Multiculturalism in the European Union

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Abstract

Over the last decade, major European leaders have publicly stated that multiculturalism in their countries has failed. Since then, the influence of anti-immigration political discourse and policies in Europe has grown. Far-right parties and leaders who espouse anti-immigrant or openly racist attitudes have risen to power. Immigration coupled with unemployment has amplified feelings of disenfranchisement with democratic institutions and mainstream parties, thus fuelling the rise of the radical right. The question that inevitably emerges and will be addressed in this article is whether these recent developments have their roots in the failure of multiculturalism in Europe. To examine this, a systematic literature review is undertaken in order to critically discuss the concept of multiculturalism, including its flaws such as how the benefits of cultural enrichment are often overstated, while the accompanying social problems are often overlooked. Consequently, issues of cultural identity will be explored with a focus on the new multipolar world where the most significant differences amongst populations are cultural rather than ideological, political or economic. This is due to broader socioeconomic and political changes which have led people to identify themselves in terms of culture and the community they belong to rather than their politics and the society to which they aspire. Thereafter, the various policies of EU Member States towards immigration and hence multiculturalism will be analysed and the reasons why these models were unsuccessful will be considered. Finally, the consequences of the failure of these models on the present and future of multiculturalism in Europe will be examined.