August 22nd, 2015

Today our world is more interdependent and interactive than ever, helped by the creation of international institutions and a system based on international law.

In order to facilitate human progress we have agreed on the universal values of “peace, freedom, social progress, equal rights and human dignity,” which lofty promises for international cooperation have been laid down in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which today are no less valid as they were in 1948 when they were agreed.

Great efforts have been made to cooperate on a global scale on issues which effect peace, stability and human well-being, but as a civilized society we must question what these basic human right values and human needs really mean in  Europe, in the America’s or elsewhere.

The changes and adjustments made have enabled increased globalization which have brought great advantages,  progress and monetary benefits.  In some quarters there is some disillusionment with globalization due to the rise in income- and wealth-inequality, the hollowing out of the middle classes and immigration in a time that we face new challenges and adjustment with the increasing global influence of Brazil, China, India and Russia.

Today due to technological development we are much more interconnected and events elsewhere and actions of others affect us more than ever before. This triggers divisions between communities and societies, leading to distrust, fear and renewed nationalism. As a result communities, countries have become more inward looking, thereby questioning our universal value systems.

By becoming more inward- instead of outward-looking we are going back in history with the likes of Wilders, Le Pen, Farage, Trump and other similar and depressing nationalistic figures, as it seems we have lost our way, with our compass out of cinq.

Should we not ask the uncomfortable question if our humanity is not a very selective affair, which is very much restricted to our own communities, countries or worse the colour of our skin or religion.

This comes to the surface have we react to war, conflicts or terrorist attacks in Bruxelles, Paris or New York? But when the same tragic events take place in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Jordan or Turkey our empathy level is minimal?  The same we see how some of us react to war-conflict victims and refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or other conflict area’s.

I am young enough to remember Hungary 1956, when many of the Hungarians walked to the Austrian border and were gladly and with empathy welcomed into the Western European countries. Just like the Europeans were welcome in America, Australia and Canada 50-70 years ago.

Therefore it’s horrifying to see images of police putting numbers on peoples arms and in the process of welcoming refugees confiscating their property. This treatment evokes memories of Europe’s darkest hours when the brown and black shirts marched our streets.

There is reason to be concerned and appalled by the behaviour of the Hungarian Prime Minister Orban  and by all these people who tell us, “close the border, it’s full, don’t let them in.”  Orban is an embarrassment to Europe, but he is not the only one. Also the situation in the Czech Republic and Poland give reason for pause as does the growing influence of Russia.

In order to facilitate economic progress in Eastern Europe the EU has invested and made loans to these countries without clear terms and conditions as to obligations and commitments to the rule of law and democratic value’s. Today we see some of these countries sliding towards authoritarianism.

We must conclude, in Europe we have ignored the different value’s which exist due to history and religion and we need to address this.

In addressing this we must ask ourselves, do these countries with their Eastern bloc mentality belong in the European Union and can they adapt in time? Has it been a mistake to let the Eastern Europe and Balkan countries under pressure of the US join the EU as full members, whereby they limit EU progress, also given the absence of majority rule in the council.

Must we not conclude that our values and our culture in Western Europe is at the moment too different and should we therefore not better return to faster integration of the traditional EU 2003 and suggest to proceed with a two-speed Europe.

As Angela Merkel rightly said, “freedom of movement is one of the main principles of our European house” and what we need in Europe is more integration of our institutions, not less.

The convictions and moral principles of Angela Merkel  are to be admired and today she is the only true leader in Europe. However, the rest of Europe is not willing to share the burden in an equal manner as our human dignity requires and it’s disgraceful and immoral how some react.

Each father, mother, brother of sister in similar circumstances would attempt to bring his children, his wife, his sister or brother from a war zone to safety and is obliged to do so.

Our world is flat and the refugee crisis is a good example of globalizing and as some suggest we do not need a wall around us, or ban people based on religion, or the colour of their skin, instead we need less borders. Above all, we cannot let our friends in Turkey, Greece, Italy or Spain deal with this problem all by themselves and the solutions we choose are inadequate.

As we live in a global world with universal values,  for me as a European living in a rich country this means the refugees are most welcome and I welcome them gladly to my house, whatever the colour of their skin or whatever their religion is.

Next to our moral principles we must conclude that there is a demographic need since in Europe our populations age and our demographic pyramid is changing and is rapidly inverting.  All the more reason to welcome the refugees in Europe, which are mostly well educated. I am convinced they will contribute to our society in Europe in a most positive manner.

WJJH

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