Critical Assessment of the European Refugee Crisis: Caricature of a Civilian Power?

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Daniela Lenčéš Chalániová, School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Anglo-American University, Prague


    A popular saying has it, that the European integration history is a history of crises. The current European refugee crisis is without a doubt the most important crisis that will most likely change European politics, it is so prominent these days that it has even overshadowed the third Greek bailout (and the abating Eurozone crisis). The crucial concern at the moment is, whether Europe in the face(s) of the many refugees and asylum seekers, will be able to maintain its sui generis, civilian, normative power identity. Europe has always differentiated itself from the realpolitik of the traditional states exemplified by the United States’ policies in Iraq, or European states’ own nationalistic past. Furthermore, European identity has equally importantly been constructed in opposition to the totalitarian undemocratic regimes of the East (Soviet Russia) while Europe has been perceived as a postmodern civilian (F. Duchene) normative power (I. Manners). However, the reactions of the member states to the influx of refugees vary greatly: from Germany’s open arms to Syrian asylum seekers, to Hungary’s barbed-wire fence, from France’s lukewarm support of refugees to Slovakia’s complaint to the ECJ on the decision of refugee redistribution quotas. All in all, that image, that construction of a postmodern civilian power seems to be significantly fading while old nationalistic contours get stronger every day.
    Therefore the aim of this contribution is to look critically, through the eye of the cartoonists, at how are individual member states and the European Union dealing with the refugee crisis, identify possible normative cleavages between the EU’s purported civilian image and the criticized reality, or in other words: does the image/identity of Europe as a civilian power still hold in times of the refugee crisis or are we falling back to good old power politics? The data set will consist of cartoons from the following countries: Germany, Austria, Austria and the UK, involving a sample from 2014/2015 – years when the influx of refugees increased significantly. The paper will employ a postructuralist approach to the subject, using a visual discourse analytic method of cartoon interpretation.