Defend Europe: Nazi-hipsters or concerned citizens?

They have regularly made the news headlines lately: the youngsters of Defend Europe. “Far-right”, “anti-immigrant” and “Nazi-hipsters” are some of the unflattering terms used by commentators to describe the participants of this ambitiously named project. Defend Europe is an initiative to counter illegal mass immigration to Europe and was set up by Generation Identity, an organization of self-proclaimed patriots from several European countries. Because the project is concerned with some of the same issues that we frequently write about, the time has come for us to subject Defend Europe to a frank analysis.

To be clear from the start, we are no friends of the far-right. We have consistently written to denounce Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen in the run-offs to the Dutch and French elections, and have also spent many hours on social media debating Alt-right “Frogmen”, Brexiteers and Putin-apologists. Besides their illiberal tendencies and flirtations with authoritarianism, we also detest the anti-Europeanism that is inherent to most far-right groups. The fringes of the right tend to think that only the complete breakup of the European Union can solve our continent’s problems, including the problem of mass immigration. What is different about Defend Europe is that, on the topic of immigration, it does not share the self-harmful ‘solutions’ of the far-right; reinstating national borders, secession of member states, reversal of European integration. Instead, the founders of the Defend Europe-project seemingly realized that the only sustainable solution for the Migrant Crisis is to work together and collectively enforce the outside borders of our continent. We cannot but agree, we need strong European borders, not national ones, because illegal mass migration is a threat to Europe as a whole, not just to our individual nations.

Defend Europe acquired a ship which it uses to patrol the Mediterranean Sea around the coast of Libya, the area where many migrants are picked up by ‘humanitarian’ NGOs and taken to the European mainland. The Defend Europe-project has three straightforward objectives: 1 – Monitor the activities of the NGOs and report if they are doing anything illegal. 2 – Destroy any empty migrant boats that they find so they cannot be re-used. 3 – Save any migrants that are in danger at sea, but bring them not to Europe but back to Africa. Regardless of the overall worldview of the people of Defend Europe, we cannot think of any reason to disagree with these three objectives. We are less enthusiastic about the fact that private citizens’ groups, instead of government institutions, are pursuing these aims. However, we think it is understandable nonetheless. Wherever governments fail to protect the rule of law and public safety, citizens step in. This is true across the world, including in Europe.

The organizers of Defend Europe can congratulate themselves. With the help of only one ship and their social media accounts, they managed to get the attention of most major European news outlets. Even if many reporters depicted Defend Europe as a creepy racist vigilante group, they nevertheless got Europeans talking about the issue of illegal migration. Meanwhile, the Italian government has started supervising and even criminally investigating certain NGOs for helping human traffickers, and Libyan authorities have increased their efforts to prevent more people from crossing the sea. The result is that the number of migrants arriving in Europe has actually started to drop. The degree of influence Defend Europe had these developments is debatable, though it is excellent PR for them. More important is that wheels have been set in motion. Action is being taken against mass migration on both sides of the Mediterranean, and we are confident in saying that this is exactly what the vast majority of Europeans wants.
 
 



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