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13 January 2016

The right, migration and the EU

And why Moscow is following the developments in Europe with conspicuous joy

Cologne’s New Year’s Eve events could turn out to be seminal for Europe. Attempts by European politicians over many years to convince themselves that multiculturalism is the only appropriate ideology for the 21st century and that abstract ‘human rights’ prevail over the rights of individual citizens may ultimately backfire. Those who have lived their whole lives in Germany (and Italy, France or Poland) do not, and should not have to, understand why their safety is being put at risk for incomprehensible ‘humanitarian reasons’, necessitating the wholehearted welcoming of migrants who are virtually wrestling their way across European borders.

I am in strong agreement with those who took part in the demonstration in Cologne, demanding that the insane policy of the Merkel government be put to an end. I see nothing positive in the attempt to ‘integrate’ into today’s Europe those who will not accept a single European value aside from the one that grants them hundreds of Euros in the form of a resettlement benefit. However, I would like to comment about what has to be taken into account when assessing programs of the European parties which will undoubtedly try to increase their political presence on the back of last year’s events: from the terrorist attacks organized by Islamists in Paris, to the sexual assaults committed by ‘ordinary migrants’ in Germany which we have probably not seen the last of.

First, inching towards nationalism would be a cataclysmic disaster for Europe. The focus should not be on the extent of danger posed by the expansion of a diaspora of ‘Arabs’, ‘Blacks’ or ‘Muslims’. Rather, the focus should be on the assumption of entitlement - no one should expect to receive asylum and social benefits solely because war is being waged somewhere in the world. I do not renounce the values of humanism, but Europe can help victims of civil conflicts in another ways. Countries close to Syria are calling for stability near their borders. European politicians may initiate a dialogue with them with the aim of organizing the resettlement of refugees (for example, in Jordan, Turkey or even Iran, let’s say, since Teheran is so keen on Syria remaining united). These refugee camps could be run using EU funding and protected by European military forces. This solution would undoubtably receive support worldwide, including in Europe. It would not undermine the social stability of European countries, and would ensure the return of refugees to their homeland and their involvement in the building of a new Syria.

Europe should not refuse to accept Muslims, but it should open its doors only to those who are prepared to conform to European values and to contribute to their new homelands. The type of reception offered to new residents should reflect the needs and values of the hosts, not the desires of the  guests, and should be decided and carried out on a purely individual basis. Apologists for nationalism and those who renounce humanism should certainly be derided, but by keeping the doors of the EU only slightly ajar, both are afforded credence.

Secondly, far greater attention needs to be paid rudimentary lawfulness. It should be demonstrated that rules exist within the territory of the European Union which must be observed. The instruction given to police officers ‘not to expatiate upon’ cases of violence committed by migrants which German journalists learned of, constitutes a flagrant violation of all norms. It is amazing to hear that border guards were ‘powerless’ when it came to stopping crowds of asylum-seekers in Hungary and Austria last summer. Two serious issue arise by admitting thousands of people, who have no right of entry into the territory of the European Union. The European authorities effectively undermine the efforts of the law-abiding foreigners who obtain visas and residence permits for EU countries. It also encourages illegal and often extremely perilous attempts by migrants to traverse land or sea in a bid to reach the EU’s borders. (These attempts would certainly have ceased long ago had the migrants been immediately deported to the nearest coastal location or to their country of origin). The European Union has been a legal space throughout all of its existence but by adjusting to people and circumstances not worthy of this sort of attention, it will cease to be such a space defined and governed by law.

Thirdly, and most importantly, when voicing concerns over dubious migration policy, European activists should not question the principles of ‘European-ness’. Once again, I understand why Germans are skeptical about Syrian refugees and why the French are beginning to fear Muslims after three terrorist attacks were committed in one year in Paris alone, as well other attempted attacks. However, I do not believe this should undermine the commitment to European integration.

Concerns about Syrians should not adversely impact perceptions of Ukraine’s desire and ongoing attempts at integration into the European Union. To become a member of the EU, a country and its people take on numerous commitments to integrate. This is in contrast to the lack of commitment we have witnessed of many migrants to integrate. Hence, even when opposing ‘global’ multiculturalism, one should not renounce that which is ‘European’: - i.e., the process of integration, cooperation and even the amalgamation of representatives of European nations, each of which has made (or tries to make) its own historic choice in favor of a united Europe.

‘More European-ness’ is an apt slogan in an era when migration is proving to be a stern, unprecedented test. There should be more uniform rules for granting citizenship (a matter perhaps best addressed on a pan-European level in future); more common European border guard forces capable of stopping ‘peaceful refugees’ if necessary; and increased coordination of European security forces (even better, the establishment of a single service), could all help prevent terrorist attacks similar to those that took place in Paris.

There is no doubt that the coming years will bring successes for the European right and ultra-right factions. Although I have no real sympathy for the representatives of these political camps, I am nevertheless convinced that more moderate politicians should be poised to counter their soaring popularity. The answer to this problem is not in attempting to hush-up crimes committed by migrants, or raising taxes to provide newcomers with social handout. In my opinion, moderate right-wingers and centrists in Europe today should spare no effort in developing and offering to voters programs based not on ‘universal’ but European values which recognize the rights of citizens, not abstract ‘human beings’, as the supreme value. A program should be established which stipulates, not only the rights of foreigners settling in Europe but also their obligations to their host countries.

European policy-makers will inevitably face a number of crucial tasks in the near future, starting with developing the fundamentals of a new migration policy which is economically viable and politically acceptable. Such a policy could be based on liberalization of the labor market, facilitation of labor migration accompanied by minimization or, (which is more pertinent), the abolition of social handouts for migrants not engaged in beneficiary and gainful activity in a legitimate sector of the economy.

Secondly, the policy could involve the termination, or at least severe restriction, on the practice of granting European citizenship to migrants regardless of their race, nationality or religion. The residence permit grants an individual all rights barring political ones, to which the newcomer should not aspire. By limiting the issuance of passports, Europeans will retain greater freedom of action regarding newcomers due to the extension of their ‘unsettled’ status, and will thereby be empowered to act should something go wrong.

Thirdly, the tightening of migration policy should be linked to the strengthening of the European rudiments (any government, incidentally, will find it much easier to refuse citizenship to migrants when it is able to point out that the issue is beyond its jurisdiction) and the continuation of European integration (and even EU enlargement which is a preferable alternative to migration from the point of view of the workforce). There is nothing more foolhardy or counter-productive than to allow drop-ins on the common European home to destroy the inner unity of its indigenous inhabitants.

Moscow is now following the developments in Europe with conspicuous joy – many Members of Parliament and officials have already commented that the Europeans problems were borne out of a departure from ‘traditional values’ and of neglect of the notion of the nation state. Russia would like to see the issue of migration cause a divide in the EU, leading to its weakening and disintegration. This is precisely why the Kremlin does, and will continue, to support all ultra-right and ultra-left parties in Europe which strive to set Europeans apart and usher them back to their ‘private apartments’. Let me reiterate: this is precisely what should be avoided at all costs. And it is precisely why a new, realistic agenda is crucial.

To sum up, one can assume that in several German cities the left’s idea of ‘the universal brotherhood’ and compassion for the orphaned and the poor, accustomed to boasting of their worthlessness, was discredited on the night of December 31, 2015. It would obviously be much better were no such wake-up calls be required. Still, the latest developments may help initiate the shift which is long overdue. The shift towards right-wing, but non-nationalist, ideology; towards a more closed, pan-European home. If new European politicians manage to maintain the balance as described above, the Old World will be able to draw a new breath. 

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