By Vincent J. Truglia
Writing about Europe’s migrant crisis is a difficult topic to discuss. TV reports showing the suffering most migrants face on their journey to the European Union are heart wrenching, never mind the fact that thousands have already died in their attempt at making the dangerous trip. One immediately asks, how can we not help? Unfortunately, there is a problem with this knee-jerk reaction. As the migrants keep coming, there is likely a limit to the ability of even the wealthiest countries in the EU to accept so many new immigrants. How many are enough? Once we get to the point of asking that question, then the dilemma of the present response becomes obvious.
Migrant Numbers Will Keep Rising
It is a fact of life that we can’t cure all the ills of the world. My great fear is that the response has been irrational from many perspectives. First, the EU created a terrible precedent when it announced that any person who lands on EU soil has the right to request asylum. Determining who is eligible to achieve asylum status is in most cases a long and arduous task. In the interim, many are given the ability to work. In addition, the EU requires that EU member states provide the asylum seekers with support during the determination process.
The Odds Favor Migrants
One would have to be brain-dead not to realize that this approach has left EU countries incredibly exposed. There is no limit to how many people will seek asylum status, no matter the risks involved. The odds of success in getting to the EU are quite high. Yes, many have died trying, but the percentage of those who have succeeded is very high. Using EU estimates of asylum seekers who have died so far this year compared to the number of people who have entered the EU as asylum seekers produces a success rate of 99.1 percent. In a world where nothing is certain, a 99.1 percent probability of being able to enter the new promised land seems like pretty good odds. As a result, the migration will likely not only continue, but I have little doubt the size of the migration will increase.
Germany’s Labor Shortage
For the moment, there is definitely an advantage for Germany to accept many of the migrants. Germany is short of labor. This year alone, the German government indicates it expects to accept 800,000 migrants. That equals about 1 percent of the total German population. It seems like this policy has the potential to reduce German labor shortages. If it were that simple, then I would acknowledge that the present migration policy, or rather the lack of a real migration policy, might have its merits. As with all policies which are not well thought out, there are going to be unintended consequences from this migration fiasco. My foremost fear is the political impact this migration will have on Europe in the not-too-distant future.
With the possible exception of France, most European countries define nationality by “blood.” I don’t mean legally, but rather intuitively. No matter how long an immigrant and/or his family lives in a country, they are still not considered part of the ethnically defined country’s heritage. This doesn’t mean they have no rights, nor that they can’t succeed economically. Rather, they will never be truly “German” or “Italian” or “Polish” in a way understood by the dominant ethnic group.
I exempted France from this in that it is the only European country I can identify which defines being “French” simply by the acceptance of French culture, in its fullest sense, rather than by ethnic origin. However, this doesn’t mean that France is out of the woods in the upcoming political crisis. The reason is that even in France, which provides a clear route to ethnic acceptance, we find that many, if not most of its immigrants, are not able or willing to accept French culture in its fullest sense. As a result, France resembles other European countries in how the so-called native population perceives immigrants, and how the immigrants perceive their acceptance in French society.
I have to be Clear and Candid. I have great doubts that most European countries can accept a large number of Muslim immigrants without causing massive controversy in the future. This has nothing to do with individual Muslims. The problem is that as the Muslim population grows in any country, in order to lead a truly Muslim life, one requires societal accommodations, which are not likely to be easily accepted by the host countries. This will not happen immediately, but rather over time.
I can already hear some who are reading this thinking that this is a narrow-minded and xenophobic view. However, the reason for this view is my own personal experience, as well as an examination of history.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Crimea
I remember traveling to Yugoslavia as a country risk analyst when it was still one country. I visited there often. I remember visiting Sarajevo. During various lunches/dinners with bankers, economists and journalists I was told almost unanimously that Bosnia-Herzegovina was a fully integrated society where Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims lived in harmony. Some even indicated that they came from blended families. Well, in a few years, these gentlemen were obviously in for a big surprise when all of Yugoslavia splintered into ethnic enclaves, and murder occurred on a scale not seen in Europe since World War II. The immediate reaction by some in the West has been to blame everything on the Serbs. That would be a big mistake.
Serbia, itself, has significant grievances against Muslims living in Serbia. One should know that the traditional heartland of Serbia was Kosovo. However, as Albanian Muslims moved into Kosovo, they slowly but surely became the majority population. What did the Albanian Muslims do? They drove the Serbs out through violence and intimidation. In other words, both sides were to blame. Today, despite the fact that Serbia never agreed to be divided, the West still allowed Kosovo to become an independent country. As I have written before, this was all the precedent Russia needed to annex the Crimea. Arguing that annexation of the Crimea is illegal while accepting Kosovo, as an independent country, is simply hypocrisy of the highest order.
Eurosceptic Political Parties
My fear is that as the Muslim population grows in Europe through migration, European societies will become increasingly fractured. I am pessimistic that most Europeans over time will accept a large Muslim population in their midst. I believe this partly explains the recent growth in Eurosceptic political parties, not just in the so-called periphery of Europe, but also in the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, France and Germany. For now, the EU’s elites are trying to keep a lid on such dissent. However, as each election passes, these parties keep growing in strength.
If this issue remains purely political in the traditional sense, then I would see no medium-term problem. However, it is my view, and others may easily disagree, that Europeans will eventually react violently, as they have usually done in the past.
Already we are seeing regular bombings of asylum centers in Germany. These bombings are viewed as abhorrent by anyone with common sense. However, based on my experience in the Balkans and the Middle East, coexistence between Muslims and Christians, when the size of the Muslim population reaches a critical level, is not the usual outcome. Unfortunately, I see a significant potential for bloodshed in Europe’s future.
You may ask, what are you talking about when you say Christian-Muslim coexistence is not viable? There is often talk about how Christians and Jews lived comfortably in much of the Muslim world. That, however, always meant that Christians and Jews were treated as second-class citizens. In recent decades, the divide between the Judeo-Christian world has grown as Islam has undergone a radicalization of many of its core tenets among a growing number of believers. What has happened to Christians and Jews throughout the Middle East and North Africa and Kosovo? Basically these groups have dwindled into small communities or have totally disappeared. Decades ago, Libya even shipped the bones of Italians, which were buried in Libyan cemeteries, back to Italy. Egyptian Copts, which are truly Egyptian, undergo persecution on a daily basis. Their proportion of the population declines on an on-going basis. The same is true in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Christians cannot build churches in Saudi Arabia, while Saudi Arabia pays for the construction of mosques in Rome.
The US and Europe Differ
This problem is very different in the US. Most immigrants, documented or undocumented come with the hope of fully embracing American culture. In fact, studies show that US immigrants from Latin America and Asia are intermarrying with the native population at the same rate as past immigrant groups. In the case of Islam, unlike in Europe, most Muslim immigrants to the US are older and better educated than most immigrant groups. In addition, their percentage of the population is small.
Another major difference between the US and Europe is the overall state of Christianity. In Western Europe almost all Christians come from either Roman Catholic or what we would call mainline Protestant denominations, such as Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, etc. These branches of Christianity have adopted, since the 1960s, a general belief that they shouldn’t actively proselytize as their ancestors did. As a result, these religious groups cannot deal effectively with a growing Muslim population bent on proselytizing Christians to Islam.
The US is quite different. In the US, and increasingly across Latin America (and Africa), evangelical Christianity is not only strong but also growing. These Protestant groups continue to believe in vigorous proselytizing, which includes campaigns to convert Muslims. The difference between European Christianity and Western Hemisphere (and African) Christianity continues to grow larger as each year passes.
I should add that these observations are not based on a view of who has the better theological interpretation of God’s commands. It is just my observation centering on how ethnic and religious groups interact with their surrounding society. In the end, I am sure God will protect Europeans. I am simply not sure which form of belief will prevail.
As always, Clear and Candid.