You qualify as “historic” the movement of arrivals of asylum seekers in Europe which began in 2015. Why is it so unique?
It belongs to those facts that start out relatively unnoticed, then expand and magnify quantitatively until producing a game-changing result. At the end of this process, there will be significant cultural, economic and social changes. In this sense, it is a “Fatal event”. History has seen many: the Great War, the French Revolution, and now the Pandemic … In our tradition, they are designated by capital letters. This is why I chose the expression “Great Migration”.
Can the situation really “completely” change? 1.9 million migrants arrived via the Mediterranean between 2014 and 2018, for a population of 450 million Europeans. It’s not much.
Apart from the numbers, we reach a threshold beyond which the acceptance of the other begins to be questioned. The new arrivals no longer accept being only proletarians and the residents no longer accept their presence. Since the events in the suburbs in 2005, France has provided many examples of these two drifts. Elsewhere, the situation is in turmoil. As in Sweden, yet very welcoming. This is why we must analyze the modalities and consequences of the Great Migration. But it doesn’t seem that governments have understood this.
You consider, in reference to the British economist Paul Collier, that the “Great Migration” was “politicized before being analyzed”. Would an objective approach therefore be impossible?
The dominant attitude of the political and religious class is indeed to consider the phenomenon in an emotional way, and not analytical and critical. On the one hand, there are the absolute deniers, for whom the Great Migration will gradually replace the European population. For them, by welcoming without limits, Europe is destroying itself. On the other hand, there are those for whom it will produce a new world. Among these, there are the enthusiasts, for whom the newcomers will solve the serious demographic crisis in Europe, finance the retirement of our seniors or enrich our culture with theirs, to which we must therefore adapt. On both sides, these attitudes are political and fall within the “Blindness”, defined by historian Marc Ferro (1). An intermediate position is possible, but still very rare. It is the one that I am trying to maintain, and which consists in saying that the phenomenon is inevitable but not neutral, and that it must therefore be deconstructed in order to understand what we want and do not want for Europe. It is legitimate, even imperative, to question the culture of those we welcome on certain issues that are decisive for Europe: women, democracy, the separation of powers… In the name of what do we open the door from home to someone you don’t know?
In the name of everyone’s right to mobility?
This right is not formulated anywhere, even if France has nurtured a posture of the “borderless” type and invented “nomadic citizenship”. However, the concept of the State implies the right, and even the duty, to decide who can and who cannot enter it.
You blame the welcoming attitude of Europe on historic guilt. What are the springs?
Europe thus intends to pay for its actions during the two world wars, colonialism or slavery … They have led it to a radical penitential attitude, which deprives it of a critical eye on the arrival of migrants and pushes it to welcome them almost indiscriminately, or even call them because she needs them. It has become a “soft continent”, incapable of a firm position, in terms of borders, reception, criminal justice … Political correctness is only a derivative of this attitude, which can lead to self-flagellation and the rejection of one’s own culture. In 2004, the Swedish Minister for Integration, the Social Democrat Mona Sahlin, declared that the Swedes were “Jealous” Kurds because they had a rich and unifying history, unlike the Swedes …
You make the rightization of the electorate a consequence of this “penitential” attitude of European governments. Does this mean that there is a fear linked to the “Great Migration” that they do not hear?
Yes. Some of our decisions as citizens are echoes of our ethology. However, in certain cases, these are reactions of fear, fear of poverty, of demographic replacement, of mixing … But the politically correct attitudes, which are characteristic of the official left (what in my book I call the “Radical club”) on the subject, deny this fear as a component of decisions. Unlike the right, which instrumentalizes it.
Isn’t it possible to respond to fear without flattering it but by reasoning with it?
This is the attitude of Pope Francis, who often says ” Do not be afraid “. But despite his exhortations, voters continue to fear. We will see how this feeling materializes during the presidential election in France.
You declare yourself to be left. With this essay, have you not taken the risk of attracting criticism from the far right to your political family?
No. My reputation as a member of the well-established liberal and democratic left prevents the right from seeing me as close. But I was confronted with another unpleasant reaction to the publication of my essay in Italy: the silence of the left, while my books analyzing modernity usually provoke discussion. It has nevertheless circulated well with Italian readers, a sign that interest in the subject is keen and concern is strong.