Transnationalism and non-EU communities in Europe

, by Konstantin Manyakin

Transnationalism and non-EU communities in Europe

In one way or another, non-EU communities face very serious problems with adopting the identity of their host countries because of transnationalism and multinationalism.

For the latter case, Kymlicka argues that Western European governments should “adapt familiar models of multinational citizenship to be more inclusive of immigrants. In short, if the citizenship agenda is to be effective, we need a more multinational conception of citizenship, and a more multicultural conception of multinationalism” [1], which the United Kingdom and Belgium still lack. The French system is strictly based on unitarianism and does not count its foreign or native minorities, including Bretons, Basques, or Catalans as ’nations within nations’, unlike Scottish citizens within the UK or Walloon citizens within Belgium. Kymlicka also points to the problem of what it means to be British or Belgian. A post-national approach would imply that it is not necessary for a person of immigrant origin to identify as English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, or Cornish to be British or, in Belgium, to identify as Walloon or Flemish. A multinational approach would suggest that it is only possible to become British or Belgian through assimilating or adapting into one of these aboriginal ethnicities.

On the local level, in the UK, civilians of non-EU descent are forced to adopt some elements of Englishness (assimilation) or Scottishness (civic integration in Scotland’s framework), in order to adapt. This causes confusion for members of non-EU diasporas about the concept of ’Britishness’ on a unitary level. A similar scenario is observable within Belgium, especially in the Flemish region, which until recent years appealed to immigrants to integrate into a Flemish identity by learning the local dialect of Dutch only and abandoning the idea of becoming a Belgian person on a federal level. In contrast, Walloons demand a full cultural assimilation without being aware of the Dutch speaking community living in the north of the country. In most of the UK, it may be preferable from the point of view of people of immigrant descent to identify themselves as ‘British’, which may appear to be a more open and civic identity compared to the more ethnic categories of English, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish. They can imagine themselves becoming British in a way that they have trouble seeing themselves as English or Welsh. Moreover, foreigners and their descendants often have no desire to be dragged into these old battles. Many of them left countries with destabilizing ethnic/sectarian conflicts, and they did not come to Britain to “become foot soldiers in someone else’s identity conflicts” [2]. According to the census, most of the ethnicities who belong to foreign minorities consider themselves to be British in approximately the same percentage as white British (at the range of 87%).

However, in Scotland, where 33% of Scottish people totally reject even partial British identity, there is a risk of alienating themselves for affiliation with a unitary state. During the 2003 General Elections, 47% of ethnic Pakistanis have voted for the separatist Scottish National Party and this is not only because this party opposed the British invasion of Iraq, which is a Muslim country. According to the poll, one-third of Pakistanis living in Scotland consciously support Scottish independence from the rest of Britain [3]. Another reason why the Scottish National Party maintains its popularity among the people of immigrant heritage is that, by the late 1980s, it abandoned the ’fortress mentality’ and encouraged all minorities, in comparison with the more nationalist England which is subject to the influence of assimilationist Conservatives [4]. Devolution or accommodation of Welsh or Scottish nationalism may be oppressive to people of non-EU origin unless there is pressure to redefine Welshness and Scottishness to be ethnically inclusive. Moreover, “surveys suggest that conceptions of English nationhood remain deeply ethnic, even racist – an attitude that can persist in part because state policy assumes that immigrants in England will become British without becoming English” [5]. Also, a strong sense of English identity is associated with greater Islamophobia, as some English nationalists have dressed themselves as crusaders. In this case, if immigrants residing in England want to stay and adapt to the region, then British Muslims must assimilate or face exclusion and even racist attacks by English nationalists.

Nevertheless, at the same time, Scottish identity is not associated with any form of xenophobia toward foreigners. In contrast, conceptions of Scottish nationhood are becoming increasingly multicultural, and this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the Scottish government has committed itself to including immigrants within its conception of Scottishness, not just as British citizens living alongside members of the Scottish nation. Sub-state regional government in Scotland, often in the hands of nationalist parties, has adopted immigrant integration policies that encourage immigrants to think of themselves not as post-nationals but as members of a Scottish community and as participants in projects of sub-state nation-building. The result is “a potential asymmetry or even contradiction in citizenship promotion policies” [6] as the central government promotes a post-national form of citizenship. Scotland still encourages its civilians of foreign origin to reject the identity of the country the immigrants are actually residing in, which is truly British. This form is still publicly promoted so that immigrants can become British without becoming English, Scottish, Welsh, or Irish, while sub-state regional governments promote a multinational form of citizenship, telling them that they become citizens precisely by becoming Scottish or Welsh, whether it is civic or ethnic nationalism [7].

(NOTE: This article was taken from MA Thesis – Multiculturalism in Western Europe: From Implementation to Failure – by Konstantin Manyakin)


[1Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

[2Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

[3Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

[4Kivisto, P. (2002) Multiculturalism in a Global Society. Albany: Blackwell Publishing. pp.125-126.

[5Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

[6Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

[7Kymlicka, W. (2011) ’Multicultural citizenship within multination states.’ Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp.281–302.

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