How to deal with the different: The key question facing the European Union

Prof. Dr. Tarık OĞUZLU
28 October 2015
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Since the war in Syria began four years ago, the European Union succeeded in isolating itself from the negative consequences of the humanitarian tragedy. This has begun to change as numerous Syrian refugees have begun to flood the European countries in huge numbers. As of today, the European Union members seem to have fallen short of finding a compromise solution on how to deal with this humanitarian crisis. While some members tend to adopt a more receptive attitude based on moral grounds, such as Germany, others are more predisposed to embrace exclusionary attitudes based on cultural, religious and economic factors. For example, the Hungarian Prime Minister, reflecting the general mood in Central and Eastern Europe, even said that unless the people waiting at the gates of Europe were stopped, Europe’s distinctive identity based on Christianity would be in jeopardy. To him and many others in Europe, the European Union is first and foremost a cultural project reflecting the supremacy of inherently European values and cultures that should be protected against non-European challenges. Therefore it is the prime responsibility of the gatekeepers in EU, such as Hungary, to protect the Fortress Europe against the external threats and challenges.

 

This short essay tries to analyze alternative viewpoints inside the EU concerning how to deal with the ‘different’. Deciphering the European attitudes towards the refugees and migrants coming from the failed and poor states of North Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, and the wider Middle East would become much easier if analysts dared to examine the various European responses towards the existence of ethnic and religious minorities living in the continent for decades.

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