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Europe in a corner

Recent terrorist attacks signal the failure of its multiculturalism

Written by Gulshan Sachdeva | Published: December 24, 2016 12:54 am
Russia ambassador killed, Russia ambassador assassination, Russia-Turkey, Russian ambassador killed in Turkey, Turkey news, world news, Indian Express Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov lies on the ground after he was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. Hasim Kilic/Hurriyet via REUTERS

The recent terrorist attack in Berlin and the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey add to the worries of the already struggling European policymakers. Europe has been dealing with a series of crises in the last eight years — they include the Greek economic crisis, the Eurozone troubles, the war in Ukraine, refugee influx and Brexit. Terrorist attacks in Belgium and France earlier this year — last year as well — and now in Germany show that Europe can no longer isolate itself from the insecurities in its neighbourhood.

The EU still has high levels of productivity and fairly high per capita incomes. Till 2008, the EU was seen as a very successful project. Almost every country in Central and Eastern Europe wanted to be a member of the EU; that was seen a sure ticket to prosperity and social security. The EU still plays a significant role in institutions dealing with global governance and climate change. However, the debt crisis in Greece, which later exacerbated into a crisis for the broader Eurozone, exposed faultlines in an institutional structure based on a single monetary policy. After austerity measures were implemented, there has been a decline in growth and rise in unemployment in many EU countries. This has led to both right-wing and left-wing populism across the region.

The EU has been a pioneer in regional integration. The Ukrainian crisis in 2013, however, exposed the limitations of the EU model of integration. The EU failed to secure an association with Ukraine but ended up damaging its longstanding strategic alliance with Russia. Russia may not be an “enemy” of the EU now but it’s certainly not a “strategic partner” either.

Europe, along with the US, was also involved in wars in West Asia and Afghanistan. Apart from destabilising regimes in Iraq, Libya and Syria, these wars produced millions of displaced people and created a refugee crisis. Europe has traditionally accepted immigrants, but the region’s current economic difficulties make them less welcome. A Pakistani was wrongly arrested for the Berlin attack. A rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia is reportedly a suspect. Such incidents will pressure pro-immigrant leaders like Angela Merkel and strengthen anti-immigrant sentiments in the region. At the same time, social and economic marginalisation has radicalised hundreds of Muslim youngsters in the continent. Many were attracted towards ISIS and have fought in Iraq and Syria. These radicalised young fighters are becoming a serious security threat.

There are also fears that a few radical fighters might have sneaked into Germany. Europe’s model of multiculturalism is under serious threat. Many European politicians hold the liberal approach towards immigrants responsible for the security crisis. But the real security challenge comes from home-grown radicalised youth. The spread of radicalism among the descendants of immigrants is a fallout of the failures of European societies to integrate them. Integrating immigrants into a liberal social and political order should be a long-term project. But most of the emerging populist leaders have no inclination for such projects.

There has been a distinct swing towards right-wing populism in Hungary and Poland. Populist parties have good prospects in the forthcoming elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. After Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US, the right-wing National Front under Marine Le Pen is optimistic about its chances. There is also uncertainty about how Britain’s exit from the EU will be managed. A poorly organised deal will hurt both Britain and the EU.

After trying for almost two decades to forge an alliance with the EU, Turkey is now forging new friendships. Russia and Iran are its new allies. These developments will make resolution of security and refugee issues for Europe a little more complicated. If what was happening in Europe and its neighbourhood was not enough, the political changes in the US have created new uncertainties about the Transatlantic alliance. Donald Trump’s friendship with Vladimir Putin could strain EU’s traditional ties with the US.

The EU’s institutions, as well as its member states, have shown enough resilience in the past. The EU, after all, did manage to find a way out of the Greek and Eurozone crises. The rise of populism and the changing security situation, however, pose a different order of problems. They make rational policy choices very difficult. This was evident during the Brexit referendum and the debates that followed.

The writer is Jean Monnet chair and director, Europe Area Studies Programme, JNU

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  1. C
    Chandu Shah
    Dec 24, 2016 at 4:47 pm
    Listen you moron. We know Islam is a faith. Most of the atrocities are committed by the followers of that faith all over the world not just in Islamic countries
    1. E
      Dec 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm
      As an indian Hindu being a frequent traveller to Europe, I can feel the hatred they have now for all darker skinned people, most Europeans do not know the difference between an indian Hindu and a Muslim.. They primarily distrust muslims and are naturally suious of them BUT many non muslims are suffering due to this.. Is it fair?? Ten years ago europe was very welcoming towards people people like me but now their tolerance level is going down..u cant blame them really.
      1. P
        Dec 24, 2016 at 3:03 am
        Again, yet another article which refuses to lay the blame for the current environment in Europe on Islamic Terrorism ! More than the jehadi terrorism , it is articles like this that are pushing ordinary folks with no political convictions towards right wing Political parties !
        1. R
          Dec 24, 2016 at 3:27 am
          Accept that islam needs reforms and a curb on its jehadi tendencies. Till then no solution for jehadi terror.
          1. B
            Dec 24, 2016 at 1:18 am
            The European Union was a de facto creation of the US to keep the military alliance NATO afloat after the collapse of the Soviet Union. What is the need for NATO? But European people are going to ert their will and eventually break away from US control over them, Still US has a large number of military installations in Europe, the largest one in Germany. The world is going through many political changes and US global influence is slowly weakening. The terrorist attacks by a tiny minority of radical muslims in Europe is going to make its liberal democracies a quasi "police state" like US is today. It will make life harder for people to express their non-Christian faiths freely in some countries. One wonders what kind of restrictions Trump administration will place on the religious freedoms of non-Christian people US in the days ahead. By encouraging democracy in Saudi Arabia, the US can weaken the influence of Wahabism on the relatively peaceful muslim potion of the world. But US throughout history has been unflinching in its support of the most inhuman and brutal regime of Saudi Arabia for its oil wealth.
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