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Thursday, June 8, 2023
In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, argues that the anti-immigrant direction being taken in some European countries, whipped up by right-wing parties on the rise, is suicidal and runs against all evidence.
ROME, Dec 4 2014 (IPS) - The fact that in a referendum Switzerland has taken a path that goes in the opposite direction from that of Europe is an unusual fact which calls for reflection, especially because Switzerland has taken a much more progressive path, while we all were accustomed to see it as a very conservative country.
On Nov. 30, Swiss citizens were asked to vote on a proposal for reducing immigrants to a maximum of 17,000 per year, compared with 88.000 in 2013. This was rejected by 73 percent of the voters, after a unanimous campaign by the government, industrialists and trade unions that without immigrants there would be serious problems in keeping the economy expanding.
It is worth noting that foreigners account for 23.5 percent of the population in Switzerland, compared with an average of 4 percent in Europe as a whole.
Another proposal in the same referendum called for dedicating 10 percent of Swiss international cooperation to birth control in poor countries in order to reduce their birth rate. It was clearly a racist proposal, and was also defeated. Swiss citizens have no right to decide birth policies in other countries.
While the Swiss were voting, British Prime Minister David Cameron was making public his proposal to drastically restrict European immigration. Europeans would be expelled if they did not find a job within six months. They would have work continuously for four years before having access to the country’s social benefits of the country. They would also face restrictions to their right to bring their families with them, even after finding a job.
The same debate is going on in Germany, where the government is also carrying out a media campaign to popularise its bill of law which also contemplates the expulsion of European immigrants who do not find a job within six months. It is obvious that this will have a cascade effect in several other European countries.
In both cases, this is an attempt to undercut anti-European parties – the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) which is on the rise in Britain and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Germany, although the AfD is not a threat like the UKIP and what Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing amounts to an act of populism.
There is a wave of xenophobia spreading throughout Europe. Marine Le Pen’s National Front is aiming to become the number one party in France. In Italy, the right-wing Northern League is growing by the day. Today there is a xenophobic and anti-European party in every country of Europe, with the notable exception of Spain, where the People’s Party has been able to make a right-wing party redundant.
What is striking is that all those parties are creating alliances and creating a pan-European rejection of the European Union. Marine Le Pen has just chaired a meeting in Lyon of seven extreme right-wing parties, like the Flemish Vlaame Belang in Belgium and the Dutch Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders.
What was even more striking was the presence of two leaders of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Among Europe’s right-wing parties there is growing support for Putin, and a Russian bank, the First Czech-Russian Bank with headquarters in Moscow, has just given a loan of nine million dollars to the Le Pen’s National Front.
The reality is that Europe is in serious need of young immigrants to remain competitive internationally, and innumerable studies show that immigrants have a positive impact on the economy.
In England, immigrants account for 4.3 percent of the population, their rate of employment is 78.8 percent, slightly higher than the British average (73.6 percent), and just 15 percent of immigrants request some kind of subsidy. According to a study by University College London, European immigrants who arrived in the United Kingdom contributed more than 20 billion pounds to the country’s public finances between 2001 and 2011.
Similarly, all national and European studies on immigration show that immigrants request less subsidies than nationals, are net contributors in terms of taxation, and take jobs that nationals no longer want.
According to United Nations projections, Europe has a deficit of 20 million people if it wants to keep the pension system viable, but this is not simply “politically correct” at this moment. The very small minority of immigrants involved in crime is what everybody sees through strong media exposure, and the parties which are making their fortune are calling for a white and pure Europe again.
Pope Francis speaks about ethics and solidarity with immigrants, but if parties are able to ignore economics, just imagine ethics!
The Spanish National Institute of Statistics has just released its latest findings, and they are in line with similar studies everywhere in Europe. In 1976, 676,718 children were born in Spain – 18.7 babies for every 1,000 mothers. In 1995, there were 363,467 births – 9.2 babies for every 1,000 mothers.
For every 100 Spaniards of working age, 27.6 are over the age of 64 – by 2050, this figure will be closer to 73. An even more extreme figure comes from the Population Division of the United Nations. If the Spanish borders were to be closed and nobody could enter or leave, and with the growing reduction in the number of women of fertile age, by 2100 the Spanish population would stand at around 800,000 people!
We have just to look to the United States to see the opposite policy. Every year, young people bring constant expansion to the labour force and the economy. Not even the most rabid Republican speaks of abolishing immigration, just of keeping it at a lower rate.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is riding the issue of immigration due his shrinking popularity, but in the opposite direction. He wants to legalise as many illegal immigrants as possible … and there are already 52 million immigrants.
The real problem is that Europe has a dramatic lack of real statesmen or stateswomen who are ready to go against the polls for the good of their country. The best example is the powerful Angela Merkel, who has never taken any risk or any difficult decision (except on abolishing nuclear power, and that only because of the general aversion after the Japanese tsunami).
Merkel’s comment on the law on restricting European immigrants was: “Europe is not a social union”. In other words, the flow of capital is protected, the flow of workers is not.
In all this, the European Commission has been silent on immigration. And now, its President, Jean-Claude Juncker, unmoved by the revelations on how he helped hundreds of corporations to avoid taxes in Europe with deals in Luxembourg, is now presenting a development plan to which the Commission would contribute just 10 percent and the remaining 90 percent would be funded by the private sector… and that is his landmark!
Europe is clearly committing suicide and people will find out when it has already lost its position in world competition … only then, maybe, will the difference between a statesman and a politician become clear. (IPS/COLUMNIST SERVICE)
(Edited by Phil Harris)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.
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