Germany was shocked. On New Year’s Eve, German women were sexually assaulted and some allegedly raped by men who, by language and complexion, appeared to be recent immigrants or asylum-seekers. The worst assaults occurred in Cologne, but there were incidents in other German cities, as well as in Switzerland and Austria, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Making matters even worse, the authorities and the local media failed to fully and promptly report on the events, prompting allegations of a cover-up. The result was a firestorm of criticism over the government’s policy of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.
The events in Cologne acted as a detonator for anti-immigration sentiment that had been building up for some months, not only in Germany.
Preliminary results of the police investigation suggest the attacks, at least in Cologne, were planned, according to Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
Immigration works when immigrants can find work, whether skilled or unskilled. Employment gives them pride, prospects and respect. Jobs should be the basis for any successful immigration program.
However, the other precondition for successful immigration is that newcomers must respect the laws, culture, habits and religion of their host country – not demand that the host country adapts to them.
As European countries cope with the current influx of migrants and prepare for the inevitable next wave, they must very strictly enforce adherence to this second principle.
The threat of immediate deportation to the country of origin as a result of criminal activities, or even failure to respect European legal norms, would be an effective deterrent and also calm public fears. Refusing to educate girls or send children to public schools because their faith is offended by Christian religious symbols should not be tolerated, nor should public insults of European customs.
Why is this not happening? I see two problem areas:
European legal systems are overburdened by complex regulations and exceptions. They proceed slowly in cases that require quick action. This inefficiency will not be overcome by increasing staff. The laws themselves must be streamlined.
The second issue concerns a misunderstanding of tolerance. While it is an essential attribute of any free society, tolerance should not be confused with adapting the tenets of another culture or religion. It only means that other cultures and religions are to be respected.
While European countries are secular states, with religious freedom and separation of church and state, their cultural roots are Christian. This is vital to European identity. The very success of this system, which gives such freedom to immigrants, is based on Christian principles.
Immigrants must respect this, even as they freely practice their own religions. And European lawmakers and promoters of "political correctness" must remember that tolerance is only possible when all sides respect the rules.
The admittedly difficult problem of how to organize the fair and efficient deportation of non-compliant immigrants, at least in the first generation, needs immediate attention. There is some hope that strict application may discourage some potential perpetrators.
Doing nothing is the most dangerous course. Europe’s political stability is at risk. A repetition of the events in Cologne will radicalize further portions of the European public and immigrant communities alike. It would jeopardize the European principle of tolerance and the Christian duty to help refugees.
The events in Cologne may have been a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge between Europeans and Muslim immigrants and create a breeding ground for terrorism. If Europe is to defeat this new tactic, it must be willing to enforce the rules – strictly.