Securitization and Minority Rights: Conditions of De-securitization

by Paul Roe. 2004. In Security Dialogue 35 (3): 279–94

Key words: minorities, migrants, (de)securitization, identity
Summary by Margaux Dandrifosse – IBEI


Micro-summary: While migrant issues can be de-securitized through deconstruction of the group identity into individual markers, national minorities cannot as they depend on their collective identity for survival.

Summary: In this article, the author shares the general academic perception that securitization of migrants and minorities is not desirable, and that de-securitization is the necessary response. Accordingly, Roe aims to examine how the de-securitization of minorities and migrants can be achieved. To develop his argument, he builds on the de-securitization strategy advocated by Huysmans (1998), according to which de-securitization can be achieved through the transformation of group securitized identities into other individual markers. This deconstruction enables to overcome the divide between minorities or migrants and the majority population as all adopt an identity defined in individual terms.

In this light, Roe’s main argument is that, while migrant issues can be de-securitized, national minority policies and rights cannot. He argues that migrants’ group identity can be deconstructed and transformed into individual identities, moving away from the securitized group marker. However, this is not possible for national minorities whose existence requires a distinctive collective identity, primarily defined in ethnic terms, to be distinguished from the majority of the population. The group identity of national minorities cannot be deconstructed into individual markers as minorities advocate for their collective ethnic uniqueness vis-à-vis the majority group. The preservation of minorities’ cultural and ethnic collective identity represents their societal security, enshrined in minority rights. De-securitizing minority rights, thereby breaking apart the collective identity in favor of individual markers, would entail the elimination of the group’s claim to societal security. In other words, it would equate to erasing the existence of the minority group. The author defines this logic in terms of a “societal security dilemma” (293).

Finally, he comes up with an alternative solution to the de-securitization of national minorities to address this dilemma. He advocates the establishment of democratic rules and laws to safeguard the societal security of national minorities, together with regulations to guarantee their integration into the political and economic spheres of the state. In that way, while minority issues cannot be de-securitized, they can be managed through liberal democratic policies to ensure that both minorities and the majority feel secure.

Follow-up: Roe’s approach has significantly impacted the literature due to his emphasis on societal security, placing national minorities as an alternative referent object of security, and showing that security cannot be completely eliminated from minority issues. This has impacted further conceptualizations of de-securitization, for instance, by Carlà (2020). After this article, the author has published related works such as “Reconstructing Identities or Managing Minorities? Desecuritizing Minority Rights: A Response to Jutila” (2006) which responds to a review of this 2004 article. Further works include: “The ‘Value’ of Positive Security” (2008), “Is securitization a ‘negative’ concept? Revisiting the normative debate over normal versus extraordinary politics” (2012), and “Gender and ‘positive’ security” (2014).

Relevance for the SECUREU Project: This article presents significant links with approaches developed by Sasse (2015) and Carlà (2020). Roe’s argument that minority securitization can be managed through democratic policies is echoed in Sasse (2015)’s claim that rights for minorities and migrants have increasingly been promoted in Europe as a response to the securitization of those groups. Additionally, Carlà (2020)’s human security approach builds on Roe’s idea that securitization cannot be completely eliminated due to minorities’ need for societal security. However, unlike Sasse (2015) and Carlà (2020), Roe emphasizes the differences between national minorities and migrants, stressing that those make it impossible to apply similar policies and conceptualizations.

Accordingly, this article provides a conceptual shift to analyse the securitization of migrants and minorities in the EU. It would be interesting to look at how the EU addresses minority issues and migrants differently, and how this influences the securitization and de-securitization of those groups. How do policy linkages between minorities and migrants create frustration among those groups? How do such linkages encourage the majority in Europe to associate migrants with minorities, and what role does this this play in fueling xenophobia and right-wing populism? Moreover, it would be interesting to examine the democratic regulations put in place by the EU and its Member-States to guarantee the societal security of national minorities and ensure their political and economic integration. Has the EU successfully balanced security and integration, or is there a policy trade-off between guaranteeing minorities’ collective identity and integrating them into political and economic spheres? Have certain Member-States been more successful than others in enacting regulations and managing