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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[Al Jazeera] Far right and left wing lawmakers in the European Parliament skirmish over cultural identity

Lawmakers in the European Union’s (EU) Parliament debated a draft proposal on cultural diplomacy on Thursday, sparking an animated debate surrounding the issue of European cultural identity and the implications of the migration crisis. 

A strong front was created by the right, specifically between Hungary’s Fidesz party, currently not subscribed to a European group, along with Belgium and Germany’s MEPs for the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) party. The lawmakers opposed the proposal based on a common fear of “islamism on the rise,” voiced by a Belgian representative, potentially eclipsing European identity.

The MEPs also stressed a need to protect national sovereignty in relation to the EU’s competencies. 

“Throw away your passports [...] the EU is going to take over anything,” Fidesz’s MEP said.

“Our national identity is gone,” Belgium’s MEP echoed, in reference to the immigration of Muslim people they argued would “create terror” and “replace” the EU’s culture. 

Adding to the anti-immigration statements was a member of Germany far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, also part of ID, citing the presence of Turkish music in German streets as an example. 

The legislature’s presidency urged for a more “diplomatic” attitude on behalf of the MEPs, stemming from another intervention from Fidesz that addressed a list of specific states “who advocate for cultural diplomacy”. These states “struggle to deal with the identity of people in their own nation,” the lawmaker added, mentioning France’s legislation banning religious symbols and Spain’s alleged discrimination of Morroccans.

The parliament’s left-leaning members opposed these views proposing a better integration of migrants, in terms of both education and culture, and a more open approach to countries of the Global South to achieve a more diverse culture.

The session was ultimately hampered by the disagreements surrounding European culture in itself. Analysts said it raised doubts on the possibility of reconciling differences on current stringent topics, such as migration and national sovereignty, between the member states in the future. 

EuroMUN Committee: European Parliament (EP)


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