Aug. 18, 2011
In The National Interest, respected historian Walter Laqueur has posed a most somber question: Is Europe headed for what he calls “a slow death?” Dr. Laqueur outlines several possible scenarios, concluding that “the scenario most likely to happen and least likely to succeed: a bit of reform and a bit of business as usual. The richer countries will help the poorer ones to muddle through. It may work this time, but it is unlikely to be sufficient to deal with the next crisis.”
Dr. Laqueur, who is Jewish, knows something about Europe: As a teenager, he managed to escape just before the Holocaust began in earnest. Both of his parents died in it. In addition, his academic credentials are formidable: director of a program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, professor at both Brandeis and Georgetown university, and visiting professor at Harvard, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and Tel Aviv universities.
His analysis is sobering: “The outlook is bleak. But it is also true that nil desperandum, never say die, is a better guide to action than the violent changes in mood about the future of Europe that we have witnessed over the years.” Well, that’s true, to a point: Hopelessness is no catalyst for confidence.
Yet hope not grounded in reality is mere wishful thinking, and Dr. Laqueur‘s analysis disinvites realistic hope. But perhaps the most intriguing sentence in his article is this one: “Given its demographic weakness,Europe will need immigrants.”
Indeed: According to the official Website of the European Union, here is what the continent is facing in coming years:
- the average number of children per woman, which stands at 1.5 children in the EU whereas the population replacement level is 2.1. The rate projected by the EU for 2030 is 1.6;
- the decline in fertility (“baby crash”) which followed the baby boom is the cause of the large proportion of 45-65 year-olds in Europe’s population, and poses a number of problems in terms of pension funding;
- life expectancy (which rose by eight years between 1960 and 2006) could continue to increase by a further five years between 2006 and 2050 and would thus result in a larger proportion of people surviving to the ages of 80 and 90 an age when their health situation can often be delicate;
- immigration (1.8 million immigrants into the EU in 2004, 40 million in 2050 according to Eurostat’s projections) could offset the effects of low fertility and extended life expectancy.
Put simply, Europeis running out of indigenous people. No economic plan, however, artfully crafted or bravely implemented, will substitute for the failure of Europeans to replenish their population. As Bret Stephens wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal,Europes demography also prevents reform … The demographic balance … will change only when younger Europeans decide that children, plural, are worth having. What that will take, only a faith in future prosperity and in God can provide.
Such faith seems substantially lacking. Unless something dramatic occurs to alter the mindset of its young and childless, Europe will grow based only on immigration - and, given that virtually all of this immigration will be from Islamic countries, it will, thereby, cease being the Europe we have known.
Not all observers are worried. Justin Vaisse, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United Statesand Europe, argues that the threat of “Eurabia” is dramatically overstated, that Muslims are assimilating intoEurope and that the prevailing problem is one of racism, not religion or culture.
Let us hope he is right. A Europe in which Islam is dominant is a troubling phenomenon. Only a small minority of Muslims are terrorists or authoritarians. Yet as evidenced by Iran, Taliban Afghanistan, and the fundamentalist-leaning Muslim states in countries as diverse as Malaysia,Pakistan, and Nigeria, when Islamists seize power, they use it and dont easily give it up.