If Europe’s big test in 2015 was the refugee crisis, integrating the newly arrived will be 2016’s. This will require the type of Wir schaffen das (we can do it) message that German chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending out. The refugee crisis has highlighted a historical fact: Europe’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity will increase in a transformative way in the years and decades to come. Which makes it a good time also to open a healthier more cool-headed debate about our collective identity.
Sudden surges in migration pose a real challenge, but it’s worth remembering that we have been here before. Think of the huge population transfers after the world wars, or the arrival of immigrant workers in the 1950s and 60s – to France and Britain from former colonies, or to Germany from Turkey.
What is new is merely the pace of the inflow and the dramatic circumstances under which people are being driven to Europe. The underlying questions remain more or less the same, though: how to accept difference while upholding democratic governance and social standards. How to define national identities within a larger collective project of mutually shared values – key pillars of what Europe is supposed to be about.
Much is said about integrating new Muslim populations, and that question has become increasingly fraught by being unhelpfully conflated with the fear of terrorism. If we step back a little, it’s striking that the debate last year mostly focused on managing flows and obsessing about security. For some, the urgent human imperative was to save people from drowning at sea. For others, it was the xenophobic rush to put up fences and push families away with police dogs and truncheons. Europeans suddenly saw both the worst and the best in themselves and in their politicians.
But none of this fully addresses the longer-term issue of how a hopeful future can be built on the new diversity. Today around 7% of the European Union’s population was born outside the EU. More than a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015, but that’s a tiny proportion – less than 0.2% – of the EU’s total population. Still, diversity will continue to increase in most European states because of the scale of the pressures driving people out of their homelands. As in the 19th century (the first globalisation), this current one is described as an age of migration – except that this time it isn’t flowing out of Europe (to the Americas) but to Europe (from the Middle East, Africa and Asia).
Pour lire l'article au complet : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/05/europes-citizens-need-start-debate-diversity