These images reveal many of the social and demographic changes that have occurred in Europe recently. The EU is currently at a fork in the road; it must decide whether it wants to make the effort to integrate all European people into the European project, or whether it wants to remain a Christian club for the foreseeable future. Clashes between white, Christian Europeans and Muslim Europeans have become more and more visible in recent years. For example, media coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris dominated global headlines for weeks. The increasing visibility of these clashes begs the question: Can the EU and Islam peacefully coexist?
The answer, obviously, depends on who you ask. Far-right political parties like Farage’s UKIP and Le Pen’s Front National preach that immigrants, especially Muslim ones, pose a lethal threat and are the root cause of their countries’ problems. This is blatantly untrue. France and Britain would clearly still have problems, even if they were 100% homogenous. However, these parties feed on the fear they create through othering, and have been quite successful so far.
The truth, however, is that there are far more Muslims in Europe that consider themselves European (or British, or French, etc.) than there are who want to bring down Western society. Children in schools such as the Waterhead Academy, which is largely divided between white and Pakistani students, have proven this. Although the students may come from vastly different backgrounds, they can come together at school to learn and share life experiences together. Immigrant youths in Britain tend to be integrating more quickly and completely into British society than their elders, but that does not mean that older immigrants remain completely separate from European societies (Goodhart). Just like their children, they can integrate into society while still maintaining their own cultural traditions, as shown by the burqa-clad woman holding a child, who is waving a British flag.
On its own, the population of Europe is rapidly aging. The baby boom of 1945-1975 is over, and fertility rates have decreased to below replacement levels in most countries. Now, there are large numbers of older citizens depending on a dwindling number of working age adults. Most of the (small) overall population growth in Europe can be attributed to immigration. Immigrants come to Europe to improve their lives and give their children a chance at a better life. These children raised in Europe could help the continent overcome the problem of its rapidly aging population since they will grow up invested in the success of their home. However, if Europeans continue to be xenophobic and push them away, many immigrants may look elsewhere.
Regardless of the demographic and social situation in the EU, many outside the Union still see it as the prime example of international cooperation. The economic and political benefits of being in the EU are clear, which leads many, like people in western Ukraine, to push for their countries to join. Whatever problems may come with membership, they see it as better to be in the club than out of it.
Goodhart, David. “A Very British School.” Prospect Magazine May 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/features/waterhead-academy-oldham-integration-david-goodhart.