I recently attended the ‘MCC Summit on Migration’ held in Budapest. Let me begin with some important takeaways from that event:

  • In 1900, Europe had four times more inhabitants than Africa. Today, the African population is almost double the European population (and, if current fertility rates continue — with Europe at 1.6 children per woman, and Africa with 4.7 per woman — by 2050 it will have quadrupled).
  • The per capita GDP of major European countries ranges from US$80,000 dollars (in Ireland) to $40,000 (in Spain). This compares to a range that is between Madagascar’s $475 and Libya’s $6,600, with a majority of African countries below $4,000.
  • The median GDP per capita of Western Europe is approximately $50,000, while that of Africa is likely around $3,000 — which results in a differential of 17 to 1.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, one in every three Africans dreams of moving to and settling in Europe.

One of the most widespread clichés heard in the face of such statistics is: “What should be done is increase development aid to those countries to lift them out of poverty, so that their inhabitants will not need to migrate anymore.” But after sharing a conference hall in Budapest with some of the most qualified specialists on the topic of immigration — as I had the privilege of doing on March 22 and 23 — one begins to understand that things are far more complex.

For example, economic growth — at least, in its early stages — does not diminish the influx of migrants but rather boosts it, since the percentage of the population that can spare enough money to afford flights to Europe (or, say, a passage in a barge run by human traffickers) increases.

Mass immigration — as well as the ‘demographic winter’, a reality to which it is closely connected given that the millions of immigrants that have come to Europe are coming to fill the generational void created by the  failure of Europeans themselves to breed — is certainly going to be (if it isn’t already) the foremost European challenge in the coming decades.

More worrying is the fact that this topic has become impossible to address rationally.  A mix of emotivism (i.e. the photograph of the dead child, Aylan Kurdi, lying on a Greek shore, which swayed the media’s position about the wave of ‘refugees’ in 2015), historical guilt (i.e. some vague sentiment that since “Europeans colonized their countries, it is only natural that they would want to return the ‘visit’”), a sense of  crippling fatalism (i.e. “It’s all a consequence of globalization; get over it!”), and the sanctimony and cultural hegemony of the Left has prevented us from discussing the topic calmly and rationally. Anyone who tries is inevitably vilified as ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic’.

A warning from France

Consequently, the compulsory multicultural and pro-immigration thinking that has been imposed on us has led to some nonsensical and outright lies.  As French writer and social critic, Éric Zemmour explained, it is false to say that “Europe was always a land of shelter.”  What Europe endured, he explained — from Alaric to Tariq, from Mehmed II to Suleiman the Magnificent — was a series of invasions it struggled to repel, more or less successfully.

Éric Zemmour. Image is a still from a video broadcast by France’s TV Liberté.

As a matter of fact, Zemmour added, in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, Europe was not a continent of immigration but one of mass emigration. And, yes, many of those migrants succeeded in ‘melting’ into American, Australian, or Argentinian society, or into that of another European country.

Most of all, Zemmour noted, this metaphor of the ‘melting pot’ functioned properly back then because migrations were intra-Western (i.e. Italians moving to France, Spaniards to Germany, Irish to the U.S.). Thus, as the late Samuel P. Huntington argued, ‘culture matters’ and civilizations do exist. A Pole will integrate more smoothly in Chicago than an Algerian will in Paris.

Host countries, on the other hand, do not typically demand assimilation anymore (and by this is meant the adoption of the ways, language, and moral code of the host society). Instead, the ideology of multiculturalism recognizes a so-called ‘right to difference’ and practically forbids people from regarding Western culture as superior. This has resulted in ethnic ghettos and “dis-assimilation”, according to Georges Bensoussan, a French historian.  The concrete result is that second or third generation immigrants — particularly those of Islamic origin — are more poorly integrated than their grandparents.

African perspectives

The African perspective on migration was also heard at the ‘Budapest Summit’.  Two Nigerian bishops explained that the drain on local human capital that migration represents for their country is quite dire.  In order to preserve local human resources, they requested European help to solve some of the challenges provoking the ongoing exodus out of Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Those challenges are manifold.  They include: desertification, floods, gangs (of herdsmen) displacing established farmers, and the killing of Christians by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The great Somali-born, Dutch-American Ayaan Hirsi Ali was also present at the ‘Budapest Summit’. In her presentation, she explained how she was able to escape a forced marriage in the 1990s  and, thanks to European asylum laws, was able to settle in the Netherlands.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s 2006 book. It was published in English in 2007.

She was the model immigrant, she said: graduating from the University of Leiden and poised to enjoy a comfortable life — if only she had remained silent.  But she felt it was her duty, she said, to warn others that mass Islamic migration to Europe would lead to ‘honour killings’, forced marriages, and Jihadi cells (sometimes even formed by individuals who had received welfare benefits in France or the Netherlands, she noted) coming to Europe.

As a teenager, she confessed, she had been sympathetic with the Muslim Brotherhood.  But after 9/11, she was horrified to see that “the Koran verses quoted by Bin Laden were accurate” — that is to say, the religion of her childhood did indeed harbour the seed of violence in its sacred texts.

After the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh (with whom she was shooting the documentary “Submission”), Ali had to live under constant police surveillance.  At present, she argues, there is a divide between radical Muslims (who she referred to as the “Medina Muslims”) and moderate Muslims (“Mecca Muslims”) who want to abandon sharia and other aspects of Islam which they consider incompatible with modernity.

She noted with some alarm that the West is actually supporting radical Muslims — by appointing them, for example, official representatives in official bodies such as the French Council of Muslim Worship. In contrast, there are courageous and oftentimes heroic moderate Muslims who advocate a reform of Islam — and, in doing so, thus put their lives at stake. They should be as celebrated in the West, she said, as the Soviet dissidents were some decades ago.

A fractured Europe

One of the things that became quite apparent at the ‘Budapest Summit on Migration’ was the moral fracture between Western Europe and Central/Eastern Europe. When the various Hungarian or Czech politicians spoke at the Summit, one heard things that would be completely unthinkable to say in France, Spain, or the UK.  A few quick examples may be illustrative:

  • Roman Joch, a conservative think-tank leader from Prague, said: “In the Czech Republic we do not want to receive the mass Islamic immigration that has settled in Western Europe; if you did not succeed in their integration, we will not do any better.”
  • Katalin Novak, Hungary’s Minister of State for Family, Youth, and International Affairs, expounded on the pro-natal policies of her government, which she explained were conceived as a conscious alternative to mass immigration.
  • The Minister’s cabinet colleague, Zoltán Kovács, who serves as Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations, spoke of the media manipulation of the European press during the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015, when Hungarians were portrayed as a ‘gang of ruthless thugs’.
  • Václav Klaus, former Czech president, explained that when it comes to issues of migration, labelling people as ‘xenophobic’, ‘racist’, etc. has replaced reasoning. He added that the liberal elites of Europe have indulged in a kind of ‘emotional-moral onanism’, whereby people try to outdo each other in their desperate attempt to show how humane and non-racist they are. In addition, the pseudo-religious ‘cult of diversity’ and the ideology of multiculturalism are seen by the liberal elites as goods that are valuable for their own sake — with little critical thought given to their consequences or their impact on society.

Hungary leads the way

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also took the floor at the Summit.  Before his keynote speech [in Hungarian with German subtitles], he had been introduced and praised by former Spanish MEP, Jaime Mayor Oreja, with these words: “[Orbán’s] struggle and courage in the defence of Christian values is the cause of his current difficulties within the European Union.”

Orbán elaborated on this, saying that one could hardly have predicted that a small, relatively poor country like Hungary would become what it is today: an ideological lightning rod within a perplexed and increasingly divided EU. Hungary achieved this status due to its firmness in the face of the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015, refusing to take any ‘refugees’ (in part because many of them were not refugees but ‘economic migrants’) — not even the ‘share’ assigned to it by the EU.  (In the process, of course, this earned the Prime Minister the status of Brussels’ bête noire.)

In Central Europe, history counts a great deal. Most of the countries of the region are small nations which, while powerful in the Middle Ages, faced dreadful threats in the modern era and in recent centuries.  These countries were often threatened by Asian invasions (think only of the Ottomans’ victory at Mohács in 1526) and by the dissolution of a plurinational continental empire at the beginning of the 20th century.

In the middle of the last century, they also faced Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. But unlike Western European nations, those in the East do not feel guilty about anything (they certainly never had colonial empires), nor do they take their own survival for granted.

Emancipated from the yoke of Soviet oppression only 30 years ago, the countries of Central/Eastern Europe are not willing to submit to any supranational power or give up their defence of their national borders.  They are certainly not willing to replicate the ‘multicultural experiment’ which, in their view, has failed tremendously in France and the UK.

Additionally, aware of the risk of a ‘demographic winter’, such countries are taking a courageous stand and betting their future on a revival of their own natality.  It is clear that Hungary is part of this new way of thinking.

With a sincerity that is rare among most politicians in Europe today, Prime Minister Orbán, in his closing comments, admitted that the Visegrád Group (of which Hungary forms a part) is in dire straits.  “For the moment,” he said, “we are standing up to Brussels’ pressure. But I don’t know how much longer we will endure.”

In a time of so many difficult challenges, Hungary (and the Visegrád Group) need the support of a powerful Western country.  It could be Italy, Orbán said.  It could be Spain.  Whoever it is, it will require a courage and steadfastness that is hard to find among the established political parties of Western Europe. The presumed breakthrough of alternative right-wing parties in the forthcoming European elections could very well define an entirely new political environment — which could, in turn, bring glimmers of hope.