Ethnic Identity and Mass Immigration in the European Union: Part Two
Krausz, Ernest, Contemporary Review
THE six 'case profiles' I presented in Part One (March, page 9, Vol. 294, No. 1704), and many more examples that one can adduce, show clearly that throughout the six decades after World War II the vitality of historical nations and ethnic groups continued and in many cases their resurgence was expressed in an extremist and often violent manner. The extremist forms of expression of nationalism or ethnic and religious sentiments are characteristic of not negligible sections of populations in Europe. Apart from the six cases mentioned, there are many countries in Europe where similar extremist sentiments and organized groups exist, such as in Britain, Hungary, or Sweden. Furthermore, we should bear in mind that the nationalist, ethnic or religious sentiments exist not only among the extremist elements in the populations, but are far more widespread and probably engulf the vast majority, albeit the latter hold such sentiments much more moderately. What has heightened such sentiments in the last few decades has been the new phenomenon of mass immigration into many European countries, especially from Asia and Africa. The internal population movements within the European Union, such as from East European countries to Western Europe, seem to be not necessarily permanent, and because of many common cultural facets among these populations the ethnic factor may play a less acute role in the adjustments between the newcomers and the native residents.
On the other hand the influx of millions of non-white immigrants, adherents of non-Christian religions, has made an impact, often a negative one, on the native population of Europe. Statistical sources show that of the 200 million immigrants around the world over 70 million are in Europe. In 2005 a United Nations report (1) gave 31 million as the number of immigrants in the five leading West European countries: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. The numbers will be much higher by the second or third decade of this century. In most of these countries the immigrants account for 10 per cent or more of the total population, and it is estimated that 'by mid-century in most of the major European countries, foreign origin populations will be between 20 and 32 per cent'. The reason why we must rely on estimates rather than on exact demographic data is that the mass immigration to Europe has taken place through several channels: immigrants per se; asylum seekers; guest workers who often can change their status to permanent residents; foreign workers from outside the EU who enter illegally, and many of whom stay on permanently; and migrants who enter these countries on the basis of family reunification. Of course, there is a central demographic factor that changes the balance between native citizens and the immigrant population, and this is the disparity in the rates of population growth between these two groups: the native population in EU countries is ageing due both to longer life expectancy and to the below replacement level of the birth rate, as against the immigrants who constitute a much younger population with a high birth rate. Thus, the native population, influenced by secularism and post-modern conditions, has a birth rate of 1.6 which is far below the replacement level of 2.1; whilst the immigrant population who are more traditional and many of whom adhere to religious principles, such as the Muslim immigrants, have a birth rate of around 3.3, which is typical of substantially growing populations. Demographics in this respect is akin to 'principal plus compound interest'. Thus, even if immigration would be halted completely the balance will still change greatly in favour of the non-native immigrants and their descendants. This process could go on for a long period, unless quite rapidly a process of assimilation sets in among immigrants, bringing down their birth rate substantially and with it their population growth. Such a scenario does not seem to be realistic. …