I’m back from my trip to “New Europe,” specifically to Prague and Krakow. I highly recommend both cities to potential tourists, and I find the concept of New Europe apt.
Poland and the Czech Republic suffered grievously from the two great scourges of the 20th century — Nazism and Communism. So far, they have avoided the scourge of the present century — radical Islam.
They have avoided it because Muslims are scarcely present in Poland and the Czech Republic. Other than one tour group, we saw no one in either Prague or Krakow who looked to be of Middle Eastern or Northern African origin. We did see a Syrian-Lebanese restaurant in Krakow, so there is some Middle Eastern presence. However, the contrast with Brussels and Munich, both of whose airports we used, was striking.
But the EU, by which I mostly mean Germany, is working to insert Muslims into Poland and the Czech Republic. While we were in Prague, word came of proposed reforms to EU asylum rules that would impose stiff financial penalties on countries refusing to take “their share” of Syrian asylum seekers. The countries in question include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.
All four denounced the EU’s “reforms,” and with good reason. It’s one thing for the EU to dictate banking rules or antitrust policy. It’s quite another to tell a nation whom it must allow to settle inside its borders.
The number of refugees in question isn’t that large. Poland, as I understand it, will be required to take in about 7,000 (or else pay stiff fines). However, it’s impossible effectively to vet many of these folks. Thus, there’s a good chance that some will be potential terrorists.
The Polish artist who told me “these aren’t refugees, these are fighters” was wrong in the main. But he may well be right in a few cases. And a few Islamist fighters can inflict great harm.
In addition, even if there were no immediate risk of terrorism, Poles and Czechs are justifiably concerned about the future. Often it is the children of Muslim immigrants who turn to violence. Their parents may be fairly grateful to have found refuge, but their offspring tend to grow up frustrated and resentful.
Finally, the EU’s proposal sets a dangerous precedent. If Germany and its allies can coerce Poland into taking 7,000 residents today, who’s to say they won’t force it to accept 70,000 tomorrow?
The refugee quotas imposed by Germany and its allies are based on population and economic size, not on national interest. But it is perceived national interest that led Germany to invite Syrian refugees. The country faces a looming crisis because Germans aren’t reproducing at anything close to replacement levels. Thus, there’s an advantage to taking in refugees (whether taking them in is advantageous on balance is another question).
But Poland obtains no such advantage from refugees. When Germany first agreed to take in Syrians, I pointed to a Washington Post report about how Eastern Germany’s population is in massive decline, but as soon as you reach the Polish border, the trend is reversed.
For its part, Krakow seems awash in children. Walking through the city’s streets and its parks, one gets the impression that many residents have declined to stop at two.
I suspect that religion goes a long way towards explaining the difference between Germany and Poland when it comes to bearing children. Krakow, the city that gave the world Pope John Paul II, is awash not just in children but also in priests and nuns. Church attendance appears to be strong, and not just on Sunday.
Whatever the explanation, Poland doesn’t need Syrian refugees the way Germany does. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t need them at all.
Nor, unlike Germany, should Poland or the Czech Republic feel a need to atone for past crimes against humanity. They were not the perpetrators of such crimes; among nations, Poland was the main victim.
Without Germany, there would have been no Nazi occupation of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Without the Nazi occupation, there likely would have been no Iron Curtain behind which Poland and Czechoslovakia suffered for more than 40 years.
Germany has done enough harm to the Poles and the Czechs. It should not now be coercing them into accepting immigrants who, almost inevitably, will include radical Islamists.
Old Europe should let New Europe be New Europe.