The migrants that arrive alive to the shores of our south European countries or jump the fences erected in Central-Eastern Europe, represents the biggest exodus of people after WWII in Europe and are changing the face, and soon also the policies, of the continent. Europe in one century will be like the United States: a land of immigrants. Refugees and economic migrants arriving in hundreds of thousands, and in the future probably in millions, will not be stopped by the fences that Hungary is building on the 110 miles of border with Serbia (anyway soon Croatia will be also in the Schengen area). These migrants will not be fend off by the racist attitudes that a a nationalist conservative prime minister of a landlocked country is trying to create in Europe (looking to the fortresses of the past instead of to the bridges of the future). These immigrants on the opposite will be welcome by the European values of tolerance, democracy and universalism, that today are stronger than its fears. Neither economic depressions nor fear of invasions will make us Europeans to go back to the barbarity of nationalism, fascism and nazism. And exactly the best part of Germany, both with its leadership and its people, showed to Europe and the world in these days what it means the Kantian duty of ethics. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, foresaw a “perpetual peace” based not only on republicanism and federalism but on “universal hospitality”: this is what all Europe, with Germany in the first row, today has to show. German people experienced on their skin what does it mean to be refugee after WWII and so they have to fight against the xenophobia that is present in some part of the population and right wing party (like in Austria, that today also showed its best part with the caravan of cars going to Hungary to pick up the refugees). Ms Merkel said it well: there has to be zero tolerance for hate and xenophobia.
But there is more than fight between tolerance and racism in this epochal change. In the same way as the internal migration among European states created what is today the European culture, maintaining the diversity of each country but also integrating them in a common identity, the people from the Maghreb, the Levant of Middle East and farther, will create a Euro-Mediterranean identity based also on South and Southeastern peripheries of the continent (like Russian people will do with the Eastern periphery). Even if European institutions don’t want to expand yet to its southeast border (first of all Turkey) people will create naturally a European enlargement decades before the European Union will expand. It is a normal and natural process, as migrations cannot be blocked, neither with walls nor with fears, in particular if they are the result of wars that Europe didn’t want to stop or that even facilitated. And here we come to the third effect of these migrations: they will not change only the face of the continent but they will also modify its institutions and its policies, both foreign and internal policies.
Europe cannot escape anymore from its own responsibilities in keeping the Middle East and Africa backwards and in constant conflict, from centuries of colonialism to the current Western wars and arms trade. From the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Syrian proxy war and Libyan military intervention, the EU, guided by the US, is looking today at the effects of its recent actions. These effects don’t remain anymore only in the region (keeping the Middle East exceptionalism in the failure of democracy and development) but arrives to our own territories with the migratory event, with its security, economic, social and cultural consequences. Therefore our governments cannot play anymore with the fire hiding the hand: they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this will put foreign policies into question. Germany is the less involved in these failed foreign policies (it opposed strongly Iraq war and Libyan intervention for example) and at the same time is the country that assumes more responsibility. Sure, also because its growing economy and markets need worker and citizens with a new drive of building a better life, but also because if Germany wants to become the real leader of European integration it has to do it with legitimacy and ethics. Anyway Germany cannot be the only one to take the burden of the crisis on its shoulders, and the costs but also the benefits of millions of migrants (that will sustain an ageing continent and its pensions system) will have to be shared. Even if the UK is obviously the less affected by the migratory crisis it is the main responsible for the Middle East situation, and so together with the US will have to assume its responsibility too. Cameron said that UK has the most migrants of all the European nations, but forgot to say that (a part one million of polish coming during Blair era) these migrants mostly came from the Commonwealth, so were not refugees in needs of help but almost English citizens already.
Therefore this crisis will shake and change Europe and will make the continent to think twice in the future also on its foreign policy, and may be a sustainable, development oriented, foreign policy in the outskirts of the continent will see the light sooner or later. As we did for the ex-Yugoslavia we need to help these populations to not become refugees, and the refugees that are in neighboring countries to be protected and helped. Also, this crisis already changed the Dublin rule that asylum seekers are required to claim a refuge in the first EU state they arrive in, but will also make Europe think to more internal integration, less frontiers and a real European citizenship for the future. So migrations, and in general the elements of globalization, are having strong effects on state sovereignty: the modern countries have to rethink their integration and citizenship policies based on new realities of nation states, member states and federal states.
Thank you Germany, this time you showed what does it mean to be a great power, a great democracy and a great leader: it takes “power and morality”, as Edward Carr would have said. An ethical and not authoritarian leader is what we need for a new Europe. Look and learn UK: forza European democracy and integration.