Vanmiddag was ik te gast bij het Europees Economisch en Sociaal Comité voor een conferentie over immigratie. De premisse was dat de immigratie een bron van welvaart vormt voor Europa. De puntjes moesten dus even op de ‘i’ gezet worden. Simultaanvertaling uit het Nederlands bleek niet mogelijk, dus moest het dan maar in het Engels.
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Like the other speakers, I don’t have a lot of speaking time, so I might as well come straight to the point. I think we should at least put a question mark to the title of today’s conference.
Is immigration really a source of wealth for Europe? There is no doubt that some immigrants are an asset to the European countries they go to, that they make a contribution to the further economic development and the economic growth of these countries. But unfortunately that’s not the case with many other immigrants.
It could be tempting to look at individuals, but as lawmakers, as shapers of policy we have the duty to look at the whole picture. I think we can all agree that the position of immigrants on the labour market is a good indicator to assess whether or not immigration is a source of wealth.
Allow me to start with my own country. According to the VDAB, the public employment office of Flanders, the unemployment rate with people from non-EU nationalities is 24.7%. This is no less than five times superior to people with an EU nationality living in Flanders.
In Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, the unemployment rate of non-EU immigrants amounts to 38.7%, in Brussels to 32%.
According to Eurostat, the figure on EU level is 19.9%. Non-European immigrants, in other words, are overrepresented in the unemployment statistics and are actually a social and economic burden to their host countries.
It is often assumed that Europe needs even more immigration, both for demographic reasons and to fill the shortfall in the supply of skilled workers. This, however, would only be a short-term solution. New immigrants will grow old too, their pensions will have to be paid for, and they will have to be supplemented by newer generations of immigrants.
Currently, more than 25 million people in the European Union are unemployed. It is our duty to put our focus on them first, in order to get them to work, instead of resorting to ever more immigration. We would betray these people if we would fail to do so. They should be provided training or extra training to fill job vacancies.
We should learn from the mistakes of the past. In the 1960s and 70s people were invited to come to work in some of the old member states of the EU. First came European immigrant workers, mainly from Spain and Italy. These people and their families eventually fully integrated into our society.
The European immigrant workers were later followed by people from Turkey and North African countries like Morocco. They worked hard as well, but many of them failed to integrate due to the cultural gap that proved to be too wide.
It was simply overlooked that people are no commodities that can be moved from one part of the world to another without any problem. Cultural background does matter.
TurksevlaggenToday it is an established fact that many young people of Turkish origin living in Germany, for instance, speak German less well than their parents and grandparents. Many of them have chosen to reject the country they live in, even when they enjoy citizenship of that very country.
In many of our capital cities and other main cities in Europe, parallel societies have emerged where immigrants go to their own mosques obviously, they go to their own shops, their own barbers, their own restaurants, their own clubs. They need satellite dishes to watch television programs from their countries of origin.
The existence of these parallel societies is not a source of wealth, it is a source of conflict or potential conflict. In many cases they could be called ghettoes, ghettoes that are characterised by high unemployment and crime rates. In some communes of Brussels, for instance, there are no-go areas where the police and other uniformed services (even fire fighters) are not tolerated anymore.
It’s not possible to calculate the cost of all this in financial terms, but it does represent a burden to society.
For many years we took our fundamental European values for granted, like the separation of the church and the state, the equal treatment of men and women, the rule of law, the freedom of expression, etc. Today, however, these essential and important concepts are increasingly under attack, due to the rise of Islamic extremism in Europe. Another source of conflict.
We should not give in to these threats, and stand our ground.
We should stop accepting that particular and private interest groups like big corporations who advocate more immigration in order to keep wages low, that these interest groups foot the bill to society as a whole.
The member states should be allowed to conduct restrictive immigration and integration policies, like limiting the numbers of people coming in, like protecting their social security systems from people who have never contributed to it and never will.
In that respect, the EU provides no solutions to the problem, it is actually part of the problem. The member states should be allowed to control their own borders again.
And last but not least, the general public, the voters should be involved, they should have their say.
To my knowledge, there’s not a single EU member state where the people have ever been actually asked if they agreed to the changes they could witness in their streets, in their neighbourhoods, especially in the main cities. Changes that occurred as a result of mass immigration of people coming from substantially different cultures. Let’s have a referendum in the member states.
I say let’s give immigration and integration policy more democratic legitimacy: let the people decide!