The controversy that stemmed from the job title of European Commissioner in charge of, among other things, immigration (“in charge of protecting the European way of life”) deserves to be scrutinized; but perhaps not for the reasons we believe.
Many have protested with anger and indignation against this job title, which, according to them, echoes the point of view of European far right-wing extremists, that all immigration should cease because it jeopardises our way of life. As if foreigners were, by nature, enemies of civilization, barbarians, against whom we must protect ourselves at all costs by closing our borders.
For my part, I do not share their indignation. I am very much in favour of welcoming those who are driven out of their countries because barbarism and other misfortunes. And we are bound to do so because of mutual respect for our fellow human beings, and because of the international texts that bind us. Moreover, though I am outraged, on a daily basis, to see how too many of our countries turn away those who seek asylum, I also think that we can only welcome them properly if we provide them with the means to integrate and join our way of life, and not impose on them the life that they fled.
Clearly, it is obviously unacceptable that people that arrive from elsewhere, as welcome as they may be, should live in Europe under languages other than those of the host countries, practice polygamy, and seek to eliminate the destiny of women, their families and the rest of the world. This must be fought. As a matter of fact, almost everyone who comes to our shores is simply asking to adopt our way of life. That is why they come to Europe. A way of life based on individual freedom, and the right, for everyone, to succeed in life.
Defending our way of life, defined in this manner, is therefore both necessary and easy. Because no one is really attacking it. That is how I think Ms. Von Der Leyen understood it, and I think the accusations levied against her are baseless.
On the other hand, I am surprised that we have not seen that behind this question lies another, much more difficult one: is our European way of life reduced to our public freedoms? Or does it include the way we live, consume, produce, and travel? If so, is it still defensible, in light of what is required of us vis-à-vis the planet? Can we, Europeans, in the name of protecting our way of life, continue to destroy nature, at home or elsewhere, by producing infinite quantities of greenhouse gases and unlimited amounts of waste? Allowing wealth to be concentrated in the hands of a few? Of course, we are not the only ones doing so, and others are doing it too, in richer and poorer countries. But, whether we like it or not, we, Europeans, are a model to others—the subject of envy and jealousy—and imitated as well.
So, if we have to defend our way of life, we must first define it. Above all, our way of life is about freedom, democracy, tolerance, secularism, the right to knowledge, human dignity, respect for the weakest, and in particular for children and women. It certainly is not related to our waste, carelessness and injustice.
Furthermore, if we really want to defend what makes up our way of life, strictly speaking, we need to urgently change our way of life: consume less meat, produce less waste, organize the recycling of what we throw away, travel less and differently, reduce all injustices, and give everyone a fair chance.
Otherwise, one day, we will experience inevitable dictatorships, which will not be concerned by our way of life.