A union in name only?

“Every person who comes is a human being and has the right to be treated as such.” Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

“As throngs of Africans and Arabs turn Italian and Greek islands and eastern European railway stations into refugee camps, the Chancellor has taken a brave stand.

She has denounced xenophobes, signaled Germany’s readiness to take more Syrian refugees and set out a European solution to a politically explosive problem.

On 31 August Mrs Merkel issued a dramatic call to arms, warning that today’s refugee misery will have graver consequences for the future of the EU than the euro mess.

“If Europe fails on the question of refugees it won’t be the Europe we wished for.”, she said.

The EU was born, after a devastating war, on a promise of solidarity with the persecuted and the downtrodden.

The biggest displacement of people since 1945 is a test of European values and of the ability of member states to work together.

The refugees from civil wars in Syria and Iraq clearly need help.

European countries can provide it only if they share the task.

That means a collective response.

Unfortunately, whereas external border control is, for most EU members, a common problem, migration and asylum policies remain national.

Refugees are supposed to seek asylum in the European country in which they first set foot, usually Italy or Greece, but these countries are overwhelmed.

Most refugees want to head north to Germany, Britain or Scandanavia.

That is not difficult thanks to the dismantling of passport controls at the EU’s internal borders (the Schengen agreement).

Once a symbol of hope, the EU fails to inspire…as the migrant crisis reveals much about European citizens.

The xenophobic reaction of many to the refugees spilling into the countries…and antagonism towards foreigners is a reason for pessimism about Europe.

The fence erected by Hungary’s government along its border with Serbia is an unhappy reminder of Cold War Communism.”
The Economist, 5 – 11 September 2015

“What happens at Europe’s borders often telegraphs momentous change.

The reimposition of border controls to staunch the flow of refugees and migrants is the harbinger of dramatic erosion and possible demise of the Schengen free-travel area, one of the EU’s most striking achievements.

At a meeting of interior ministers on 14 September eastern European countries blocked plans for 120,000 refugees to be resettled across the EU under a system of quotas.

The idea that EU leaders can act in common interest has suffered yet another blow.

If people can no longer travel freely, then what exactly is the point of the EU?

Hungary has sealed its border with Serbia with barbed wire fences and has begun arresting those trying to cross.

Police fire tear gas at them.

Growing numbers of refugees are now trapped in Serbia and started evading the barrier by marching into Romania and Croatia.

Hungary says it will extend the fence to its Romanian border.

Poland and the Czech Republic have joined Hungary in refusing to accommodate migrants, even though they are often young and educated.

Eastern Europe may not like refugees but needs them more than other EU countries.

Labour shortages are common in eastern Europe.

Consruction, manufacturing and technology firms are struggling to find enough workers.

Shortages are likely to get worse as populations age rapidly.

Birth rates are declining and many of the young have left.

2 out of 5 firms in Poland struggle to fill vacancies.

Poland needs 50,000 more IT workers than it can find.

Poland has large shortages of manual workers in agriculture and construction.

In Hungary almost half can not get the staff they need.

Hungary has a large demand for carpenters, shop assistants, gardeners and bakers.

Labour shortfalls decrease the abiltity to produce and sell goods and services and increase pension deficits and leave holes in public finances.

In Hungary 40% of doctors are over 60.

More than 200 medical practices have no doctor at all.

Poland has 5 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants, of which 30% are due to retire in the next seven years.

Syrians are relatively well-educated.

Immigration critics are right that integrating outsiders into countries with difficult languages and fragile public services is hard, but the rewards are obvious.”
The Economist, 19 – 25 September 2015

Xenophobic hatred doesn’t only destroy the lives of those being hated, but it also destroys the future of those doing the hating.

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