Europe's Decline – Turkey and the Balkans – Recommended Books

16 December 2010


Crossing the US-Mexican border Celebrating visa free travel to the EU in Albania (December 2010)

Crossing the US-Mexican border – Albanians and Bosnians celebrating visa free travel to the EU (December 2010)


Dear friends,

Is Europe a continent in decline? What kind of foreign policy can such a continent pursue?  These questions were at the center of a seminar organised by Erste Foundation in Vienna in November 2010 for policy makers and thinkers from across the continent.

You find the argument of the opening presentation here: Europe in Decline – Sit back and enjoy (but not too much). There is the theory that Muslim migration causes the decline of Europe. This was presented with much commercial success by Thilo Sarrazin. It was even earlier developed in Walter Laqueur's "The last days of Europe": a book which starts with demography and ends with the failure of integrating Muslims. Laqueur sees a dark future for a doomed continent which is all the more dangerous because it is still hidden: "on the surface, everything seems normal, even attractive. But Europe as we knew it is bound to change, probably out of recognition for a number of reasons …"

In fact, this theory is also strongly reminiscent of the one developed a few years ago in the US by Samuel Huntington, making a rather similar case about the challenges posed to America's national identity by … Hispanization! Huntington warned a few years ago that Mexican immigration "looms as a unique and disturbing challenge to our cultural integrity, to our national identity, and potentially to our future as a country":

"If over 1 million Mexican soldiers crossed the border, America would treat it as a major threat to their national security and react accordingly. The invasion of over 1 million Mexican civilians is a comparable threat to American societal security, and Americans should react to it with comparable vigour."

Thus, while Latinos are the problem in the US (for Huntington), Muslims are the problem in Europe (for Sarrazin and many, many others), and both for the same supposed reason: they cannot be integrated into mainstream culture! In the US it is Anglo-Protestant Culture which is under siege … in Europe it is the Abendland which is supposedly set to decline. Europe is doomed just as California (which was one of the whitest states in the US) is doomed, and supposedly both are in decline since the 1960s … Some years ago former CIA director William Colby warned about the future emergence of a "Spanish speaking Quebec in the US Southwest." Stefan Luft, a German author, makes the same claims for Germany's cities (for more on facts and misleading or dangerous theories about Europe's decline please go to the most recent Rumeli Observer).

To start the debate in Vienna leading European demographer Rainer Munz presented European population trends and the implications for EU policies as also outlined in the report of the European Reflection Group on Europe 2030. Mark Leonard discussed whether the theses of his book – Why Europe Will run the 21st Century – which appeared in 2005 have stood the test of time. Nicu Popescu talked about the European process seen from his position as advisor to the prime minister of Moldova. Ivan Krastev spoke about the dangers of intellectual complacency about both the future of the EU (Europe a Retired Power) and the future of the Balkans. 


Europe's border revolution seen from Amexica

Comparing the choices made in recent years by the member states of the EU with those made by the US has been the topic of a seminar held this week at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, co-organised by ESI. Our opening question was: can anything be learned from comparing the EU and the US approaches to border management?

The stretch of boundary between San Diego and Tijuana is today "perhaps the world's most policed international divide between two nonbelligerent countries." At the same time, trade between the US and Mexico has grown sharply. Increasing commerce and more militarised boundaries – in an age of global insecurity, some claim, such is the global trend.

Except, of course, that this is not the case. Not only is there no militarised border between Germany and Poland; today, there is no physical boundary at all. When Poland joined the EU's Schengen zone in 2007, border installations were dismantled. When Romania joins Schengen sometime in 2011, Germany's external boundary will de facto shift from Poland's Eastern border to the Prut River between Romania and Moldova. Having crossed the Prut from the East, a visitor will be able to travel all the way to Gibraltar in southern Spain.

One of the most interesting trends in the past year has been the acceleration of reforms in small and poor Moldova (the poorest country in Europe), carried out in response to a European promise of increasing freedom of movement for Moldovan passport holders. Turn yourself into a partner, the logic goes, and your citizens can travel to the EU much more easily. It is important to underline that every one of these steps has been controversial, debated, and held up by concerns about security (this includes the next big step, the expansion of the Schengen area to Romania and Bulgaria, currently put into question by France). Likewise, the debate on visa free travel for Turkish citizens promises to be intense. At every stage, Europe's border revolution has been contested; and at no stage can further progress simply be taken for granted.

Not long ago every book or article about the Balkans started with references to killings and cults of irrational violence. The same is true today in descriptions of the US-Mexican border. A book by John Annerino, Dead in their Tracks – Crossing America's Desert Borderlands in the New Era(2009) includes a "comprehensive border death toll" (2003: 336 people died trying to cross the US-Mexico border; 2004: 214; 2005: 241; … 2007: 237). There is also Balkan veteran Ed Vulliamy's new book Amexica – War Along the Borderline. Or take a look at a recent article in the New York Times from summer 2010 for another horrific description of trends along the border (The Mexican Border's Lost World).  

Now, beyond the sheer human tragedy in all these descriptions, there is a poignant policy question: is this border regime, is the militarisation that has taken place in recent decades, actually in the interests of those in the US who are concerned about security?

For more on the Harvard seminar go to Rumeli Observer: Amexica and other reflections on border wars. For more on the EU-US-Mexico border project please visit our European Border Revolution Website.


Ahmet Davutoglu and Erik-Jan Zürcher

Ahmet Davutoglu and Erik-Jan Zürcher

Turkey's Balkan policy: Pre-modern? Post-modern?

On 1 December ESI's Gerald Knaus was invited by the Turkije Instituut in Amsterdam to speak about current developments between Turkey and the Balkans. Historian Erik-Jan Zürcher gave an introduction on the historical background of relations between Turkey and the Balkan region.

For a reflection on whether Turkish foreign policy in the Balkans today is pre- or post-modern please read Rumeli Observer Multikulti and the future of Turkish Balkan Policy, taking as a starting point the presentation on 16 October 2009 by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Sarajevo, which promised a new golden age for the Balkans:

"Like in the 16th century, which saw the rise of the Ottoman Balkans as the center of world politics, we will make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey, the center of world politics in the future. This is the objective of Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve this. We will reintegrate the Balkan region, the Middle East and the Caucasus, based on the principle of regional and global peace, for the future, not only for all of us but for all of humanity."

For more on Turkish debates on minorities see also our next newsletter before the end of 2010.


Nigar Göksel Tel Aviv University. Photo: flickr/ANATOLI AXELROD

Nigar in Baku – Kristof at Tel Aviv University

ESI from Baku to New York

The next public presentation by an ESI analyst will take place this week in Istanbul on the state of EU-Turkey relations.  

In the past few weeks ESI analysts also presented our research in Tel Aviv (Kristof), in Warsaw (Alexandra, Nigar), in Berlin (Nigar, Besa), in Yerevan (Nigar), in Brussels (Alexandra), in Vienna (Kristof), in Baku, and in Amsterdam (Gerald). Gerald also briefed the Global Board Meeting of the Open Society Foundation in New York.


Paradise lost Leaving Beirut The ornament of the world Sarajevo The world without us

Recommended holiday books

As Germans, Dutch, Bosnians, Turks and Americans discuss the future of multiculturalism, the following books make timely and good holiday reading (and gifts): they are also all discussed on the ESI website:

             Giles Milton (Paradise Lost), on the destruction of Smyrna/Izmir

             Mai Ghoussoub (Leaving Beirut) on coming to terms with the legacy of the war in Lebanon

             Maria Rosa Menocal (The Ornament of the World) on medieval Andalusia

             Robert Donia (Sarajevo – A Biography) on the Bosnian capital

For those who despair of the inability of societies, throughout history, to come to terms with diversity there is finally this vision of a world without human beings:

             Alain Weisman (The World Without Us), on, well, the world without us.

Many best wishes, and looking forward to your feedback, including on the ESI Facebook page,

Gerald Knaus