OPINION

The wall going up

The impending expansion of the European Union with the accession of 10 new members has rightfully been hailed as an historic venture – the most significant event since the Treaty of Rome. Contrary to all previous southern and northern enlargements, which were confined to members of the Western European family, this wave of enlargement bears an immense symbolic and political burden: Thirteen years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western and Eastern Europe are about to overcome the historical schism of Yalta. This is the good news. The bad news is that at a time when the EU is about to bury the remains of the Wall between the East and the West, there are increasing calls for a new wall that will separate Fortress Europe from the assumed hordes of impoverished masses flooding in from the Third World. Migration is the issue which is expected to top the agenda at the two-day summit at Seville. «Europe is full, it cannot take in the entire world» was the leitmotif of rightist extremist parties in recent elections, but unfortunately also of many European governments. But are these fears grounded? According to the latest Eurostat data, at the end of 2000, the EU had 18,692,100 foreigners compared to 18,979,000 in 1998. Over the last decade, the total number of political asylum seekers in Europe has fallen by about 40 percent. In short, there is no clear rise in immigration except in the minds of a section of the public and the demagogic arsenal of some politicians. What is on the rise, rather, is xenophobia, turning migrants into scapegoats for the evils caused by the corrosion of the welfare state and the challenges of globalization. The real threat is the security frenzy which, after September 11, has tended to become the West’s new idee fixe, imposing a police logic on social issues. We should be pondering where our democracies will go from here when «Order and Security» sideline Freedom, Equality and Solidarity.