Our European Way of Life should be about solidarity and shared prosperity – not racism and xenophobia

Erik Edman
14/09/2019, Articles
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Back in 2016, when our movement was first created, we warned of the increasingly authoritarian, isolationist and right-wing path that the European Union was on. We were often brushed-off and hysterical Euro-sceptics.

Now, three years later, the European Commission has established a new portfolio, combining Security and Migration, under the title of “Protecting our European Way of Life”. To add insult to injury, the post has been given to former spokesperson and soon-to-be Vice-President of the Commission Margaritis Schinas, a favourite of Greece’s new conservative Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Let us briefly unpack this:

  • Migration in the EU is to be dealt with as a security issue playing into the hands of of those governments blocking a humanitarian resolution to the EU’s migration policy failure and of the far-right that pushes the European political discussion into an increasingly xenophobic direction
  • Immigrants and refugees are  implicitly assumed to be a threat to “Our European Way of Life” (whatever that is…)
  • Schinas, who will be in charge of this portfolio, is a member of New Democracy, the governing party inGreece: we can only assume that this government presented the new Commission with a great source of inspiration when it added “migration” to the portfolio of the Ministry for Citizen Protection earlier this summer – a move they followed-up with an immediate wave of violence and persecution against refugees and migrants in the country

The so-called “migration crisis” is nothing but a crisis of European institutions, a failure to agree and implement much-needed policy reforms, hijacked by politicians who wish to deny refugees their right to asylum, hiding behind what they call “the national interest”, and who are tragically unfit or cynically unwilling to properly resolve a situation that is causing much suffering for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing poverty and war. To these people, the unnecessarily inhumane treatment that they receive at the hands of Europeans is their perception of “our European way of life”. We would do well to reflect on that perception: it is how we treat the most vulnerable members of our society that truly defines the quality of our democracies.

Along the same lines, we must seriously consider why so many of our fellow citizens reject refugees and migrants in their communities. It should perhaps come as no surprise following a decade of austerity – a decade of being told that the state cannot finance hospitals, schools, or roads. If we supposedly cannot take care of the citizens we already have, it would surely be folly to receive more. The truth, however, is not that the EU suffers from a lack of funds, but from an elitist, and completely unequal allocation of them. Banks are bailed out, concentration camps are subsidised in countries which are not even members of the EU, authoritarian governments in Turkey and Libya are bribed: all in order to preserve “our European Way of Life”.

In DiEM25, we do not limit ourselves to criticism, but offer constructive alternatives. Our Green New Deal for Europe is the combination of environmental, social and financial policies that Europe needs to implement to put people before the big corporate and short-sighted nationalist interests that it has served so far. Our proposal for a European harmonisation of migration policy, based on the respect for human rights, is another example of such constructive alternatives that we and other bright examples of European solidarity, from Sea Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete to Barcola Mayor Ada Colau, champion.

The pursuit of a Europe of solidarity, shared prosperity and peace for all: that should be “our European way of life”.

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