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Europe’s Forbidden Colony

Philosopher Srecko Horvat looks at Europe’s identity crisis and asks if the continent is colonising itself.


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Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat explores the recent rise of Europe’s far right and asks if the continent is in a desperate search for sense.

The film shows how Europe’s colonialism is experienced by the minority ethnic population, who disproportionately feel the power of state surveillance and intrusion.

“You look at Nice; Brussels; these are people from the miserable suburbs of Paris and Belgium. It’s internal problems that are leading to the terrorist attacks. The people involved, the people who have been picked up by the police at least, have had very few shallow Islamic roots,” explains Noam Chomsky, a prolific author on international relations and the origins of terrorism. “They’re drawn to jihadism as a way out of degradation and humiliation and internal repression.”

Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, argues that the rise of the right represents a new phenomenon emerging in Europe, where capitalism is now comfortable with authoritarianism, racism and xenophobia.

“I think it is absolutely crucial that when we talk about [the] horror of new racism, anti-immigration … that you read it as a symptom, or a reaction, of what is wrong with today’s big global capitalism, that is the key,” Zizek explains.

Horvat also reflects that it’s not just the right that reaches for nationalist and xenophobic legitimacy. He illustrates how mainstream politicians – through France’s banning of the niqab and the Danes taking valuables from migrants – channel this anger toward migrants, refugees and even the idea of Europe itself.

He also meets Gabor Vona, the leader of the far-right party Jobbik in Hungary, who claims they are not as interested in demonising minorities as attacking “the Establishment”, who he believes are robbing the people.

“Escaping from the Soviet Union, escaping from the communism, we thought joining the democratic European community would also bring us economic success. But then, we had to realise Hungary often appears, for Western companies’ or multinational companies’ capital, only as a market or cheap source of labour,” Vona says.

Horvat finally asks how Europe can free itself in the future.

In this episode Horvat talks to MEP Nigel Farage, professor Noam Chomsky, Belgian youth worker Ihsane Haouach, Dr Corinne Torrekens, author of  Islam in Brussels, philosopher Slavoj Zizek, leader of far-right Hungarian party Jobbick Gabor Vona, Hungarian philosophers Agnes Heller and Gaspar Tamas.

French protesters at the Nuit Debout,  the Greek No-Middle Man movement, leader of the campaign to remunicipalise Hamburg’s electricity grid Wiebke Hanson, the Mayor of Friedland Wilfried Block and Syrian student Ihab Al Saleh, deputy Mayor of Barcelona Gerardo Pisarello and Mayor Ada Colau.


Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat is going on a journey across Europe, searching for the connections between the crises he believes are tearing the continent apart.

Unemployment, debt and an influx of refugees are often pointed to as the causes of a European identity crisis. But, Horvat asks, could they in fact be the results of it? 

He travels from Idomeni in Greece, where in 2015 refugees fleeing war and poverty entered Europe, to the dockyards of the Greek port of Pireaus, where workers’ unions say they are fighting a new kind of privatisation, and from Romania, where people are fighting to protect their forests from international investment firms, to the City of London.  

Along the way, he argues that the real cause of Europe’s identity crisis stems from the trauma of it colonising itself.

“I think Idomeni is the best metaphor for what’s happening in Europe today,” he reflects. “It shows people, refugees who were fleeing from war, and wars such as Syria – but also Afghanistan and Iraq – became a problem. Why? Because we are at a train track and they were blocking the train track.

“So it became a problem for the corporations, for other countries, not only [for] Greece because this way was blocked.

“So on the one hand what you can see is refugees don’t have the right to move freely, [while] on the other hand goods can move freely as far and as much as they want.” 

How, he asks, can this colonial process of dispossession be taking place on such a massive scale without becoming headline news? 

The answer, he explains, is that: “This 21st century colonialism doesn’t ride into town waving a national flag, it just seems to happen.”

“But it’s actually the result of institutions and rules that are designed to be hidden.” 

It is those institutions and rules that Horvat hopes to expose in Europe’s Forbidden Colony.

In this episode Horvat talks Syrian refugee Mustafa al Hamoud, Greek dock workers Anastasia Frantzeskaki and Georgios Gogos. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, privatisation expert Dr David Hall, Romanian lawyer Bogdan Tudor Todoran.

Environmental activist Hans Hedrich, Sociologist Saskia Sassen, Welsh steel worker Mark Turner, Eurotunnel spokesperson John Keefe, Green MEP Jean Lambert, Hungarian philosophers Agnes Heller and Gaspar Tamas, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.