Immigration has certainly become an essential aspect of European identity. Finding who we are as Europeans means finding common references which enable a community spirit to take shape. Ultimately it also means comparing our peculiarities with others’ and establish not only geographical but also cultural, religious, or political boundaries.
There has been intense debate in some European countries on how to fix these boundaries by law and regulate on what is acceptable and what is not. This has been acutely illustrated by the vote on minarets in Switzerland or the wearing of veils in French schools, both instances being very visible aspects of immigration. More recently the French movie ‘Welcome!’ fuelled the fire as it portrayed a French swimming instructor helping a Kurdish refugee to enter the United Kingdom by swimming across the English Channel (an action which is prohibited by law). The movie received the European Parliament’s Lux Prize on 25 November.
By doing so the European Parliament puts the finger on the root of the problem and casts light on a critical aspect of European public debate. How should the EU deal with immigration? Is it part of the European identity?
Our European political culture is deeply marked by universal principles such as human rights, justice, and democracy. The movie ‘Welcome!’ severely questions the validity of these universal principles when it comes to immigration and highlights a painful aspect of the identity debate, for every country in Europe.
– Priscilla and Maxime