Where are the limits of our Europe?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The refugee crisis and arrival of hundreds of thousands of new people have raised countless questions which Europe can no longer afford to avoid. [Freedom House/Flickr]

Last week, we celebrated Europe Day. For the EU, this was the time to celebrate its unity; for Sander Loones it is time to ask questions. Who do we want to be? Do we dare to set a limit on the number of newcomers? What do we do with those who are hostile to our values and our population?

Sander Loones is an MEP with the European Conservatives and Reformists group and at a national level, is vice-president of the Belgian New Flemish Alliance.

The asylum crisis is far from being solved, or even absorbed. The utopia of open borders has been done away with, but more slowly than necessary. At one point, each day, 2,000 asylum seekers were walking into Europe, and this number has only decreased significantly recently. However, the threat remains that Erdoğan will open the gates completely again.

Meanwhile, we are confronted with fundamental questions: how do we build our communities further with those who did reach Europe? And most importantly, what remains of our Europe?

The 20th century was determined by ideology, but the 21st century will be one of identity. Who are we? This question hasn’t been asked over the past few decades. After the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history. Innovations such as the internet would cause any thinking along national or religious lines to evaporate. If only we could keep denying the existence of identity enough, we would all become enlightened citizens of the world. Moreover, the only remaining difference among us would be the result of arbitrary circumstances.

Looking at things that way, it is not strange that borders were considered superfluous – they only served to slow down the progress of globalisation. European integration, the ultimate merger of nations, would bring peace and efficiency. Newcomers would adopt our universal values almost automatically, or otherwise we would just adopt their values.

Then there is our reality, which is a rough wake-up call for everyone and destroys this progressive wishful thinking in one go. The Islamic world, the Chinese and the Russians are not moving towards our western world view, and instead seem to be loosening ties. European integration is vulnerable, and nations want to reclaim their sovereignty to allow them to once again intervene more quickly and decisively.

The civic integration of large groups of immigrants has failed, and someone walking through certain neighbourhoods in Paris, London or Brussels will think he is in some faraway country rather than ‘at home’.

Some think they can ignore this reality, but the demographic and cultural repercussions of their denial are extremely clear. The mentality of self-hatred will eventually leave us empty-handed. Especially in our cities, the social fabric is changing rapidly and life as a community is being replaced by extreme individualism and alienation; left behind in a Europe that has left its own borders behind.

This is a Europe that does not know where it begins and where it ends. It is a place where the elite has a bigger problem with references to our Christian history than with Turkey joining the EU. It is a place where it is believed that only European regulations will bring salvation and where it is not understood that responsible member states had better also have a say.

We need to allow space for the questions that are being asked widely across all strata of the population, but that are not yet being discussed fundamentally in the public sphere. Who are we and who do we want to be? Do we dare to radically opt for support from society instead of for so-called compassion, setting a limit on the number of newcomers that can be allowed in?

What do we do with the mainly Muslim newcomers that are hostile to our values, our society and our population? How do we anchor absolute prevalence of the rule of law over any divine ‘law’ when demography is working against us? And what is the importance of the family and our education system in all of this? In short, where are our borders, both literally and figuratively?

These are questions that we can no longer avoid.

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