Ah, yes. I get you now. However, you've overlooked something. Yes, Europeans have always been willing to import games. They could import the odd game or two that didn't get realeased locally for whatever reason that may be (censorship, language barrier etc). And the rest of the time they could buy the games that DID get released locally as normal. They could play both imported and local games on the one console.
Now, because of region locking the choices are more limited. You could buy a cheaper, local 3DS and be only able to play what comes out in your country.
You could buy an American one and play what gets realeased in their country, which is usully a much wider selection. Then you would have to import every single game you wanted to play from thereon in from America because yours only plays American games. Your local games, which you can get cheaper, are unplayable on your American 3DS.
Unless you buy 2. Or 3 if you want to import Japanese games as well. I dont know about most people, but I don't have that kind of money.