H.J. Schoo lecture by Minister Timmermans: Europe’s Eastern Border: Using Realpolitik to Achieve Our Ideals

Lecture given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, in Amsterdam (2 September 2014).

Hendrik Jan Schoo died much too young. It was a pleasure to read his analyses: no side issues, no frills. His critical mind always penetrated effortlessly to the heart of whatever he was discussing. Schoo was able to bring complicated issues down to human proportions, without robbing them of their nuance or complexity. It is an honour to be invited to give the lecture which bears his name, and it is a challenge to try to meet the high standards Schoo set for himself. Facts, analysis, interpretation: this journalistic triad came first and foremost for Hendrik Jan Schoo – no compromises. Unconditional respect for the facts, rigorous analyses, sympathetic and human interpretations: a jewel in the crown of journalism.

Almost six months ago, I was invited to come here and talk about Europe’s eastern border. A great deal has happened in that region in the interim. It is hard to imagine a more current topic. I am very grateful to the editors of Elsevier for their foresight and for allowing me to talk to you about this subject.
The developments on the EU’s eastern border will reverberate for a long time to come and will profoundly influence our future. Those developments are not limited to our eastern border however. Much of what I am about to say stems from events in the Middle East and North Africa as well, so ‘Europe’s eastern border’ should be seen in broad terms, as an  emblematic label for what is happening on our borders, both to the east and the south. And even in the very heart of the EU.

1. A new order or disorder?

It is said that predictions are difficult, especially about the future. I would nonetheless venture to predict that the summer of 2014 has caused shockwaves in world politics which will echo throughout the Netherlands, Europe and far beyond for years to come. This summer, many people were moved to reflect on Francis Fukuyama’s essay ‘The End of History’, which was published 25 years ago in The American Interest. Fukuyama kicked up an intellectual storm. His essay became a byword for the world order that appeared to have emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The idea was that, after the Cold War, freedom and democracy would spread out around the world and peaceful, economic relations would be the guiding principle.
The war in Yugoslavia, unrest in the Caucasus, carnage in Africa, even 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – they were all one-off incidents, temporary problems, minor distractions within the then current world view. The main thought was that an end had come to the great ideological schism and that, without that ideological confrontation, the Western liberal world view, based on freedom, unity and justice, would pervade the world, as if obeying a law of nature. In response to Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington fiercely disputed this idea in Foreign Affairs, with his ‘Clash of Civilizations’. In his vision, the ideological confrontation would give way to a confrontation based on differences in religious and cultural identities.

Looking at today’s world, we cannot but conclude that reality has turned out to be more like Huntington’s vision than Fukuyama’s. Although, by making a statement in such general terms I am not doing justice to either analyst.

A criticism of Huntington’s analysis is that it too easily ignores the fact that civilisations are not static and in today’s world are not easy to disentangle. In addition, clashes often occur within civilisations, as we are seeing in the Arab world. The struggle there is mainly one within Islam, with fundamentalism being laid like a cuckoo’s egg in the nest of desire for economic and cultural emancipation. Once it has hatched and grown, fundamentalism then takes control and emancipation gets trampled underfoot. Incidentally, the current clash in eastern Ukraine could be viewed as a clash within a civilisation too, since Ukrainians and Russians certainly share a culture.

To make things more complicated, the confrontation on the European continent has a direct effect on the struggle in the Arab world. For the last two years Russia has been blocking the path to an international solution to the barbarism unleashed by Assad in Syria. It is on this barbarism that ISIL feeds; it is this barbarism that compels people to fund ISIL, based on the fallacy that my enemy’s enemy must be my friend. ‘Another fine mess you got us into,’ as Oliver Hardy would say.

How, then, to describe the world order 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Some suspect we will experience a return to the Cold War, others say the past 75 years have been an anomaly and that we are now returning to the ‘normal’ situation. Others again see a revival of the Concert of Nations that dominated the world in the period between the demise of Napoleon and the events of 1914 in Sarajevo.

For now, the situation remains fluid: the balance of power is shifting, both between and within states. In some parts of the world the state is gaining an increasingly dominant role, elsewhere it is taking a step back, and in still other areas, states are teetering on the brink or almost completely disappearing, without any prospect of a stable alternative.

The international political system was built on the foundations of the relatively stable situation just after the Second World War, with a small number of states, whose position was in no doubt and whose division into two camps resulted in an armed, frozen peace. That situation is long gone, but the system still remains. That is why there is no clear security structure and why the UN system functions so poorly. We have a complex conflict spectrum, in which strong and weak states operate alongside non-state actors of all shapes and sizes. In the great treasure trove of human knowledge – the internet – good journalism is mixed with bad propaganda. In times of rising tensions among individuals, ideas and countries, unfortunately the facts are often lost, analysis is limited and reliable interpretation is a distant memory. Information is blasted into our living rooms, computer rooms, iPads and smartphones at the rate of machine-gun fire. Whereas dictators, terrorists and other barbarians used to be scared to death of the worldwide availability of information, these days they have discovered that it can be a highly effective instrument for sowing hatred, creating confusion and planting doubt in the hearts of well-intentioned people, who are utterly unaware of the sender’s perfidious motives.

Keeping up with news consumes energy. The energy of the media, the energy of the people at home who are exposed to all the world’s misery in real time, 24 hours a day, and the energy of politicians and leaders, who have to have a ready answer to every event. In our day-to-day business at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, too, it is current affairs that take up most of our attention. Understandable in today’s world, but not always conducive to sound judgment and wise responses. Do we take sufficient time to reflect, to hear the low fundamental tones of the long term, or do we just listen to the shrill notes of the here and now? Are we giving ourselves the freedom to realise that while it might feel good to vent your opinion immediately, it often does little to change reality? And if spouting our opinions turns out to have made no impression, are we then not too quick to turn our backs on the world, thinking ‘oh well, it doesn’t matter anyway’?

This is a world that calls for realpolitik. That does not mean abandoning all idealism; it means not losing sight of reality in achieving your ideals. Doing your best to reconcile what is desirable to what is feasible. That is what foreign and European policy is about.

We must go back to viewing the world as it is, rather than as we would like it to be. At the same time we must free ourselves of the narrow definition of ‘national interests’ that has become fashionable in the past decade. More than ever our national interests are intertwined with those of others on our continent and beyond. More than ever we will need to take heed of those interests and use the instruments in our political, diplomatic and military toolbox wisely and judiciously to safeguard our security, our prosperity and the standards which form the foundation of our society for the future. There is no lack of challenges: ultranationalism, religious fundamentalism, a thirst for power. Islamic State, Russian nationalism, terrorism in the Sahel – these are not temporary resurgences of backward, outmoded views. They are hypermodern phenomena, which will not disappear any time soon, because they feed on long-term developments in societies and on continents.

‘Facts, analysis, interpretation’, this too requires greater effort. What drives these people, why do they succeed so often? Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a fine human trait, which unfortunately has fallen by the wayside. In pursuing foreign policy, it is not only a fine trait, but also an essential prerequisite for success. The better you know the other person’s background, motives, circumstances and aspirations, the better you can take them into account when trying to achieve your goal. Insight into the other person allows you to understand their positions, which is not to say that you must adopt their positions and make them your own. What’s more, if you do not understand why a person – or a country – is saying or doing something, you will seldom offer the right response.

Europe’s eastern border is under pressure. We can see Europe is surrounded by areas of instability, stretching from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Aden, from the Tigris to the Nile, from Baku to Bamako and from the Caucasus to the Sahel. Tensions are simmering within Europe as well. But what is that Europe actually?

2. Europe viewed from outside; a community of values

Before Germany was a unified country, the German poet Friedrich Schiller asked the rhetorical question ‘Deutschland, aber wo liegt es?’ Today it seems we can ask the same question about Europe. Europeans are often at a loss to say where Europe is and what it looks like exactly. That is, if we consider Europe as more than a place on a map, which is what Schiller meant when he asked where Germany was.

To some people, Europe is nothing more than a geographical location, and a European is someone who lives there.

I see that differently.

Europe is first and foremost an idea. Europe stands for a way of life that is acknowledged and recognised as European all over the world. Democracy, human rights, freedom of religion, individualism – these are values which first emerged here, in Europe. They were formulated by Erasmus of Rotterdam, when he was in Italy. His ideas were pioneering – German president Joachim Gauck rightly referred to them in the speech he gave in Maastricht last Saturday on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Those values were written down by Voltaire and printed in Amsterdam. The intellectual roots of the American Revolution were ‘made in Europe’. Defining Europe’s boundaries is not a matter of geography, because Europe is more than a continent on a map.

Geography does influence attitudes towards that idea, though, particularly in regions whose European status has always been a matter of debate, due to their location on the periphery of the continent. Russia and Turkey are two countries which, on account of their geography, can face two different directions: west or east, towards Europe or Asia.

Throughout the twentieth century, Turkey looked west. Atatürk’s secular society focused on Europe, and on France in particular. In an essay for the New York Review of Books in December 2010, Orhan Pamuk wrote about the great attraction Europe held in his youth. To him and his friends, Europe was a ‘rosy land of legend’ on the other side of the Bosporus. At school, everyone learned about the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment was admired. The young people of Istanbul smoked Gauloises, just like the Parisian bohemians did – they were all sure of that. Pamuk remembers the legendary motto of the French Revolution printed on the cigarette packets: ‘Liberté, egalité, fraternité’ – values that his generation of young Turks emulated. Even the most anti-Western thinkers in twentieth-century Turkey believed in the European dream. Europe was synonymous with something greater than geography. Europe stood for an ideal.
Does it still, though? For many Turks the attraction of that Europe – as a symbol and an ideal – has faded. The romance of the packet of Gauloises has been replaced by the idea that Europe, like cigarettes, is bad for your health. The love for Europe has cooled. More important than the question of whether the European member states want Turkey to join the Union is the question of whether Turkey itself still wants to.

For the past few years, Russian schoolchildren have been taught that Russia is not a European country: the current party line is that Russians are neither Asians nor Europeans. This is not a new idea. It was already suggested by nationalist thinkers in the nineteenth century. In their view, Russia belonged to neither continent; Russia, they felt, did not have its own authentic history, but was a Sleeping Beauty waiting to be kissed awake. These Slavophiles strongly opposed thinkers who envisaged a European future for Russia. To them, Russia was not a European country, but a unique civilisation beyond that continent’s eastern border: a giant that stood outside European history. The question whether or not Russia is European runs like a thread through Russian history. President Putin has reintroduced Slavophilism as a guiding principle.

We – the Dutch – sometimes seem to think that Europe is a plot of land, but to millions around us it is so much more than that. Europe has no demos, but it does have a nous, a mind. Václav Havel put it as follows: ‘Europe is the homeland of our homelands’ – a common roof over our different homes. Over the past years, Europeans have increasingly come to doubt whether they really have that much in common. But it is outsiders who remind us about the unique civilisation that we call home.

Europe is therefore first and foremost a way of thinking – a way of life. European societies are all mixtures of the same ingredients, albeit in varying proportions. Europeans can expect to enjoy freedom, democracy, protection by a constitutional state, and common schemes for things that can only be done collectively, like the right to a safety net if you become ill, unemployed or too old to work, and to access to education on the grounds of talent. The mix of these ingredients may vary, but they are always all there and that is uniquely European. It does not occur on any other continent, or even throughout the entire European continent. The strength of the European Union is its ability to achieve far-reaching and permanent transformation in countries which want to have this mix or to take it further. EU transformation is often seen as just an economic phenomenon, but it touches all aspects of society: political, social, cultural and moral. Such a far-reaching transformation does not happen automatically; it requires a substantial political, social and financial investment. And it requires a high level of quality, organisational capability, persuasiveness and persistence in the countries and organisations which support it. Above all, transformation can only be successful if its goals are shared, preferably explicitly, by a majority of the population. It is true that in all these areas, European cooperation has shortfalls that must be addressed urgently, but those shortfalls must not allow us to forget what has been achieved in the past 60 years. The economy was an instrument, not a goal. The goal was to achieve the wishes of citizens who were longing for freedom and development.

Our freedom, as it turns out, is a threat to other people’s world view or their sphere of influence. It is a fallacy to think that countries target the European Union because they are strong and the Union is weak. The opposite is true. The Union is attacked because it is strong. The terrorists from the Sahel, or from Syria and Iraq, hate the way we live in Europe, because our way of life has so much more to offer. Their position of power depends entirely on their rejecting our way of life.

The most extremist fundamentalists in the Middle East, the most radical nationalist politicians from Russia – they focus their anger on us because they are afraid the European way of life will hold an attraction for their own population. What Putin fears is not demonstrators waving blue flags with yellow stars in Maidan Square. What he fears is demonstrators waving those same flags in Red Square.

3. Return of geopolitics, towards a new realism

Is this a pure ‘clash of civilisations’? No, it’s a matter of economic and political power, control of natural resources, the desire for a bigger slice of the pie. Against this backdrop, people and states are exploiting ideologies, real and imagined differences, and historical grievances in ingenious, hypermodern ways. What does this portend for our future? Will we see the emergence of an alternative world order, with our way of life obliterated by Russian nationalism or Islamic fundamentalism?

There is cause for concern, but absolutely no reason for despair. Let’s start by taking a dispassionate look at the facts. The fact that people in other countries plainly want to live like us is too often misunderstood as a desire to be like us. A disadvantage of the ‘global village’ is that there is a tendency to think, on the basis of superficial similarities, that people who wear the same clothes, listen to the same music and have (or want to have) the same possessions share the same values. The fact that people want the things we want doesn’t mean they want to be who we are. But this need not be a problem, as long as those people aren’t inclined to force us to be like them. The reverse is equally true, by the way: there are people in the world who, on the surface, have seemingly nothing in common with us, and yet share many of our values, even in the Arab world.

The conflict that has been raging at the heart of Islam and which has now come to such a violent apogee can ultimately only be resolved in the heart of Islam. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not advocating a policy of detachment, but one of support for those forces that preach a tolerant form of Islam, seek to facilitate peaceful co-existence, embrace the rule of law and reject the caliphate. They represent a large majority, but they are increasingly being marginalised. In the end, though, they are the only ones who can drive ISIS out of Iraq and Syria and out of the hearts of desperate people all over the world, including the Netherlands.

Thus, our efforts should be focused primarily on averting threats and seizing opportunities where they arise. Dutch politicians should move beyond aspirations of pursuing a holistic foreign policy. Increasingly, the Netherlands will have to make hard choices about allocating our scarce resources. We should be led not by a desire to pass judgment on every event or development occurring in some part of the globe – a tendency that can sometimes be seen in the relationship between the government and parliament – but by the desire to be a positive influence in places where our presence has added value or where we face particular challenges – because we believe that values we cherish are under pressure, or because our economic interests are being directly affected.
In short: a realistic approach to interests and shifting power relations, both for the Netherlands and our European partners and transatlantic allies. Our immediate surroundings deserve our immediate and undivided attention. The priority regions for our security policy and diplomatic efforts are the eastern and southern flanks of the European Union.

Our values make us much stronger and also more attractive than we often even realise. A Europe that can offer stability, prosperity and freedom carries a strong appeal for hundreds of millions of people beyond our borders. This is why propagating and defending our values is not only key to protecting our way of life, but also a beacon of what others would like to have in their own lives. Efforts by Islamists and ultranationalists to undermine our societies from the inside are directly related to this.

4. Security should be a more central part of foreign policy

Anyone who looks at these challenges from a realistic perspective will soon conclude that economic diplomacy is not enough. If there is war (or the threat of war), if lawlessness is rife (or on the horizon), if there is mounting fear of unrest and conflicts, trade will not flourish. A focus on economic diplomacy is all well and good, but it must be a realistic possibility. Security, a functioning state based on the rule of law, freedom and the protection of property are conditions for economic development and thus trade. Moreover, the values we cherish so deeply should also be strengthened beyond our national borders, especially among our closest neighbours. Those who fail to export stability will find themselves importing instability – and sooner rather than later. At that point, it will not only be commerce, but our whole constellation of values that will be under pressure.

We are very good at setting priorities. Indeed, I’ve just spoken at some length about the subject. With all the unrest in the world, it seems like a new priority comes along every week. But what about the flip side of this? What are we going to de-prioritise? Deciding about this side of the equation is much harder in practice. There is unrest just beyond our borders that can impact us directly, so it’s not only reasonable but also essential that these areas receive our special attention. But our attention is not unlimited; a greater focus on one thing means less focus on something else. What will fall into the latter category? And how much freedom do we give ourselves to make this choice? These are questions that don’t have immediate, conclusive answers, but which nevertheless must be addressed if we are going to concentrate more closely on our own backyard – broadly speaking – and be less distracted by events elsewhere in the world, on which we have limited influence and which affect us less.

It is striking to see how the transatlantic alliance is once again proving its value. How much less safe would people in the Baltic countries or in Poland feel if they didn’t know they had the full support of the alliance? The fact that their request for extra security was immediately answered in the affirmative by the entire alliance and followed up by action has strengthened NATO and enhanced our collective security. Our task now will be to boost the military capabilities of the whole alliance to the desired level. This will not come cheap, and will require not only a financial but also a political effort on the part of countries that aren’t exactly rolling in money.

Because of the MH17 disaster, the Netherlands has been playing a special role in Ukraine, where we face a difficult task. We are responsible for the repatriation mission; the Dutch Safety Board is investigating the causes of the crash; the Public Prosecution Service is looking into the criminal justice side of the case. This tragic incident has brought Ukraine and the Netherlands closer together. There is a greater knowledge and understanding of each other’s positions and the challenges before us. Not only Ukraine, but also our partners in the EU and beyond expect the Netherlands to use that knowledge and involvement to assist Ukraine in this highly complex situation that could have existential implications for this young country and the old nation that populates it.

Ukraine must be given the chance to develop into a stable country over time. The Netherlands leads constituencies at the IMF and World Bank which include Ukraine. For that reason we are closely involved in the support programmes related to its economic development. The Netherlands also has a great deal of expertise in social transformation and democratisation of post-Soviet states.

We are also helping to bolster the rule of law in the country: without a well-functioning state that respects the rule of law, healthy economic development is impossible. There is also a pressing need for humanitarian aid. As a result of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, many people have had to flee their homes.
There are now 155,000 internally displaced persons who need food, shelter and care. The school term has just begun, and winter is around the corner. For all these reasons, the Netherlands has pledged another half a million euros in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

5. A more robust role for the EU

We can no longer leave it up to the Americans to protect security and stability in ‘the European neighbourhood’. Europe must gradually assume that role for itself. But this will only work if we succeed in formulating a common policy that has the support of the whole Union. Member states must be willing to back the actions the EU takes on their behalf; otherwise, the various countries are simply going to go their own way. When it comes to the major issues of the day, a divided Europe is a powerless Europe and thus a threat to the security and stability of its member states. Countries must forgo the illusion that they can manage things on their own. Even the biggest member states can’t do that anymore. Unfortunately, that reality hasn’t quite sunk in for most of them – to put it euphemistically.

In terms of collective action, the EU is effective when there are effective safeguards in place to maintain the balance between differing points of view. I thought that my German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier was wise to keep Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski in the loop regarding his efforts on the Ukraine situation. If Steinmeier had tried to do things alone, he would have opened himself up to the charge of being too pro-Russian, whereas if Sikorski had done the same, he would have been hit with exactly the opposite criticism. By acting in concert, along with Laurent Fabius, they achieved a balance that brought about a consensus among all EU member states. With this unified stance, we were able to present a united front to Russia and agree and implement the necessary sanctions.

The approach taken up to this point was both proper and inevitable. We’ll have to maintain this course of action for some time, as there are no indications that President Putin will be abandoning his destructive policies any time soon. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if he’s going a bit further every day. I don’t want to play armchair psychologist here, but we have come to learn that President Putin is a master of escalation who has yet to discover the joys of de-escalation. He evidently expects that in the end he can just overawe everyone else. This will prove to be a great and extremely costly error of judgment on Russia’s part. We, on the other hand, should not make the mistake of thinking that this will all blow over soon and that we can’t afford sanctions. What we truly cannot afford is to surrender to the logic of irredentism and the use of military action to destabilise a neighbouring country and bring it to its knees, economically and politically. That logic, if allowed to flourish unchecked, will have the tendency to crop up elsewhere. President Putin’s own rhetoric and the extreme, aggressive nationalistic tone we’ve been hearing from the Russian media for the past several months give grounds to suspect the worst.

We share a continent with Russia. We also share interests, on that continent and elsewhere. But we fundamentally disagree with the Russian president on many issues, especially those related to the values on which our societies are based. In those areas where we have common interests, we mustn’t shy away from cooperation, but seek it out. In those areas where we have differences, we mustn’t shy away from confrontation, because a wishy-washy stance on our side will lead to even more contempt from President Putin.

In this connection it is vital that we address our greatest strategic vulnerability: energy. Geopolitical and strategic considerations have thus far played a secondary role in the EU’s energy policy. The crisis in Ukraine, however, has shown that reducing the Union’s vulnerability in this area should be our top priority. If we do nothing, the European Union’s dependence on Russia will only increase. The only way of changing these power dynamics and strengthening our economic and political resilience is the further integration of the European energy market.

Individual European states must phase out their one-sided dependence on Russia, since this is a source of instability for the EU as a whole. A single European energy policy is crucial.

I am not suggesting that we abandon Russian gas entirely, but rather that we foster greater diversity in our energy supply. The need for greater diversity in our energy sources and suppliers is clearer than ever. There are various courses of action open to us. The easy option is just to import more coal from the US. Coal is cheap thanks to the increased use of shale gas, but that’s bad for the climate, and Europe wants to set an example for the worldwide reduction of CO2.

European countries can also produce more renewable energy. Although this option requires a significant investment of capital, it offers numerous new economic opportunities and is also good for the climate. More can also be done to practise energy conservation, especially in Eastern Europe, where, come October, people turn up the heat to 25 degrees, whatever the weather.

These measures – expanding our own production, practising energy conservation, promoting sustainable energy and working towards further integration – are not enough. For the time being, we will continue to need reasonably priced fossil fuels. This means we need to be willing to look to other suppliers. In Algeria, on Europe’s southern border, there are enormous reserves of shale gas hidden beneath the desert. Getting to this gas is complicated and expensive due to the security situation and political instability in the region. But exploiting these gas fields would also bring huge opportunities, for Algeria, the region and us. Looking eastward, we have the countries of the Caucasus and the area around the Caspian Sea. These energy-rich countries could be connected to the Southern Corridor pipeline that will bring gas from Azerbaijan to Europe starting in 2018. Of course, this is also an unstable region, but like North Africa, one with enormous energy potential.

And then there is Iran, the country with the largest gas reserves in the world after Russia. If we manage to reach an agreement with Iran, sanctions can be lifted, thus unleashing tremendous potential. Iran will also need outside knowledge to re-tool its energy infrastructure for export.

Conclusion

Europe is a small continent with a great reputation. Bargaining away that reputation in the hope of short-term gains or out of some form of self-abnegation will cause more harm, over the long term, than economic woes alone. At the end of his essay on the waning appeal of Europe for Turkey in The New York Review of Books, Orhan Pamuk writes,

But if Europe is to protect itself, would it be better for it to turn inward, or should it perhaps remember its fundamental values, which once made it the centre of gravity for all the world’s intellectuals?

For millions of non-Europeans, Europe is the promised land. People are willing to risk their lives to come here. They want to live the way we do: in peace, freedom and prosperity, as individuals. European integration was conceived as an alternative to war and conflict as instruments of policy. For my great-grandparents and even my grandparents, war was the logical outcome of a peace that was felt to have grown stale, usually after around 30 years. For them, any alternative to this was a dream. For us, unfortunately, the alternative has come to be taken for granted. This is all too often reason for complacency or self-doubt: peace is seen as a natural state of affairs which has nothing to do with European integration. But if I look at the facts, and then analyse and interpret them, I can only conclude that our peace is not to be taken for granted, but is solid enough to maintain, with the right effort.

It is up to us – the people of the European nation-states – to join hands. The EU is an association of countries and their peoples. Our project, which was born out of the ravages of two world wars, finds itself with a new, 21st-century mission. To protect European values in a world that is not necessarily favourably disposed to us. It is tempting to shut our doors and windows, or to back down in the face of powers that are big and intimidating. Or to pretend that it is possible to distance ourselves from the capricious reality of world politics, in the hope we’ll be left alone. But that would be a mistake. Europeans can only defend their way of life if they are steadfast.

Europe’s eastern border is a place where our values are in danger, because they are seen as a threat to the dominant power there. If Russia gets its way, Europe’s border will be pushed back. If the Dutch nationalists get their way, Europe’s border would be at Wuustwezel. In the case of Islamic fundamentalists, the border of Europe is where Enlightenment values crumble under pressure from intimidation and violence.

In other words, Europe’s borders are those places where its values are being most vigorously contested. If this summer teaches us anything, it’s that Europe’s borders can cut straight through the Schilderswijk area of The Hague, opposing factions in the European Parliament, the country of Ukraine, the banlieues of Paris, the collective inability to stand up for our values. The borders of Europe are where those values are challenged, fought over, repressed and where they must be defended.