GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE 08
Crisis of Europe
We are presenting an assessment on Europe’s Conundrum on Immigrants, by Prof. Dr. Kudret Bülbül, Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara’s Yıldırım Bayezıt University.
Europe’s Immigrant Conundrum
Think for a moment about the possible reaction of the world, if five Christians or Jews were burned to death in your country? (Five Muslims, three of them children, were burned alive in an arson attack on October 2, 2017 in France.) Or, what would happen if dozens of attacks targeted or set fire to churches and synagogues in your country? (A total 24 attacks on mosques took place in Germany in the last quarter of 2015. Link: http://gocvakfi.org/almanyada-cami-saldirilari/).
No one would of course wish such attacks to any country. Even asking these questions is painful enough. However, if such incidents were to take place in your country, then the narratives of lack of security, violations of rights and freedoms, and that different ways of life are under threat in your country, would be announced, and reported to the rest of the world vociferously, and it would be made sure that people remembered them vividly. And you would be so ashamed that you would not want to lift your head. But, do not worry, these incidents are not happening in your country, but in European countries. So, neither you nor the world is aware of them.
Europe; A continent that creates values
Europe was not so until recently. There was once a Europe which was inspired by heart-breaking experiences of the Second World War, and embraced cooperation, mutual understanding and sharing. This positive outlook and vision led to the emergence of the organization we know today as the European Union. Then, this new organization, employing a positive agenda and cooperation within and outside of itself, took great strides in overcoming racist ideologies, such as fascism and Nazism, encouraging democratic values and improving human rights, the rule of law and social and economic rights.
Although Europe is eating away at these values at this point in time, contribution the EU made to the advancement of these values cannot be ignored. Although, George Friedman in his 2015 book “The Emerging Crisis in Europe”, posited that the Europe’s success between 1945 and 1991 was a result of American and Russian imposition on the continent, not of Europe ‘s own making, I do not agree with this view. It is an undeniable fact that Europe derived lessons from its past sufferings, devised principal policies and made difference in its region in a positive way.
A Europe that keeps to itself, yields to its fears and exudes threat
Yet, there is no such Europe at the present time. We are seeing a Europe where xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments are growing day by day. Political parties that espouse fascist and Nazi ideas are expanding their voter bases. Racist parties are now partners in coalition governments. Leaders with some common sense are becoming fewer, while those without a vision are taking over. Attacks on different ways of life and places of worship are not even considered newsworthy.
Public surveys indicate that immigrants feel more and more like outcasts with each passing day. Having set negative agendas of their own, political parties are exploiting anti-immigrant sentiments to secure power, when it is their duty to further the country with positive messages. Just as the case in Austria, a political party swept into power on pledges to pursue a “zero immigrant” policy. Considering that the “immigrant threat” that Austria is facing is less than one hundredth of what Turkey is facing, it is clear to what extent Austria has given in to a climate of fear. (One hundredth of 3.5 million immigrants that Turkey is hosting, is only 35 thousand.)
Loss of rationality
Countries might slide into such crises from time to time. When that happens, state institutions and visionary leaders attempt at preventing the deepening of the crises by developing prudent policies. They pull their countries out of crises, if that is all possible.
However, given their reactions and accusatory approach towards immigrants, Muslims and Turks, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Europe is experiencing an abdication of reason. As if, we are seeing a Europe that lost its confidence and sense of rationality. The enlightenment period they had gone through to prevail over the scholastic period has grown weaker, it seems.
Europe should not lay the blame on immigrants
This is basically, a crisis of Europe. Immigrants, Muslims, Turks have been living across Europe for a long time. Their numbers have not been increasing recently. Immigrant populations have not changed their way of life that much either. If Europe adopted a more positive approach towards these communities at a time when it was a source of shared values, but now is preferring to use a more accusatory and dismissive rhetoric towards them, then the crux of the problem must be Europe. Reasons that lie behind the crisis could be economic stagnation across the continent, Europe’s failure to benefit from globalisation and a lack of multiple social identities and a pluralist past in Europe.
Europe had experienced a similar crisis ahead of the Second World War. Having failed to perceive its own crisis due to an administrative bottleneck, Europe had begun to see Jewish populations as the source of its problems. The continent had become increasingly afraid of diversity and felt threatened, and as a result, pointed the finger at Jews for its own crisis. The burning of Europe and the world during the Second World War after what was done to the continent’s Jewish populations, established that the crisis had nothing to do with Jews after all. Yet, the whole world paid the price of Europe’s incompetence of facing itself.
Today, Europe is debating its own identity and future, with regard to immigrants and Muslims. The continent’s leaders are devising certain policies that prove to be limiting for immigrants’ and Muslims’ freedoms. Attacks that target their ways of life and places of worship are being ignored. Europe’s intellectuals, academics and political leaders should be able to perceive developments correctly in order not to fall into past mistakes that turned out to be fatal.
Can Europe overcome the crisis it is currently battling against? For this, Europe should first understand that this crisis is not about immigrants, Muslims or Turks, but about itself, and that it should have the courage to confront itself. I am not hopeful about Europe’s capacity to move past this crisis. However, this should be the topic of another article.
We presented an assessment on Europe’s Conundrum on İmmigrants, by Prof. Dr. Kudret Bülbül, Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara’s Yıldırım Bayezıt University.