New Europeans, New Identities

Reflections on Europe’s Dilemma
1 / 2008
Richard Lewis


This paper examines issues relating to the integration of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, into European societies. It first contemplates whether a true European identity really exists. Building on the different conceptions of (European) identity, the paper claims that a sense of belonging is crucial in helping immigrants integrate into Europe. The paper also argues that identity is, actually, most relevant when it is under threat. The paper therefore looks at the nature of Muslim society in Europe and some of the reasons for disaffection in that population. While doing this, the paper compares the various models of integration in, for example, the United States, Canada and Israel with the attempt by a number of EU Member States to find satisfactory integration strategies. Also, the efforts of the European Commission to forge an acceptable integration framework through the principles elaborated following the Hague declaration in November 2004 are discussed. The paper concludes that integration is best approached by creating cohesive communities and loyalties at the local level.

About the author

Richard Lewis is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel specialising in migration issues. He was formerly an official at the European Commission from 1974 to 2003 latterly dealing with immigration and asylum. He was European Union Fellow at Duke University for the academic year 1996-7. He is married to an American citizen with two sons and two grandsons.