“In this moment, we ask all Europeans to join us in rejecting the utopian fantasy of a multicultural world without borders. We rightly love our homelands, and we seek to hand on to our children every noble thing that we have ourselves received as our patrimony. As Europeans, we also share a common heritage, and this heritage asks us to live together in peace as a Europe of nations. Let us renew national sovereignty, and recover the dignity of a shared political responsibility for Europe’s future.” — The Paris Statement
Conservatives have been preparing themselves for Europe’s funeral. Look no further than the titles of recent books. Jamie Kirchick’s The End of Europe speaks about a continent’s leaders who are ripe for the picking by a new more confident illiberal politics. The Strange Death of Europe, by Douglas Murray, finds that Europe’s spiritual vacuum is what called forth transformative migration that will leave Europe forever changed. Some have long presumed Europe buried already. That was the premise in the title of Mark Steyn’s America Alone, released a decade ago.
And why not be gloomy? For decades, European birth rates have been diving below replacement level. Immigrant communities in Europe are not integrating into their societies. And the second generation of those immigrant communities is now a source of Islamist terrorism. The heady days of the European Union’s expansion eastward have now been replaced by frustration at how foreign Eastern Europe’s political culture is from that of the West. The early days when Europe reaped huge gains from the single market, and the expansion of the euro zone, have been replaced by the too-late realizations that 1) the euro is primarily a German device to help the German middle class survive the forces of globalization, and 2) the European Central Bank is an institution that will make indentured servants of Greek and Irish taxpayers on behalf of German bondholders. A backlash in the guise of populism and fascism stalks the countries of Europe and hobbles European leaders. Douglas Murray’s haunting diagnoses ring true. Europe has become disenchanted with its faith, Christianity, and seen through it. And it has seen through the alternatives to it, such as Communism.
The typical response of conservatives is either hysteria or resignation. The first is a desperate attempt to call attention to Europe’s long-simmering problems. The latter is an equally repulsive refusal to try and solve them.
So it is some comfort to see a small who’s who of conservative European intellectuals release a long statement that avoids both responses while seeking to comprehend Europe’s crisis. The Paris Statement says that the problem Europe faces is not merely the poor construction of an EU superstate or the mass immigration of Muslims. Instead, it is the peddling of an illusion; Europe has a false understanding of itself, the writers say:
This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan — to be homeless — is a noble achievement.
The signatories of The Paris Statement hold that Europe must become once again a home for Europeans and their nations, and that Europeans are not mere subjects tossed about by historical forces such as “globalization.” They still have political agency, which means that they still have a responsibility to build a future and hand down the legacy of their civilization.
Doing so will require reconnecting with Europe’s faith: “Our gentle virtues are of an unmistakably Christian heritage: fairness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, peace-making, charity,” they write. And it will require a belief that there is an alternative to the “end of history.”
The hopes that the partisans of a ‘false Europe’ have placed on Emmanual Macron and Angela Merkel are absurd on their face.
The political thrust of The Paris Statement is decidedly traditionalist but not nostalgic. The tone is manful and almost impatient for Europe to get on with the task of creating its future. Recovering an awareness of political agency and a spirit of national loyalty would allow Europe to take on its challenges, not just migration but also the urgent task of throwing off an “impersonal economic system dominated by gigantic international corporations.”
On the populist movements stalking Europe, the statement strikes an ambivalent tone, saying:
We have our reservations. Europe needs to draw upon the deep wisdom of her traditions rather than relying on simplistic slogans and divisive emotional appeals. Still, we acknowledge that much in this new political phenomenon can represent a healthy rebellion against the tyranny of the false Europe, which labels as “anti-democratic” any threat to its monopoly on moral legitimacy.
The Paris Statement is most of all welcome because of its timing. There is a feeling that Europe has run out of answers. The hopes that the partisans of a “false Europe” have placed on Emmanual Macron and Angela Merkel are absurd on their face. The European project is ending. And, perhaps with this statement of principles, a Europe’s renewal is just beginning.