Multicultural Europe? Not so much.

| Tue Mar. 15, 2005 2:13 PM EST

The EU has just come out with a report on European attitudes toward immigration. Bottom-line, and predictable, message: they don't like it. Among the findings:

  • 60 percent in the former EU of 15 states and 42 percent in the 10 mainly east European states that joined the EU last year believed there were "limits to multicultural society."
  • nearly 40 percent across the EU opposed granting legal immigrants full civil rights.
  • 50 percent expressed "resistance to immigrants."
  • 58 percent saw a "collective ethnic threat" from immigration, meaning they answered yes to questions including whether immigrants threaten jobs and a country's culture, add to crime problems and make a country a worse place to live.

None of this is very surprising, of course. Nor is it news that such views are on the upsurge. It just confirms the commonplace that Europe's biggest challenge in the 21st century, bar none, will be the assimilation of immigrant populations, whether from Muslim countries or the ten new member states. And this isn't merely, or even primarily, a moral issue. As a matter of brute economics, Europe needs immigrants. The native- born population of the Western European countries is aging at an alarming rate, and retiring workers, if they're going to be replaced, will have to be replaced by immigrants. Unfortunately, what this poll, and others, show is that no politician is likely to be rewarded for the kind of clear-headed, far-sighted engagement this challenge is crying out for. Far easier to raise the drawbridge.