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Europe does not have only a migrant, but an ideological crisis Europe does not have only a migrant, but an ideological crisis
by Christos Mouzeviris
2021-10-27 07:39:47
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For the past few months, Europe is faced with yet another refugee crisis. This time though, the entry point is not the usual Mediterranean route, but the borders between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania. According to many EU sources, Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko has been shuffling people to the border, in retaliation for EU sanctions, an act qualified by the EU as a hybrid war.

Lithuania’s parliament passed legislation to speed up deportations of those crossing the border illegally. Critics say this might violate their human rights, but the government and lawmakers dismiss that. “This is an extreme situation,” Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said. “This is not a normal migration, it is not a normal migration path. It is a hybrid war against us, so the response must be adequate.”

euimm00001_400Frontex, the EU’s border agency, has pledged to bolster its support “due to the growing migratory pressure at the border with Belarus.” New sections of barbed wire fence were erected this month, with plans to invest 41 million euros to reinforce the entire 678-kilometer border with Belarus. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that by encouraging the flow of migrants, Lukashenko is seeking to pressure her country’s infrastructure and politics. “The organized mass immigration is revenge,” she told The Associated Press.

In a Facebook post published in Arabic, Kurdish and English Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, promised that his country would grant asylum to “virtually no one”. Three months later, and it seems Landsbergis has been true to his word. A total of 2,800 people have claimed asylum in the Baltic state until mid August since neighbouring Belarus opened its borders and so far, not a single person has been granted the protection. The grandson of the main architect of an independent Lithuania, Vytautas Landsbergis, Landsbergis has branded migrants coming from Belarus as criminals.

However the BBC reports different kind of stories. A Polish lawyer has launched a plan to provide support for migrants crossing into the country illegally via Belarus. Kamil Syller is appealing to locals living near the border to switch on a green light to signal that they can provide migrants with food and shelter. Speaking to the Polish newspaper, Wyborcza, Mr Syller said that migrants calling at these homes could count on receiving a meal, a change of clothes, first aid and the chance to charge their phones. He also criticised the Polish government's stance on the issue.

"The authorities of our country, enacting draconian regulations that will soon come into force and will legalise push-back, have calculated the death of refugees in them," he said. "We, the inhabitants of the borderland, who see human drama and suffering, do not have to calculate. "We must remain human."

Despite such stories of compassion, the overall attitude of Europe towards this crisis is obviously different than the one which affected Greece, Italy and Spain. Is this is a sign that Europe has had simply enough and has grown passive and indifferent to such pleas, right at its borders? Maybe the continent's inhabitants are turning a blind eye to the humanitarian emergency that unfolds in this region, because it is closer to home, near the rich and dominant Northern Europe. We haven't seen any "Refugees Welcome" campaigns on social media, or in the streets in cities across Europe.

Perhaps it has to do with the narrative in which this "crisis" is told; "revenge by immigration", a "hybrid war," because we all know that Belarus and Russia who are deemed responsible for this refugee influx, are our adversaries. However, Europe opted to offer Turkey and Erdogan billions of euros, in order to make sure that he kept them away from Europe, yet despite thousands reaching Greece's islands every year, Turkey is still our ally and friend. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Turks doing the West's and NATO's dirty work in Ukraine and the Middle East. Hypocricy is very annoying.

No NGO has condemned the Baltic states, or Poland for adopting a strict "stay out" policy. If such statements were made so blatantly by any Greek, Italian or Spanish official though, it would be another matter. It is obvious that any of the so called "refugee crises" are anything but and they become a tool which can be indeed weaponised, either by Belarus, Russia, or Turkey, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, in order to blackmail Europe or receive funds from it.

Or as many others believe, weaken Europe from within and help to give power to nationalistic, euroskeptic political parties, which will in turn postpone or scrap any plans to create a functioning, fully democratic European union. Those who have such plans, could be less than the obvious, or anyone that would lose out from an increasing European assertiveness, from East or West, ally or foe. Of course we can not forget the "enemy from within", those European elites that prefer a fragmented Europe of nations, always at each other's throats, bickering and easily manipulated to promote their own financial or political interests.

On the other hand, we must not ignore the ideological strife that our continent has been engaging, since the ancient times. It is something that heavily influences our stance to immigration, thus of course the policies that we chose to adopt. Ever since the ancient Greeks expanded their territories through the conquests of Alexander the Great, thus coming into contact with peoples of other races, religions and cultures, the same debate always takes place and funnily, the very same arguments are being used for or against each point of view.

One of the Hellenistic philosophies which was founded by Zeno of Citium many centuries ago, was Stoicism. In an expanding Greek world, spanning from South Italy all the way to India, comprised by many ethnic groups and religions, the Greeks that were used to live in the relative small societies of their city-states, were forced to not only coexist with this mosaic of peoples, but often to accept a new way with which they were governed, into a centralized imperial or royal authority. This seismic change, forced the thinkers of that time to reconcider a person's place and role in the world.

A distinctive feature of Stoicism is its cosmopolitanism; according to the Stoics, all people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should live in brotherly love and readily help one another. In the Discourses, Epictetus comments on man's relationship with the world: "Each human being is primarily a citizen of his own commonwealth; but he is also a member of the great city of gods and men, whereof the city political is only a copy." This sentiment echoes that of Diogenes of Sinope, who said, "I am not an Athenian or a Corinthian, but a citizen of the world." They held that external differences, such as rank and wealth, are of no importance in social relationships. Instead, they advocated the brotherhood of humanity and the natural equality of all human beings. Stoicism became the most influential school of the Greco-Roman world.

The teachings and human experiences and conclusions of the people of that era, can be echoed until today. The Greco-Roman philosophers, inevitably influenced the collective mentality of all nations that were part of their world, which in turn contributed to the Western civilization. Christianity for example, although it was conceived in Roman Judea, was clearly inspired by the earlier Greco-Roman teachings. Apart from religious movements, political or ideological ones such as communism or socialism, can also find their roots in the ideas described by the Stoics: all are equal,we are one.

Nevertheless, history never stays the same. While Europeans accepted Christianity and themselves established their own empires, they did not always maintained the Stoic philosophical mind, nor the Christian ethos. Wars, colonization, invasions, empires, ethnic cleansing, holocausts, slavery and religious fundamentalism, have all tarnished our continent's history with blood, injustice and resentment. Throught those turbulent times, which inspired but also were driven by clashing ideologies, political and religious dogmas, interests and ethnic and racial tensions both within and outside of Europe, our continent has gone in full circles numerous times. Perhaps it will again, and we are witnessing the transitional period.

This can be witnessed brilliantly today. A post war Europe was left humiliated, destroyed and in need of rebirth. Then some brilliant minds came up with the idea of a united Europe, in order to avoid the same carnage again on European soil. They were the EU's founding fathers, like Robert Schuman, Altiero Spinelli and Konrad Adenauer. Fast forward a few decades and euroskepticism, born out of the same forces that brought Europe to its knees, fuelled by the mistakes of our elites, economic instability and an increased wave of immigration into Europe, is seeking every opportunity to tip the scales towards the other side once more.

What does all this have to do with immigration and refugees? Apparently, a lot. For example, while it was their own economic interests that the British elites were trying to secure by achieving Brexit, the people were convinced to vote for it, partially because of their concerns on immigration. The same tacticts are used by many Central and Eastern European EU members like Poland. While their elites are only seeking to protect their own stakes, the people are duped to support them, by using the "national interest" or "identity" carrot, which after of centuries of being used and abused, it is indeed deeply ingrained into everyone's mentality.

Europe's populace was always forced to accept one identity or the other, one religion over its adversary, and the same goes with languages, ideologies, ruling elites and even lifestyle. In every age, our leaders drove our collective way of thinking, or culture, according to their ever changing needs, which often are coming after a destructive development, such a war, enslavement, or expansion. In other cases, the driving force was simply their pocketsand lust for more power.

That is why some European nations of Western Europe find it easier to accept non-Europeans as citizens of their own country, because their rulers had to convince them to accept such case, in order to achieve control over vast areas of land, comprised by numerous ethnicities. Later on when they needed "guest workers" to fill jobs in their factories, they had to come up with the "all one, all equal" stoic idea of multiculturalism again, in order to avoid a backclash. Contrary, nations further to the East, that were threatened more often by cultures from outside of Europe, never been colonizers in their recent history, find it harder to adapt or adopt multiculturalism. Because they never had the need for it. Their rulers chose another system to deal with their workforce demands; communism.

The reality is, that both ideologies, nationalism and liberalism or cosmopolitanism, are purposely avoiding to view their flaws and the lies they have been built upon. They are simply ideas, born out of the human intellect. Firstly, the notion of a national identity is in fact flawed. We all know that Europe has always been a melting pot, it just in the past, we did not have people from as far as Oceania or Latin America reaching our shores. Our continent's population mixed and adopted new customs, religions even language, as the borders changed over the centuries. No one can claim pure heritage. The national idendity was always forged in schools, churches or parliaments and palaces.

Through all this mixing and killing and enemy subduing, or border changing, new nations emerged, that did not exist before. Others dissapeared and were absorbed into larger empires. The Thracians, Illyrians, Skythians, Goths, Avars, Celts etc, they were all eventually slavicized, romanized, germanized, hellenized and so on. Everything as a result of migration, invasions and occupation or colonization. That cannot easily be erased from people's psyche, and not just in Europe. Even those nations who themselves were colonized by Europeans, eventually sought to get rid of their rulers and in most cases, deport as many of them they could, back to their lands.

And perhaps if this process continues, new nations and ethnic groups will continue to appear in the a future Europe. And that is what the nationalists fear. Loss of territory, their way of life, identity and culture. And if you look at it from this angle, they are right. The EU's motto is "United in Diversity". We have a created a political, social and economic forum, that all our cultures should be celebrated and respected. So the thought of large numbers of people arriving in Europe, ultimatelly altering its demographics, worries many Europeans that until recently, were living in homogenous, family oriented, conservative societies. We got to admit, Europe is a socially conservative continent still, despite its industrial and economic advances.

And to be honest, if any liberal or leftist thinks that immigration does not come with its challenges, whether they be social, economic or political, he or she is simply daydreaming. Because it does, take it from an immigrant. The solution won't come by denying it, but rather by acknowledging it and trying to find ways to deal with the problem and make the best out of it. However to achieve that, we need to get rid off our self-imposed limitations.

Firstly we need to stop feeling guilty about the past, not matter how some groups would like to remind Europe of its mistakes. If the tables were turned, I believe that others would commit similar omissions. We must study and learn from our history so we never repeat its dark pages, review the errors but do not let them become an impediment to free speech or expressing an opinion openly, unless of course it is offensive. We cannot be forced to solve the world's problems, without the collaboration of all other wealthy regions of the world.

We also must admit, that our ideologies are simply that; an idea. They are not binding and they are constantly shifting according to the needs of a society or its leaders. Thus since when we decided, that upholding a stance based on an idea which often someone had thousands years ago, can still be applied as a panacea to every problem we are faced today? Are we sure that we can create this utopic egalitarian, prosperous and multicultural free society, something which has failed in USA? After more than 200 years of history and they still struggle to offer their African American compatriots equal opportunities and prospects. Can Europe succeed where America has failed? We cannot stop bickering about finances on European level, we smear each other with stereotypes when things get tough and we are acting on a "each to its own" mentality when it comes EU policies, that are often torpedoed by national vetoes.

And why should we accept unwanted and uninvited immigrants anyway. We are not discussing people from war torn countries like Syria, they must be accepted and helped. But not all that are coming are from Syria. We have people who cross the borders of Greece, running through remote villages during the night, stealing crops and animals from the local farmers to feed, forcing the locals to sleep with riffles ready by their doors. In my recent trip to villages located at the Greek-Bulgarian borders, I have heard stories from family friends who live in the region, of often encounters with illegal migrants running through their fields at night, on the way to Europe. Sometimes they try to help them, others they have to repel them as they are becoming too bold out of their desperation. No media will report such stories of course. But imagine if you are sleeping during the night and you hear your door's handle twisting and someone is trying to break into your house, located in a remote village, how desperate you will become for a solution to this problem?

These migrants are coming from places as far as Africa, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan. Last time checked, these are not war torn regions, but often very poor. So why can't we help their countries instead, by investing and creating jobs there, but we opt for trying to accomodate an ever increasing number of them, by monopolizing jobs and economic growth in Europe and a few other rich regions of the world. This is the real reason for the extreme global inequality and the solution does not come by creating more jobs in wealthy countries, to absord all the poor that our constant competition with others for an ever greater GDP oriented economic growth has created. So because we are unwilling to change our financial mentality and capitalist neoliberal ideology, we are creating a new problem, which due to our guilt of our past actions and mistakes, no one is ready to discuss it openly and find a solution.

No. Not all of these are refugees, they are economic migrants and should be dealt as such, knowing that not everyone can enter. We could be fair to them if we really wished and attracted them legally by establishing work permit embassies in their own regions,so that they can find jobs in Europe via a legal route. Instead, we tolerate criminal gangs smuggling human beings, which often have to pay thousands to cross into Europe, if they make it of course. We chose to tolerate our adversaries to use these desperate people as a weapon, to blackmail us in order for us to bow to their demands.

Why must we opt for sacrificing our own identity which was forged over centuries or even millenia, in the name of economic growth; or even worse, a largely flawed version of multiculturalism based on exploitation, lack of integration for migrant communities, lack of debate and a democratic process among the native population, which often is branded too easily as "racists" "fascists" and so on, if they raise any concern against a large scale immigration. In a democracy, either you like it or not, all voices or opinions must be heard and are valid, apart those that are intentionally offensive or inflammatory. Your aim as a liberal, leftist or a migrant sympathizer is not to deprive a debate to those who have a different opinion than you, but to make sure you have enough arguments to convince those who are unsure and become a majority.

If what you value of course is democracy. What we witness is a lack of decisive action by our leaders, because different political or social groups, NGOs and vested financial interests prefer to play the sympathy card and force our societies to give access to thousands of illegal migrants. What will happen to them once they get access to Europe, does not concern them of course. Will they be exploited, find work, achieve their dream goals, or will be forced to live in a ghetto, cut off from our society and lacking of opportunities? There is simply a limit of people that Europe can accomodate, before people start voting for populist right-wing parties, endagering the open border, free societies that we have achieved over the past 70 years.

And yes, national identity, heritage, culture, history and religion, still play a large role in the minds and hearts of most Europeans. These issues may leave some of us less bothered, but you cannot force them out of people, or you become the fascist that you so much hate. The true solution lies somewhere in the middle. Nationalists must be taught and understand that immigration has always been an integral part of humanity, and if one thinks that it can be stopped is fooling himself. It can though be managed, or it could lead to populism and extremism. We have seen this before in our continent. They must grasp the benefits of foreign workers, who with their contributions pay for the generous European social security policies, something that other wealthy countries like USA and Japan lack.

They can be inspired and encouraged to embrace migrants, by experience their culture and engange in a constructive intercultural dialogue, but that can never happen, if the migrants live isolated in a ghetto and the natives fear them. Thus, a gradual immigration flow, smaller in numbers and managed by a coprehensive policy, is what Europe needs. Temporary, seasonal work contracts could be a more common option, and we should not be afraid to say "no more" if we are finding hard to cope, or we simply have no room for any more foreign workers.

Personally I adore all of Europe's nations, thus I respect their culture and wish to see them preserved and passed on to the next generations. Every language, dialect, food, dance, costume, music, beverage, tradition, not just of Europe but of all nations, are important and worth safeguarding. To me, they are flowers in a garden, and how boring a garden would be if it was to lose any of its flowers, or it was not maintained properly. What would be the reason to travel, something that I love doing, if not to get to know a new culture, language or taste a new food. Thus, although my nature is cosmopolitan, I totally understand why some people are so attached to their heritage and I empathize with them. If I was to ignore their concerns, it would be insulting the least, if not arrogant.

I have made my ideological choice, which is always finding a common ground. I am a cosmopolitan who loves and enjoys other people's traditions, and wishes to compromise with all sides of an argument, in order to reach consensus. I just love humanity and marvel its achievements. Perhaps Europe must do the same, and find a way to please the different views and ideologies of its citizens, as well as the national sensitivities of its member states, in order to move forward united and in peace, potentially even achieving what others have failed to do; that egalitarian, prosperous utopia I mentioned earlier.

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