The barbaric murder of British MP Jo Cox, civilly committed to supporting Great Britain’s permanence in the European Union, is a very serious matter. It makes everyone angry and it should make us reflect on the turbid and obscurantist environment, experienced not only in Great Britain but in the whole of Europe. When political debate degenerates into unjustifiable violent behavior such as this, it means that the fundamental principles governing democracy, peaceful coexistence, and pluralism of ideas are at risk. Certainly, BrExit is a further complication in an already very precarious European context, weaker politically, economically, and socially speaking.
This “old, tired, and selfish” Europe, as Pope Francis points out, proves it has no respect for human life and people’s dignity. It is the same short-sighted Europe we have already seen with The Fiscal Compact and economic austerity. It chooses to monetize its own disengagement, as in the case of the agreement with Turkey, in order to evade international obligations towards asylum seekers. That is why the European Trade Union Confederation was right to mobilize these last few days: we must shake the hearts and minds of European citizens.
The European Union must recover its social and cultural model, in its original principles to answer this emergency, in line with international agreements, to prevent the refugee question – as well as wrong economic policies, insistence on ‘austerity, growing inequality and social problems – from becoming a possible disintegrating element for Europe and an irreversible crisis factor for integration. Italy is a country of migrants, which knows what it means to leave, leave one’s land and loved ones. We know the suffering of being uprooted from one’s territory. Exactly because of what we used to be, in this historical phase we are called to give a great example of acceptance, inclusion, and solidarity to the world.
Many trade union members throughout Europe can stress the values that inspired the birth of the “European” dream together with us, which consists especially of shared ideas and principles, integration, centrality of human rights, and a project of common home. All European countries have signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951, known as the Geneva Convention. It is our duty to accommodate those seeking political asylum, people who flee from war, persecution, dictatorships, and threats to the integrity of their own existence.
Other nations – which are very poor, with very low incomes, and often the scenario of bloody wars and mass exoduses – are doing so. I mean Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Kenya, which has been hosting the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, for over 50 years now (with half a million refugees, mainly from Somalia). Nobody tells us these things: 80% of the world’s refugees are hosted by countries we used to call the “Third World”.
Tunisia, which has 11 million inhabitants hosts 1 million Libyans, Lebanon has 4 million inhabitants and hosts nearly 1 million refugees: then why Europe, with its over 400 million people today, should feel threatened by the refugees’ arrival?
We must restore the truth, exorcize fears, and invite people to show courage, so Europe can live up to the values that inspired it.
Italy has done a good job with the refugees so far. In particular, with the Migration Compact, Europe has asked a Community management of migration flows and to tackle the root of the migratory phenomenon with a big project of international cooperation, beyond the emergency. The latter should invests in the development of African countries which feed migration, financed with an extraordinary emission of Eurobonds and able to bring the phenomenon to physiological dynamics in the long run.
This is the path we must follow today. But we also have to fight the conditions of illegality and exploitation of migrants, blackmailing at the hand of the underworld, which shamefully makes money on the lives of so many poor people. Equal treatment and the integration of refugees into the labor market represents also a development opportunity. We need adequate public services, housing, well-equipped shelters, investments that can promote economic growth and the creation of quality jobs for the common good. This must become Europe’s challenge today.
We must know how to integrate refugees and at the same time revive the values of cohesion, social justice, labor as an opportunity for inclusion and redemption, respecting different faiths and identities. It is a cultural battle we have to fight, starting from school and from the workplace, if we want to build a true European policy of peace and progress, in the universal extension of our rights.