Tag Archives: Hungarians

TODDLER ON THE BEACH

Turkish beach

The photograph of the three-year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach has been seen across the world.   The picture is harrowing.  He could easily have been one of my grandchildren; like the policeman who carefully carried him from the beach, I wanted to pick him up and hold him.   This was no way to die.

His five-year-old brother also died, two in a party of eleven who all drowned while trying to get into Europe.   They were all from Syria.   It has been revealed tonight that the mother did not want to go on the journey.  It seems the family could have stayed behind in the Kurdish part of Syria, where they were quite secure.

The media is taking advantage of the death of the two boys to put pressure on western governments to take in more refugees.   Their thinking does not go very deep.

Incidents like this drowning are the result of illegal people-smuggling.  People smugglers charge as much as 3,000 euros ($3,450) per person to be taken a short distance into Europe, by boat, truck or train.   Hundreds or thousands have died when boats have sunk; dozens more have suffocated to death in trucks.   Governments have forced people off trains, insisting they follow international agreements that require them to register in the first country they enter.   They won’t because they want to get to Germany, the richest country, which emphasizes the blurring line between refugee and migrant.

Refugees, like the three-year-old toddler and his family, are fleeing war or persecution or both.   Migrants are moving to Western Europe in order to better themselves.   They could apply for a work visa like millions of their countrymen who have entered Europe legally.   But they are taking advantage of current chaos to get into what they consider paradise.

One report from Budapest this morning showed a train full of migrants.   They came from 67 different countries.   Only Syrians and, maybe, Iraqis and Libyans truly qualify as refugees at this time. Others are migrants.   They can and should be returned home.   They should not be allowed to become a burden on European tax-payers.

The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, wrote an article on the migrant crisis that appeared in a German newspaper today.   He warned that the migrant crisis threatens Christian Europe.   Donald Tusk, the Polish President of the European Council, responded by saying that the first duty of all Christians is to help those in need, regardless of race or religion.

Both men are correct.

Surely, the solution is simple.

  1. Return all migrants, those seeking a better life in Europe.  The EU has a high unemployment rate and a number of countries haven’t got the money to provide free healthcare, free education and welfare to all those arriving.   They can be sent home, where they can apply for legal entry into their country of choice.
  1. Establish a temporary, guest worker program for all refugees, providing them with peace and security and an opportunity to work for up to five years.
  1. Change the citizenship laws.  That’s the real problem here.   The Hungarian prime minister is correct when he says Christian Europe is threatened, though, frankly, Europe has not shown much Christianity down through the centuries.   What he means by this is that ethnic Hungarians, Germans, French, etc., could easily be overwhelmed and their countries could be taken over by peoples of an alien culture and religion.
  1. Go after the people-smugglers.  They have no respect for human lives, not even the lives of 3- and 5-year-old little boys!   Life in prison is too good for them!  Deal with it.  Sink their boats.  Close the borders effectively.
  1. Put pressure on other Arab countries to take in Syrian refugees.   They will have a much better prospect of assimilation in a neighboring country than in Europe or America.
  1. Increase pressure on Syria’s President Assad who is largely responsible for this mess.   The US President should have followed through with his “red line” to remove Assad when he used chemical weapons on his own people.   US policy toward Syria has been totally ineffective.   It’s not all Obama’s fault – President Putin, another leader who does not care about people, supports Assad.
  1. Advertise on television.  Yes, that’s right.   Satellite TV is encouraging this massive migration of peoples – they see television programs from the West and want to move to a western country.   This is attracting migrants from all over.   Western governments would do well to show that their own countries are not the paradise many think.
  1. Abolish the generous welfare systems that attract migrants. Scenes from Hungary shows them resisting efforts to make them register in poorer Hungary, knowing this will stop them from being able to enter richer and more generous Germany.   Those trying to cross the Channel Tunnel know well that the UK’s benefits are more generous than France’s.

If these measures are applied, Europe can be saved and so can the people of Syria.

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IS CRIMEA EUROPE’S FUTURE?

crimea-map

It’s been exactly a hundred years since an assassin’s bullets opened up an ethnic can of worms across Europe, the Middle East, and eventually the rest of the world.

Prior to the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, Europe was not exactly free of ethnic tensions or religious divides.  Irish Catholics had been campaigning for Home Rule for decades; Hungarians wanted to rule themselves but remain under the Hapsburg crown; Poles wanted to be free of Russia, Germany, and Austria, free to resurrect their own nation again; Zionists wanted their own state in what is now Israel.

But, prior to 1914, imperialism was in vogue.  Large empires composed of multiple nationalities were more the norm.  Globalization was all the rage.

It all came crashing down as the most significant assassination in history led, 37 days later, to “the war to end all wars.”  After the war, the peace treaty allowed a number of different ethnic groups to have their own independent nation state.   The Czechs and Slovaks were grouped together in Czechoslovakia; the Poles got their own country; the Finns, too; Hungarians were formally separated from Austria; the Serbs, who, arguably started the war in the first place, got their own country with the Croats in the new Yugoslavia;  even the Ukrainians had a brief period of independence.

They have just had another such period, this time for over twenty years.  It may be coming to an end again.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The vote in the Crimea on Sunday is a foregone conclusion, with 58% of the people in the region Russian speaking.  It’s not that the vote will be rigged – there’s no need for that.   The majority will vote to switch allegiance from Kiev to Moscow.  If it wasn’t a certainty, Russia would not be holding a referendum.   This vote, it is hoped, will justify their invasion and put an end to the whole matter.

It won’t be that simple.

What about the Ukrainian minority inside Crimea?  What about the Russian speaking areas in the east of Ukraine?  Will Russia invade them?  What about the Tatars?

Ah yes, the Tatars.

They constitute 12% of the population of the Crimea.  They were the pre-Russian inhabitants of the peninsula, invaded by Catherine the Great in the late eighteenth century.   They are a Turkic people left over from the days of the Ottoman Empire.  They are Muslims.  More significantly, they got a raw deal, a real raw deal, from Russia under Josef Stalin, who had them all forcibly removed from their homes and transported to Siberia with only 15 minutes notice.  They dread a return to Russian rule.

It may be that they have little to fear.  After all, neither Stalin nor Catherine were actually Russian.  But Russia is having difficulties already with its Muslim minorities – it’s unlikely the Tatars will fare any better than the Chechens.

The ethnic complexities of the region are symbolic of the wider European ethnic quilt.

Spain doesn’t want Crimea to break away from Ukraine because they don’t want their own Catalans to break away from their country; the Scots are voting in September on possibly breaking away from the United Kingdom; Belgium has had serious ethnic divisions ever since the country was created almost two centuries ago; the Balkans always has further potential for ethnic conflict; Rumania has a significant Hungarian minority that would like to join Hungary; while Hungary has its own minorities.

The EU has actually made the problem worse.   It is possible now for every small ethnic group to have its own country and still be economically viable through the European Union.  If Scotland breaks away from the UK, it can seek membership of the EU and minimize the economic consequences of breaking away from the bigger whole.

In theory.

They would actually have to have approval of the other member countries, including England.   And none of them has a vested interest right now in approving Scottish membership.  It might encourage separatists in their own countries.   Additionally, the last thing the 28-member EU needs is yet another voting member, holding back further progress toward European unity.  They also don’t want more members needing a bail-out.

However, it’s also possible that the proliferation of smaller countries in the EU could lead to a resurrection of the medieval Holy Roman Empire, a motley assortment of political entities that all owed allegiance to a common German emperor.

Rather than Sunday’s vote bringing an end to the European crisis, it may turn out to just be the beginning!