Despite its enduring historical magnificence, Europe today is a place where country after country has effectively succumbed to political inertia on immigration, while thousands upon thousands from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have arrived on the Continent. From Belgium through Holland, from Sweden through Denmark, from France and, most recently, through Germany, new arrivals are transforming Western Europe’s national communities in ways that, unless their respective governments undertake a determined effort to acculturate them to established Western norms, will undermine assumptions about the co-responsibility and mutuality of society. Separate streets make for separate communities. As terrorism spreads across Europe, debates on multiculturalism vs. national culture are no longer an academic exercise; it is now most fundamentally about the national security of states and ultimately the future of the European Union. Simply put, Europe needs to make a concerted effort to acculturate its immigrants in order to ensure that the core norms of Western democratic societies are preserved and respected. And yet the immigration debate in Europe is still not at a point where one can speak of a new consensus on policy.With the birthrates of Europe’s non-Muslim populations now below the replacement rate across the board, Western Europe’s population makeup is changing. For instance, according to the 2014 Pew fertility rates data (before the 2015 MENA migration wave), the Muslim fertility rate in Sweden was 2.5 vs. 1.8 for non-Muslims, putting the non-Muslim population below the population replacement rate, though this doesn’t address the question of what percentage of the non-Muslim fertility rate can be accounted for by immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe vs. the native non-Muslim Swedish population. The pattern of Muslim birthrates outstripping those of non-Muslims is a Continent-wide phenomenon, with the average for 2005–10 being 2.2 for Muslims vs. 1.5 for non-Muslims. The projection for 2025–30 is 2.0 for Muslims vs. 1.6 for non-Muslims, again with the stipulation that this data does not factor in the impact of the 2015–16 MENA migration surge into Europe. Individual cases tell an even more striking story: For instance, during 2005–10 in Ireland, fertility rates for Muslims were 3.0 vs. 1.9 for non-Muslims; in France 2.8 vs. 1.9; and in the United Kingdom 3.0 vs. 1.8. According to another set of Pew Research data, Germany and France have the largest concentrations of Muslim populations, with approximately 4.7 million each, followed by the United Kingdom at approximately 3 million and Italy at 2.2 million.*One side effect of the accelerated transformation of Western Europe’s ethnic and religious map is the fraying of the normative links between the former West and East that were established during the post-Cold War transformation and that underpin the European Union. The EU countries of Central and Southeastern Europe present a different ethnic map from the rapidly changing Western Europe. The legacies of the Holocaust of European Jews in the Second World War and of the forced population transfers post-1945, as well as the subsequent isolation of Eastern Europe for almost half a century during the Cold War, have produced much more homogenized ethno-national societies in post-communist Europe. Although the extent to which minorities define the post-communist ethnic map differs, some of the changes have been nothing if not dramatic, in effect nullifying historical patterns established over a millennium. For instance, Poland, which throughout its history was a quintessentially multi-ethnic state (the population of the interwar Polish Second Republic was approximately 30 percent minority), emerged from the war over 90 percent ethnically Polish, having lost six million of its citizens during the war, half of them Polish Jews.In post-communist societies where religious and cultural identification remained one of the most potent symbols of national survival under Soviet occupation, the willing acceptance of the Western idea of a laicized postmodern society would have been a stretch under the best of circumstances. Today it is a non-starter, as evidenced by the surge of national rebellions against the pre-existing elite consensus—a surge also fueled by growing anxiety about immigration. This perception will begin to change only when the new EU member states become convinced that acculturation policies in Western Europe have been more effective at integrating Muslim immigrants into their societies.Integrating immigrants is a key challenge facing Europe today, one that demands a decisive response from EU governments and the European Commission. The deportation of those who pose a threat is a straightforward part of what needs to be done (though as the case of the Berlin attacker has shown, the process thus far has proved to be too slow and unwieldy). The main task, however, is the acculturation and integration of those who are refugees and deserve asylum and help. In order to maintain public support, Europe’s elites need to assert the right of their societies to live in communities that retain established Western values and to demand that those fundamental principles be respected by immigrants.Europe’s generosity towards MENA migrants has been unprecedented, with numerous displays of goodwill from citizens toward new arrivals. But the escalating threat of terror attacks across Europe demands more than expressions of solidarity with victims and condemnation of perpetrators. Security and national cohesion are two sides of the same coin. In a democracy neither can be achieved without a shared commitment to core norms and democratic values. To make this happen requires, on the one hand, determination among Europe’s elites to impress upon immigrants that arriving in a new land carries an obligation to live by its writ, and, on the other hand, the willingness of immigrants to abide by it. However, judging by the experience of past decades, we are not there yet. And so the status quo remains, with declarations substituting for policy.With each terrorist attack in Europe—from Paris to Brussels to Nice to Berlin—the same scenario unfolds: people come together, light candles, and lay down flowers. Fingers are pointed at politicians, while the same politicians assure their distraught publics that justice will be served and that the state is doing all it can to prevent another terrorist attack. More security measures are taken, more cameras installed, and more police put on the streets, as more fear and anxiety descends on public spaces. With every instance of terror, a small piece of the Europe of yore dies with it. With every attack, elite reassurances and the proud reaffirmation of the liberal principles that allowed Europe to rise again from the ashes of the Second World War, and then surge with optimism after the end of the Cold War, lose a bit more of their sheen.Today Europe urgently needs a new consensus on immigration policy that goes beyond strengthening the EU’s external borders and managing and screening the influx of new arrivals. Without acculturation, the notion of a cosmopolitan Europe—one in which a multiplicity of ethnic and religious communities peacefully coexists, bound together only by an abstract notion of universal rights—is a utopian delusion.
*Sentence revised 5:20 p.m. EDT, 12/30/2016.