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Friday, January 24, 2020
Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS) - A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.
The illegal agreement with Turkey, that Angela Merkel pushed to defuse her growing unpopularity in Germany, is conducted in a way that has obliged both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Doctors without Borders, to refuse to participate in a brutal operation that effectively violates the UN Charter and the European Treaty by bribing the Turkish government.
The use of tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees in Idomeni is deplorable and plays into the hands of growing support among Europe’s right wing parties and even ISIS, which supposedly calls for the dignity and freedom of the Arab world and supports the creation of a war of religions.
What many seem to have forgotten is that the Austrian police actually carried out a survey of refugees and discovered that they were better educated than the Austrians.
Now the group of experts and academicians who monitors migration has published a study entitled Unpacking a Rapidly Changing Scenario, which proves the obvious. The million people , who risked their lives to come to Europe in 2015, are in large measure middle class, uprooted due to conflicts. Two-thirds of the refugees have college or university level education, and those with a university degree are one-third of all refugees. Two-thirds had a stable job before leaving their country.
Merkel originally accepted the refugees because Germany is in a dire need of workers. She had not however anticipated that the right wing parties would so effectively use the present climate of uncertainty and frustration. Now in Germany there are 2 000 racial incidents a month, and Alternative for Germany (AFD), the new right wing party, looks poised to become the third German party.
Unfortunately, no statesman is currently in the offing. That is someone who would risk votes, to educate electors to unpopular truths, like the simple fact that Europe is not viable without a large immigration. The statistics are clear. This vast tide of refugees, the largest since World War two, are on average 23 years old – half the European average – 82 percent are younger than 34, and two-thirds have a high level of education.
The European Commission, in 2015, projected that Europe would need to support an increasingly elderly population. There will be an uninterrupted decline in jobs between 2010 and 2060. The population at working age (20-64) has been declining steadily since 2010, and in 2060 will have fallen by 50 million from 310 million in 2010, to 260 million in 2060, likely to result in a probable bankruptcy of the pension system. The total number of those in the employable age bracket of 20 to 64 will shrink from 210 million in 2010, to 200 million in 2060. The issue is,who is going to replace the missing 10 million people needed to keep Europe at its present stage of global competitiveness. Who is going to pay the contributions of those who have gone into retirement?
The lack of jobs and the probable bankruptcy of the pensions systems will occur in a considerably older population. While we need 2.1 children per couple, to keep the population stable, present projections indicate that it will fall to 1.22 children per couple.
The average age of maternity, currently 31.7 years, will increase to 33 years in 2064, and the number of woman of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years) will fall by 4.3 million.
Finally, life expectancy, currently 80 years of age for men and 85.7 for woman, will reach 91 by 2064 for men and 94.3 years for woman. It is estimated that those aged over 100 years will represent about 10% of the population.
In other words, the world we know today, will no longer exist. We are debating whether the retirement age should be 65 years. Children born today have a life expectancy of 82 years, and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), those who are now between 18 and 25 years will go into retirement with an average pension of around Euro 630 per month, because many will be precariously employed, will not be able to meet their pension contributions, and even fewer will be able to buy property.
The ILO also found that while today parents and grandparents provide a safety social net that alleviates the pain of unemployment, the current generation that can look forward to a relatively decent pension will have disappeared in three decades, and those who will be parents will not able to help their children in the same way that their parents were able to help them. It means that we will live in a world of old people, where young people will face a much harsher destiny.
And yet today, few talk about that future. On the contrary, we listen to the xenophobes and right wing parties, which in every European country keep growing in every election, riding on the tide of frustration and fear. What they do is to call for a return to a better yesterday, for a pure Europe, where others will be deported thus leaving jobs free for Europeans. At the same time, the politicians play their game, instead of discussing a serious immigration policy.
The difference between past European statesmen, the likes of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman, with a clear vision and ability to communicate to their citizens (like abandoning nationalism for a European dream), are dramatically absent today. The Dutch referendum against Ukraine (an unexpected gift for Putin, who beside being a smart player is also a lucky one), will hasten the decay of Europe.
The scandals associated with the massive participation of political leaders in the Panama Funds will also hasten the decline of legitimacy of the political class, and therefore of democracy. The
American elections are also proceeding in this direction. That Ted Cruz, who is a modern incarnation of the Great Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, an ISIS dream, has become the solution to Donald Trump. And in a campaign that will cost over $4 billion, few contributors will cover the costs. The Koch brothers, the king of coal, have announced an investment of 900 million dollars.
If a republican wins, we can forget any real attempt to control climate change, which is already forgotten, in spite of the alarming evidence of future disaster. In a normal world, a statesman would attempt to motivate young people, to consider their future. He would create new alliances, transcend traditional politics, which look to the past, and attempt to shape a debate about the future.
The tragedy of Idomeni is not only a crime against humankind and the values of justice and solidarity: it is a crime of stupidity and cynicism, a crime committed against young Europeans, who are not aware of their future world. And Federico Mayor is right, when he says that the European Central Bank has no problem adding $20 billion a month to the $60 billion already going to the financial system, indicating clearly where priorities lie. The generational betrayal is going ahead, amidst generalized indifference.
Only history will speak of the Angela Merkels, the François Hollandes, the David Camerons, the Mariano Rajoys, the Matteo Renzis, and the Mark Ruttes, as those who looked to politics as a crutch for their survival instead of a tool for a better world, but it will be too late.
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