European Integration post-1945 – from Nationalism to Regionalism
Vast areas of Europe were left in ruins at the end of the war in 1945. World War II and its origins – exaggerated nationalisms, hurt national prides, draconic punishments for the results of World War I, the Zeitgeist, the arrival of mesmerising demagogues, hesitations and naivety as well as unfinished processes of collective identity formations – left Europe in a state of devastation, shame and disorientation, and it took the massive and sustained support of non-European states, namely the US, to rebuild the Continent, its societies, its human face and its democratic structures.
The European Project, which started surprisingly soon after the cessation of violence and against the backdrop of the emerging Cold war, was all about bringing peace to Europe, creating friendships, partnership and economic and political cooperation. The new era created the desire for peace and international reconciliation, but the central issue that lay at the root of nation-building had not gone away and needed to be acknowledged by the founders of the European Union: People across the Continent still felt – and still feel – that they are part of a collective of like-minded people. These groups define themselves through ethnic, linguistic, historical, regional or historical characteristics, to name but a few. They are often smaller than the established states that houses them, but very distinct in their different-ness. This variety of regional peculiarities striving for an active expression needed to be cared for, needed to become part of the fabric of the European Union in order to defuse the explosive nature of nationalism and to secure the success of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-regional Europe we experience today.
This lecture will focus on the development of regionalism in Europe since World War II up to the present day, its influences on the shaping of Europe and its potentials and the risks regionalism poses for the future existence of the European project as it was envisaged and designed by its founders.
Conflict Resolution and regional development in Europe – the South Tyrol Case
The South Tyrol issue in the 20th century bears all key aspects of European history in the 20th century, from nationalism to fascism, oppression and conflict, displacement and identity crisis, totalitarianism and democracy, Europeanism, regionalism, secessionism and a peaceful solution to the strive for minority self-determination in a framework of understanding, multilingualism and campanilismo.
Apart from its exemplary qualities for European developments in the 20th century, and the resolution of potentially explosive ethnic tensions in the Italian Province, (which itself turned it into a blueprint for the European approach towards conflict resolution), the issue of South Tyrol is a fascinating micro-history in itself, particularly for the historian of nationalist phenomena who is concerned with the manifestations and transformations of collective identities from the nationalist to the regionalist era in Europe.
In this lecture I will try to outline how the explosive qualities inherent in historical nationalism were defused within the European framework, while, at the same time, the needs for a distinct collective identity continue to survive and have created a state-like strong regional force in Northern Italy which bears many of the hallmarks of nation-building. At the same time, the Province is well integrated and firmly embedded in its host country Italy.
For many years I have researched and accompanied the political and societal developments in South Tyrol and am currently actively involved in creating an archive of social history, which is considered to become one of the seedbeds of regional identity, straddling the ethno-linguistic divides between the three populations in the Province, the German-speaking Tyrolean population, the Italian-speaking population, originating from the immigrants during the Fascist period (1922-1943) and the indigenous Ladin-speaking population which enjoys a special protection. I will report on the efforts of the South Tyroleans to draw on international expertise to build up a regional identity, the cultural and linguistic protection of all populations in the area, and how they are challenging the post-World War I borders between the states of Austria and Italy through their full use of the framework on regionalism provided by the European Union and how this geographically small Italian province contributes to the fast-changing relationship between the region, the nation-state and the European Union.