Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Things could get really nasty indeed, but this does not depend on any refugees as catalyst. There are more groups eligible for othering. In order to dismantle the welfare state the disabled, the sick and the old are the obvious choice for some demonisation.

My point is that the current inflow of refugees and the solidarity and empathy most people feel with them is a very good opportunity to advance a leftist agenda. There are enough flats to house them, if we no longer place capital's interest before humans' interest. We can employ an army of teachers to integrate the refugees quickly, and this will benefit the refugees and the (native) teachers, and all of us because state spending generates income that is spent... Try to explain that in connection with the working of the Euro!

No, I haven't watched that film, but I get the point. That makes it even more urgent to counter the right wing's campaign of producing fear. Fear about the millions of strangers coming every year and accumulating over the next 15 years... Nonsense. Today's refugees will have moved on or settled in by then. See the Yugoslav refugees. I don't see anything to support the theory that humans are by nature evil and selfish. They must be made that, compassion must be snuffed out by a policy of creating tension and aggression. This policy can, and must, be countered.

by Katrin on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a method to snuff out compassion:

Hungarian TV `told not to broadcast images of refugee children' | World news | The Guardian

Employees of Hungarian state television have been instructed not to include children in footage of news pieces about migrants and refugees, a leaked screenshot of editorial advice to journalists at news channel M1 reveals.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 08:15:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Integration teachers as economic stimulus? I'm afraid that would fall short as a left-wing agenda item: Integrationslehrer - Nur raus aus dem Traumberuf - SpOn. The article describes a full-time teacher who -as a top earner- takes home €1,200 a month. Some of them have to supplement their income with HartzIV. That's not gonna lead the Eurozone recovery.

Housing is a another sore point. I'd think immigration is one of the most important ways to alleviate our demographic problem. The caveat is that all those empty graying villages are empty for a reason - the jobs are somewhere else and people move accordingly to the metropolitan areas. Which is where we have been having a affordability/supply/gentrification problem.

...but soon we need a massive building program for affordable housing. Otherwise we will have tent cities during this winter and later on massive competition between people who already need social housing today. That would be poison for our social cohesion and the ideal growth medium for right-wing extremists and xenophobia.
This op-ed penned by a green and a CDU politician shows a way by which this challenge could be met but also how this could follow the anti-immigrant template already demonstrated by other countries. The Swiss complain about the Germans and how they take away jobs and housing. The Brits complain about the Bulgarians and the Poles. Their housing problems are largely self-inflicted but that doesn't stop people from blaming the new competition. And so came the drive to limit migration to a minimum in the UK and Switzerland. Also that problem doesn't suddenly go away if the status of a refugee changes. A different label doesn't grow an apartment.

Jobs? "low-skill, high-labour turnover occupations that are necessarily migrants' first port of call". Highly-qualified immigrants have a problem getting into appropriate jobs under normal circumstances (the proverbial foreign academic driving taxi). Wasn't Germany supposed to soak up all those young hopeful Spaniards and Greeks? That barrier won't change overnight just because of the Syrians. Then comes the language barrier. And not all will be highly-educated. Very highly educated people are arriving too. "But the officials on site tell me they expect a share of 15 to 20 percent of adult illiterates" (interior minister de Maiziere) He also said:

... de Maizière warned that integrating the new arrivals could be difficult. Currently there are about four million Muslims in Germany, especially with a Turkish background he said. "Now we will get hundreds of thousands of Muslims with an Arabic background. Which is, according to my French colleague, a significant difference in terms of integration."
There we have the complex of culture, religion, race, and xenophobia that nobody wants to talk about (me neither!). I hope for the best but some bidirectional culture shock is inevitable. And watch how the mood will flare up if one single refugee commits a crime. See the case of the Eritreian asylum seeker who murdered two people in a Swedish IKEA (the right-wing 'Swedish democrats' are nearing 20% approval).

Which leads me to another conclusion. There is a practical theory that says welfare states are reliant on the trust generated by a mostly homogenous population. That is actually born out by observation. Mistrust, segregation, and transactional costs rise in such cases as the US, Nigeria, etc. Why do you think the US doesn't have a comprehensive welfare state? Because they don't want 'those people' to have it. Why is every major city in the US neatly segregated by race? In Europe too. So to add another insult towards humanity: people are not only selfish and evil (sometimes), they are xenophobic and racist too.

A long ramble to support my original point: Schengen is toast.

PS: Leading nation alone - Sueddeutsche

Germany has adopted a sharp rhetorical stance during the Greek crisis. Now Berlin shouldn't be surprised that solidarity is lacking in the refugee question. ... For the first time ever, a significant number of member states say that a problem is irrelevant to them. This tone has a new quality and will not lead to a fast resolution. ... 90% of refugees are taken in by just nine of the 28 member states. The way the appeals towards a fair sharing of the burden are brushed aside threatens the foundation of the EU. The danger for European cohesion becomes obvious.
Monkey see, monkey do.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:09:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not gonna lead the Eurozone recovery.

That's gonna be a topic on which to explain Europe's recovery. The beauty is in expanding the budget to cover the cost for the integration of refugees (and I did not demand to pay these teachers worse than other teachers). Contrary to other items there is nothing in the German budget that will be cut to compensate for these costs. Didactically useful.

As to housing, apparently I wasn't clear enough: there are empty flats not only in regions without jobs. There are empty flats everywhere, although it is illegal. Affordable flats are missing, because there is almost no social housing in the hand of the public and because there is nothing done to enforce the law. (I checked the figures for Hamburg: not a single fine in 2014 or 2015). This is an important item on any leftist agenda, and of course there are already initiatives working on it.  Now, suddenly, everybody is talking about the need for affordable housing. Instead of pitching groups against each other I recommend that we advocate social housing, more social housing, and additionally that the laws against speculation are at last enforced. Actually I recommend that the left demands what we have always demanded, the only thing that has changed is that now we might be heard, because the arrival of so many refugees makes it so urgent.


Which leads me to another conclusion. There is a practical theory that says welfare states are reliant on the trust generated by a mostly homogenous population.

And there is another theory that says that social cohesion--"trust"--is generated by collective efforts and achievements, but that theory is pretty unpopular with  the ruling class. Much better to spread the one of the homogenous population, which, by the way, is purely in the eye of the beholder. Class differences don't exist in that theory. How convenient. In Germany such theories are advanced by people with so very German names as Sarrazin or Buschkowsky, and still their fans believe that immigration destroys the homogenity of the population.


Why do you think the US doesn't have a comprehensive welfare state?

Because McCarthy destroyed their entire left.

Why is every major city in the US neatly segregated by race? In Europe too.

More than 50 nationalities in my daughter's school, so no. I can't say much about the US, but in Europe cities are mostly segregated by class, not "race". The lower end of the working class happens to be more immigrant and dark skinned than other segments of the population. That makes anti-immigrant and racist positions even more attractive for the ruling class: they neatly divide working class activism this way.

by Katrin on Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 05:51:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the people/governments didn't understand the logic of expansionary fiscal policies last time around and they're not gonna get it now. The prevailing austerity logic will instead lead to resentments because of the cost generated by the refugees. This mechanism is currently suspended because people know it's an extraordinary charitable outlay. But will it last if people keep coming in masses? You could rightly argue it's not that much money. But if it isn't then what's the stimulus? Some (hopefully properly paid) teachers? I have more hope for a building spree of subsidized housing. But that is a slow process that's already a decade behind. More potential for resentment. Also, as the Zeit article said, wage depression due to the newly arrived is probable in the very sector, i.e. low level service jobs (our 'saviour' from being the 'sickest man in Europe'), that is the problem spot in the labour market. Another vector for huge resentment.

Empty flats illegal? Whatever. Supply and demand rules supreme, even more so in a bifurcated market where the affordable housing part is under pressure. Build as if your life depended on it (if you can control the NIMBYism - watch that space). A neo-squatter movement that marks down a few hundred properties per city won't matter.

Re: theories of trust and social cohesion. Your theory that trust can and needs to be built is essentially correct. Some examples:

  • The areas with the least amount of immigrants have the highest xenophobia (Sachsen represent!). You fear what you don't know etc.
  • I read a story about a Berlin school that had a hard time integrating middle class children with migrants' children. The parents didn't want to send their children to 'these schools'. The turnaround came when the school promised their children would go to class with exactly those migrant children they already knew from kindergarten. Shared experiences, upbringing, etc.
  • Immigrants who directly start working, i.e. who have a job lined up before migrating, have vastly better chances of making it. Trust is built with the people they work with.
This is where I get nervous. Where are the opportunities going to come from? Young children are better off. They can go to school and learn the language within a month, get educated and eventually get into a passable career. The adults have it much harder. They have to learn a new language and try to get into a menial job, possibly competing with other unemployeds. The problem of absorption gets more difficult the higher the flow rate is. If you don't find connections you stay connected just with your own kind and then we'll have ghettoization and the xenophobic culture wars again. For the most of Europe the problem is already there. Says a French newspaper: "Germany may have opportunities in the service sector for the refugees but Italy, Spain and France can't even offer those jobs to their own young people." So in the absence of opportunities for building social cohesion my theory still holds.

In the American case you can't simply dump it all on McCarthy who 'single-handedly destroyed the left'. Racial segregation and social stratification have a longer history than that. Look at Donald Trump who is now having success promoting social benefits but 'only for the right people'. Those people vote and they can't stand the idea of 'welfare queens' with a different skin colour.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Fri Sep 4th, 2015 at 03:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, the people/governments didn't understand the logic of expansionary fiscal policies last time around and they're not gonna get it now.

I am sure that the governments have already understood it. Or at least they will get it very quickly if the people apply some gentle pressure to toes, or less gentle pressure by pitchfork... But the people must get it.


You could rightly argue it's not that much money. But if it isn't then what's the stimulus?

Indeed, it is not that much money that reasonable people need to get nervous. And the stimulus is in showing how it works, and demanding that the principle is applied to other groups of the population too. We are unable to enforce that without a humanitarian crisis, because the dogma says that this way hyperinflation comes. Now there is no alternative, the refugees need refuge, period. They are in Europe, and it doesn't matter if we like that or not. There must be some provisions for them, and inadequate or not, they will cost money, but will not cause hyper-inflation.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that the strategy I have in mind cannot fail. Your misgivings make sense. What you don't seem to see is that the alternative is so dystopian that for once we have a majority on our side: if you don't want to give refuge to these people, you must step up the mass murder (for that is the word for what the EU does in the Mediterranean). You must have a watertight police state controlling every movement, and not only movement across borders, really every movement. By doing that you would have given in to the fearmongering narratives of the far right, and they will then demand (and get) more. This is rejected by a far greater share of the population than everything else we had to say. In the case of Greece we had to argue against the dogma of 35 years, but now we are arguing in favour of existing humanitarian law, remember.

The humanitarian framework for refugees was created for European refugees, and there were far more refugees then than today. I wonder how many families in Europe there are without a history of seeking refuge somewhere in the last one or two generations? Empathy is very strong.  

I see a chance of leftist proposals being heard and being taken seriously, a chance that hasn't been here for a long time. Because we happen to have valid answers, and the right wing, not. :)

by Katrin on Fri Sep 4th, 2015 at 04:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "cost of the refugees" is already becoming an issue:

Refugee crisis ′to cost Germany 10 billion euros′ | News | DW.COM | 06.09.2015

According to a report in the Sunday edition of German newspaper, the "Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung" (FAS), financial costs for Germany could reach anywhere between 9 and 10.5 billion euros by the end of the year. The figure is based on cost estimates from local governments around the country.

A refugee summit held by the German parliament in July budgeted 5.6 billion euros for an expected 450,000 asylum applications this year. In light of the recent mass influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, however, Germany is now expecting to take in some 800,000 by the end of December.

According to Germany's Federal Statistics Office, 2.4 billion euros were spent on caring for some 203,000 new asylum seekers last year.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 05:04:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the 450,000 vs. 800,000, I read in an article somewhere in the German media that even the authorities were guilty of comparing apples to oranges: the first number is for asylum applications, the second is for registered refugees (filing asylum applications takes time if it happens at all).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 06:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been very instructive to see the example of soft power, the Hungarian border guards were overcome by sheer numbers of unarmed people. Unless they had opened fire on women and children with the eyes of the world upon them their role was revealed as futile.
Orban obviously had no stomach for genocide, thankfully. His threats to give three years prison to illegal immigrants were rightly seen as risible by anyone cognizant of what these refugees have suffered to get where they are, when even a cell and three bad meals is a giant upgrade thus a minor risk from starving behind barbed wire in a camp. As if Orban had that many jail cells anyway!
I see a possible paradox here... Conditions for unemployed youth in Europe are already appalling, you'd think that adding tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees, would be a disaster in the making, (whipped up by the hard right for sure, as we see all around).
But it might work the other way too by forcing issues of economics, employment and ostensible homage to equality into the light, speeding up a possible resolution.
The pathos induced by the young child dead on the sand has shown the power of the media to shame those old white hardline racists on the euro right into holding back on massacres, to bend the rules and allow a human corridor to the only country in Europe which can afford to house and give work to so many needy.
This is also karmic, think how many hundreds of thousands emigrated before WW 2 with the rise of the pogroms in Germany. Those emigrants, along with so many Europeans fleeing poverty, went to make the famous melting pot America became as it rose to its industrial and imperial apex (before selling out the bulk of its manufacture abroad.)
I honestly don't think that under our present political conditions we can give a decent life and honest work to millions of immigrants, unless we radically change our political conditions here, getting rid of the ridiculous arms expenses like Trident and F35s, employing people in a new green economy.
I foresee a possible sea change induced by soft power, sheer numbers that dare the authorities to do their worst knowing they won't have the hardness of heart to do so.
More empathy pictures going viral will accelerate this overdue process. White male privilege sees this sea change as threat, to the rest of the world it's just justice.
It's nice to see Europe doing the right thing for 'foreigners', perhaps this kindness will be extended as generously to its own weak and afflicted, such as the poor in Greece getting strangled by austerity.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 08:44:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scandal of Europe's 11m empty homes | Society | The Guardian

He said Europe's 11m empty homes might not be in the right places "but there is enough [vacant housing] to meet the problem of homelessness". There are 4.1 million homeless across Europe, according to the European Union. Guardian

Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, said it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty. "You would only need half of them to end homelessness," he said.

That leaves some flats for refugees then.

by Katrin on Sat Sep 5th, 2015 at 06:00:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series