It is Saturday and I am having my fresh coffee. How this is relevant is simple. As an individual and citizen of the Netherlands and the EU I can enjoy a relatively comfortable and safe life. An individual who is not a citizen of the EU without working permit or visa of some kind has a difficult time.
The previous post about Fortress Europe was about trade. Trade is the exchange of goods and services. An important factor for trade is production which is made possible by labour and the labour force. Labour depends on people. In the context of Fortress Europe there are generally two big groups, the citizens and legal employees versus the non-citizens and illegal employees.
Economically and pragmatically both groups want the same thing, namely a good life. A “good” life sufficiently provides in the goods, services and income they need to survive. The fact that the living standards in the wealthier regions of the EU add possible pleasant things like health care, public transport, access to information and education and good infrastructure make the EU attractive for many people.
When you look at history and civilisations big and small wealth and how it is divided are often complex. How to measure and divide wealth and why have changed through times. What remains simple is this: to have continuous wealth, wealth requires sustainable growth and to divide wealth there has to be a sustainable incentive. Why divide something when it leads to waste? Define waste and rethink the importance of dividing wealth.
Back to now, today is the sixth of June 2015. The world as we know it is a global market place and the Western World has recently recovered from the financial crisis. The EU has member states with strong economies and member states with weak economies. Ideally each state goes through sustainable economic growth and exports more than it imports thus creating employment, GDP and generally content people in the labour force. “Ideally” does not apply to the EU today.
The non-ideal situation affects people, the citizens and legal employees versus the others. Citizens and legal employees want to keep their employment, employment benefits, social benefits and enjoy the life they are used to. Illegal immigrants can replace these people for less costs from the employer’s perspective thus the employment threat becomes real. Next when illegal immigrants are permitted to stay they can claim social benefits and whether they contribute to their new country is sometimes unclear.
Everything comes back to the question “why divide something when it leads to waste?” I have no answers. I am someone who does not like to take a political stance on this. I live by humanist principles and the Jewish maxim “treat others like you want to be treated.” They keep me sane. In Matthew 7:12 the “golden rule” is to be found in the New Testament. What I do know is that a pragmatic solution that respects and maintains human rights is necessary. The documentaries on the living conditions of illegal immigrants are saddening. The Netherlands also have a bad track record, the Schiphol fire is only one case.
When it comes to states (or Fortress Europe) and their people versus illegal immigrants some things are clear.
- People are people, each individual has human rights.
- States are states and their people have additional state rights.
- States first have to take care of their own people, their citizens.
- States have to balance between their own interests and that of the immigrant.
In the scope of the EU these four points and their current complexity have become even more complex. The EU does represent its member states. When the EU has to watch the gates (borders) it turns into Fortress Europe. When the EU welcomes you the open court filled with art, history and culture overwhelms the senses. A “good” life in the open court is in some ways a “rich” life regarding the living standards and access.
How a state treats it people, its citizens indicates many things. That also applies to immigrants. Combine the two and a complex situation becomes clear. There are many factors and how they work out can lead to success stories and tragedies like the sinking ferries and boats in the Mediterranean Sea. If anything in the Fortress Europe series I cannot ignore the “people” as the people make the state, country, society and its organisations. In that sense Fortress Europe is the sum of its people.
P.S. Part VI will be the conclusion to this series of posts.