“How can we maintain a values-based approach to national identity while still being inclusive to new migrants?”
Many Europeans are concerned that newly arrived migrants and refugees to migrants may not share their common values. But they often struggle to articulate exactly what these shared values are and whether they mean national, European, or just liberal democratic values. National attempts to define common values have been widely ridiculed. For instance, the Danish crowdsourcing exercise named ‘hygge’ (the elusive, untranslatable idea of ‘cosiness’) as the top national value. Another question is how to promote common values when one of the most important liberal democratic values of all is tolerance. Integration and citizenship tests introduced across Europe in the 1990s and 2000s were criticised for being patronising and intolerant. For instance, the test in the Netherlands showed gay people kissing, while the UK test asked what applicants would do if they spilled a stranger’s drink, suggesting it wasn’t possible to be British without frequenting pubs. Instead, we need to:
- Be sensitive to individual differences and the contested nature of values themselves. It’s valuable to offer information on values throughout the integration process, from pre-departure programmes for refugees, to introduction programmes, to citizenship education. But promoting open dialogue and acknowledging conflicts over values might arise will be more effective than handing someone a piece of paper or requiring someone to sign a contract saying they adhere to a specific set of values.
- Practice what we preach. The value of free speech is best explained through open dialogue in the public sphere and classroom. Gender equality could be better illustrated through a greater representation of minority (including Muslim) women in politics and public life. By contrast, symbolic policies that affect small numbers of newcomers, such as banning the burqa, can convey a negative ‘body language’—and have a host of unintended consequences, such as preventing women leaving their homes.
- Encourage behaviour that reflects common values. The London Mayor’s office is experimenting with ‘behavioural insights’ or ‘nudge’ approaches to promote volunteering or blood donation as part of citizenship ceremonies. This rewards behaviour that embodies common values in a way that could have greater resonance than simply providing information about values in the abstract.
For more information, you can read a recent report by the Migration Policy Institute here.