Monday, September 7, 2015

What will become of Europe? - Prof. Michael Lasker

by Prof. Michael Lasker

The real danger is that the EU countries will suffer economically and that their welfare systems will collapse under the weight of the recent demographic shifts.

Much has been written about the causes for the mass migration to EU countries, mainly from the Middle East, the Maghreb region, West Africa and South Asia. These days, the three key questions are: What will become of Europe, which is ill prepared to confront the emergency situation it now faces? What will become of the refugees? And what is the international community's role?

It should be noted that if the sanctions on Iran are lifted under the recently signed nuclear agreement, and if Europe continues to appease Iran and invest in the Iranian economy, Iran will become even more motivated to fund terrorism and as a result the influx of refugees into Europe will skyrocket.

Furthermore, in the absence of a determined global military action, not only are terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, the Nusra Front, Islamic State group, Ansar al-Sharia and Boko Haram not disappearing, they have become powerful bodies ruling over territory and resources. The refugees that have already made their way to Europe and those who will leave in the future, will have no home to return to.

The real danger is that the EU countries will suffer economically and that their welfare systems will collapse under the weight of the recent demographic shifts. Even Germany, with its mighty economy, and prospering Sweden cannot feasibly handle the absorption of the constant flow of migrants and asylum seekers by themselves. 

One of the hidden issues in the current crisis concerns the social status of the refugees, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. How many of these people, despite losing all their possessions, belong to the middle class? To what degree are they skilled in high-demand professions such as engineering, high-tech and medicine? Is their social status parallel to that of immigrants from third world countries who have been coming to Europe since the 1970s only to become a burden on their host countries by settling in poor neighborhoods and cultivating hate toward Western culture and secular society? The EU cannot afford to carry another heavy burden of this sort. 

There is no way of knowing whether this migration wave will also bring criminal elements and Islamic extremists with it. This will contribute to the escalation of violence, crime and anti-Semitism, as well as increase the number of Muslim prisoners, who will then settle in ghettos and increase growing unemployment rates. 

An article recently published by The New Yorker revealed that 60% of the inmates in French prisons are Muslims, Africans and Maghrebis, while they constitute only 8% of the population.

What can be done to avoid this grim prospect? Since the already crowded Europe continues to buckle under the pressure of the ongoing influx of migrants, perhaps it is advisable to re-evaluate the adherence to the Schengen agreement, which allows passport-free movement across Central and Western Europe. It may have worked 30 years ago, but today it only adds to the demographic and security threats.

Western countries need to join forces and work to scatter the migrants and refugees outside Europe, in places such as North America and sparsely populated areas like Iceland, which has voiced willingness to absorb immigrants, and even in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, despite concern that the immigrants would cultivate the aspirations of Islamic State and Shiite Iran there. 

In order to implement such an ambitious, yet essential policy, which would include building new infrastructure and professional retraining, funding must come from various sources -- private capital from the world's wealthiest people and companies as well as donations from OECD countries and resource-abundant Middle Eastern countries.

Instead of bankrolling terrorism, as they did in the past, the United Arab Emirates should invest in the refugees. I am referring to the model of the extensive Marshall Plan, initiated by the U.S. to rehabilitate Europe following the devastation of World War II. This time the burden will not fall solely on the U.S.'s shoulders, but will be shared by a number of international agents.

Israel will also have a role to play -- it must prepare for an uptick in anti-Semitism in the EU and therefore launch efforts to bring Jews to Israel, the way we absorbed Jews from Muslim countries, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. 

Professor Michael Lasker is a lecturer in the Middle East Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University.


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