“This is not the Europe I was dreaming of” [1]

Author: Lola Joksimović,

The migrant[2] is the political category of our time, a political concept implying that the person is stigmatized as a result of his/hers mobility. The criterion of the “mobility” as one of the priorities of the EU policies is, however applicable only to its own citizens. Colonizers claimed the ultimate right to freedom of movement and the power to define and restrict the movement of the colonized. Is European migration a Legacy of Colonial interventions?
In Serbia, we still wrongly think that all migrants and refugees will finally go to the EU. In the meanwhile the ambassador of one MS dryly remarked: “With the collapse of Schengen Agreement, refugees could stay in Serbia […] which would become a sort of “parking” for these people”. Hence the critical need for clear national policy towards migrants which would be compatible with all Western Balkan regions policies, and beyond.
Fears are giving abundant space for manipulation. Why does Europe panic? Although new arrivals from nations suffering war, tyranny and climate change made up just 0.027 per cent of Europe’s population last year, it “simply cannot be allowed to be continued”, “Fortress Europe” must protect its borders from the “influx”, the “tide”, the “flood”. The arrival of migrants provides abundancy of material for manipulators who claim that they will snatch our poorly paid jobs (Victims’ vs Opportunists). Every refugee and migrant has now explicitly become a potential terrorist, hiding among the crowd of migrants. Terrorism is equated with being a Muslim, by definition oppressive to women. Many Europeans fear that the influx of foreigners will weaken their comfortable cultural identity. It is weaponized inhumanity designed to convince people fracturing under hammer-blows of austerity and economic chaos that the enemy is out there, that there is an “us” that must be protected from “them”. But then again, the vitality of contemporary states largely originates from the energy and ideas that are on its shores brought once by the waves of immigrants. The influx of people, who have proven to be durable and smart as they managed to escape from repression at home and survive all the deadly dangers on the road to Europe, should be an opportunity and not a weakness, an injection of energy and enthusiasm well needed in Europe. However, most European countries do not consider themselves migrants’ nations. What the two crises of migration and terrorism both have in common is that they have become the dominant political figures through which nation-states express their own internal crises. The problem is not migration but socio-economic inequality. Poverty and exclusion are faced by working class people of all backgrounds.
Therefore, the critical question (in the Greek sense of the word ‘krisis’ as a decision) is not what is to be done with the migrants, but rather what is to be done with Europe? Should it be transformed, following demands and needs of global migrants, in a Europe of Citizens not States, or further fortified, securitized, and nationalized, responding to attacks by terrorist groups?
Wolfram Eilenberger, Philosopher and publicist, has said about refugee crisis: “year 2015 marks the end of the lie central to the lives of an entire European generation. I am referring to the furtive hope that the specific suffering shaping and determining billions of lives in the Middle East, Asia and Africa might be kept at a distance over the coming decades. I am referring to the illusion of a core Europe as an unwalled Garden of Eden in a world of poverty and misery.”
The European Union itself is going through a crisis of values, where key principles of democracy, human rights, participation and rule of law need constant defense, at the same time as having to cope with the reception and integration of millions of new citizens, many of whom are fleeing war, poverty, violence and natural disaster.
Failure to release the potential of third-country nationals in the EU would represent a massive waste of resources, both for the individuals concerned themselves and more generally for our economy and society. There is a clear risk that the cost of non-integration will turn out to be higher than the cost of investment in integration policies. EC, Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals 2016
However it is not easy or immediate to achieve a balance between the opposing sentiments of compassion and solidarity and those of fear, anger and suspicion towards those who arrive in our countries from distant worlds.
Critical thinking, resistance and international solidarity are the fundamental values of Europe, which we evoke to rethink our common future. Democracy has been taken for granted, but it is a practice that has to be considered and developed every day. There is no democracy without respect for the inalienable rights of individuals and minorities such as the refugees/migrants. Migrants have to be recognized as cornerstones in the monitoring and defense of democratic values and human rights, inherent to all human beings without discrimination (whatever nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status). Our rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
Migration is one of humanity’s most basic human instincts – to go in search of new horizons. If we use the term ‘crisis’, it is appropriate to speak about the fundamental European values that are in crisis and the regression of European vision in dealing with the refugees. The so-called “refugee crisis” is in fact a crisis of our democratic societies.
Europe might continue its slow descent into “authoritarian populism”[3] . Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fueling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of ultra-nationalism, racism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly urges, once thought by Europeans to be purged by unification. Under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, politics will become a barely sublimated warfare. This will be a class warfare that denies its very nature — a war against the poor, a race war against minorities, a gender war against women, a religious war against Muslims, a war against the vulnerable.
In a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy” (Matt Taibbi, The Rolling Stone)
While art itself might not change the world, it’s clear that it can empower those who will.  Art can help counter the rising rhetoric of right-wing populism and fascism, and its increasingly stark expressions of xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and unapo­logetic intolerance. As people working in culture, it is our job and our duty to reimagine and reinvent social relations threatened by right-wing populist rule. It is our responsibility to stand in solidarity.
We know that freedom is never granted: it is won. Justice is never given: it is re-demanded. Both must be fought for and protected, but both have never before been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp, as at this moment. The aggressive populism we see today seems to be a testament to people refusing to be silent — and rightly so.
We should not go silently.

[1] Refugee from Sudan, Italy, 2016
[2] So, the large numbers of people arriving in recent years by boats in Greece, Italy and elsewhere. ‘Refugee’ or ‘migrant’ – Which is right? Refugees are persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution. Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. According to UNESCO in fact, they happen to be both.
[3] Stuart Hall, cultural theorist

Taken from

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