(The original Finnish version was published in the online newspaper Uutiskynnys on 14 July 2009. This English version was published on Donald Campbell’s Unofficial Laibach Site in August 2009.)
What can a Western European coal and steel community and a Yugoslavian artist group have in common? If you already know the answer, it isn’t worth it to even read this text. Otherwise it may be.
Let’s begin with the basics. The European Union (EU) is an alliance of many European countries. In its current form it was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. The Union is considered to be a logical consequence of the post-WWII coal and steel community. All 500 million inhabitants are ”EU citizens”, but this citizenship doesn’t replace the national citizenship of one’s homeland. However, the name of the Union is the uppermost text in all passports of the member states.
NSK (short for Neue Slowenische Kunst, in English New Slovenian Art) was founded as an art collective by its three forming groups in 1984 in Slovenia, which back then was part of Yugoslavia. Since the early 1990s NSK claims to constitute an independent micronation. In the founding artists’ opinion this is a logical consequence of Yugoslavia’s collapse. Today several thousand passport holders (most of whom aren’t artists) are ”NSK citizens”, but this citizenship doesn’t replace the national citizenship of one’s homeland. However, people have crossed international borders with NSK passports.
The Treaty of Lisbon is about to significantly reform the European Union. It has even been said that the old Union will vanish and a new, peculiar federation will take its place. After this both the EU and NSK shall be ”countries without soil”, for the Union consists of member states and NSK is, according to its founders, located in time instead of three-dimensional space. Both of these two systems are dilating the concept of a state. Furthermore, the idea that traditional countries should already lose their importance is strong in both NSK and the EU.
More similarities can be seen at the influence possibilities of a single citizen. In the EU, the only decision-making body whose members are directly elected by the people is the European Parliament, which has less influence than many other EU institutions. NSK, in turn, has no democratic government, ergo its citizens cannot affect NSK’s development. However, the first NSK Congress is going to take place next year. During the Congress people’s visions will be heard and some future plans will be made.
There are even more of these identical characteristics between the alliance that covers almost all European countries and the micronation that started as a cultural curiosity, but let’s take a look at one difference. NSK has thousands of citizens who have become strongly attached to it. In Great Britain there’s a middle-aged man who wishes the NSK anthem to be played at his funeral when the time comes. Some people even have the symbol of NSK tattooed in their skin. The EU has 100,000 times more citizens but there aren’t many individuals who honor the Union in such ways.
In June the European Parliament election showed once again that people aren’t interested in EU-related issues even if they should be. One reason for this may be that the EU has no undivided cultural heritage. The Union was built on completely other matters than culture and this remains an important ethno-symbolic problem. NSK was built on art and has its own music, visual arts, theatre etc. You can presume that NSK citizens all over the world have rather identical art predilections. That’s fruit-bearing ground for social capital. Well, surely many NSK citizens purchase their passports just because of their taste for culture, but how is the EU going to reach even the normal nation-state level when it comes to the people’s feeling of togetherness?