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European borders otherwise

The notion that Europe is ultimately coherent in its main features was until recently most apparent in the project of the European Union. The political, economic, and media discourse on the European Union helped promote the unmarked category of Europe discussed above. It narrowed it down to refer only to EU member states, gradually reduced Europeanness to European Union citizenship, and made the whiteness of Europe's Easterners and Southerners increasingly questionable. As a result, the EU discourse has been slowly monopolizing the label of “Europe” such that only its current 28 member states are considered “European” and included in the term.

Putting this politics of difference in perspective requires the creolization of the notion of Europe implicit in the European Union discourse through the lens of another minor formation: Europe’s current colonial territories overseas. Represented on every official EU map, they appear both physically disconnected from continental Europe and historically unrelated to its past or present construction of difference. While obviously part of the picture, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion, and French Guiana are not part of the discourse. Their location in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Caribbean, and South America is never addressed and does not seem to contradict their Europeanness. The very opposite goes for Turkey, whose “semi-Asian” location, linked to an alleged distance from “European values” (a mainstay of EU discourse) has repeatedly been part of the arguments of denying it EU membership.

Today, the EU includes 34 overseas “entities” resulting from the colonial involvement of 6 EU member states: Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal. Spain, and the United Kingdom. Of these, 9 are part of France, Portugal, and Spain and are full-fledged EU members; they are considered “outermost regions” of the European Union and subject to EU legislation (European Parliament 2016). Portugal’s “autonomous regions” Azores and Madeira, Spain’s “autonomous community” of the Canary Islands and the French overseas departments all use Euro as their official currency and are represented on Euro banknotes, which the European Central Bank claims “show a geographical representation of Europe” (European Central Bank 2019).

Against this background, the discursive construction of a singular notion of Europe depends on silencing the historical role its member states played in creating the main structures of global political and economic inequality during European colonial rule. The member states of the European Union before the 2004 “Eastern enlargement” were, as Bôrôcz and Sarkar (162) have argued, “the same states that had exercised imperial rule over nearly half of the inhabitable surface of the globe outside Europe”. Their colonial possessions covered almost half of the inhabited surface of the non-European world.

The remaining 25 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), awkwardly described in official language as “countries that have a special relationship to one of the Member States of the European Community” (EEAS 2016), are colonies of Demnark, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; they are not part of the single market, yet their nationals are EU citizens - with restricted rights.

The 34 colonial possessions under the direct control of EU member states today represent more than half of the 58 remaining colonies worldwide (Dependencies and Territories of the World 2016). This is not a coincidence. The overseas empires of today’s EU states such as Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium had been many times larger than the current size of their territories. The loss of colonial empires after World War II significantly fueled the political impetus behind the creation of the European Economic Community, the EU’s predecessor, to which the contribution of remaining colonies was considered decisive (Muller,

Canary Islands (ES)

French Guiana (PR)

  • 50 u°
  • 1 ) Guadeloupe (FR)
  • 2) Martinique (FR)
  • 3) Réunion (FR)
  • 4) La Palma
  • 5) Tenerife
  • 6) Gran Canaria
  • 7) Fuerteventura
  • 8) Lanzarote

Figure 20.1 EU’s colonies on Euro banknotes.

Hansen/Jonsson). Upon its founding in 1957, the European Economic Community included not just Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany, but also most of their colonial possessions, officially labeled “overseas countries and territories”, the same category used today for the remaining colonies. They included Belgian Congo and French West and Equatorial Africa, whereas Algeria, at the time part of metropolitan France, was formally integrated into the European Economic Community yet excluded from certain provisions of the Treaty (Hansen/Jonsson 7).

Official EU discourse today foregrounds continental Europe to the detriment of all other territories belonging to European states, but geographically located in other continents. In the process, it links Europeanness to a narrowly defined

EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) and Outermost Regions (OMR)

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  • 1) Arrangements for EU association are in practice not applied to Bermuda, in accordance with the wishes of its Government.
  • 2) Argentina asserts a claim to sovereignty over South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands and the Falkland islands
  • 3) The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved October 10. 2010. The islands will remain OCTs at least unbl 2015.

Figure 20.2 Map of EU overseas countries and territories and outermost regions 2015. Source: Wikimedia commons, public domain, available at: https://c0mm0ns.wikimedia.0rg/wiki/File:EU_OCT_and_OMR_map_en.png.

Outermost Regions of the EU Overseas Countries and Territories OCT Dependencies

Exclusive Economic Zone

Territorial claims in Antarctica

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' & French Southern and Kerguelen ' Antarctic Territories (TAAF)

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France | I Netherlands ZZ Portugal El Spain E United Kingdom Q5

physical location which excludes both the past and the present of Europe’s colonial ties to other regions.

It is however the minor formation of forgotten Europe that best exemplifies the lack of definition power and the massive silencing of Europe’s colonial entanglements resulting from ongoing coloniality. In a hierarchy of “multiple and unequal Europes”, the EU’s overseas territories appear as “forgotten Europe” - they are literally “off the chart” in terms of Europe’s self-representation and modernity’s checklist, yet “on the map” in terms of the claims laid to them by continental European states. There is no geographic referent for forgotten Europe. True, Europe’s overseas countries, territories, and outermost regions are spread out across the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans and thus not easily pinpointed to any one location. Yet the lack of a referent for what ultimately are colonial outposts is a result of what I would like to call the coloniality of memory and that I view as a necessary element of the coloniality of power in the capitalist world-economy.

The coloniality of memory is the discursive mechanism ensuring the systematic omission of enduring colonial ties from public discourse on Europe alongside the systematic avoidance of any overarching classification of current colonial territories as regions 0/Europe2. As such, the coloniality of memory prevents any overarching category from gaining legitimacy as European; references that occasionally or more systematically feature in public discourse tend to be linked to the imperial history of individual states, as labels such as the “Dutch Caribbean”, the "French Antilles”, or the “British West Indies” show. Yet the integral part that colonial possessions have played in the consolidation of European economic and geopolitical power as a whole or the present-day continuities in Western Europe’s entanglement with and policies toward them are never addressed.

As an overarching category, “forgotten Europe” therefore helps stress the fact that some of the multiple Europes are more unthinkable than others: Epigonal “Eastern” Europe is white but not quite, Christian but not Western Christian (partly not Christian at all). Its geographical location in Europe is unquestioned, although its EU accession was piecemeal and remains incomplete. The modernity of individual Eastern European states has repeatedly been tied to their EU membership status and seen as a gradual process of “Europeanization”. In turn, in the case of the Caribbean territories of current EU members, it is the African and Asian heritage of their populations and their predominantly syncretic religions that, together with their remote geographical location, decisively unsettle Europe’s prevailing self-definition as continental, white, and Christian.

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