Newsweek—Europe’s big choice

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the last few months, a dark tribalism has swept Europe. In January, after Italy's worst race riots since World War II, the government sent armed carabinieri to clear out camps of jobless African migrants in the country's south. In Britain, Tory leader David Cameron recently pledged to slash immigration by 75 percent if elected. In France, which is heading into key regional elections this spring, President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a noisy debate about "French identity" that has featured talk of banning the burqa and other kinds of minority bashing. Even Switzerland, long one of Europe's most refugee-friendly states, has turned ugly, passing a referendum amending its Constitution to ban minaret construction.

In country after country, immigrants, often from Muslim countries, are being targeted. More than at any point in recent decades, fear is becoming the dominant force in European politics, warns the French commentator Dominique Moisi. The immediate cause for this fear has been the economic crisis, which has stoked worries about outsiders stealing Europe's jobs and overburdening its welfare system. But the animosity reflects a deeper shift. Immigration to Europe has exploded in recent years, so much so that the EU has overtaken the U.S. as the world's premier destination for people seeking a better life abroad. Since 1990, 26 million migrants have landed in Europe, compared with 20 million in America. There they have helped fuel economic booms, reinvigorated the continent's declining birthrate, and transformed cities from Madrid to Stockholm. The European Commission estimates that, since 2004, migration by Eastern Europeans alone to Western Europe has added a net €50 billion, or 0.8 percent, to the bloc's GDP each year.

Yet not everyone is convinced of these benefits, and the migrants are provoking deep fears that Europe's racial and religious identity is being lost. Driven by such anxieties, governments are starting to turn against the newcomers. Many states, including Britain and Italy, have put new limits on immigration, while others, such as Spain and the Czech Republic, are paying migrants to go home. As a result of such measures and the downturn, labor migration to Europe plummeted last year.

As these trends intensify, Europe will face a stark choice. It can appease the angry masses and slam the doors. Or it can defy public opinion and open the gates to more and better-skilled immigrants. Doing so will be difficult politically. But it is also a necessary part of ensuring the continent's economic recovery and long-term vitality. While inviting more foreigners in might seem an odd choice today, Europe simply can't afford not to. Should it force itself to become a more open, mobile society--modeled on traditional immigrant countries such as Canada, Australia, and the U.S.--it will thrive. If it locks its doors and halts integration, on the other hand, it will wind up like Japan: shriveling, xenophobic, and resigned to decline.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope

9 Comments
Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Europe cannot copy the American, Canadian, and Australian immigration experience because their nations are not economically free enough to offer the necessary opportunity. The Moroccans, Turks, and whatnot find more opportunity in Europe than in their own sorry lands but their chances of flourishing there are asymptotically close to zero.

They remain confined to menial jobs and grow increasingly resentful of a thoroughly entrenched elite who have long-since walled off any opportunity to rise from below.

The problem does not affect only immigrants to Europe; there is nearly a two-year waiting list of well-educated French people waiting for the chance to apply for a resident visa in the USA.

Look around. The better-skilled immigrants from Africa and elsewhere are coming to Canada and the US every chance they get. Enjoy this advertisement for Tim Horton’s coffee shops. It’s quite true to the modern Canadian immigrant experience.

February 27, 4:07 pm | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

And it can wind up Muslim.

February 27, 4:32 pm | [comment link]
3. MargaretG wrote:

The fact that places like New Zealand (where I live) is an immigrant society does not mean that it is easier to integrate people who do not want to be integrated. We have not faced the situation where a high proportion of any migrant group wants to change the basic tenets of the rest of society to suit them. And neither have Australia. In this Europe with its high Muslim migration, is faced with an issue that neither of these countries face to any great extent.

February 27, 5:21 pm | [comment link]
4. Conchúr wrote:

There is a simple solution - We have more children! Europe cannot copy the states mention by Bart Hall because they are “new” countries, built on immigration. Not so in Europe, to copy the US, Canada and Australia would effectively mean abandoning our historical, cultural and ethnic identities.

[Slightly edited by Elf]

February 27, 5:31 pm | [comment link]
5. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Don’t be silly. The Austro-Hungarian empire more than a century ago enjoyed remarkable economic and other freedoms that would be enviable in our time. As long as you didn’t diss the Emperor, foment a revolt, or try to mess around in foreign affairs you were generally free to go and do as you wished.

Numerous German immigrants came to Hungary in the 18th and 19th centuries for economic opportunity and freedom from their local princelings. Italians and Slavs moved there for the largely the same reasons, as did a non-trivial number of Romanians. They came, they prospered, and they assimilated.

Much of Europe once had something rather like what we now have. They, however, LOST it because they made the devastating mistake of paying attention to a bunch of socialist and egalitarian eggheads who claimed to have a better way.

February 27, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
6. Fr. Dale wrote:

There they have helped fuel economic booms, reinvigorated the continent’s declining birthrate, and transformed cities from Madrid to Stockholm

It’s hypocritical comments like this why I no longer subscribe to Newsweek. This same author would probably have been an advocate of Zero Population Growth in the 1960’s that Europeans embraced.

February 27, 6:40 pm | [comment link]
7. deaconjohn25 wrote:

Don’t blame the immigrants for Europe’s slow self-genocide. Europe bought the Planned Parenthood anti-life agenda and ignored the much villified Pope Paul VI’s prophecy (Humanae Vitae encyclical) about the dangers of the West and Christianity ceasing to be pro-life.
    Leave it to Newsweek to go hysterical over any Western countries trying to protect their culture. The things listed in the article as horrendous trampling on Moslems are completely small potatos compared to the horrors regularly visited on Christians in the Moslem world—rarely covered here in the media.

February 27, 8:05 pm | [comment link]
8. Fr. Dale wrote:

#7. deaconjohn25,

Leave it to Newsweek to go hysterical over any Western countries trying to protect their culture.

Agreed, the following comment from Newsweek illustrates your point.

In the last few months, a dark tribalism has swept Europe

It used to be called Nationalism.

February 27, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
9. Ross Gill wrote:

Maybe we should look at immigration more as an opportunity than as a threat.  Instead of having to go out into the world to make disciples the world is coming to us.

February 27, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
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