Politics in the Age of Migration

It is not true that the Syrian conflict is the only cause bringing masses of people to Europe.

Wojciech Przybylski
3 December 2015

Thousands are ready to risk their lives in order to be part of the Eurozone economy, to give their children the benefits derived from the Schengen Agreement. A generation ago, the countries of Central Europe invested in positive changes to the educational system – from primary schools to universities, doors and minds have been opened to free thinking and truly liberal education. It’s time to ask how to raise the talents of tomorrow to at least sustain the long lasting effects of that strategic reform.

Are we ready to give up on what is desirous by so many, to shut down the European project so that we may distance ourselves from the global challenge of migration? And even if we were willing to sacrifice what has benefited and defined us for so long, how realistic would that be?

Mass migration is not just a European occurrence, and it did not happen overnight.

The fears of negative consequences stemming from migrations have always been in the background during discussions of European enlargement. When the V4 countries were about to join, the old EU members fervently defended their job markets against what they saw as the “menace” of a new workforce. Contrary to those suspicions, the free movement of people only bettered the recipient’s economies.

Though intensifying two years ago, migrants became the targets of David Cameron’s shameful rhetoric. He claimed that Tony Blair’s decision to open the job market for Poles and other Central Europeans was a mistake and that migrants were an ominous threat.

This short-sighted vitriol was met with fierce and just responses from the leaders of the V4. Their arguments were numerous, but many focused on the shared economic prosperity brought by the united market and the Schengen agreement.

But history loves irony. A year later, those same leaders adopted Cameron’s tone of bashing foreign populations when the inflow of migrants through Hungary reached its peak.

If the gradual arrival of capable, entrepreneurial EU citizens became such a prickly issue in 2013 for a rich and stable democracy like the UK, how can we expect a more conciliatory tone from countries that are faced with a massive and nearly instantaneous influx of migrants and refugees.

There was then, however, more time to prepare, and the inflow of newcomers was better regulated. But why are we not better prepared for our current situation? Spain and Italy have been calling for a common European response for years, so we knew that rapid, mass migration was coming one day or another. In the following decades, this process will only intensify.

It is high time to adapt and build up our economies; we must prepare our societies for the future. It most certainly requires a pan-European response be- cause single nations are helpless against these global challenges. Neither the UK nor Germany can cope alone, nor can they try to impose their solutions without assistance.

Europe is in a delicate situation with possibilities ranging from losing so much of what we have created to gaining so much more than we already have. Even though our current politicians are attempting to tackle this question, it is obvious that the issue will be ongoing, and that the leadership of tomorrow will be tested by the age of migration. Since there is far more at stake than just the futures of the common currency and Schengen zone, a cohesive response now could help the situation in the world to come.