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Is Trump fueling the rise European homegrown anti-immigrant movements, racism, xenophobia and extreme nationalism – with representatives of progressive parties from the UK, Germany, Spain and Greece

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PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay coming to you from Baltimore. Once a year in Baltimore, the Congressional Progressive Caucus comes for meetings. They’re not normally open to journalists, but a lot of people from Congress and across the country come to discuss the mostly electoral politics going on in the United States from a supposed progressive point of view. I say “supposed” because I think a lot of people in the Progressive Congressional Caucus aren’t so progressive.
At any rate, this year, there is a very interesting delegation that came to this conference from Europe, from progressive and left parties. It’s the first time they’ve been invited and they were on panels and engaging with people. We have the honor of hosting them here.
Now joining us in the studio is the Shadow Home Secretary of the UK Labour Party, MP Diane Abbott. Joining us from Germany is the Deputy Chair of Die Linke Party, MP Sevim Dagdelen. And from Spain, representing the Podemos Party, he’s a member of Congress there, Eduardo Maura, and from Greece, the head of the International Relations Department of Syriza, which is also now the government of Greece, Yiannis Bournous.
Sevim, I’m going to start with you and then we can kind of just jump in and have a conversation here. What effect has the rise of Trump and Trumpian type politics had on Germany, on the politics of Europe?
SEVIM DAGDELEN: On one hand, it becomes a little bit more difficult in the foreign affairs in the international politics to have a predictable US American policy. For example, in the Middle East or on the European issue. The other hand, is that we do have now almost trade war between Germany and the US.
For example, we, the Left Party in the German Parliament, we do have some understanding on the critiques made by Trump on the economy policy of the Germans because that is what we are, yeah, criticizing for many years, that we do have more exports worldwide than we have imports. It’s not very well balanced so it’s the same in Europe.
PAUL JAY: A … big trade surplus on Germany’s [crosstalk 00:02:40]
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. Exactly. This is one of the biggest failures of the economic policy in Germany and this causes the crisis in Europe, as well, because we are exporting the trades in other European countries to the death actually and because we are exporting too much outside.
On the other side, we have a weak economy in Germany, weak incomes, lower incomes and that makes the problem. On the one side, we are having understanding for these critiques, but we don’t think that a trade war is the way to have a solution on this problem.
DIANNE ABBOTT: But, to be fair to Trump … This is probably the first time that I’ll be fair to him. You said that he’s predictable. Actually, what scares British diplomats is he’s completely unpredictable. Hence, this attempt to negotiate with the North Koreans. What could be more bizarre? How can that end?
PAUL JAY: Did you mean he was predictable or that he’s unpredictable?
SEVIM DAGDELEN: No. No, the thing is that many people in the German Parliament and the government, they say, “He is not predictable,” but I have to protest on that because dialogue is the most important thing in the international affairs; even dialogue with dictators even though it’s with-
DIANNE ABBOTT: I think you’re right about dialogues.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: With authoritarian regimes because-
DIANNE ABBOTT: I think you’re right about dialogue, but for the diplomats in Britain and across the world, what is really scary about Trump is that he’s wholly unpredictable.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Yeah. That’s the main problem. One of the two main problems with the Trump administration and it seems that it’s a reflection of conflicting approaches and analysis within the Trump administration and within the decision-making centers for the US foreign policy so problem number one is unpredictability.
The second problem, which raises a global discussion actually is under the spectrum of the failure of the globalized and a liberal capitalist model, this regression of Trump to a new kind of protectionism. I think that even for the progressive forces, this is a discussion that we have never made in such an extent to produce reliable answers to the people that are waiting to see what would be a progressive answer to this polarization between a failed globalized and a liberal model versus a new kind of protectionism that Trump tries to introduce.
I think that the discussion is open. In the European field, this becoming very evident, especially having to do with the German exports as it has been said and the conflicting interests that the European Union has with the US vis-à-vis the imposition of new taxes in imports, et cetera, et cetera.
EDUARDO MAURA: I would divide this debate into two parts. On one side, it is true that the Trump Administration has a foreign policy problem and that’s unpredictability and quite random opinions being spread around the world, to be honest. It’s not only about unpredictable.
Secondly, I think, he’s making the domestic agenda in many European countries more conservative because of this protectionist approach. We are having debates in our own parliaments, which we didn’t have three, four or 10 years ago. No matter how Republican the administration wasn’t and was.
This is something that really matters. It’s making things harder for us to get a progressive agenda and to convey a progressive message because of his Twitter messaging abilities, but also because of his own policies. I think it’s a domestic problem as well. Trump is not only an international thing.
PAUL JAY: Let me push back a little bit-
DIANNE ABBOTT: But also I would say, his viscerally anti-immigrant narrative is poisoning the discourse. Certainly across the Atlantic [crosstalk 00:07:01]
PAUL JAY: I want to talk about that a lot and let’s head there, but I want to push back a little bit, which is I don’t think he’s so unpredictable.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah. Me, either.
PAUL JAY: I’m not quite understanding this. When Trump was elected, in his inaugural speech, it was very clear. He wanted to target Iran. If you read around the edges of Trump, meaning Bannon, he talked about a war to defend Western Christian civilization against Islam and China. I’m not sure how those two things go together, but it somehow in Bannon’s and Trump’s head they do. They wanted a rapprochement with Russia. Mostly, I think, ’cause they had an energy play they want to do there, but they’ve been moving in pretty much the direction, I think, that they said they were going to move in.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: I totally agree and the thing is, of course, he has this racist, sexist and ethnical things and we condemn it, but the thing is in the other side, he has a refreshing honesty. When he says, “America first,” which country does not say, “German first, Greece first, or Great Britain first?” Every country in a capitalist world says, “My interests first.” That’s what countries doing, the government’s doing and this is honest. Just to do it and to say it, but the thing is-
DIANNE ABBOTT: You may find it refreshing, but when Trump says, “Make America Great Again,” to me, I read it as wanting to take America back to the ’50s when people of color knew their place.
PAUL JAY: This more back to, I think, slave society. I think ’50s is not quite far back enough.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Okay.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Okay. 1850s. But I don’t find that refreshing at all. I find that quite chilling. Again, it infects the European discourse. You’ve got Trump with that narrative around migration and going backwards, which is vibing in with right-wing parties in Italy, in France, and in Germany.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: But I really have to say something. Our extreme right problem in Germany is homegrown. It’s homegrown.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Because the government in the last 20 years, the government, the Chancellor Merkel, and the Social Democrats, they have prepared the ground with their war, literally war against the poor and the social welfare state. That’s the problem with the right-wing in Germany and the problem is they have urged Europe for an austerity policy. That is not Trump, the one who is reasonable for that. It’s not Washing … It’s not Moscow. It’s a homegrown problem.
PAUL JAY: But does the success of Trump … Then you have even active organizing. There’s a New York Times piece on Sunday that Steve Bannon’s actually in Italy right now, but he’s going to speak in France at the National Front Meeting. Do-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: A long time before Trump, we had this extreme right, growing up, rising up parties in France, Front National with Le Pen or in Austria. They have been in the government in the past even, or in the Netherlands and in some other countries like in the East Europe. That was long before Trump. The thing is not Trump.
The thing is the war on the social welfare state on the social right, cutting the social right. This is ground where the right-wing parties can grow up and that’s the point, not Trump.
PAUL JAY: But [crosstalk 00:10:48]
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah, but Trump has given it new impetus. That’s how it looks from London.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: That’s true because on the one hand, nobody can deny that on the surface of the economic crisis in Europe and the degradation of the social rights of the social majorities, the extreme right-wing rhetoric was actually legitimized even by mainstream center-right or even Social Democratic Parties in some cases.
But on the other hand, I think that at the same time, nobody can disagree on the fact that when all these forces that carry this rhetoric and they’re trying to make it counter-hegemonic in many European states, see these set of values triumph in the US elections, this in qualitative terms offers them a new role in the political game in their respective countries.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: The extreme right-wing parties and the populists right-wing parties of Europe are now overlooking to the US and they’re saying to the people, “Look, America first. Let it be UK first,” and here comes the Brexit.
PAUL JAY: But not only are they looking at Trump saying, “Look, they’re saying America first,” but they’ve been looking at Putin and saying how Putin says, “Russia first.” There’s a lot of links between Russia and the growing right in Europe as well, is there not?
EDUARDO MAURA: I think that no one’s trying to put the blame on Trump, regarding domestic issues. The crisis of the social state has been happening for a long time, a very long time, too long.
What is true, at the same time is that the Trump Administration is fooling. It’s really feeding a lot of debates that were long gone, at least in Spain. Those are conservative debates.
Debates that the Republicans like in the US, and debates that the conservatives in Spain like, and those debates, we’re not … Of course, we got to take a position, but it’s not the debates that were happening and taking place in Spain between 2011 and 2015.
I think in terms of setting the agenda, Trump has been bad business for progressives all over the world, but I don’t want to put the blame on him for the things that [crosstalk 00:13:08]
PAUL JAY: I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that these things originate with Trump.
EDUARDO MAURA: Yeah. Just in case.
PAUL JAY: The question is what is the influence of Trump. I’ll say again of Putin, as well, because I think there’s, certainly reading from here, there’s a direct link. Marine Le Pen gets financed from a Russian bank. Then you also have Steve Bannon speaking at a National Front. There’s a convergence here of these very right-wing conservative forces, whether they’re American or Russian or European, but they’re getting organized. More organized, I should say.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Let’s start from a different point of view. It’s been already many years that in one way or the other, Russia, she’s, missile shields being installed in many Eastern European countries or even Balkan states overlooking towards Russia. I don’t think that the, in terms of geopolitical competition, Russians cannot recognize the fact that they will not compete to become the number one superpower in the planet. They know, I think, their limits, but they’re trying to expand their sphere of influence because how things are turning, we are returning to a discussion about spheres of influence after a long historical period of globalized interconnected economy and geopolitical interests. It is true.
There are some similarities with the political influence that the Russian administration is trying to obtain in many European states. One similarity with the Trump discourse and the whole political project that are Trump is the protection, for example, of Christian values, which is very evident in this populist extremist right-wing parties in Central and Eastern Europe mainly, which is, of course, accompanied by Islamophobia and xenophobia because of the fact that Europe had and has to face the crisis of refugee flows coming from the war zones of the planet.
I think this is an interconnected discussion. It’s true that Russia, as a big original power and one of the biggest global powers, but not number one, is trying to expand its sphere of influence. It is true that if we see the political developments in a number of European states, there are political forces, there are political parties that are more favorable to a different relation with Russia. Let’s see the French presidential election that you already mentioned. Marine Le Pen or even Mr. Fillon who comes from the center right and didn’t pass to the second round. They were in favor of lifting the sanctions of the European Union against Russia, but we can’t blame them for that in my opinion.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: The left does that, too.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Because the sanctions are absurd. They are just absurd and-
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: That’s why I said we can blame them at least for that.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: And I think it reminds me for the McCarthy era to just, you know, for every problem we have to blame Russia. I know in our perspective it looks like there is a Russia-phobia in the US going on.
PAUL JAY: Oh, there is.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah, but, we, in Germany, for example, the left, the progressive forces in Germany, we would like to have friendly relation to the Russians because, first of all, of our history, because of the history. Secondly, we know especially after 1989, the unity of Germany, we know that security is only with Russia in Europe possible. Not against or not without Russia. That’s why we’re against the sanctions. We’re against the escalation. We’re against that the NATO is going to the West border of Russia because this doesn’t help the people, the population in Europe. We need dialogue. We need a friendship, friendly relations to our neighbors. That’s why I think it’s very absurd always blame the Russians for problems we have, all the problems homegrown in Germany or in Europe.
PAUL JAY: Yeah. I think any progressive person would agree with all of that. That doesn’t mean that the Russians aren’t helping strengthen the far-right in Europe.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: No, of course not.
PAUL JAY: And so I was-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: As Yiannis said, every big country, every big force like the US. Even the US with the satellite states in Eastern Europe. These are satellite countries for the US and all the regime change they have done in the east of Europe, the Orange Revolutions. We know that because the US administration, they said openly that they give billions of US dollars to some groups in some countries of the Eastern Europe to change the governments there. It’s not a secret. They do it to gain more influence, of course.
But, I think, we, in Europe, we have to stand up and say, “We have different interests than the Russians or than the Americans.” Our interest is to have freedom and peace in the European Union and in Europe. Russia is part of Europe. It’s not part of the European Union, but it’s part of our continent Europe. That’s why we need the friendly relations.
PAUL JAY: I don’t think anyone here would disagree with that [crosstalk 00:19:05]
PAUL JAY: But what I’m getting at is in the rise of the far-right in Europe and here, where the far-right actually has the White House, and the far-right, to a large extent, is controlling both the Senate and the House and controlling the majority of state governments in this country, so the far-right’s in power in the United States.
The far-right in the United States is encouraging the far-right in Europe, as are, I’ll say again, the Russians. There’s no doubt if you wanted to go a scale of whose footprint is more aggressive, nobody compares with the United States. But that being said, what is this doing in your country still? How is the far-right developing?
Let me add to that, with the exception of maybe the Labour Party and Syriza in Greece, but to a large extent, the left is not taking advantage of this moment as much as the right is. Why?
DIANNE ABBOTT: We are taking, we are taking advantage-
PAUL JAY: I say the UK is really an exception. Yeah.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Of this moment. Under the new leadership of the Labour Party, we have adopted a set of left-wing policies. I’m reluctant to default to a cold-war analysis of what’s happening with Russia. I’m not saying that Russia isn’t trying to intervene, but the sources of the rise of the far-right in Europe have more to do with the refugee crisis, which has not been properly addressed and to do with the fact, in the UK, the average income and the average wage has dropped since 1975. There are absolute economic issues that are really at the source of the rise of ordinary working people voting for far-right parties, but we have not conceded to this.
The last Labour leader, before Tony Blair … No, before Jeremy Corbyn. The last Labour leader, he had immigration control marks. He made speeches about immigration. We did nothing of that. We led with a principle position on migration and we won seats.
We believe it’s important to combat that anti-immigrant narrative. That is the way to fight the far-right. It’s notable for Social Democratic parties that have given in to right-wing narratives have been decimated in elections across Europe.
EDUARDO MAURA: But in a country like Spain, for instance, we don’t have a far-right, an independent far-right. The far-right is part of the establishment politics. It’s part of the conservative party. It’s like a section of the conservative party.
PAUL JAY: More or less, as it is here now.
EDUARDO MAURA: Yeah. But the fact is that conservative party has lost a lot of support. The traditional parties in Spain, the socialist and the conservative, they used to get 75, 80% of the vote in the ’90s, in the beginning of the 21st century. And right now, combined, they’re falling at 45; four, five.
We have took a lot of the advantage of the huge wave of discontent with the social [inaudible 00:22:05], with the war on the worse off that has been taking place for a very long time. The fact is that, even if you take advantage, it’s takes a lot of time. It’s takes a lot of effort. It’s takes a lot of organizing on many levels in order to get rid of a two-party system, which is very powerful. It’s been there for a very long time and it’s going to take more time. I don’t think we’re winning.
I think we are facing new challenges. Trump is one of these challenges, but, also, the Russian situation is a new challenge. The situation in Catalonia when it comes to Spain is a new challenge, but things have been changing quite quickly. Let’s say, Syriza in Greece. Of course, there are problems. We are, again, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, so there are things going on in Spain. There are things going on in Europe. The far-right is the most dangerous one, but it’s not the only one.
PAUL JAY: Why is Labour on immigration been able to take such a progressive position successfully? When many of the countries of Europe, the left seems, from what I can tell, still struggling with the issue, what position to take on immigration and-
DIANNE ABBOTT: Because we didn’t back off. Because we took on the issues.
The truth is that immigration … There are short-term challenges, but actually migration, makes a lot of countries wealthier in the long run. We didn’t back off. We didn’t concede. We didn’t conciliate. We didn’t have these immigration control marks.
We said we are Socialist Party and we will not have immigrants scapegoated for what are the problems with the neoliberal economy. We didn’t back off. We didn’t pander. We won a electoral bonus, because actually people that vote for progressive parties, whatever the polling says about the [inaudible 00:24:02] on immigration, they’re looking for leadership. In London in Labour, we gave them leadership.
EDUARDO MAURA: In a country like Spain, for instance, the refugee crisis has been a huge subject of debate, but most people, most people I’m talking about 65 people … 65% of the population, I mean, are in favor of helping the refugees, in favor of having an immigration policy that is up to the task of facing what’s going on in the Middle East.
That intersects … That’s an intersectional thing. There are conservatives who are taking this approach, as well as, people who are progressive so in a country like Spain, immigrants are not a problem, are not seen as a problem at the moment. That could change.
DIANNE ABBOTT: It’s about leadership.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: But it’s not happening.
DIANNE ABBOTT: I have visited-
EDUARDO MAURA: It’s because of [crosstalk 00:24:58]. It’s because of that.
DIANNE ABBOTT: I visited refugee camps in Calias. I visited refugee camps in Lesbos and in the Lebanon. There’s no question that southern Europe is under a lot of pressure in relation to these immigration issues, but nonetheless, the answer is not to concede to the right. The answer is to stand up for the principles, but also for Europe as a whole to come together and to support the southern European countries.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: [crosstalk 00:25:27] May I ask you something? How many refugees did Great Britain welcome in the last two years when the refugee crisis started with Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. How many people came into Great Britain?
DIANNE ABBOTT: The conservative government’s record is poor. I have stood up in Parliament and said, “Why haven’t we taken more? Specifically, why haven’t we taken more from the camps?” And I repeat I think what needs to happen is that southern Mediterranean counties notably, Italy and Greece and perhaps to a certain extent Spain, they need more support from Europe as a whole, but what you mustn’t do, what you can’t do is pander to generalized anti-immigrant feeling, because that anti-immigrant feeling more reflects economic pressures and the downturn in ordinary people’s incomes through right-wing parties want to blame immigrants for the problems caused to working people.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: How is this affecting Syriza?
DIANNE ABBOTT: We refuse to do that.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: In Greece, the rise of the extreme right in the face of the neo-fascist party of the Golden Dawn began long before the outburst of the refugee crisis with the huge refugee flows coming from the wider region of Syria and Iraq. By the way, since you asked about the number of refugees that went to the UK, in Greece we had the experience in 2015, of seeing more than 1.5 million refugees arriving and crushing through our country.
For a country of 11 million, which has lost 24% of its GPD, in only the first two years of the crisis, you can imagine how dramatic this was, but fortunately, we had an amazing collaboration; a historical phenomenon. An amazing collaboration of the official state with NGOs, with local citizens initiatives with people who got self-organized even in the islands where the boats were arriving. We managed to do our best under the specific circumstances that prevail in our country, but let me get back to my first sentence.
The Golden Dawn, this neo-Nazi party in Greece, did not manage to win institutional representation in the Greek and then in the European Parliament because of the refugee flows. It happened three years before, and this happened under the environment of this dramatic economic crisis, which suppressed the popular classes and the middle classes.
I told you that we lost 24% of our GDP in two years. In times of peace, this has never happened. Only in cases of countries who were under war. With this crisis, the underlying crisis of political representation that was going on for many years, exploded with the emergence of anti-systemic, anti-establishment political parties.
Fortunately, in Greece, the majority of the people who decided to vote for anti-establishment parties was influenced by the proposal of series, for unity in order to gain power from the proposal of a progressive political party, but truly there was a minority of these people who were disenfranchised by the whole situation that voted for the Golden Dawn, voted for an openly neo-Nazi party-
EDUARDO MAURA: That’s true.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Who is now under trial, even for murders, for human trafficking, weapon trafficking, for steroids trafficking in gyms for offering protection to shop owners, et cetera, et cetera; a criminal gang.
Then when the refugee crisis came to Greece and we had this unbelievable outburst. I come from Lesbos. You mentioned Lesbos.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yes. [crosstalk 00:29:17] that.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: I come from an island that has 87,000 inhabitants and received the vast majority of this 1.5 million in 2015, 2016. I cannot even describe the situations that the Greek people experienced. I think despite the current, serious problems, the Greek people have managed to portray that there is a different way to treat this kind of crisis; the way of solidarity, the way of cooperation. The fact that all immigrant children are now going to schools in Greece, from the immigrants that finally stayed in Greece, which are approximately 70 to 75,000.
PAUL JAY: What is Syriza’s policy now, in terms of new refugees, new immigrants? What is the policy?
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Okay. Let me start from the domestic level. We have around 70 to 75,000 people who stayed in Greece and waiting for their asylum applications to be determined, et cetera, et cetera. For all those people who stayed in Greece, they are either hosted in camps. In two or three of the islands, we still have problems in the camps, but the majority of them is living under decent conditions. Many thousands of them are living already in flats through special programs funded by the Greek State and by the European Union.
All the children of refugees are now going to Greek schools and this is very important because we know that the part of them will stay in Greece so we need to incorporate these people to show them that they can build their lives again to these people coming from war zones.
The big problem is the European policy. There is a deal between the European Union and Turkey. At the same time, there was a European agreement for the relocation of refugees and immigrants arriving in Italy and Greece.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: It didn’t work out.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: And it’s didn’t work out because there are many [crosstalk 00:31:12] European Union states who never-
EDUARDO MAURA: Aren’t delivering.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Who never applied their location agreement.
EDUARDO MAURA: Because the European states aren’t delivering.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Particularly in Eastern Europe.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: For example, the Visegrád country in central and eastern Europe who refused to apply this location deal or many Balkan states who closed the borders. The European Union didn’t show any leadership.
DIANNE ABBOTT: No. [crosstalk 00:31:36]
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: According to the Lisbon Treaty, which the European Left parties didn’t vote-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: For. Yeah. Yeah.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Didn’t vote for, there is a prediction for sanctions against member states who unilaterally-
DIANNE ABBOTT: It did not happen.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Violate this kind of decisions-
DIANNE ABBOTT: It did not happen.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: But there was no punishment. There was no reaction towards the fact that the number of European states refused to host even one immigrant and refugee [crosstalk 00:32:01] and that [crosstalk 00:32:02]
SEVIM DAGDELEN: I mean from [crosstalk 00:32:03]
PAUL JAY: Go ahead, Eduardo.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Reproduces a problem for Italy and Greece.
EDUARDO MAURA: Yeah. Just a couple of things. Firstly, the record of most European countries is very poor when it comes to welcoming refugees and relocating refugees; very poor. Spain, I think it took the compromise of welcoming 15,000 refugees and it’s only been 1000, maybe 2000 so it’s …
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Generally, it’s about 12,000 [crosstalk 00:32:29]
EDUARDO MAURA: We are underperforming. [crosstalk 00:32:33] But there’s something you said. You made a point, I think I could try to depart from it in order to summarize this discussion.
You can divide. It’s not the only aspect, not the only side to it, but you can divide Europe into two kinds of countries because there’s been a huge wave of anti-establishment feelings all over Europe, but you can divide countries into two different kinds: the ones that had anti-establishment left-wing parties.
EDUARDO MAURA: And the ones that had anti-establishment right-wing parties. The UK got UKIP and you got Brexit. You got [crosstalk 00:33:07]
DIANNE ABBOTT: But we also had the Labour parties.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:33:09]
DIANNE ABBOTT: In Britain, there was a huge surge of anti-establishment feeling, but it led to people voting in a completely unprecedented and unpredicted way-
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: That’s true. That’s true.
DIANNE ABBOTT: For the Labour party. And just to say about Greece, I visited Greece. I visited Lesbos. I visited the refugee camps and it’s a huge challenge for Greece, but I must say I was impressed by how, even despite with all the challenges, ordinary Greek people in Lesbos wanted to do their best and that speaks well for the Greeks who didn’t get the support from the rest of [crosstalk 00:33:45]
PAUL JAY: The amount of refugee crisis we’ve seen is probably not even a thimble of what’s coming.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:33:53]
PAUL JAY: The climate crisis is going to create a refugee migration movement that’s going to make the current situation look small.
EDUARDO MAURA: It’s going to be a new wave of stuff, a new wave of [crosstalk 00:33:57]
PAUL JAY: Let me ask all of you. What does a progressive immigration policy look like in a world, especially in Europe, where there’s going to be waves and waves of people wanting to get away from devastated lands, whether it’s in Africa or other parts of the world?
DIANNE ABBOTT: It demands more European cooperation. It’s not easy, but it’s totally unfair that countries like Greece and Italy should have to bear the brunt and really the Eastern European countries and the Balkan countries, they need to step up. What is the point of an EU, if it-
DIANNE ABBOTT: Cannot impose its own rules in terms of burden sharing, in terms of migrants. Whether Britain is in the EU or not, I will be arguing and Jeremy Corbyn will be arguing for better European cooperation. It’s totally unfair to Greece and Italy to have beared the burden that they should.
Also, so it’s about European cooperation, but it’s also about recognizing that these migrants are people and just putting up barbed wire and hoping they’ll drown in the Mediterranean is no answer to anything.
PAUL JAY: Germany’s taken in a lot of … especially compared to some other countries-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. [crosstalk 00:35:09] 1.1 million. We’ve got one million.
PAUL JAY: What is Die Linke’s policy? Not towards just the people that are there already, but the many, many more that want to come?
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah. We’re worldwide, 65 million people who are migrating and fleeing and our point of view is we have to stop with the root causes of migration and refugees. We have to fight for the right not to migrate, not to flee. This is a very … to strengthen the self-determination, the right of self-determination of the people not forced to flee and leave the country, their home country, their homes, their families. I think this is a progressive policy to help the people to stay in their houses in their home countries and what-
PAUL JAY: What does that mean in terms of policy though?
SEVIM DAGDELEN: That means we need fair trade. Not the trade policy we have that is neoliberal and not fair. This is destroying the existence of millions of people like the agriculture in Africa. We say we have to stop with the regime change policy with military interventions and we have to stop the arms exports like the selling of arms and guns worldwide; every country, which is selling guns and arms.
These arms are coming like a refugee back to us, so every arm is actually a refugee, and you’re causing this. We have to fight the root causes of migration, and the fleeing of millions of people and within the country, in Germany as interior affairs, we have to make a social integration policy. Not just welcoming one million people like the Chancellor Merkel did; no houses, no schools, no kindergarten places, no jobs.
This … is the ground where the right-wing parties are growing and rising up. This increases them. That’s the problem in Germany why we do have such a right-wing party now so strongly in the German Parliament. They’re a government. They are caused these far-right parties because they said, “Refugees, okay,” because they are reasonable for that, that the people “I had to flee from Syria because of their regime change policies,” but they didn’t do anything in a social integration policy in Germany. That’s the problem, which we have and this is homegrown. This is not caused by Washington or Moscow. It’s caused by their own problems and politics.
DIANNE ABBOTT: But … we also have to distinguish between refugees, people who are refugees under the various European conventions, like people from Syria, and economic migrants, who are the people crossing Libya, crossing the Mediterranean and coming to Europe. We all have, as nation states, a legal responsibility to people who are literally legally refugees and asylum seekers-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:38:31]
DIANNE ABBOTT: But the things you’re talking about, about making it more feasible for people to stay in their country of origin, it’s about the economic migrants. I think it’s dangerous to conflate the two things.
DIANNE ABBOTT: People that are fleeing war, people that-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Thanks for the distinction, but-
DIANNE ABBOTT: No, but it’s a legal distinction.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. Of course.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Because all of us as European countries-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah, but we have a-
DIANNE ABBOTT: Have a legal responsibility [crosstalk 00:38:52] to refugees and asylum seekers.
DIANNE ABBOTT: But economic migration is different.
DIANNE ABBOTT: It’s really important to understand the difference.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. We have a different opinion on that because-
DIANNE ABBOTT: It’s not an opinion. It’s the law. It’s the European Convention. What do you mean opinion?
SEVIM DAGDELEN: It’s the [crosstalk 00:39:08] No, no.
DIANNE ABBOTT: There is no opinion about people that are fleeing war. This was set in European Conventions after the Second World War so it’s whether my opinion if Syrians [crosstalk 00:39:19] war or your opinion-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. I mean in the migration of economic.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah. Well, let’s …
SEVIM DAGDELEN: There is no law in the European Union of economical migration. It’s-
DIANNE ABBOTT: That’s my point.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: The blue [inaudible 00:39:26], but we have a-
DIANNE ABBOTT: That’s my point. We have to distinguish between refugees and economic migration.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yes. But we say-
PAUL JAY: But once you distinguish … The question I’m raising is there’s already been a great deal of refugee migration to Germany, but there’s an enormous amount and, you can call it economic migration, it’s already there really, but it’s going to come at a scale that’s unprecedented as climate change starts to have its consequences.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Yeah. But the distinctive-
PAUL JAY: What is the progressive position towards the millions of people that will be not fleeing war, but they could be fleeing catastrophes, climate-caused catastrophes, what will be a progressive position towards that?
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: We also need to reconsider, when we’re discussing about long-term challenges, we should also consider from another point of view, the aging of Europe.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:40:17]
EDUARDO MAURA: The demographics of the [crosstalk 00:40:17]
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: The demographic crisis of the European Union, which is enormous and we can see it in our country and I think in every country. We need to talk about the categories of labor that these people come to cover or the terms of exploitation by the bosses, by the big businesses. It’s a whole set of programmatic struggle, but also activist struggle in order to win against these policies that have exploited all these waves of refugees of war, but also economic migrants. I couldn’t agree more concerning, for example, the agricultural sector. The European Union has formed the so-called European Partnership Agreements-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Yeah. It passed.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: Especially with many North African states.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: If you see the conditions. They’re not allowing the farmers, and the fisherman in these countries to survive through their own work. So many … For example, a fisherman from Somalia, they climbed on boats and tried to pass to Spain in the previous years. This is very concrete political struggle, for example, in the European Union to modify the Partnership Agreements of the European Union with third countries in order not to exploit these populations, but on the other hand, there is a concrete reality, and this is the situation in the Middle East. After a long period of destabilization caused by many imperialist forces. For example, nobody knows who’s really governing in Libya.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: I’m [crosstalk 00:42:11]
PAUL JAY: Let me just focus again. We’re-
SEVIM DAGDELEN: May I ask something?
PAUL JAY: Yeah. Go ahead.
SEVIM DAGDELEN: For us, the problem with a brain drain is highly problematic. For example, in Germany the far-right parties, they are coming along with the economical selection migration policy in Canada or in Australia. They are very coming along with it because they say it’s fits to our racism of utility. That we need people for these and these jobs. Then if they’re doing this qualification, it’s good. If not, the other one can die in the Mediterranean. You know, this-
PAUL JAY: Or if you combine [crosstalk 00:42:50]
SEVIM DAGDELEN: Utility racism on this brain drain and to get the high qualified persons in some African countries or somewhere else, to get them into the European states to work for them for the society there. We have found it very highly problematic because firstly, it’s supports this utility racism that people are just worth to live and to stay because they do something; they work at something. And the other ones are not worthy.
Secondly, it’s a mess for the countries, the home countries of these people to, yeah, lose these qualified or high qualified, middle qualified personnel because they need them for their own countries and that was …
For example, a few years ago, in Germany, we had this discussion for the IT people to get them from India, and the Indian Prime Minister said, “No. Stop it. We don’t send them to Germany because we need our brain here to develop our own country.”
… I think, this is a good and fair enough.
PAUL JAY: What I’m getting at in the current situation as I’m suggesting it’s going to get a lot worse. Progressive Labour parties are going to have to put limits on immigration. They’re going to have to message what those limits are. I mean I would think in terms of going back what you were saying earlier about actually dealing with some of the “why can’t people stay where they are” issues, the fact that climate is not higher on all the political agendas and, of course, in this country, it’s the worst. It’s not even on the political agenda, climate change.
Canada, a modicum better, but not really. The federal government in Canada’s approving and pushing more pipelines out of the tar sands, but we’re facing an existential crisis both in terms of climate and both in terms of what it’s going to mean for life on the planet in general. It’s not being talked about like that in many places.
The migration problem is going to be enormous. How progressive parties deal with it and message it is going to have a lot to do with what happens with the development of the far right because this is all going to be the right; is going to say zero. Don’t let anybody in and they don’t even want to say there’s a climate crisis.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah. But we’ve challenged the far-right in Britain. That’s worked for us. ‘Cause you’re saying that it’s a refugee and an immigration crisis.
PAUL JAY: Migration.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Right. It’s a migration crisis. I think that when it comes to actual refugees and asylum seekers, the law is clear.
PAUL JAY: The law is clear.
DIANNE ABBOTT: Yeah. But it’s not so much a crisis of economic migrants, it is a crisis of European countries living up to their responsibilities. I return to the importance of making all EU countries, including Eastern Europe, including the Balkans, play their part and not having an undue burden fall on Southern European countries.
PAUL JAY: I get it, but what is the Labour party’s position on how many new migrants/immigrants will be allowed into the UK?
DIANNE ABBOTT: We don’t believe in bogus targets. Year after year, the Tories have said they’re going to keep migration to tens of thousands. Every year, they failed to meet their targets. We don’t believe in bogus targets. We believe in managing migration. We believe in treating migrants like human beings. The target approach does not work. It’s just a way of pandering to people’s fear of migrants.
When people in the UK say, “Oh, it’s all these immigrants. Pressure on housing. Pressure on the Health Service.” Without migrants, Britain’s Health Service would be in a terrible state. We, in the Labour party in Britain, do not believe in bogus targets.
We believe in better European cooperation on the issue and we believe in the fair and reasonable management of migration and taking some of the pressure off-
PAUL JAY: But define fair and reasonable. What does that mean?
DIANNE ABBOTT: Fair are things like family reunion. What you’ve got in Europe is children crossing Europe and then finding it impossible to have their families join them. Fairness for us is about family reunion, whether it’s children who’ve made their way to Britain or France or whatever, being able to have their parents join them. Or parents who’ve made their way to Britain, being able to let their children join them. That’s what we mean by fair.
Family reunion is the right thing ’cause actually [inaudible 00:47:35] integration is people have their families with them, they’re more likely to integrate properly.
YIANNIS BOURNOUS: European solidarity in practice means that there can be no police government refusing to receive even one refugee or immigrant and calling them the new cholera in Europe. The European Union leadership in this case should impose sanctions. If you don’t apply the relocation, the reunification of family’s programs, then you cannot be in the European Union.
Why are you in the European Union? Why are you in a union of states? Only to gain benefits? Like, for example, all the new states that are entering the European Union are getting structural funds, agricultural funds, et cetera, et cetera.
This is the notion of European unification because until now the new liberal majority in the European Union leadership has been brutal and authoritarian when we’re talking about fiscal and financial and policies of the member stage of Euro zone, for example. My country has bitterly experienced that. It has been politically punished because we have been trying to change the paradigm.
What about this case? This is not only European, but a global challenge and I agree with you that with the consequences of climate change, with the continuation of imperialist interventions, with a continuation of wars, with a continuation of this European Partnership Agreement in terms of agriculture, we’re going to continue receiving refugees and economic migrants. So the question, and I agree with Diane, is the management.
When we’re talking about the management of this crisis, we have to talk about European solidarity. If there’s not such a thing, then what’s the point of discussing about any kind of European integration model?
PAUL JAY: Okay. In the next segment, we’re going to talk about Brexit, what you all think of it, ’cause that sure ain’t European integration model. So please join us for a continuation of our discussion with our esteemed panel from Europe on The Real News Network.

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Paul Jay was the founder, CEO and senior editor of The Real News Network, where he oversaw the production of over 7,000 news stories. Previously, he was executive producer of CBC Newsworld's independent flagship debate show CounterSpin for its 10 years on air. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with over 20 films under his belt, including Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows; Return to Kandahar; and Never-Endum-Referendum. He was the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and now the largest such festival in North America.