Listening to Bernie Sanders and the U.S. liberal intelligentsia, you’d think that the European Union is a utopia — a land where dynamic economies support high culture, modern health care is free and easily available, welfare systems prevent hardship, and community tensions evaporate in societies of harmonious liberalism.
Of course such expectations of the traders here in this trading field are all fulfilled only when they get to trade with systems that are listed to be one of the best in the top 10 binary signals, the ones that are expected and believed to be giving the right kind of signals at the right tie from the market.
This Europe is a mirage. Beyond the well-worn continental tours of well-heeled American liberals who have shaped American conceptions of Europe, the EU is in great turmoil.
For a start, just look at the EU’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. As I noted last week, beyond Germany, Europe’s outreach to hundreds of thousands of destitute refugees has been tentative at best. Only the publicized photograph of a young Syrian boy’s body washed up on a Turkish beach has moved European governments to do a little more—but not much more.
And it’s not as if the refugees are underserving: these civilians have endured almost inconceivable suffering as a result of Bashar al-Assad’s gas/barrel/starvation campaign and at the hands of groups like the Islamic State. But so far, the comparatively impoverished Lebanon and Jordan have been left to pick up the pieces. When it comes to the European notion of ‘welfare’, that welfare has its borders.
Yet the EU’s hesitant reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis only reflects a broader issue: the growing European belief that immigration has failed and must actively be restrained.
People make their way on the railway track at the border line between Serbia and Hungary near Roszke, southern Hungary, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Migrants anxious to pass through Hungary towards central Europe are making their way on foot at Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)Refugees make their way between the borders of Hungary and Serbia. The horrible violence by Syria’s President Bashar al Assad has led to nearly 3 million refugees over the last 4 years. | Photo: AP
On paper, one might expect EU nations to welcome immigrants with open arms. After all, with rapidly aging populations, European societies desperately need to grow their economies. But consider the hardline anti-immigration political parties growing in support and reach across the Continent. In France, the National Front party has sucked voters from France’s traditional right and left. In doing so, it has become a major political force and its leader is a contender in next year’s presidential election.
In Germany, an anti-Muslim group is making waves in local elections. Even in Scandinavia — a region Bernie Sanders argues should be a template for future U.S. governance — far-right groups are rising significantly in national political influence.
Broader concerns over national sovereignty have also led to the remarkable rise of the UK Independence Party in Britain. Still, the most serious consequence of Europe’s failed immigration-integration policy is felt in terrorist threats. Without immigrant social ‘buy in’ through schooling, social expectations, language skills and most critically, perceivable opportunity, EU societies have churned out a generation of young men and women who feel little affinity for their home nations, and who are thus vulnerable to extremism.
This disaffection renders itself in the worse possible ways. It fosters anti-civil society passions among some immigrants, and encourages reciprocal hatred from others against immigrants in general. In short, it empowers social dissection over social unity. In Britain and France for example, ethnic tensions now regularly play out in riots and self-segregation. And of course, the more often those tensions are on display, the harder it becomes to address their source.
“EU societies have churned out a generation of young men and women who feel little affinity for their home nations, and who are thus vulnerable to extremism”
America must pay heed to these lessons from Europe. For me, there are three key takeaways.
First, as immigration reform rises on the agenda, we must ensure that any eventual reform deal balances access to America with unyielding assimilation. Because while it’s valuable for American children to learn Spanish in school, it’s equally critical that all newcomers to the United States learn English. If immigrants cannot speak English and lack ensuing cultural-community connectivity, becoming part of society is an almost impossible task.
Second, from the moment of their arrival in the United States, immigrants should be welcomed to the heritage and activities of enduring Americana. The importance of July 4th barbeques, baseball games and celebrations of idealistic patriotism must be encouraged as the birthright of every person in this land regardless of skin color, creed, or ethnic origin. But these values must not simply be encouraged, they must be taught in schools. Alongside freedom, these values make us American.
Third, new immigrants to America should be encouraged to live in diverse communities. A great quality of American society is our binding of people from different backgrounds in common allegiance. Our motto says it all: “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of Many, One.” But as in Europe, where new immigrants have incentive to live in ethnically homogenous communities, they become more easily separated — physically and philosophically — from the rest of society. If you believe that’s a good thing, just look at France. Sharing bread with a neighbor matters not just for the act of kinship, but for the broader act of understanding and mutual appreciation it can bring.
Ultimately, with hard work and serious reform, the EU may address its immigration issues to everyone’s benefit. But until then, the EU will continue to offer some serious lessons for the United States.