Great Game – Why I’m Still Not Convinced by Southern Europe
Welcome to this week’s Great Game – your weekly overview of global events and how to read them.
This week we cover Southern Europe with the current refugee crisis as the starting point. Countries such as Italy, Spain, Croatia and Greece have much better growth rates than Germany, Sweden etc., but they are about to be hit by another massive migration challenge. Why is that and what is to come?
Lampedusa under siege
Last week as many as 7,000 African refugees landed on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. That’s an enormous number considering that the native Lampedusians number some 6,000. In total, Italy has received almost 126,000 refugees in 2023, which is twice as many as the same period in 2022. While these numbers are in themselves unsustainable, the suddent massive inflow into Lampedusa has overwhelmed the local infrastructure and caused clashes between refugees and local law enforcement.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, paid a visit to Lampedusa over the weekend, reassuring the locals and the Italians that the EU will help out. But how? There is very little will inside the EU to relieve the pressure on Italy by taking actual migrants off their hands and there is no will to deploy heavy weaponry to the Mediterranean to keep migrant boats out. Von der Leyens focus is on strengthening Frontex, the EU agency tasked with keeping migrants out and defending the borders of the continent, as well as aiding the Tunisian and Libyan coast guards in the hope that they can keep the boats from ever entering the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean. Von der Leyen knows full well that a renewed migrant crisis is pure toxic heading into the 2024 European election cycle. The cost of living crisis coupled with renewed anti-migrant sentiments is the perfect cocktail for populist parties to rise at the Parliament elections next summer.
We often get this question from non-Europeans around the world – why not simply embrace all that lovely labour? Most of the migrants are young men, who have proven themselves able of undertaking a tough journey. Surely they can be of good use, especially in the North of Europe where scarcity of labour is contributing to driving up prices? Well, that was kind of the strategy for many decades when Denmark, Sweden, Germany and other countries imported loads of cheap labour from Turkey and other countries. But the inflow of migrants was nowhere as easy on society as the politicians and business owners had expected and the assimilation or integration of foreign workeres and refugees remain a huge point of tension in Northern Europe especially. Instead, Northern and Western Europe prefer to import cheap labour from the Eastern parts of the EU – first and foremost because the Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian workers usually return home and don’t really engage in society while they are working.
So, while the North tries everything in its power to avoid a new migration wave, the South of Europe brace for the inevitable. How are they prepared to handle this task financially?
Southern Europe’s decade?
2023 has seen