As growing numbers of migrants seek a new life in Europe, in this Project Syndicate essay former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer calls on European leaders to overcome their paralysis on the issue and forge a united stance, both on pragmatic and humanitarian grounds.  Ultimately, Europe needs immigration if it is going to continue to enjoy economic prosperity and high levels of social services.


BERLIN – For many centuries, Europe was a continent plagued by wars, famines, and poverty. Millions of Europeans were driven to emigrate by economic and social deprivation. They sailed across the Atlantic to North and South America, and to places as far away as Australia, to escape misery and seek a better life for themselves and their children.

All of them were, in the parlance of the current immigration and refugee debate, “economic migrants.” During the twentieth century, racial persecution, political oppression, and the ravages of two world wars became the predominant causes of flight.

Today, the European Union is one of the world’s richest economic regions. For decades, an overwhelming majority of Europeans have lived in peaceful democratic states that uphold their fundamental rights. Europe’s own misery and migration has become a distant (if not entirely forgotten) memory.

And yet many Europeans feel threatened once again, not by Russia, which is aggressively pushing outward against its neighbors, but by refugees and immigrants – the poorest of the poor. While hundreds of boat people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this summer, voices have emerged in almost every corner of Europe, 26 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, calling for isolation, mass deportations, and the construction of new walls and fences. Throughout Europe, xenophobia and open racism are running rampant, and nationalist, even far-right parties are gaining ground.

Continue reading at Project Syndicate.


  • kekos

    What we are currently witnessing seems to be on the order of magnitude of the great migrations of the Germanic tribes into the Roman Empire that started somewhere around 1900 years ago. Up until then, Romans had expanded their empire and their settlements, often moving to ‘poorer’ areas. And then the tide shifted and the poor people migrated into the empire. We can see the same turning of the tide since World War II. We are generally no longer talking about ‘white’ settlers leaving Europe out of desperation. Instead, now we have an inward migration.

    Today’s migrants cannot force their entry because the weapons are too unevenly distributed. But they come for the same reasons — they want to participate in the better life on the other side of the border, fleeing strife, poverty, and uncertainty at home. They will be settled an integrated into society, just like the Germanic tribes were settled and integrated by the Romans. They will become and important segment of the population, taking over unwanted jobs (just like the migrants in the Roman empire took over much of the military service). Eventually, possibly a few centuries from now, they will change our societies as they blend with the locals, keeping some of their customs and adopting others from us and transforming them all. But we are talking about a process that will most likely take centuries.