European Political Identity and Democratic Solidarity after 9/11: The Spanish Case

Article excerpt

The attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, have given new urgency to calls for political cooperation. With the fight against terrorism having been elevated to the highest priority and "terrorism" presented as a threat for all democracies, the rhetoric of democratic solidarity against terrorism has become very clear and widely shared as a common discourse. My specific concern in this article is to examine the official discourse of antiterrorist cooperation as it has emerged in Europe and to analyze the extent to which it has had an effect on the process of forming a common European identity. (1)

The attacks of September 11 seem to have made all political actors aware that any domestic security policy must be assured at the global level, or be not assured at all. Moreover, the supposedly natural solidarity of democratic societies against terrorism has become a rhetorical commonplace that can hardly be questioned, though it is clear that the precise relationship between democracy and resistance to terror has become a troubling problem once again. The idea of a "terrorism that exceeds national borders" requiring mutual assistance and cooperation is certainly not an issue that can be restricted to its functional effectiveness or merely technical aspects, still less to matters of intelligence aimed at the elimination of clandestine organizations.

Governmental policies against "terrorism" are the results of political decisions made possible by "terrorist" events. (2) They depend on the emotional mobilization that these events create and the memory of historical precedents. They also depend on the means, histories, repertoires, and struggles inside and between the institutions in charge of the fight against "terrorism," both on a national and international scale. (3)

My primary concern in this examination of recent and prospective trends in European antiterrorist cooperation is to connect two topics that tend to be considered in mutually exclusive ways. The struggle against "terrorism" is simultaneously a diplomatic process of identity formation beyond the national political arena. My analysis of the relationship between responses to "terrorism" and collective identity formation at the European level will especially focus on the post-9/11 period, but in the context of some comments on the beginning of European antiterrorist cooperation in the early 1980s, a time when cooperation and solidarity between states were not so well developed.

The core of my project consists of demonstrating how the antiterrorist fight in Europe was initially shaped by the problem of the recognition of each and every member state as an inter pares member of this "Europe of democracies." From this angle, cooperation among member states, understood as a hyperbolic discourse of "always more, never enough" and structured on the official history of a long-standing security deficit in Europe, also offered a site at which national characteristics could be converted into a common European identity. While the history of antiterrorism in Europe had been understood traditionally as the domain of raison d'etat and positive exchanges between governments, the progressive formation of ad hoc European institutions through police coordination and legal cooperation could also be understood as an opportunity to develop a network of exchanges ensuring the circulation of strong representations of a collective identity.

The Spanish case is emblematic in this respect, for three reasons. Firstly, because of the several political, judicial, and police antiterrorist measures developed on Spanish national ground after the 9/11 attacks; in my judgment, Spain has seized the opportunity presented by the attacks of September 11, 2001, like no other member state, in order to improve its proper antiterrorist laws to cope with its specifically national concerns in the Basque country.

Secondly, one of the most important marks of Spanish foreignpolicy identity as far as "terrorism" is concerned has always been a claim for a frank and mutual antiterrorist cooperation inside the European Union. …