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Mass Migration as an Amplifier of All Well-known European Problems: Notes for Innsbruck

English Pages, 19. 1. 2018

Many thanks for the invitation. I am really glad to be here again. I remember quite well the moment, the atmosphere as well as the blue skies over Innsbruck when I was here last time three years ago.

Then, I spoke mostly about Europe, not specifically about my own country, about the Czech Republic, and it will not be much different today. This doesn´t mean that I am not interested in my own country´s fate, or perhaps that I have nothing to say about it. It simply reflects the fact that a small country like the Czech Republic has only a very limited role and – what is more important – a very limited autonomy in Europe these days due to the current EU post-democratic and post-political institutional arrangements – especially when the country doesn´t have clear, decisive and self-confident stances and policies which is, to my great regret, our case just now. And not only our case.

The difference between the small and the big countries is in this respect absolutely crucial, which is, however, not sufficiently understood in the bigger countries, as their arrogant behaviour often suggests. Austria, the country of the same small size as the Czech Republic, on the contrary, knows something about it.

Last time, I discussed here the European problems as I saw them in March 2015. I also paid attention to one more general issue, still not fully understood in Western Europe – to the fundamental difference, erroneously hidden and played down, to the difference between Europe and the European Union. I would like to make the difference sufficiently explicit.

Europe is a continent, a geographical, cultural and civilizational entity, not a political entity. Europe is to a certain degree a culturally homogeneous area (vis-à-vis other continents or subcontinents), even though the degree of cultural homogeneity inside Europe is far from being absolute. Europe is, nevertheless, civilizationally different from the rest of the world because of its Judeo-Greek-Christian roots, of its reformation and enlightenment, of its Westphalian concept of nation states, of its French revolution (with its two-sided, highly ambivalent consequences and effects), etc.

The European Union is something else. It is a man-made, temporary (not only contemporary), construct. The current EU, as opposed to its original project, is the result of constructivist ambitions to undermine the genuine diversity and plurality in Europe by means of creating a centralistic structure of society, by means of increasing the role of administrative bodies as opposed to elected politicians, by transforming democracy into post-democracy, by centralizing decision-making, by homogenizing, harmonizing, standardizing the continent, by suppressing all kinds of naturally risen differences, by weakening the states as fundamental and irreplaceable political entities.

When I was here last time, I discussed the “day before yesterday´s” events and developments in Europe which bothered me at that time – the economic and financial crisis at the end of the last decade as well as the following economic stagnation, the EU member states budgetary crisis, the Greek insolvency (which became the most visible part of the Euro problems), the Ukraine failure (wrongly interpreted as a Ukraine-Russia conflict). There is nothing new or innovative I can add to it now. These issues still persist and have their specific causes, but in addition to them they have one thing in common – they belong to the most visible manifestations of an already long time existing general crisis of the Western (and especially European) world which we still don´t fully understand. Some of us even don´t want to understand it.

What has happened since March 2015? We witnessed many expected and unexpected big events – Brexit in Europe, Trump in America, Islamic State offensive in the Middle East as well as many smaller ones. The main issue which differentiates the years 2015 and 2018 is the phenomenon of mass migration into Europe in the year 2015 which has become the new defining issue of our time. This is because migration is more than just another issue. It touches upon fundamental aspects of citizenship, community and identity of our countries.

Especially the issue of citizenship is crucial. Citizenship reflects that one belongs to a particular political community. I strongly disagreed with a well-known and often quoted President Obama´s statement when he famously (or perhaps rather infamously) announced that he is “a citizen of the world”. He was not alone in accepting and promoting this fallacy. European political elites similarly keep saying that they are citizens of Europe. Yet, it is impossible to be a citizen of Europe. Europe is not a political community. One can only be an inhabitant of Europe.

European political communities are the nation states. We are Czechs, Austrians, Germans. We speak Czech, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, not a European Esperanto. We don´t want to erase our borders and to get rid of the distinction between citizen and foreigner. Due to it, we have a strong view about mass migration and refuse the cosmopolitan stances of European political elites and their fellow-travellers.

I – together with my long-time collaborator Jiří Weigl – wrote a short book about it. Its German version was called “Die Völkerwanderung“, the English version was named “Europe All Inclusive”. These titles look at the first sight differently but the subtitle was the same: “A Brief Guide to Understanding the Current Migration Crisis”[1].

The book tries to enter into polemics with the misinterpretations of the European migration crisis based on an aprioristic, progressivist, politically correct assumption of the European political and intellectual elites that migration is a positive social phenomenon, They try to convince us that it is normal to migrate. I strongly disagree, I am convinced that it is normal not to migrate. I find it normal to accept the country one was born in, to identify oneself with it and to take it as a highly respected homeland.

In this book we don’t speak about individual migration, about the slow, non-disruptive, sufficiently humble and non-aggressive procedure known for centuries and millennia. Our book is devoted to the issue of mass migration, to the movements of hundreds of thousands or millions of people, to the unnatural processes that are artificially provoked and stimulated. What we see in Europe now is not a spontaneous activity of individuals, it is an organized process.

It has mostly negative consequences. Mass migration necessarily leads to substantial cultural, social and political conflicts, shocks and tensions. It undermines the – for centuries and millennia gradually developed – structure of society in individual countries, their culture, habits, customs, behavioural patterns, ways of life. All that is – by European political elites – highly underestimated. Perhaps not underestimated, they don´t want to see it. They have different aims and ambitions. We should make them explicit.

The current political conflict about migration shouldn´t be misinterpreted as a conflict between humanism and xenophobia, or between solidarity and egoism as they try to present it. It is about something else. It is a conflict between those who believe in freedom and in a nation state and those who don´t share such a belief. It is an ideological conflict.

Mass migration has been justified and defended by means of the failed doctrine of multiculturalism. To herald (if not to worship) this approach is wrong. For countries to function, they need a minimum (which is not low) degree of homogeneity and unity, not a maximum of heterogeneity (and diversity), but the ideology of multiculturalism tries to deny this. History teaches us that fragmented and borderless societies can´t exist. Certainly not for a long time. Borders are important. The current migration wave to Europe has been made possible by the fact that the EU borders have been open and unprotected for a long time and remain open even after all that has been happening since 2015.[2]

Let me turn attention to the economic aspect of this issue now. I want to challenge the often repeated errors and misunderstandings and especially the claim that we in Europe need mass migration because there are not enough people here to work. It is not true.

In our book we stated that “any reasonably thinking person must admit that – in absolute terms – the available labour force in the EU is sufficient. The unemployment figures are high and they are high in spite of the fact that many Europeans voluntarily step out of the unemployment statistics… The spoilt, overeducated labour force (overeducated in terms of time spent in schools, not in terms of the quality of education) refuses to take up certain jobs… The current pseudohumanistic ideologies offer these people a tempting possibility to leave the labour force, claiming there is in fact no obligation to work. Instead, they are offered financial means from sources other than actual work.” (Europe All Inclusive, p. 55). I don´t have to change these words.

There are two dimensions to this issue – the would-be absolute shortage of people and the structural discrepancy caused by the fact that Europeans don´t want to do low-skilled, dirty, tough, dangerous, non-pleasant, physically demanding jobs, or as American senator Tom Cotton puts it, they don´t want to be “the people who work with their hands and on their feet”[3].

The European political elites try to convince us that we need a steady supply of cheap unskilled labour because there are jobs no Europeans want to do. I disagree. This is a high-brow position of our political elites, which is insulting to millions of Czechs, Austrians, Germans, who do these jobs. This is the arrogance of our governing class, of our political, academic, cultural, journalist celebrities.

This is also an uneconomic or even anti-economic argumentation. Such attitude has no proper basis in economics. Australian economist Peter Smith[4] argues that “if particular jobs are left unfilled for any lengthy period, it is because the price on offer is too low. This most particularly applies to jobs requiring little knowledge or skill. Such jobs can be filled without too much difficulty if the price is right… If a municipality has difficulty in finding street sweepers, it is because the wage they are offering is too low. There is nothing more to it.” (p. 35).

Our experience, and now I speak on behalf of those, who spent decades in a communist centrally planned economy, tells us that market economy itself is a very powerful mechanism, which provides a solution to shortages of whatever kind. We understood that price movements are able to fix such problems.

We have market economy now (heavily constrained and weakened) but we have in our countries strong and very powerful business lobby groups as well which try to suppress this irreplaceable mechanism. They don´t want the spontaneous adjustments and restructurings. They favour the import of cheap foreign labour instead. This is or may be good for them, not for us, not for unskilled or low-skilled workers in our countries, not for our already overburdened social welfare systems, not for our state budgets and financial systems, not for the efficiency of the economy, not for the health of the whole society. Those who understand it, should help to reject this very one-sided lobbying.

Coming back to the core of the issue, I have to repeat that I am very much against the globalist and Europeist mind-set. Our countries – the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany – are not only a part of the world, they are real entities with real borders and with real people. The citizens of our countries don´t feel they are citizens of the world. We, in the Czech Republic, are not morally obliged to treat everyone like a Czech (especially if he doesn´t play by our rules). The same is true about other countries. This should be our very strong point.

I will once again quote American senator Tom Cotton: “while we wish our fellow men in other countries well, it is only our fellow citizens to whom we have a duty and whose rights our government was created to protect” (p. 4). To say that is not a nationalism, not a xenophobia. This is just a rational thinking.

The West-European countries (especially Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Great Britain) opened their doors to mass migration of unskilled and low-skilled workers, even though not all of them have come here to work. The political leaders of these countries are aware of this fact. It was a tragic mistake which should be corrected as soon as possible. It is long overdue.

Thank you for your attention.

Václav Klaus, Speech at the Management Center Innsbruck, 19. January 2018.

[1] Klaus, V., Weigl, J., Stěhování národů s. r. o., Olympia, 2015 (in Czech). Völkerwanderung, Manuscriptum Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin, 2016 (in German) and Europe All Inclusive, the Václav Klaus Institute, Prague, 2017 (in English).

[2] More about it in my Introductory notes at the presentation of the French version of our book, Café Le Procope, Paris, France, December 8, 2017. You can find it also here: www.klaus.cz/clanky/4215.

[3] Cotton, T., Immigration in the National Interest, Imprimis, Hillsdale Colleague, October 2017, Volume 46, Number 10.

[4] Smith, P., The Truth about „Menial“ Work and Immigration, Quadrant, Australia, November 2017. 


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