It’s a victory for our side, but is it too little too late?
Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis is striking not just for the reluctance of most EU governments to open doors on the scale of 1956. A motif of cultural self-defence, of Europe as a Christian fortress justifiably barred to Muslim hordes, runs through their rhetoric.
Syria’s savage civil war has generated 4m registered refugees in the Middle East and beyond. But a person following Europe’s debate might wonder if the clock has reverted to 1529 and the armies of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan, are at the gates of Vienna.
These anxieties are found in southern, central and western Europe. Socratis Hasikos, Cyprus’s interior minister, said unashamedly on Monday that his government would accept 300 refugees but wanted them to be Orthodox Christians; that is, of the same faith as Greek Cypriots.
Like most public policy issues in Cyprus, this preference needs to be seen against the backdrop of the island’s division, following Turkey’s 1974 military invasion, into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. For many, the line that divides the island is a frontier between Orthodox Christianity and Islam, just as the Berlin Wall was a frontier between freedom and communism.