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EU leaders need to realise the only real values are the values of human spirit

Professor Dora (Theodora) Kostakopoulou, from the School of Law, reacts to the migrant crisis:

As the massive exodus from Syria continues, the decomposing bodies of human beings are found in lorries, the bodies of toddlers are washed up on Turkish shores, people spend days and nights on overcrowded railway platforms and as many more ramshackle boats are attempting to cross the Aegean sea, this is not the time:

  • To talk about the economic crisis in Europe and the implications of austerity politics. The process of disciplining public expenditure should not be construed as an historical crisis. Following Ortega y Gasset’s (1958, pp. 85-86)) definition of the latter, no system of convictions has been broken, living people confused ‘as in a state of not knowing what to do’;
  • To debate the shortcomings of the Dublin Convention and the effectiveness of Re-admission Agreements. Even the most well-thought out legal instrument and carefully designed asylum policy would be put under strain by a sudden and generalised population movement owing to a continuing war and seemingly endless conflict. The drafting of a European Code on Migration and Asylum, which was on the Commission’s agenda and the Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme, will be done in the future;
  • For countries to ‘turn inwards’ and for their political elites to talk about Europe being ‘swamped’ by asylum seekers or the ‘swarm’ of refugees, pregnant women and children seeking protection. ‘Nationalist’ outbursts are not needed now;
  • To propose unilateral solutions which bracket the transnational dimensions of the present humanitarian crisis and block supranational solutions. No single institutional actor can accomplish things without the manifold input of other institutional actors. Collaboration and partnership among countries, institutions and organisations are more likely to yield effective policies and credible responses.

Now is the moment for politicians in all countries and the EU to display leadership, affirm the values animating the European Union (Article 2 TEU) and their constitutional democracies, issue ‘Sanctuary Europe Visas’ and to facilitate the resettlement of refugees. In other words, they have to create the institutional conditions which enable human living and social fellowship. They need to realise the only real values there are – the values of human spirit. Their policies and responses must give concrete meaning to European solidarity here and now and must be humane, that is, guided by the anthropic principle.

Matthew Arnold, who wrote his poetry in the 19th century, defined ‘civilisation’ as ‘the humanisation of man in society’, and believed, following Coleridge, that states have the positive duty of humanising and civilising their members, in addition to responding to the plight of others in need. Both humane responses to the refugee crisis and humanising policies and discourses are required in Europe now. To be indifferent is to be indecent. Arnold’s prayer is quite apposite: ‘Calm, calm me more! Nor let me die before I have begun to live’.

Notes to Editors:

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