The word of the day is 'Völkerwanderung.'

German word, obviously: Völkerwanderung more or less means ‘folk migration.’ Admittedly, Iron Age European history is a little outside of my patch, but I do seem to recall that the Roman Empire (and later, its successor states*) had to deal with lots of people moving to where there wasn’t a war. Or at least to where the people moving could win a war.

I mention this because… well.

The European Union’s sharpening divisions over a spiraling refugee crisis broke into the open Thursday with two leaders strongly disagreeing in public over whether the asylum-seekers were threatening “Europe’s Christian roots.”

That was the language used by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as he warned Europe against allowing in mostly Muslim families. A day after a drowned Syrian toddler washed up on the Turkish coast, another European leader retorted that Christian values demanded helping the less fortunate.

A little historical background may be necessary here. To begin with, Hungary keeps getting invaded, often from the direction of the Balkans. This has been going on for thousands of years, and the Hungarians are well aware of this, not least because they themselves are descended from one of the cultural groups that did the invading.

Also – and this is more important than it seems – Hungarians are ‘other’ in Europe in a way that Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Latin, or even Slavic peoples are not.  Hungarians are one of the few peoples in Europe who don’t speak an Indo-European language (Finland is another example, and Europe is traditionally not overfond of the Finns, either). So it’s also no real surprise that “Orban and [European Parliament President Martin] Schulz, a veteran politician from Germany, made no attempt to paper over their differences or their distaste for each other.” Schulz and Orban were appearing together to do… something, but I’m not sure what. In fact, I have absolutely no doubt that each man has a private opinions of the other that would be couched using stereotypes that their 14th century ancestors would perfectly understand. Remember: Europe only looks unified from the outside. From the inside it’s a bunch of cultural groups that can easily identify a member of the other groups on sight, and who are often unhappy when they do**.

One other thing about this article: the Washington Post, for some reason, persists in describing the EU as an alliance. The reality is that it’s a gimcrack empire in the classical sense: which is to say, there’s a central government in Brussels (but not of Brussels) that has quite a lot of theoretical control over various client states and autonomous zones. And when everything’s going all right, that theoretical control translates into actual power. But the second things start going wrong all the various individual nation-states get restive, and things crawl to a halt.

In other words, it’s a lot like the Holy Roman Empire**. Which later more or less shrunk into Austria, which still later amalgamated with the Hungarians into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And don’t think that the Hungarians don’t remember that, either.

(Photo credit: IOM Iraq)

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: To quote a button I once saw: History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams ‘Why don’t you ever listen to what I’m SAYING?” and then lets fly with a club.

*Which should give you a clue at how well the Roman Empire did at handling the problem.

**You might find it odd, considering that this isn’t so easy to do in America. Then again: your European ancestors were the ones who came here to get away from all that. That doesn’t make us better – well, that doesn’t make us better – but it does make us a little different.

***Although, amazingly, with a remarkably weaker military capacity. Or possibly not so amazingly. After all, they had us, right?