Nothing Quiet on the Migration Front

Editor’s Note: The following is drawn from remarks delivered in late March at the Mathias Covinus Collegium International Conference on Migration in Budapest, Hungary.

Many thanks for the invitation and for giving me the floor together with this prestigious group of speakers. I would like, first, to congratulate the organizers of the conference for choosing such an important topic in the right moment—before the European Parliament elections.

Some of us are no great fans of the European Parliament because this is not a real parliament. The parliament is usually the most significant symbol of a democratic system, as it is in our nation states. This is, however, not the case of the European Parliament. Its undemocratic substance can’t be improved by increasing its competences or by changing its electoral procedures or its voting system. Democracy needs a demos and it is an undisputed fact that there is no demos at the European level. But let’s turn to the topic of our conference which is the mass migration into Europe.

I agree with the title of the conference which indicates that the mass migration is “the Biggest Challenge of Our Time.” I have only one disagreement with it: the question mark in the title is superfluous. I suppose most of us came here because we are convinced that this formulation is not a question, but a statement of an evident fact. Regretfully, not many European leaders are ready to say it aloud, clearly and convincingly. Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán is one of the few, if not the only one.

He and many of us who share similar views  have been heavily criticized over the years by European political, academic, and journalistic elites. We have been criticized without serious counterarguments. The arguments used for advocating the mass migration remain unconvincing, are full of holes and are, therefore, untenable. The facts speak for themselves.

The relatively new fashion among the European politically correct politicians is to claim that the episode of mass migration is over, that we are already behind the peak of the migration influx, that we shouldn’t misuse the easily evoked fear of common people for the sake of achieving our alternative political goals. I can’t disagree more. The phenomenon of mass migration is here, is here to stay, and is getting stronger and stronger.

Instead of using arguments, the powerful European elites use labels. The critics of the mass migration and of the mass migration advocacy are called populists. This is an empty accusation without any material substance. Serious people know that the labeling is not an analysis. And analysis is in the age of the deep intellectual confusion and moral emptiness difficult to find.

I wrote a short book about mass migration three years ago. It has already been published in eight European languages, including Hungarian. The last launching of the book took place two weeks ago in Italy. I am not going to repeat its arguments; let me mention two main points I consider crucial:

We should strictly differentiate individual and mass migration. This difference is fundamental. The European political elites speak about mass migration but use—almost exclusively—the arguments relevant for individual migration only. In the case of the mass migration, we shouldn’t concentrate on the fates of individual migrants but on the consequences of migration for the countries where the migrants massively go.

The absorption capacity of countries for individual migration is relatively high. Mass migration, on the contrary represents a fundamental attack on the cohesion, coherence, traditions, habits, institutions, cultural patterns, and social systems of countries which are these days flooded by migrants. Mass migration necessarily leads to substantial cultural, social, and political conflicts, shocks, and tensions. It touches upon fundamental aspects of citizenship, community and the identity of our countries. The European political leaders pretend not to see it. This is unacceptable.

As an economist, I am schooled to apply the terms “supply” and “demand” wherever it is possible, which means also in the non-market settings. My experience tells me that these two terms are very useful also in the discussion of the mass migration.

Most of commentators speak about mass migration without differentiating its supply and demand side. There is no doubt that there exist big problems in many developing countries of the world, in the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia. This, of course, creates a reservoir of potential migrants. The worse the situation in the country is, the more motives for migration are created. This story is true but by itself is insufficient in understanding the whole story.

The supply of migrants must eventually find its demand. Without it, no migration can come about. The European countries are strong enough to stop mass migration on condition they decide to do it. We cannot directly influence the supply side but we do indirectly influence it, especially in a negative sense, when we destabilize the vulnerable countries by exporting revolutions there—as it happened with the Arab Spring—or when we can make wars in other countries, as was the case in Iraq. Basically, however, we are positioned on the demand side.

And here comes my main dissident’s argument: I consider the demand side in the current European migration context to be the crucial one, not the supply side caused by the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, or elsewhere in Somalia. The migrants find themselves in the European countries and cities because there has been an explicit or implicit demand for them. The implicit demand is more important. It is based on the current European culture and ideology, on multiculturalism, on progressivism of liberal democracy, on the pseudo-humanism of political correctness, on our version of the social system.

Returning to the explicit gestures, I don’t have in mind only the well-known explicit gestures like the one made by Angela Merkel in 2015 (even though I wouldn’t underestimate its huge impact). Similar gestures and statements have been made repeatedly by many other European politicians, journalists, public intellectuals, and especially by the political NGOs. Such gestures also belong to the official position of the European Union.

There are, in my understanding, two main motives the authors of these gestures have. They do it on the one hand as an expression of their own feeling of humanism, philanthropy, and compassion with human suffering. This  gives them the feeling of being good, regretfully, without serious thinking about the side-effects and consequences. Or they invite migrants more or less ideologically in connection with their almost religious belief in the ideology of multiculturalism, with their belief that diversity is more than unity; heterogeneity is better than homogeneity; sharp conflicts of values, behavioral patterns, cultural principles and religions contribute to human happiness (and social progress) more than social, cultural, and religious harmony.

I suppose most of us who came here do not share these views. We came here because we are the so called “Somewheres” not the “Anywheres,” because we belong to a particular political community, to our nation states. We are not “citizens of the world” (in President Obama’s sense), we are also not citizens of Europe. We are inhabitants of Europe, but citizens of our nation-states.

To my great regret, there emerged in the last decades another source of demand for mass migration which is specific for the contemporary post-democratic, centralistic, nation states suppressing European Union.

The European elites understood that to succeed in their ambition to get rid of the nation-states and to create a State of Europe (and a European Nation) they have to dissolve the old existing nations by mixing them with migrants from all over the world. By means of this procedure they want to create a new, truly European man, a Homo bruxellarum. This is the main reason why they are—without paying attention to all kinds of negative and destructive side-effects—supporting and promoting mass migration.

They don’t want to stop migration. They do want to manage, organize, and mastermind it. They are helped in this respect by United Nations documents such as the recent Compact on Migration. These documents were not written in Africa, but here in Europe and in America. They reflect the multiculturalists’ demand-side way of thinking, not the thinking of victims of war or the victims of bloody ethnic cleansings on the supply-side.

It is our task to oppose these ideas and to block the irresponsible behavior of their exponents. It is not easy to suggest how we will do it. I am skeptical about the power of reasoned arguments against aprioristic beliefs and against evident nonsense. Many people are largely immune to reason, evidence, and coherent arguments. We have to return this issue to the political level. Politicians like Prime Minister Orbán must win the elections and get a chance to influence the way of thinking in Europe. I wish them great success in this endeavour.

Photo Credit: Federico Scoppa/AFP/Getty Images

About Václav Klaus

Václav Klaus is a Czech economist and politician who served as the second president of the Czech Republic from 2003 to 2013.

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