European countries. Researchers at the European University Institute in Florence (the EUI) enlisted the talents of social scientists from each country to provide national perspectives on post-1989 developments in this troubled area. The book represents the first stage of a comprehensive study: the documentation or data-collection stage. The next two stages of the study will explore the reasons, causes and projected directions of xenophobic developments, as well as policy-oriented scholarship on combatting xenophobia. The book begins this undertaking with a rich introduction to European nations and their peculiar problems. Each piece takes the reader on a journey to the heart of a nation and its history, defining the political, social and legal landscape, and searching for the origins of hostility toward “the Other.”

The editors note that they have targeted the book to two groups: “people interested in Europe and its current concerns” and “people interested in the question of xenophobia as a theoretical issue.” For students of European integration, in particular those whose focus is on the developing migration (i.e., immigration, asylum, integration of third-country nationals) policies of the European Union, the book provides a somewhat disturbing but valuable reality check. The pieces uncover the potentially explosive differences between the internal climates of the 15 Member States, and they also reveal the tensions between the Member States and their Eastern European neighbors, Switzerland and Norway. Such overwhelming differences expose the weaknesses of European integration and reveal just how daunting a task lies ahead.

Generally, “new xenophobia” as a term describes the increase in hostility toward “the Other” experienced across Europe after 1989. But the various reports presented in this book show that xenophobia itself is a slippery term. In his introduction, Ernest Gellner identifies xenophobia as a general, normal phenomena linked with national identity formation. In favorable circumstances it is “a mere human foible”3-a form of pride and patriotism.4 When nationalism links “dislike of the Other to citizenship rights,” xenophobia becomes a “destructive, dangerous force.” Gellner notes that the degree of xenophobia’s political explosiveness varies with the circumstances. He identifies two flash points: when affluent, industrial nations experiencing massive in-migration do not have the institutional devices to cope with the situation; and when the collapse of communist or totalitarian regimes leave a power vacuum, and nationalism provides a path back to order. These flash points occurred simultaneously in European nations after 1989.

Yet not all of the reports in this collection distinguish nationalism and racism from xenophobia. The editors did not impose standard terms on the authors. Instead, the editors wanted to capture the diversity of national perspectives, not merely through reports on the varied manifestations of xenophobia, but also through the varied use of language to describe those manifestations. They explain that xenophobia must remain an operational concept, but they are able to provide a very general definition: it is “the dread of ‘foreigners’ as a group, whether defined legally, as ‘immigrants,’ or by their strangeness as a visible group; it is taken as a classic device of self-definition as part of an ‘in-group’ in opposition to an ‘out-group.’

In the interest of giving focus and relatively uniform format to this comparative study, the editors distributed a questionnaire to the authors to be used as a guideline. The questionnaire asked authors to provide a brief historical background on immigration or ethnic populations and to analyze how that history relates to national identity formation. The questionnaire also inquired about post-1989 legal and political developments, as well as variations in social attitudes, based on national research or Eurostat/Eurobarometer studies.

What emerged is a “snap shot of contemporary Europe in the 1990s.” The pieces are organized alphabetically by country. They are replete with factual dataand tables to supplement the authors’ personal observations and interpretations of various xenophobic phenomena. The reports document the rise of nationalist parties, violence against foreigners and ethnic minorities, the rhetoric of hate, discrimination by the media and public officials, and immigration-related legislation. And the piece on Bosnia-Herzegovina paints a disturbing portrait of xenophobia at its extreme: an ethnic war.

These “snap shots” of the various European countries do not offer comprehensive analyses; rather, they invite readers to look more deeply into the problems Europe faces. The authors make no pretense about devising detailed solutions, yet some do suggest tentative guidelines for future policymaking. Others, highly critical of developments within their respective societies and governments, offer only somber perspectives of the future.” The final report, however, does offer some deeper analysis that helps the reader to identify common themes and to expand upon various concepts appearing in the individual reports.

Legal students and scholars will note that each report’s legislative sections provide only brief summaries of laws enacted and how those laws are enforced. This is due largely to the fact that the authors are social scientists-only four have legal backgrounds. Law is treated as a factor; it is part of the entire landscape. The reader will notice that three general types of legal solutions have been instituted to combat–or in some instances to institutionalize-xenophobia across Europe. Many EU states have enacted legislation to curtail or close off any migration into their territories. Some of those states, notably Austria and Ireland, have drawn fire from international organizations for human rights violations in their treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers. Placing severe restrictions on naturalization and citizenship is also a common approach. Positive legislation to combat racism and xenophobia, and constitutional provisions guaranteeing full rights to minority populations, are in place in several nations. But effective enforcement of those laws is hampered by the “dominant politics of exclusion.” While law may be a vehicle for social change, xenophobia has remained powerful in resisting that change. Considering the very nature of xenophobia, the broader social sciences approach is perhaps more helpful to
legal students and scholars. As Marija Drafkid aptly states: “Xenophobia is… reflected more in what is done, than in what is enacted in law; as well as in the atmosphere in which the legal provisions are put into practice.” Understanding the limitations of law, then, may lead to better, more focused responses to the problem.

The book does present many European Community-level solutions to xenophobia. The editors express both hope that such solutions may be available–“with a sizeably progressive potential legislative payout in terms of rights and recognition” 6—and their conviction that “both the integration of Europe and the migration of foreigners into Europe are processes which cannot be halted.” But they are skeptical, because the rise of nationalism and aggressive assertions of national sovereignty essentially thwart the power of the EC institutions to effect change, especially when measures are “not backed by a large degree of national self-interest.”‘” The report on Portugal even suggests that national insecurity over its role in the EC can lead to a xenophobic application of European-level legislation: “Anticipating obedience to EC law, European legislation is often executed in a more severe manner in Portugal than is actually required. ‘We have to be restrictive because we are now part of Europe, goes the argument.” One lesson to take from this book is that, despite all the progress globalization presents and the enormous potential international and supranational entities possess to effect meaningful change, nation states do matter-their influence still has the greatest impact on the societies at issue.