Much of Europe’s malaise is caused by staring at a battery of false binary choices. Choices about whom to consider as citizens: include or exclude? Choices about our foreign relations: values or interests?
Citizenship: inclusion vs. exclusion?
Debates about how to deal with migration in Europe often sound as if the EU had only two options: throw open the floodgates, or pull up the drawbridge. In reality, the policy we have been practicing could be termed as leaving the gates to the property open, but locking the door to the house: we have been letting migrants come to Europe in large numbers for decades, but made it next to impossible for them to become citizens. All this despite the fact that our own populations and workforces are shrinking and aging.
Across Europe, from the banlieues of Paris to the former mining towns of the Ruhr, this policy of indifference and neglect, masquerading as tolerance, has bred ghettoes of alienated non-citizens (many, but not all of them, Muslim). More recently, the fact that these enclaves have produced Islamic terrorists (some of them with European passports) has been used by some to justify this exclusion. And it has created an image of the European Union as irretrievably backward-looking: a two-tier Europe bent on keeping from others a prosperity and security that is slipping through its fingers.
The real choice before Europe is quite different. Demographics, economics and, yes, our values, all demand that we offer the promise and rewards of citizenship to those who are willing to become Europeans. This then requires us to give more consideration than before to the meaning of citizenship.
Here we would do well to look to the United States, which asks would-be Americans not only to swear on its flag or promise to abide by the secular values of its constitution, but also makes them learn the language and the basic facts of the country’s political order. In Europe, we are only now understanding that asking wives to learn English, or daughters to attend school (and school sports), is crucial for the integration of second- and third-generation immigrants.
There is a second, equally important transatlantic lesson to be learned: America balances out its secular order and the separation of church and state by providing positive protection for the individual and collective expression of religious faith (soldiers with turbans, menorahs and crèches in the shopping mall). Europe’s version of secularism, by contrast, has historically limited itself to protecting the expression of belief from state interference. The tacit assumption behind this system was simple and complacent: that the Christian majority was large enough, and any non-Christian minorities small enough, for it to remain stable. Yet the EU at 27, with its large Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish minorities, is already far from being the “Christian club” fondly invoked by German conservative politicians. High time, then, for Europe’s public order to reflect this diversity of faith.
If (and only if) Europe is generous in defining citizenship, it can also be rigorous in enforcing its rules, and excluding those who hold its freedoms in contempt.
The EU and the world: values vs. interests?
Binary choices for Europe abound, it seems, when it comes to its relations with the world. A US-dominated system versus a “multipolar system?” A “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Muslim world? A post-modern order that transforms and transcends history vs. a pre-modern order forever doomed by its history? Liberal democracies in decline vs. prospering autocracies? Hard power vs. soft power, interest-based realism vs. value-based idealism? Facile dichotomies, each and every one; the political universe in which the EU finds itself contains elements of all these.
The real choice before Europe is much more stark. Europe can choose between watching as other powers shape the world of the 21st century—or deciding to participate. Opinion polls (such as the German Marshall Fund’s annual Transatlantic Trends) suggest publics—in America as well as in Europe—endorse a global role for Europe. Policy makers would do well to take heed.
Why, in the end, did the EU survive its first 50 years? Because it never saw itself as a gated community, but as an open, inclusive project. Europe gives peace, freedom and prosperity not only to those who already belong to it—it exports them beyond its borders. Keep it that way, and we have a proud future to look forward to.
This article has been shortened from its original version, which first appeared as part of European Union: The Next 50 Years, published by Financial Times Business with Agora Projects in association with the European Institute of the London School of Economics. The original version of the article can be found at the German Marshall Fund website.
Constanze Stelzenmüller is the director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She was formerly defense and international security editor at the German weekly DIE ZEIT.
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