Europe should have open borders for all Syrian and Afghan refugees


Since 1970 Syria is under the dictatorship of the al-Assad family. Bashar controlled the country until 2011, when the Syrian Civil War broke. Violent repressions against activists demanding economic prosperity and political and civil liberties started. Several sides are disputing the territory and fighting among themselves and against Assad. The most dangerous is the Islamic State, the “successor” of Al-Qaeda. The conflict has claimed more than 230000 lives, has generated 11.5 million displaced persons and a total of four million refugees had to leave Syria. The situation of Syrian refugees is Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Tens of thousands of people try to escape the war raging the Middle East across the Mediterranean to seek asylum in Europe. Thousands have already died trying to reach our continent, and those who succeed face with the lack of reaction from the European Union. Never before 2015, when the EU began to receive large numbers of immigrants called by the promise of a better life, had this situation been of any serious concern. This has become a problem for countries of this continent, as the uncontrolled movement of people at the borders is causing problems due to the lack of resources. The current refugee crisis is, perhaps, one of the most widely debated issues, generating controversy among the European population. Should Europe maintain an open border for all Syrians or reinforce them? Why is the EU struggling with immigrants and asylum seekers?

First, Article 14 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to seek asylum, and to enjoy in other countries. It is more than enough reason to open Europe’s borders to immigrants fleeing their countries because of war bombing, seeking a better life. An example is the death of Aylan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian boy drowned off the coast of Turkey, following a shipwreck, which shocked the whole European population and gave evidence to act. More than 432.761 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean since January, and 2748 are dead or missing. Also, the decision of Hungary to erect a fence along its border with Serbia, blocking the Schengen area is benefiting people-trafficking mafias. It is necessary to promote a profound reform of the European migration policy and asylum, including the opening of legal channels and a fair distribution of the burdens of refugees, underlining if these people could come without resorting to traffickers and risk their lives, the flow would be much neater.

On the other hand, the uncontrolled opening of European borders creates various conflicts in countries of this union. When Europe has not yet emerged from the crisis, it is preparing to welcome more than 500000 Syrian immigrants, also Afghans fleeing violence, Eritrean dictatorship and abuse and poverty in Kosovo. Are all the people coming to Europe refugees fleeing political persecution? We must also bear in mind that many immigrants are illegal and others, almost two thirds, do not come because of necessity but also to find a job and improve their quality of life. Immigration is equivalent to an increase in unemployment among locals. Vast numbers of people coming into the EU seeking for asylum would result in higher taxes placed on European citizens, social expenditures would rise to service the new millions of poor, crime would rise, racial tensions intensify, budgets fail, currencies fluctuate. The southern countries like Italy and Greece, have seen themselves overwhelmed by the large numbers of immigrants. Meanwhile, richer northern countries receive relatively few, except Germany. For instance, Italy is providing $ 9.7 monthly in the programme; Denmark and others make it clear that they will not offer help for rescue operations. Another big problem is the international mafia which moves refugees and illegal immigrants from one place to another.

We do not want to see people suffering from hunger, lack of shelter, thousands of deaths, desperate people fleeing war in their country with their children in their arms, agglomerations in Hungarian train stations, border crossings full of mafias and the cheating of innocents. Sad is to say that to stop this there are two ways, let them all in or stop them trying to come. We can conclude by saying that borders should be open, not only European, but global, to solve this serious humanitarian problem of migration crisis. And also do everything possible to solve conflicts in the countries of origin so its inhabitants do not have to travel because of wars. Having non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, etc., it would be possible to contribute with international assistance in the refugee camps, providing basic needs.


About the author:

Irene Herruzo VillamorIrene Herruzo Villamor (16) is a student from Spain and enjoys expressing her opinion during debates at school.

Scenarios of Europe in 2030

Future Scenarios

Last week we had a ”My Europe“ Workshop in Berlin in cooperation with the German newspaper “Die Welt”. Journalists of this this daily, which is published by the Axel Springer AG, had prepared five theses about Europe in 2030. These provocative scenarios paint quite a dramatic picture of Europe in 15 years’ time; however, they proved to be good food for thought. I would like to invite you to also reflect on these future scenarios and to contemplate the (un)likeliness of these set-ups.

Europe 2030:

  • The EU is an elitist project. The common man does not understand the procedures anymore, but that does not matter since he is not allowed to vote anyways.
  •  Our continent is a fortress, isolated from poor and sick intruders. In this way, the rich and the clever remain among themselves.
  •  Everyone speaks English only. There are no other languages.
  •  The EU does not exist anymore. It started with Greece and England, soon more and more states decided to exit.
  •  A dictatorship of pensioners is achieved; all young people under 30 have fled to Asia or Africa where they attract less attention.

Without doubt, Europe is once again at a turning point. The many talks between the Greek government, the European Commission and heads of states seem to be, once again, decisive. I would like to chip to in with the following proposition: a debt cut for Europe. Let’s abolish all debts, let’s create a new basis with new, equal criteria for everyone and a framework that is fair and consistent. What do you think?

About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…


To Europe with Love

Heart illumination installation at the entrance to the European Parliament in Brussels, Spotlight Europe
In December 2012 visitors of the European Parliament were greeted by a giant illuminated heart. A message to European citizens. (Flickr: European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An overwhelming silence settled her messy and stuffy room. It was night: A storm echoed outside. Suddenly she woke up from the agitation of all her fruitless dreams and plans for the future, looked at the mirror that stood in front of her and became aware that she was no longer a child. She was a grown up: Something had happened during the short period of hours she had slept.
Although her creased expression could be clearly noticed, she had always lived as an instinctive young lady, an irresponsible one. Throughout her life she took decisions, without bothering about the future.

Meanwhile she looked at the clock and felt confident, powerful. However, confused, she tried to say a few words but she could not speak for herself. In her mind, voices, tortures and cries of many different faces were echoing. Within a second, she felt a strange beat in her heart, a burning desire to help her own and a tingling shivering down her spine. She was definitely perceiving the world differently.

Unexpectedly, she looked back again at the image she was seeing in the mirror. Without any doubt, it was a transformed Europe. The Europe I design for 2030.

“The European Union will cease to be an institution”

I believe that on its awakening, the European Union will cease to be an institution, almost an abstract concept, and will reach out to the life of all Europeans. Politicians will be closer to the people who can familiarise with their representatives in the European Parliament. Debates about the present and the future of Europe will regularly materialise, counting with the participation of individuals from different social-cultural levels who will be taken under consideration by the assemblies of the Member States. As a result, new and innovative ideas will be discussed pragmatically, apart from the fact that it will be given a voice to minorities, which are sometimes subjugated to the interests of a certain elite.

Two people standing on an escalator, Spotlight Europe
“Man is the only animal which devours his own kind” (Flickr: Alex Proimos/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Furthermore, in this eye opener to challenges in reality, the words of Thomas Jefferson will not make sense anymore and be, instead, considered an insult to the human condition achieved with effort and the dedication of many citizens, characterized by their active political participation, over the years: “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.” Within this framework of thought, not only at the political level but also economically, will be sought, above all, the common good – the subordination of the parts to the whole. Policies of cohesion aimed at fighting for the establishment of a goal in which all come out as winners will be stimulated, especially those that provide greater economic interdependence or the ones that ensure a more efficient reaction capacity by the EU (as a whole and not just of the strongest countries). In the same way, it will be defined levels of responsibility in order to guarantee greater efficiency in meeting all types of problems.

On the contrary, as a more accurate alternative, we will be able to quote the German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Nobody in Europe will be excluded. Europe only succeeds if we work together.” To concede life to her words, it is necessary to take further measures to achieve both unification and improvement of national education systems as well as health care. They frighteningly differ in quality and effectiveness within countries that commit themselves to belong to the same union.

“A Union in which no nation is left behind”

As far as I am concerned, the utopia described has a strong possibility to turn out to be a reality. Actually, these days one would say “Big thinking precedes great achievement”. Therefore, the European project I believe in involves a Union in which no nation is left behind, in which all citizens will be given equal opportunities, professionally as well as in terms of personal fulfilment, regardless of gender or even the colour of their skin. The pyramid of moral values must be also reformulated and witness at its top an attitude of mutual help, equality, solidarity and honesty.

As a matter of a fact, the secret of success is hidden behind a path of sweat, above and beyond many tears, though optimism and perseverance are the best search engines for achievement. “United in diversity”, with a spirit of mission, we will strive towards what we have always dreamed for.

And thus, like a rejuvenated phoenix, Europe came out of her room, from its apparent position of comfort with the sincere intention to face what is ahead, looking for the good that is waiting.

About the author:
Ana Catarina Almeida, Spotlight Europe
Ana Catarina – Author at Spotlight Europe

Ana Catarina (17) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Lison in November 2014. She is a student at Escola Secundária Rainha Dona Leonor.

Grexit, Too High a Bill and Too Big a Deal


Since the question started to become more serious (2012), two different theories have been developed on the topic. The first one, known as the domino theory, states that a possible Greek withdrawal would lead markets to wonder which country could leave the Eurozone next. The fate of the other countries would then be questioned, similarly to what happened during the sovereign debt crisis in Europe in 2010-2012. The consequence could be an implosion of the Eurozone.

“a Greek withdrawal would lead markets to wonder”

Instead, according to the other vision, the theory of ballast, the Eurozone would actually be strengthened by Grexit. The monetary union would finally manage to erase a constant problem. Additionally, a decision to let Greece leave the Eurozone, or push it to do so, would increase the credibility of its rules.

In 2012, the former one seemed sufficiently realistic to push the creditor countries to put the option of a Greek exclusion aside. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, decided to officially visit Athens where she expressed her «hope and desire» that Greece would keep up being a Member.

Nowadays though, the situation is quite different. The rating agency Fitch has recently declared (6th March) that, although Grexit is still a concrete risk, Eurozone is now immune to risks contagion.

The Domino effect, Spotlight Europe
“Unlikely to happen”. (Flickr:Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

«The Eurozone has developed mechanisms to alleviate the risk of contagion and concerns about the solvency of other Member States are less evident than what they were like in 2012. A domino effect from Grexit is therefore unlikely to happen», remarked Fitch.

Indeed, adds the agency, the market stress has considerably decreased. The financial support programmes no longer support Ireland and Portugal, the Eurozone financial system has been strengthened by the decision to move towards a banking union.


Grexit, Too High a Bill and Too Big a Deal

A Greek temple bathed in sunlight, Spotlight Europe
The Greek heritage. (Flickr: petros asimomytis/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The European reality has always been crossed by threats of division and secessionisms due to its cultural and political diversity which constitutes both its weak point but also the basis for building its strength.

One of these aspects, which had remained a latent possibility in the last years, is now becoming more concrete; It has been nicknamed as Grexit, the hypothetical Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone.

“European reality has always been crossed by threats of division”

In February, the new Tsipras government reached an agreement with the Eurozone creditor countries, including a package of immediate reforms and an extension of four months of the financial assistance program. Even though Europe could feel relieved at the moment the compromise calls for tough negotiations on a new financial assistance program, to be introduced by the end of June.

In any negotiation the fundamental element that influences the behaviour of the players and then the final result, as Jean Pisani-Ferri, French economist, public policy expert and French government Commissioner General for Policy Planning recently observed, is the cost that the impossibility to find a further agreement would bring to the protagonists themselves.

To understand more deeply the phenomenon, it is important to focus on two key points: The actual legal provisions it could base its ruts in and the economic consequences of its realization.

Concerning the first aspect, under the Treaty on the European Union, the fundamental document of institutional regulation of the EU, it is written that «Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements» (Art. 50), but no provision appears to establish either the opposite process, an exclusion carried out by all the components against one Member State, or the revocability of the Euro – membership.

Andre Sapir, Bruegel, Spotlight Europe
Andre Sapir, Bruegel (Detail, Flickr: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills/licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

André Sapir, think tank Bruegel’s Senior Fellow, Professor of Economics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and former economic adviser to the president of the European Commission confirmed this. In an interview that recently appeared in several European daily newspapers, the Italian Il Sole 24 Ore, he affirmed that Grexit is just an exercise of «Phanta-politics». He also underlined that the other Member States would not accept to lose a Mediterranean politically and economically strategic point, such as Greece.

But what would be the bill generated by a possible Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone, in economic terms?



Grexit, Too High a Bill and Too Big a Deal


Despite these reassurances, as Jean Pisani-Ferri wrote, it cannot be stated yet that a Greek withdrawal would not bring any damage and this is mainly due to two reasons.

First of all, it would contradict the tacit assumption that participation in the Eurozone is irrevocable. This would create a precedent in European history and, if the climate began to be a bit tense again, there would be no certainty that another Member State would not follow this path.

“formalize the rules of quitting, so far unwritten and undefined”

Secondly, a possible withdrawal of Athens would force the European policymakers to formalize the rules of quitting, so far unwritten and undefined. This would naturally turn the risk of breach not only more acceptable, but also more concrete.

This does not mean, Pisani-Ferri added, that the other Member States should play any possible card or pay any possible price to keep Greece as a Member of the Union. But, on the other hand, the idea of a peaceful and effectless withdrawal of the country from the Eurozone is an illusion.

The Euro symbol in Frankfurt, Spotlight Euro
“In its complexity resides its strength”. (Flickr: MPD01605/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

From the perspective of young generations it does not appear as hopeful future scenery, to know that the Greek tool would in any case pass on our shoulders too, once stepped in and established as agents in the labour markets. Despite this, it is crucial for a young European to learn how to think in a wider perspective; the European project is not a cup of tea to be set into reality, but in its complexity resides its strength too. Losing any part of this project would mean to damage it somehow. A human body still works without a hand but less effectively.

It is important that each young EU citizen understands this key aspect and accepts some small personal sacrifices in order for the whole machine to work better. There is a negative effectless way neither in losing a hand nor in losing the component of a Union.

This article has also been published by the European Sting.


About the author:
Camilla Crovella, Spotlight Europe
Camilla – Author at Spotlight Europe

Camilla (21) is a member of the Eustory Alumni Network and writes articles for online magazines. She studies Law at the University of Turin.