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Bucharest
March 6, 2021
EDITORIAL

Immigrants

There are two kinds of images. That of the Palestinian girl who starts to cry when Angela Merkel seems to crash her the hope of a permanent stay in Germany, where she has ended up after plenty of adventures. Or, a very different image, that of an African (or an Asian) who hits an innocent pedestrian with his car by night, on the crosswalk, or rapes a local girl in the park, by night. In the first case, the immigrant is a victim who impresses any sensitive person. He / she gets away from war, poverty or both, just like the Palestinian girl tortured by disabilities that are all the more invalidating in refugee camps from Lebanon or Syria. He / she deserves even more help for getting harmoniously integrated in the hosting country: by learning its language, by obeying its laws, by being grateful for the support – which is, once again, the case of the young Palestinian girl. In the second case, the immigrant is a danger, degraded by his precarious situation, acting at times as if he had nothing to lose, as if he were in a jungle, not in a civilisation that protects the life, the dignity and wealth of its members. To suit these images, there are two great political options, so that one of the main topics for disagreement at economical level, both inside the EU and in the internal politics of states, is that of immigration.

Let us admit that both position have their legitimacy. Solidarity to refugees cast away by war, poverty, dictatorships, epidemics is human, especially for a Europe that got accustomed to the exigencies of Christianity for two millenniums.

Europeans themselves have experienced too many such dramas of geographic relocation. The last war meant, besides military and civil victims, millions of fugitives, many of them forced the finally change their country of residence. Closer to our days, the wars in former Yugoslavia resulted in some more hundreds of refugees, trying the escape the perspective of massacres.  As for poverty, Romanians themselves know what it means to walk away, along with hundreds of thousands of your fellow countrymen, to work in Western states, leaving behind their children to grow up on their own in the country. This solidarity has, therefore, plenty of reasons, not to mention the obvious economical advantages: less expensive labour force, willing to do lesser qualified activities, a necessity in more layered societies, with dynamic economies. The matter of demographic increase is another non-negligible fact, as it has become a real issue in Europe, for many years. Obviously, there are significant downsides as well: the periods of recession and the implicit increase of unemployment lead to a competition that may disadvantage locals. Not to mention the unavoidable cultural mix, with all its question marks. The Islamic case is the most startling, due to its recent terrorist outburst, but the issue if wider and of greater perspective. Future Europe, including a great number of successors of the immigrants, could give up in the future much more than it is willing to accept today, regarding the change of its cultural identity. And this is an issue far more serious than urgent ones. Besides blaringly obvious cases, the criminality of immigrants is not necessarily more aggressive than that of local people. A few years ago, as Romanian immigrants in Italy were demonized by the press as a bunch of criminal invaders, a local NGO published a statistics of rapes in the Peninsula. Most offenders were Italian, and they were frequently relatives of victims. Yet, it would also be irresponsible to ignore the specific challenges caused by an increasing migratory wave.

Immigration remains, nonetheless, a major issue at the level of the EU, and divergencies are sometimes acute. The proof to that is represented by the recent agreement regarding the redistribution of the great number of people who have already entered the most exposed countries, Italy and Greece.

Actually, the left-right polarization evolved in most European countries towards new criteria of differentiation; among them, the position towards immigration has an increasingly significant role.

The right wing usually promises “walls”, while the left wing denounces the so-called political racism of political enemies. What happens in Romania though? Although its official position in this field is not very explicit, so far, our country never expressed a great amount of willingness to receive a significant number of immigrants. As Romania is among the poorest countries in the EU, it does merely represent, usually, a space of transit for most of the people dreaming about the more prosperous civilisation of the Occident. Furthermore, despite of their usual rhetoric, Romanians are inclined towards xenophobic attitudes. Even they are not defined by the harsh and challenging attitude of Hungarians, who have recently started to build a protection wall at the border with Serbia, if the number of immigrants increased visibly, their social integration would face additional pressure. Romanians – just like other nations living in Central and Eastern Europe – are living togethr with a mosaic of minorities, which makes them all the more sensitive to the evolution of ethnic configurations.

Besides, Romanians have racist tendencies, which are far subtler now, but not to be neglected in the future. Finally, no Romanian political party in our country has any strategy for visionary redefining of the cultural identity of the Romanian society.

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