Trending

Newsletter

Europe: Tear Down the Walls and the Welfare State

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Sep 22, 2015, 8:46 am
En momentos en que las políticas migratorias deberías estar claramente definidas, la Unión Europea se debate entre los miedos y el rechazo. (Radio Universidad)
The European Union faces the worst migration crisis since the 1940s. (Radio Universidad)

EspañolSome 70 years have passed since George Orwell wrote 1984, where he addressed a topic he grew obsessively concerned with: an unfree world, divided between those on the “inside” and the “outside.”

Some premonitory paragraphs of his visionary work left me with the chilling sensation of a déjà vu:

All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him … then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water, audience shouting with laughter when he sank. then you saw a lifeboat full of children with a helicopter hovering over it. there was a middle-aged woman might have been a jewess sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms. …. then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among them terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot of a child’s arm going up up up right up into the air…

These descriptions, considered exaggerated and grotesque at the time, foresaw an inhospitable world. Well, you know what? This world has existed for some time now.

Every day we witness the same images in real time: refugees sailing in shafts and their ship wrecks in the Mediterranean sea. There are no bombs or gunfire, but there are certainly deaths, panic, drowned people, and closed borders.

Europe is facing the worst migration crisis since the 1940s. The death toll has marked a sad new record. But this political and moral challenge meets an ambivalent and morally timid Europe.

Thirty years ago in Luxembourg, European leaders signed the Schengen Agreement, enacting a policy of freedom of movement that has been a source of pride for the whole continent.

While the Schengen Agreement tore down internal borders, Europe kept reinforcing its external ones with a complex system managed by the supranational agency Frontex. Then it began putting up fences, walls, and even resorting to the army. And now, Europe is erecting again its internal borders as countries try to stop the advance of migrants.

We face an urgent situation that leaves little time to analyze the reasons and causes behind the exodus. I will just mention a proverb no less true now than when it was written in the Bible: pride goes before destruction.

I believe Europe has constantly behaved with arrogance at all three levels: each country’s internal policies, continental policy, and international policy.

The failure of multiculturalism amid an exhausted welfare state, along with a short-sighted policy in the Middle East (where it has sent troops), are some reasons why people are massively crossing the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe. Even though the crisis started over two years ago, it has caught Europe unprepared and divided.

Thousands attempt to enter the European Union every day through its many border crossings. The arrival of refugees has sparked solidarity, but also uncertainty, fear, and some baseless prejudices.

[adrotate group=”8″]It’s a vast number of individuals who have to be absorbed and accommodated, and many nations lacks the capacity to do it. Others simply don’t want to.

The collective hysteria stems from concerns that Islamic State members are hiding among migrants, the loss of jobs, or just the fear of the unknown and what is culturally different. However, it is all grounded in misinformation, skilfully manipulated by politicians and mass media.

Politics means making decisions, many times dramatic ones, as when the highly esteemed values of security and liberty clash. Faced with an unusual situation, I believe it’s important to consider the following points:

Being afraid is a natural reaction, particularly when it comes to security. Countries that take in refugees have a right to know who they are, and under some circumstances they have the right to refuse entry.

I firmly believe that every person has a right to seek a better future and a better life somewhere they can fully develop their skills.

Given the crisis, countries should prioritize those who qualify for refugee status (people running away from political persecution or violent conflicts).

Many are migrating for economic reasons, seeking better opportunities. The best way for Europe to receive and include migrants is to allow them to work and develop their initiatives there.

Europe’s welfare state has attracted migrants from all over the world for decades. However, that inefficient model is already crumbling under its own weight. It should be replaced immediately while countries open their doors to migrants.

Finally, let’s not forget that behind all the statements, the calls for European solidarity, and humanitarian do-gooders, lies the never-ending negotiations and processes inherent to politics. Cold calculations, power games, and trade of favors are always present.

That’s why Europe, now led by the countries that migrants want to reach, reacts by imposing a quota, telling every country how many people they should receive.

Even so, it will be difficult to keep people in the country of arrival. They will continue their march from Eastern and Central Europe to Germany, France, and Scandinavia. There is where they want to live. And that is when Europe starts to clash with its own principles.

Maps are showing again internal borders and walls in Europe. And we all know that it is easier to build a wall than to tear one down.

Translated by Adam Dubove.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.