Instead of thinking about some creative plans to genuinely and systematically improve the lives of all those Africans who are dreaming about moving to Europe, such as recolonialization of Africa, the apparatchiks in the European Commission – an enelected government of the EU – proposed another "clever solution", namely the EU-wide refugee quotas.
They must have completely lost their mind.
Some EU countries suffer because they include similar sceneries.
So far, they talk about a very modest group of 20,000 refugees in two years but it's obvious that this number is just a "demo" and if such centrally controlled transfers were codified, all the EU member states would soon or later see inflows of millions of people. You just can't "force" sovereign countries accept tons of refugees – especially if the overwhelming majority of the citizens opposes such a policy.
Europe was immediately divided to camps according to the countries' opinions about such a proposal. Some Southern states may want to enforce these quotas for an obvious egotist reason – they want to reduce their own problems and responsibilities. And there are not-so-Southern states, especially France but – to a lesser extent – Germany and Austria that also say that it is a good idea.
The official French fairy-tale chooses Italy as the most important "victim" of its low latitude. Update Sunday: French PM actually denounced the quota initiative as well, so I guess and hope that the proposal is dead.
I think that one must be more accurate and say that the governments of these countries say similar things because I don't believe that in either country, the majority of the population actually wants the dynamics to go in this way.
The countries clearly opposing the proposal include at least the U.K., Ireland, Denmark, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), and the Visegrad Group of Central Europe (Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland). Finland, Spain, and Romania would probably vote against the quotas as well but I can't be 100% certain that the opposition would include both 35% of the EU population and the minimum number of "large countries" which are needed to veto a proposal that earns a "majority".
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán pointed out that it was a "mad idea" and he has no plans to start to build a "multicultural society". He criticized the usage of the nice word "solidarity" because what is actually being promoted is "illegal immigration" which is an "offense". One is enforcing the law, and not breaking solidarity, by opposing this offense.
Hungary is a country where 40,000 applicants get an asylum each year (1/2 from Kosovo but also Syria etc.) before they move to Germany or Austria.
Czech prime minister Sobotka said that all such adoption of the refugees must be voluntary, not compulsory, and he made it clear that in Czechia's case, the numbers are bound to remain symbolic. For example, he has boasted that we have already accepted 70 Syrian refugees. He has also hinted that the Czech nation opposes similar policies pretty much unanimously and to introduce such policies would mean to place the (currently almost non-existent) nationalist parties at the top of our political spectrum.
Under the plan, Czechia would immediately have to give permanent citizenship to 525 refugees which would be no big deal, either, as the internal affairs minister pointed out, but additional 10,000 would have to become "promising applicants" according to the plan, and this number is already highly problematic (there are just 10,000 Muslims and 10,000 Jews in Czechia now). The plan is a problem for Czechia for another mundane reason: we have simply abolished the refugee camps years ago. In the 1990s, they were used to naturalize Yugoslav refugees – who were "cousins" of a sort. But we have never had any systematic program to mass naturalize exotic refugees and the camps were too expensive to be maintained. The real long-term problem is that any "okay" that could come from Czechia could be automatically extended to future, much larger, transfers.
Czech president Zeman says that refugees must be helped "locally" in their home regions, not elsewhere, and not only because they may include jihadists who will blow up his villa (the Prague Castle).
The pro-immigration discourse often likes to suggest that the immigrants are some heroic victims of the political oppression by a dictator. But that's not why an overwhelming majority of the refugees arrive to Europe (or elsewhere). Almost all of them arrive for economic reasons. Their national economies don't work too well and that's true for several countries whose leader deserves to be called a dictator as well as many countries where he doesn't.
This opinion piece at Deutsche Welle is a rather typical summary of the motives of the supporters of the mad idea.
Forcing to pay for mistakes of others
The most important principle that these people ignore is that the individual nations have the right to believe in different values and policies. Most people in nations whose governments oppose the plan – but I think that most people in most nations of Europe – are convinced that countries like France have badly scr*wed up things by adopting the policies derived from irresponsible, politically correct fairy-tales. Their fabric of the society has been badly damaged, one-half of their cartoonists have been exterminated, the other half has been silenced, and the country that used to be a beacon of freedom and secularism is converging towards some religious dark ages.
We, almost all the Czechs and Hungarians, among others, have no responsibility whatsoever for these decisions. We considered them wrong in the past and we consider them wrong today and in the future, too. If others are making mistakes, others should pay for these mistakes, too. We're a democracy so these opinions matter. A politically correct jerk may call all people with these opinions "egotists" but they're still our legitimate opinions that will translate to our policies, as long as we maintain traces of democracy and sovereignty. This generalized "egotism" has always been a necessary condition that was preventing species, organisms, nations, companies, and other entities from harmful and especially suicidal developments.
And the countries that protect themselves against the mass immigration may turn out to be very useful for saving Europe, including the more dramatically "transformed" countries, in the future. So even if you live in a country that is currently "generous" to the refugees, you may find the skepticism in some other countries very helpful in the future.
Should geography matter?
But I especially want to focus on the German man's last sentence about the role of geography:
Just as geography alone cannot dictate how many people a country can take in, neither can European refugee policy be based on the generosity of a small number of its individual member states.Sorry but it will always be primarily geography plus generosity that will decide about the number of refugees embraced by one country or another. It has always been like that and in a system that isn't completely dysfunctional, it cannot be otherwise.
The word "generosity" is just an euphemism for the "politically correct opinions". There is nothing "universally good" about them and it's demagogy to use "generous" words to describe these attitudes. Other nations have different values and attitudes – different ideas how to improve their citizens' lives. But at the end, even the "generous" nations should know why they're doing what they're doing. At the end, they hope that it will make their countries a better place. It will improve the lives – lives of theirs and their (old and new) compatriots.
The other, our side has very similar "general motives". We just evaluate differently what it means for the lives and countries to improve and which policies are likely to lead to this outcome. We don't want to be "generous" in granting asylum because we think that these "generous" decisions ultimately make the life in the European countries worse. Whether the majority a nation believes that this kind of "generosity" is a good thing or a bad thing must have an impact on the nation's immigration policies.
But there's the other point made by the pro-quota writer. He thinks that the number of refugees shouldn't be dictated by geography. Due to the geography of Mediterranean refugee routes, Greece, Italy and Malta are the countries where the refugees are most likely to initially apply for asylum (but they may move elsewhere later), and it shouldn't be like that because it's not the Southern nations' fault that they were born as Southern nations, we are told.
It's not the fault of most of us that we were not born in a billionaire's family, either. That doesn't give us the right to rob the billionaires' assets. I could give you millions of examples.
The idea that the EU Commission should fix the "grievances caused by geography" is unbelievable. It's unbelievable because the European Union still involves 28 de iure sovereign nations that have no obligation to share all of their problems and feelings and in most cases, they don't share almost anything. And it's a fact about geography – a trivial implication of algebraic topology applied to the Earth's geometry – that a boat of illegal immigrants coming from the African Mediterranean beaches is likely to end at the European Mediterranean beaches and those don't belong to Slovakia or other countries.
But let's imagine that the citizens of the EU want to feel like "one people" or "one demos" that wants to do things together. Italy, Greece, and Malta are so handicapped that they have thousands of miles of the Mediterranean beaches – including all the annoying palm trees, olive trees, free fish swimming everywhere and waiting to be eaten, yachts, dolphins, and sunsets upon the shining surface of a blue sea – so nations like Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians have to help them with this trouble. Have you lost your mind?
Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary are landlocked countries. Our ancestors have simply chosen a place in the middle of Europe. Forefather Czech and his cohorts simply came to the Říp [rzeep] Mountain [picture above] sometime in 644 AD (the date is a legend by Václav Hájek of Libočany, but the whole event may be just an Old Czech Legend so it doesn't matter) and he said:
This is that promised land, full of animals and birds, abounding in honey...I am sure that the forefather was less articulate than Alois Jirásek who wrote the Old Czech Legends a century ago. At any rate, the patriotic legend says that he had found the ultimate paradise.
Needless to say, most Czechs have some doubts about the choice of the place. Songmaker Jaromír Nohavica recorded his well-known Ladian Winter combining romantic fairy-tale images of the traditional Czech winter with a modern man's complaints that the chilly winter really sucks and does all kinds of bad things. At 3:08, the lyrics reads:
When I see the Říp Mountain covered by snow at a distance, I tell myself: Forefather Czech, you have really been a terrible CIP (=moron). If you have managed to walk for a few more miles, I could have rolling my body in a swimming suit somewhere in a hot weather. Instead, one must be afraid of doing shopping in TESCO because of the piles of snow accumulated on their flat roofs.And so on. To say the least, our being far from the Mediterranean Sea is a mixed bag. Most Czechs – who view vacations near the Mediterranean Seas to be one of the accessible yet luxurious choices – would probably say that not having such a sea in our country is a net negative. There even exist claims that children who grow up without a sea are psychologically handicapped. I tend to think that this is immaterial, ill-defined, or superstitious nonsense but OK.
It's plausible that most Czechs would agree to take care of 50,000 new refugees a year if we were also given thousands of miles of the Mediterranean beaches.
At any rate, you can't force the landlocked countries to share all the negative consequences of having Mediterranean beaches while refusing to give them the positive ones. We have to pay almost a thousand of dollars to swim in the sea for a week. It's a big handicap and it can't be separated from the advantages of being geographically separated from the main inflows of refugees.
People and nations are born at different places, in different conditions. You can't do and you shouldn't do anything about most of these things. They are a part of the life. These differences really define what life is all about. Without differences, life wouldn't deserve to be called life at all.
I wrote that "not having Mediterranean beaches" is a mixed bag. Bags often come with advantages as well as disadvantages. But that doesn't mean that they always accurately balance each other. Most of the time, they don't. But even if they don't, the person or the nation who was "luckier" when it comes to the initial conditions simply can't have an obligation to share everything.
Czechia's incomes and pensions are still below the EU average although our production and especially exports per capita are significantly above the average. We don't have too much natural resources on our territory. And there are lots of other aspects of our "bad luck". You can't or you shouldn't cherry-pick the aspects of life and luck in which the countries are "obliged" to share the burden.
The idea of EU-wide refugee quotas is an example of such cherry-picked "sharing". The people who have the power to decide in which aspects of the life, the nations have to "share", have a huge power because they can really decide about the fate of whole nations, and if they're unelected, it's just very bad. This is the main reason why the political arrangements "in between" sovereign countries and a "truly integrated union" are so problematic.
When it works, you either make the citizens (with different nationalities) on a territory equal, or not. If they're equal, they have to be equal in almost all legal respects. If they're equal and "sharing" in some respects only, there are too many ways to choose "in which respects" i.e. too many sources for injustice, corruption, and double standards.
Now, the next question is: Don't we really want to turn the EU into a country? I do sometimes undergo moments when I would tend do say "Yes" for a minute (and also "Yes" to a closer integration with Germany for 2 minutes, "Yes" to the restoration of Austria-Hungary for 5 minutes, and "Yes" to a reunification of Czechoslovakia for 30 minutes; and I haven't discussed other options that sometimes fly through my imagination) – various things could become more efficient in a larger country – but "No" is the answer more than 99% of the time. I answer "No" because the European nations simply do not think as "one people". Their opinions about too many issues fail to be "quasi-uniform". The percentages of Europeans who support a certain policy (most policies) heavily depend on their nationality. So if there were anything like democracy in such an "EU country", and there should be, most of the political arguments would closely resemble "conflicts between nations". And those aren't a terribly safe method to deal with everyday political issues. Has a bigger nation that tends to choose "A" the right to politically beat a nation that unequivocally believes in "non A"? Don't the big nations or smaller nations or tiny nations have too much power? And so on.
That's the main reason why it's better to leave all such decisions to the individual countries. Well-working countries simply do require some degree of uniformity. The concept of a "metanation" simply hasn't worked well. A possibly positive – or at least mixed – outcome was only observed in the EU which was a group of sovereign nations that choose to share certain funds, institutions, and laws voluntarily. But to force the nations to share the "most political" and "most controversial" policies such as tax systems and immigration is a road to hell.
So please leave the number of refugees who are granted asylum up to a combination of generosity and geography – that is exactly how thing should work in a natural world inhabited by the free people.
And that's the memo.
Ms Heidi Janků: I want to live in Tahiti. Tahiti boys only cover the important things.
I really think that it's unfair that Czechia has never made it among those powers who had colonies. This page enumerates some promising attempts. Czechoslovakia's co-founder, Slovak pilot and astronomer Milan Rastislav Štefánik, was planning to build a (Czecho)Slovak colony in Tahiti, but prematurely died in his airplane. Others bought 14,000 hectars of soil there.
Czech Togo in black Africa was another promising place – there were proposals for us to get some of the German colonies after their WW1 defeat. Similar fate could have occurred to the Franz Joseph Land in far North but that was ultimately taken by the Soviet Union. I won't discuss attempts to regain some nearby territories that have belonged to the kingdom at various points – it's too boring stuff.