Friday

27th Apr 2018

Opinion

What next after multiculturalism?

  • "What is needed is a new concept of co-existence" (Photo: Berit Hvassum)

European liberal democracy is facing a number of external and internal tests. Among them is dealing with group identities.

Positively dealing with group belonging is a precondition for tackling wider challenges such as economic problems, Russian aggression in Ukraine and jihadist violence in our continent and the Middle East.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Perhaps we need a dose of the ‘American dream’? (Photo: EUobserver)

Many say multiculturalism has failed, but few have come up with alternatives to how Europe’s ethnic and religious groups can co-exist.

Nevertheless, Europe can benefit from the genuine desire that many immigrants have to identify with the constitutions of their new home countries while maintaining elements of their own culture.

Europe is becoming more diverse, whether it likes it or not.

Yet, the European discussion on immigrant integration is moving in circles, either blaming the indigenous majorities or the newcomers for the problems that continue to crop up.

The traditional ideologies of the right and left can no longer be the solution.

The left’s idealisation of diversity as a goal in itself, or as something that per se strengthens our polity, has run into a dead end. The socio-economic profile of immigrants and lower educational outcomes are just some symptoms of this approach not working. Meanwhile the right’s purely security-minded approach to immigration has tended to marginalise newcomers.

What is needed is a new concept of co-existence, through which European societies become more open and allow those of immigrant origin to prosper as individuals.

Today’s Europe needs to modernise its civic and political institutions to include, and not tacitly exclude, those who were born, or whose parents were born, outside Europe.

European and North American approaches

One possible approach is that of interculturalism, a concept developed by the Council of Europe.

Interculturalism is based on the notion of equality and human rights and includes a political culture that values democratic citizenship.

Whilst this concept correctly sets out the need to focus on the individual, not on the group, it puts perhaps too much hope on dialogue and does not explain how mutual respect and understanding translate into societal integration.

So far, the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue of 2008 has not generated a strong policy response. This does not mean that interculturalism should be discarded. However, the concept requires more policy and political effort to become a viable political alternative.

Europeans could also learn from their North American brethren.

Perhaps we need a dose of the ‘American dream’ which, according to one definition, means that life should be better and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. Although the old racial divisions in the US remain open, the concept leads to fuller integration of newcomers than is the case in Europe.

The emphasis is on maintaining one’s culture while adopting and internalising the core principles of the US constitution, thereby creating a strong overarching identity.

Alternatively we might want to look at Canadian multiculturalism, a notion that the country’s right and left parties subscribe to.

Unlike the European counterpart, the Canadian model has been defined in legislation.

It stresses integration into society, the teaching of national languages (English and French) and equal representation of ethnic groups in different spheres of public life.

In many ways, Canadian multiculturalism can be declared a success. This is despite problems such as a failed attempt by the Ontario Province in 2005 to tolerate sharia in the legal system, an attempt that was toppled by a coalition of Canadians of different ethnic backgrounds.

Role for the centre-right

Parties of the centre-right have a particularly large potential to tap into the conservatism and religious leanings of some parts of the immigrant population.

They could appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit and the habits of self-sufficiency that are second nature to many immigrants.

They could more strongly emphasise the positive story of diversity (without its dreamy collectivist content) that creates a competitive advantage for Europe. They could persuasively argue that – if accompanied by integration policies that insist on basic values and shared citizenship – immigration enhances innovation and is associated with increased trade and economic growth.

They could invest energy in explaining to voters that although the short-run costs of immigration are often borne at the local level, the long-term benefits are shared at the national level.

Centre-right parties do not need to change their values and lose their traditional voters. But they could broaden the concept of the kind of politician who is able to carry those values and the type of voter who can subscribe to those values.

Europe’s evolution from an ever-warring bunch of countries to a successful economic and peaceful organisation and the gradual acceptance of large groups of immigrants into North American and European societies show that ethnic and religious identities are compatible with allegiances to shared values.

These stories prove that the liberal democratic framework and individual freedoms do not need to be compromised in the process.

Vít Novotný is Senior Research Officer at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES). A longer version of this article is being published by the WMCES.

How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?

Russian domestic television - the only source of foreign news for most Russians - consistently shows Europe over-run by immigrants, beset by terrorist atrocities, and on strike. This has serious consequences.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  2. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  3. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  6. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  7. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  9. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  10. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  11. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  12. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off

Latest News

  1. EU tells platforms to sort fake news by October or face new law
  2. Civil society chief: social media can't replace engagement
  3. The reality behind the €7 'Brexit bombshell visa'
  4. Commission wants bigger post-Brexit budget
  5. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  6. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  7. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs
  8. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  2. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  6. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  9. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  10. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  11. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  12. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe