The Hollow Flag: The gulf between EU security rhetoric and real security

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This paper argues that EU security policy suffers from an intrinsic, gnawing weakness. This weakness, the hollowness in the flag, is the absence of the public.

In contrast to endless bureaucracies, meetings between elites, nice-sounding strategies or fine aspirations, real security comes from engaging the public in a serious, national conversation about the past, present and future of the nation, of Europe, and of the World.

Implicitly, the EU recognises this. The EU flag, after all, symbolises a region, points to a shared history and set of values, and makes plain the central role of the peoples of Europe. Sadly, in practice, the people are missing. The flag is

This paper seeks to illustrate the way in which the theory and practise of security in the EU leaves the people out of the conversation. Without a secure anchor in the hopes, fears and aspirations of real people – democratically constituted into the nation-states that make up the Union – security can only ever be an abstract

Whilst the dreams and plans of elites – for peace in Europe, for the protection of rights and democracy, for the expansion of the framework of the EU to new nations – may be praiseworthy, until and unless they are grounded in the demos,
they remain only that: dreams.

What’s more, failure to engage the people in a genuine discussion about security makes the world a more dangerous place. Despite the fears of EU elites and despite the founding myths of post-1945 Europe, militarism, the nation-state,
and the masses are not intrinsically connected. It is in fact the opposite. Without the people, there is no real security.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
PublisherMCC Brussels
Commissioning bodyMathias Corvinus Collegium
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2023
EventThe Return of Geopolitics?: Europe a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine - Solvay Library, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 9 Mar 2023 → …

Publication series

NameMCC Brussels briefings
PublisherMCC Brussels


  • EU security policy
  • Public engagement
  • Sovereignty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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