The Last Days of Europe Epitaph for an Old Continent

Walter Laqueur

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

256 Pages



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—In Brussels in 2004, more than 55 percent of the children born were of immigrant parents
—Half of all female scientists in Germany are childless
—According to a poll in 2005, more than 40 percent of British Muslims said Jews were a legitimate target for terrorist attacks  
  What happens when a falling birthrate collides with uncontrolled immigration? The Last Days of Europe explores how a massive influx from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has loaded Europe with a burgeoning population of immigrants, many of whom have no wish to be integrated into European societies but make full use of the host nations’ generous free social services. One of the master historians of twentieth-century Europe, Walter Laqueur is renowned for his “gold standard” studies of fascism, terrorism, and anti-Semitism. Here he describes how unplanned immigration policies and indifference coinciding with internal political and social crises have led to a continent-wide identity crisis. “Self-ghettoization” by immigrant groups has caused serious social and political divisions and intense resentment and xenophobia among native Europeans. Worse, widespread educational failure resulting in massive youth unemployment and religious or ideological disdain for the host country have bred extremist violence, as seen in the London and Madrid bombings and the Paris riots. Laqueur urges European policy makers to maintain strict controls with regard to the abuse of democratic freedoms by preachers of hate and to promote education, productive work, and integration among the new immigrants.  Written with deep concern and cool analysis by a European-born historian with a gift for explaining complex subjects, this lucid, unflinching analysis will be a must-read for anyone interested in international politics and the so-called clash of civilizations.


Praise for The Last Days of Europe

"One of the more persuasive in a long line of volumes by authors on both sides of the Atlantic chronicling Europe's decline and foretelling its collapse.  Unlike the Euro-bashing polemics of a few of those authors, Mr. Laqueur's short book is measured, even sympathetic . . . The tone is one of resigned dismay rather than grave-stomping glee. This temperate quality makes the book's theme—that Europe now faces potentially mortal challenges—all the more compelling . . . Mr. Laqueur notes that the average European family had five children in the 19th century; today it has fewer than two, a trend that will shrink the continent's population in the next century on a scale unprecedented in modern history . . . Too often Europe has reacted to the growing threat posed by extremists among its minorities with a tolerance and self-criticism . . . Meanwhile, social tensions increase, not least because of high emigration to Europe from Muslim countries and high birth rates among Muslim populations. No one has yet found a good way of integrating those populations into mainstream European society . . . In the economic field, Europe is celebrating a growth rate of 2.5% annually; in the U.S. a similar pace is regarded as a crisis. Meanwhile unemployment remains brutally high and productivity stagnant . . . Mr. Laqueur ponders whether Europe will really surrender to these adverse trends or finally resist . . . Abroad, the U.S. has long surpassed Europe in power, influence and economic dynamism; Asia may do so before long. At home, a profound demoralization has set in, induced in part by . . . a century in which unimaginable violence sapped the regenerative energies of a wearied people . . . in which the luxuries of rapid economic growth produced a false sense of security that cannot be sustained in a global age."—Gerard Baker, The Wall Street Journal Online

"The Last Days of Europe spotlights an uncomfortable reality. Hopefully it will generate greater awareness, more open dialogue, and the courage to take steps to deal with Europe’s problems."—Henry A. Kissinger, former secretary of state and national security adviser

"The author, a veteran historian originally from Germany, is worried about Europe's future, which he only hopes will be 'more than that of a museum.' The causes of Europe's troubles, in Laqueur's view, are demographic decline, the failure to integrate new, mostly Muslim immigrants, economic stagnation (due to an overly generous welfare state and an aversion to work), and the stalling of the European integration process. The Last Days of Europe is a good primer on the challenges Europe faces."—Philip Gordon, Foreign Affairs

"An eloquent and eye-opening epitaph for a civilization as much as for a continent—all the more impressive for its depth of historical understanding as well as its illuminating transatlantic perspective. The preeminent historian of postwar Europe has become the prophet of its decline and fall."—Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University, and author of The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West

"Laqueur, who has four-plus decades of experience writing on Europe's recent and contemporary history . . . discusses current trends in three areas: the immigration of Muslims, financing of the welfare state, and the European Union. They dominate European political life today, and as Laqueur addresses how these foci of popular and elite attention manifest themselves country by country, the author drives his treatment toward the conclusion that reform is nigh impossible yet unavoidable. Muslim immigrants, he argues, have not been assimilated, don't wish to be, and are profoundly alienated from their host societies. Europe's munificent social-welfare systems don't add up, as Laqueur illustrates with an array of demographic statistics pointing downward and economic numbers pointing sideways. As for the EU, its centralizing aspirations have halted with recent rejections of a constitution and its inability to create a credible military force. Venturing conditional prognostications on these matters, Laqueur delivers a pessimistic assessment."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

"[A]lmost overnight what had been considered a minor problem on a local level is becoming a major political issue, for there is growing resistance on the part of the native population, who resent becoming strangers in their own homelands." --from the Introduction "Even if Europe's decline is now irreversible, there is no reason that it should become a collapse. There is, however, a precondition: facing realities at long last. . . . The age of delusions is over. . . . It will be a very slow process and the outcome will be a Europe quite different from the one we have known." --from chapter
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  • Walter Laqueur

  • Walter Laqueur has written more than twenty books, translated into as many languages. He was a cofounder and editor of the Journal of Contemporary History in London. Concurrently he was chairman of the International Research Council of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He has taught at Georgetown, Chicago, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, and Tel Aviv universities. He lives in Washington, D.C.
  • Walter Laqueur Joanna Helander