Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, recently published a startling opinion, advocating for more immigration as an inescapable reality to which European citizens should just adapt without any further discussion.
The article illustrates much of what is wrong with European institutions, in particular the European Commission, a mixture of bureaucratic arrogance, false creed based on dogma rather than facts, and a disdain for democratic debate. The Commission, based in Brussels, is not elected but, according to EU treaties, it has a monopoly -- yes, a monopoly -- on initiating legislation at the European level. Each Commissioner is an appointed bureaucrat, one for each member state -- often a former top politician, now sidelined in his country of origin, therefore with very little democratic legitimacy.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship. (Image source: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency)
"It is time to face the truth.... The only way to make our asylum and migration policies future-proof is collectively to change our way of thinking first," wrote Avramopoulos. Does he think that grass-roots citizens do not think? Like Zeus -- another Greek -- on Mount Olympus, the truth comes from the upper floor of the Berlaymont building, the official headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, as a top-down process. Hey, stupid dudes who want to control immigration, just listen the new self-proclaimed God-bureaucrat and shut up because: "we cannot and will never be able to stop migration". Period.
It is very clear, from survey after survey, Eurobarometer after Eurobarometer, election after election, that a huge majority of European citizens are not only worried about immigration but want -- if not to stop it -- to reduce it drastically, and regain the lost control over borders and over who is allowed to get inside Europe and who is not. Brexit and the recent election campaigns in the UK, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic had immigration as a core issue. This trend is extremely clear and these "signals" cannot just be dismissed by Avramopoulos writing that "Migration is an emotional, sensitive issue... influenced by rising nationalism, populism and xenophobia." So, any reluctance to slow down immigration is categorized as "racist" and disqualifies whoever intends to raise an objection to the future Brave New World dreamed up by the European Commission?
According to our Commissioner, this populism and racism has, "limited our opportunities to put in place smart, forward-looking migration policies", policies that will be thought and implemented by, guess who? The enlightened European institutions, of course.
In a normal democratic process, every country should, ideally, be able to decide, through national parliaments, its migration policies. At a European level, the willingness of the majority of citizens should be taken into account. But Avramopoulos could not care less. According to this unelected Greek Commissioner, this is because "at the end of the day, we all need to be ready to accept migration, mobility and diversity as the new norm". The new norms, like the size of apples or the curvature of cucumbers, should, according to the European Commission, be determined by the European Commission. Migration will not be a question open for debate. It will be a "norm" determined by the Commission.
So, do we really have to accept migrants and refugees? According to the Commission, "It is not only a moral imperative but also an economic and social imperative for our aging continent". This is another false cliché. In his book Exodus: How Migration is Changing Our World, Oxford Professor Paul Collier explains that he has reviewed all the major scientific articles supporting the claims that migrants will be able to pay for the social benefits of aging Europeans, only to conclude that he was absolutely not convinced at all. First of all, many of the migrants are not qualified; and second, they receive social benefits, so there is little or no incentive for them to work.
Articles supporting the claims of the officials -- that Europe needs more migrants in order to fund the healthcare and pensions of aging Europeans -- neglect that this plan can only succeed if the migrants work. These assumptions, therefore, appear to be based on ideological bias rather than scientific evidence.
But what about the almost four million young unemployed citizens already inside the European Union? The unemployment rate for them has actually been between 15-20% in recent years. Don't politicians have "a moral imperative" (to speak like Avramopoulos) first to give them a job and a future before welcoming more new migrants? In Greece, Avramopoulos's country, the unemployment rate for youths is not 17% -- the current European average -- but more than 40%. In Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy -- countries with extremely high rates of unemployment -- there is also a generation of young and educated people, but they are unemployed and face an uncertain future. Many young Greek people do not see any reason to stay in Greece and would like to leave the country. Does Commissioner Avramopoulos plan to replace them with migrants or does he accept this internal, almost forced, migration within Europe as their fate? Another "norm"?
Perhaps the saddest aspect of his article is that Avramopoulos is not a leftist or a green or even a social-democrat politician. He is from New Democracy, a right-wing party. He is the living proof how far the Left has come to dominate the intellectual landscape in European institutions and imposed its way of thinking. With "right-wing" politicians such as Angela Merkel or Avramopoulos betraying their own constituents, one should not be surprised by the rise of "populism" that they themselves so often denounce.
Alain Destexhe is a Senator in Belgium, Former Secretary General of Médecins Sans Frontières and Former President of the International Crisis Group.