Dr. Emmanuel Dupuy introduced the session by explaining that this subject needs dialogue and understanding, which we will try to bring today. He asked the question as to how the EU has been tackling this issue of migration and explained French President Emmanuel Macron’s view on this topic.
France has enormous land and sea borders, while the E.U. immigration department was only created in 2016 and is understaffed and underfunded. Criminal organizations are thought to have made €4 billion from the crisis of illegal immigration. Pres. Macron vetoed the entry of Albania and Macedonia into the E.U, while two other countries expressed serious reserves, because of criminal activity by nationals of those countries in the E.U. It was under the French presidency that the issue of Balkan access to the E.U. was raised years ago. France has supported this idea until now.
President Macron is not speaking from a geopolitical point of view, but from a domestic one. Immigration has become an important issue in French politics with the upcoming municipal elections next spring. In most European countries there has been less migration in the past year, but in France there has been an increase of more than 20%, including a large number of Albanians and Macedonians. In preparation for the municipal elections, President Macron cannot support the entry of Albania and Macedonia’s into the E.U. This decision also reflects President Macron’s view that we are not experiencing a growing Europe, but a shrinking Europe. Too many countries in Europe have created strains. He has had diplomatic problems with the Balkans; this region is a sore point for him.
Dr. Dupuy then asked several questions:
- Has the E.U. has been misguided or not taken seriously the problem of immigration? The situation is not as tense as it was a few years ago. The E.U. has proposed a quota of migrants for countries.
- Does France have the same vision when it comes to the 28 countries of the EU? Some countries are on the front line with borders open to the flow of immigration. Others, such as France and Spain, receive a lot of immigrants. Northern European countries experience less of a problem. Some eastern European countries have a zero-immigration policy.
- Are we forgetting that we are facing a population growth problem? Africa and North Africa have enormous population growth. Europe has a very low rate. In Africa, the number of young people is very high; they have no work, no future, and they want to come to Europe.
We need to put an end to irrational threats, such as “the great replacement”, or the idea that the Islamic population is rapidly increasing and will replace the traditional population of Europe. This way of thinking only encourages the extreme right-wing vote.
Senator Rampi explained that we speak about migration in the Mediterranean area as the most important thing happening in the world. How can it be that we close our borders? We say to others, “you have no chance of finding a better life”. This is where we must start. If people feel there is no future for their children, they will do what is necessary to find a better future for them. It’s foolish to believe that you can stop parents from leaving to find a better future for their children.
We need to start with a proper frame. We talk about immigration from our European point of view, our frame of reference. But let’s look at the frame of reference of the people trying to come to Europe. Our system is changing Africa in a bad way. We can do something really good for them. The future of Europe is Africa. What can we do to help them?
The general point of view is that global development is taking place in America, Asia, Europe and Africa. The connection between Europe and Africa is historical. We came from there. Our ancestors came from the south of the Mediterranean. We need to remind people of this. We are all connected. We need to develop a common future; health, education, the economy, etc. This is the only solution to the migration problem. But, in fact, migration is not the problem. Our laws make migration illegal, so they can only travel using criminal organizations. That is why immigration becomes a problem.
Europe has created a dream and everyone needs a dream. I agree with Mrs. Moon who said yesterday that we need a spiritual outlook, not just material one. We are looking at our future as something that belongs only to us. We should look at our future as something we have in common with Africa; we can progress together.
As regards the entry of Albania into the E.U., each month that goes by with the situation being pushed back is bad for everyone. In Italy 25 years ago, we experienced an “Albanian invasion.” Now it is forgotten. It was an invasion to some people. We have to change our mentality, even though politicians like to play on these fears.
The moderator, Dr. Dupuy, endorsed Senator Rampi’s viewpoint by explaining that the UN says few migrants leave by choice, most leave because of war. Now climate change is a big factor, not enough water, etc. The population of Europe is decreasing; we need a common market with countries to the south of Europe. Let’s unite the Balkans with Europe to move things forward and then take in the countries south of the Mediterranean.
Dr. Cvetićanin started by giving a more general perspective of migration. Faced with the influx of migrants, whether EU or non-EU, we need organized procedures; organized migration rather than uncontrolled migration. The opinion polls show that many people are more concerned about migration than other subjects. However, it is difficult to discuss this issue without narrow concepts and narrow mindedness creating confusion.
Some of our challenges stem from a lack of political perspective and a lack of strategic insight. The E.U. needs to be, but is not for the present, a key player in the global issues of migration, and the situation in Syria. What is needed is policy perspective, how to work with a wide range of political parties, from the greens to the extreme right. Europe needs statesmen not bureaucrats.
To bring order to this issue, we need statesmen, rather than administrators, who pay attention to strategic issues rather than the next election. The Balkan countries could be a partner on the issue of migrants. The Balkans could be a control point of entry to the E.U. For the moment, we don’t know how to deal with migrants. The E.U. has to define what it wants and how to implement it.
Several strategies could be used to reinforce the physical borders, such as by adding 10,000 more border guards by 2020, and to improve the low rate of return of illegal migrants. The main question, however, is how to allow them in without causing problems in the E.U. countries? A reflection is needed on the number of migrants that can be received and the resources needed to take care of them.
We also need to bring order into the subject of migration by boat. Agreement is needed among E.U. member states on how to deal with this problem. We need new need men of vision like de Gaulle and Adenauer, who stressed European cooperation rather than national interest, and the predominance of European universal principles over national interest. Above all, the need for strategic thinking is vital for European leaders.
The moderator, Dr. Dupuy, added that we might not be able to compare our present leaders to those great leaders of the past. The reality in Africa is no jobs, lack of water and lack of education. The majority of African migrants move within Africa. An African Schengen is also needed.
Maître Houda Haouami explained that migration has always existed. Throughout history, people have left the countryside to go to the big cities. Migration can be a positive force, especially for Europe with its low birth rate. However, not all migration leads migrants to safety and security. How difficult it must be make such a choice and move into the unknown. Migrants suffer dangerous trips organized by illegal smugglers and, upon their arrival, they are seen as criminals and treated as people without rights.
Access to asylum status has become rare and those who do not get asylum status are abandoned, without any help or support. These people need a voice. Politicians and NGOs need to work together. A rational, nuanced discussion is needed. Serious discussion by political leaders is necessary to deal with this problem. It is a real challenge to help those who risk their lives to migrate in order to find a better life.
Lagos is growing too rapidly; disaster in the making if this situation is not dealt with well. The out of control urbanization is creating a growing crisis. We need to help countries such as Nigeria deal with these problems. Dubai is a good example. It was once a small harbor, now a city of 9 million. Some areas are running low on water. How can we help them? If we don’t, mass migration will increase in Africa, which will lead to more migration to Europe.
Where can we get the money for these projects? We live in a capitalistic world and capitalists live to make money. How can we bring migrants into the capitalistic system? What is the difference between a migrant and an expatriate? Is it just that we look down on one and look up to the other?
The moderator, Dr. Dupuy, expressed his agreement that money is needed: China is investing a lot of money in cities in Africa. He lamented that, in the E.U., we have a commissioner for European traditions, but we don’t have one for migration.
Mr. Peter Van Der Auwerert made several important points, expressing the view of the United nations immigration agency.
- The Balkans is a route for people moving from one part of Europe, Greece, to other parts of Europe. The Balkans is a land route for reaching Europe. The Balkans could become a transition zone for migration to Europe.
He said, “I agree with my colleague that we need to bring order into the chaos of migration”. Many migrants have illegal jobs while waiting in Italy but cannot reach them. We should legalize them and let them work. Each Balkan country pushes people back to the country to their south, but the migrants will not give up and go home, they will try again and again. More collaboration between Balkan countries is needed. The closure of European borders is a political fantasy which does not work.
- The role of the Balkans should be to provide shelter and medical care to the migrants before they move on toward Europe. The big drama is not that migrants are arriving, but that they are leaving their countries. Their goal is Europe, not Russia, China or Turkey.
There is a labor market in Europe that needs workers. If they get to Europe, they can have a better life. And if they are from the Balkans, they are Muslim, but they are white. I’m sorry if that sounds racist, but they are acceptable. White Muslims are more acceptable.
There are companies in the Balkans that need workers and they cannot find them. Why are people from the Balkans leaving their countries? Corruption is rampant in too many Balkan countries, among doctors, universities, engineers, etc. Political stagnation is a huge problem. Some people in power have been in that position since the end of Yugoslavia and some even had power in Yugoslavia before the breakup.
- We have to open legal avenues to migrants. The massive immigration seen on TV is a disaster. The public is given a very negative image and politicians become negative about migration.
Legal migration is necessary, but there will always be people who do not fit into the system. They have to be sent back to their own country. It sounds heartless, but it is necessary. Tackling illegal immigration is tackling the underground economy. People opposed to migrants, hire them illegally. Let us turn illegal jobs into legal ones, and close the underground economy.
The moderator, Dr. Dupuy, explained that the French system takes in migrants and makes them into legal workers, where they contribute to the economy rather than being a drain on it.
Dr. Vjollca Hajdari started by discussing the migration of Albanians into North Macedonia.
She explained that Europe broke its promise of letting Albania and Macedonia into the E.U. with four other western Balkan countries, according to the “Thessaloniki Agenda”, and asked the question, “Will this decision create a new wave of immigration”?
The E.U. declared Albania to be a safe country, thereby nullifying requests for asylum. Safe pathways could be created for refugees, by expanding visa options, introducing student exchanges, creating new training programs and more legal channels for employment.
Albania has an enormous brain drain problem; engineers, researchers, veterinarians, economic specialists, teachers, artists, etc., are leaving Albania. Thousands of doctors and nurses are working in Germany. Germans are visiting Albania and Kosovo to find more doctors and nurses. Albania is one of the countries with the largest brain drain in the world.
Dr. Hajdari proposed several solutions to ensure the long-term prosperity and reduce the emigration problem in Albania
- The improvement of the health system.
- Investment and support for profession educational training.
- Networking with the Albanian diaspora, in small and large companies, allowing for the exchange of experience and knowledge gained in developed countries.
- Promoting agriculture and rural development, as well as tourism in the countryside.
- Renewal of the urban and rural infrastructure, including the water system, involving drinking water and water treatment.
In this way, we can create a more positive image of Albania.
The moderator, Dr. Dupuy, concluded by saying that people are willing to leave their home country, but really want to go back. We need to organize better both the migration of people seeking a better life, but also of those who choose to return to their home country.