Jeszenszky Géza, hazánk volt külügyminiszterének angol nyelvű előadása a melbourne-i People On The Move: Causes and Consequences című migrációügyi konferencián.

The historical dimension

Human history is largely the history of migration. The national-ethnic setup of present-day Europe was formed by the so-called Great Migration, which took place in the first millennium. Its direction was westward; it started from the Great Chinese Wall, probably caused by the weather in Central Asia becoming drier. Germanic, later Slavic and finally Turkic peoples pushed each other, in search of pastures and riches. The Migration destroyed the Roman Empire, but it led also to the creation of Europe as we know it today. Starting at the end of the Middle Ages colonization by a few European powers, the voluntary (and sometimes involuntary) mass movement of their subjects established the two Americas, Australia and New Zealand. My country, Hungary, in the Carpathian Basin, was settled by Hungarians (a people speaking a Finno-Ugrian language, the distant relative of Finnish and Estonian) at the end of the 9th century, but the nation gradually absorbed the Slavs found there, and was supplemented by Turkic, Germanic and Latin peoples, as well as Romanians, Armenians, Greeks and other settlers. So, we, Hungarians, are also a nation of immigrants.


What are the causes of mass migrations? Wars, cruel tyrannies, racial intolerance ending in pogroms, famines, climate change, just to list a few negative causes. On a positive note the attraction of fertile, rich lands worth conquering and settling in. The common denominator is usually the desire for a better life. But even in the case of successful emigrations homesickness, a longing for the land left behind, tend to remain. The ancient Greeks created colonies from Sicily to the Crimea, with temples and amphitheatres on the model of the city-state they left behind. The modern emigrants, too, tried to build a replica of the old country: New England, New Amsterdam – or New South Wales, to give a few well-known examples. Hungarian refugees of the suppressed War for Independence tried to establish Új (New) Buda in Iowa after 1849. The immigrant always wants to feel at home in the new environment, therefore forms colonies, neighbourhoods, enclaves in the new country, with people speaking his/her own language. They try to build what is today called parallel societies.


Migration often brings great benefits both to the immigrant and also to the host country: escape from poverty and persecution on the one hand, new energy and know-how on the other. Most American Nobel laureates were immigrants, very often coming from Central or Eastern Europe. The atomic bomb was created mainly by Hungarian Jews, who first worked in Germany, but then fled from Nazism. The imported new genes always contribute to healthier and more gifted generations. My country, Hungary offers an object lesson for that. Hungarian business and the arts benefitted very much from immigrants. Germans and Jews stand out especially. In the 19th century both groups assimilated enthusiastically and very successfully into Hungarian society. Then came the First World War, unfair peace treaties, and the search for scapegoats. All that led to the murder of more than half a million Jews in 1944 and the expulsion of close to two hundred thousand Germans after 1945 depleted the nation. The 3.5 million Hungarians detached from Hungary by the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty have never recovered from the loss of their patriotic Jewish fellow-Hungarians.

Budapest, 2011. szeptember 8. Jeszenszky Géza, Magyarország oslói nagykövete, volt külügyminiszter beszél az In memoriam Habsburg Ottó elnevezésu rendezvényen, az Európai Bizottság Magyarországi Képviselete - Európa Pont Lövoház utcai épületében. Mellette ül Gero András, a Habsburg Történeti Intézet igazgatója (k) és Tormássy Zsuzsanna, a Habsburg Intézet tudományos titkára. MTI Fotó: Kovács Attila

While emigration is a permanent and usually unstoppable movement, it is not a solution for whole countries or larger regions suffering from poverty, tribal and religious intolerance, or war. Half Asia and two thirds of Africa cannot move into America or Europe. It is not possible, neither physically, or culturally. Solidarity can help individuals, even tens of thousands, but not millions to settle in the prosperous West. Genuine solidarity must rather help the less fortunate and less prosperous part of mankind to have liveable life at home. It can be achieved primarily not by financial aid, which is often stolen, but by investments, technological transfer, and first of all by good government. Democracy, yes let’s face it, liberal democracy is the best form of government. Can it be exported by force? Certainly not. But by example, by education it can.


The Muslim dimension


As it is well-known, there are now millions of Muslims living in Western Europe. Mainly immigrants from former colonies who were admitted to perform jobs which the locals did not care to do. In the U.K, France and Belgium there are now towns and districts where the majority is already Muslim, and they may be in control of local government. In Germany the millions of Turks (and Kurds, who are of course very different from the Turks) also came as Gastarbeiter, guest workers, but most of them stayed on and lately were given German citizenship. The Asian and African immigrants in Scandinavia have a more mixed background; many came from Pakistan or were admitted as refugees from Africa, nowadays mainly from civil war-torn Somalia and Eritrea. Political correctness does not like to admit the widespread criminality among the non-European immigrants, and tends to explain any problem with them as the result of the prejudices of the local population. Despite the efforts of the Scandinavian governments (often helped by the Lutheran Church) to educate and integrate the non–European immigrants the results are meagre – if any. Any connection between this failure and the Muslim religion was (and still is) considered racial and religious prejudice by most of the media and the opinion leaders. But why do Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians and others mix easily with the Scandinavians and usually prove good in their jobs, while a significant number of Asian Muslims just live on welfare?


By Islamic fundamentalism we usually mean the strict observation of the teachings of the Koran, the lifestyle and conduct of the Muslims prescribed by the Prophet Mohammed in the 8th century. The most conspicuous custom is covering the face and the whole body of the women, so that strangers could not see them. Abstinence from alcoholic beverages is also prescribed, although often not observed in private. The settlement of quarrels and breaches of the traditional laws by the sharia is probably the most alarming for Europeans. The Arab conquest of the Holy Lands in the 7th century was answered by the Crusades, starting in the 12th. Today’s Islamic fundamentalists do not forgive those medieval wars of religion (and plunder) and are bent to revenge them. But Islam had a tendency, in fact a command to spread the authority of the Caliph and to conquer all the lands inhabited by people they considered infidel. First the Byzantine Empire, then the Balkan peninsula, and in the 16th century a large part of Central Europe including Central Hungary was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The Turks destroyed much and took a large part of the Christian population as slaves. In two centuries half  the population of  the Kingdom of Hungary was killed or sent into slavery. The Ottoman Turks were pushed back in the 18th and 19th century, when most of the Muslim lands in Africa and Asia also came under direct or indirect European rule.  Contrary to the Arab and later the Ottoman rulers the Europeans did not mind the beliefs and practices of the Muslims under their control. Conflicts between the Muslims and the Europeans (Christians and Jews) reappeared after the First, and much more after the Second World War. The weapon against the military superiority of the Europeans was terrorism, killing from ambush, indiscriminately. Terrorism was a new, much more serious expression of Islamic fundamentalism. Hijacking airplanes in the 1970s became widespread, but eventually it turned out to be increasingly difficult due to airport security, screening. The last major success by hijacking was carried out in the early hours of 11 September 2001 in Boston. That introduced a new era, mass murder by suicidal terrorism. The “war on terror,” declared by the second President Bush, was not very effective, but despite the Madrid and London bombings prevention could be called a success – until last year. What was common in all those outrages was that the culprits were long time immigrants or the children of immigrants. That gives a new dimension to migration.


Refugees and Migrants


The Second World War, in addition to the tens of millions of casualties, was also responsible for millions of expelled, displaced persons, commonly called refugees. Their fate became high on the international agenda. At its first session in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly recognized not only the urgency of the problem, but also the cardinal principle that “no refugees or displaced persons who have finally and definitely … expressed valid objections to returning to their countries of origin … shall be compelled to return …” (resolution of 12 February 1946). A Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted at a special United Nations conference on 28 July 1951. It was initially limited to protecting European refugees from before 1 January 1951, but a Protocol  adopted in 1967 removed the time limits and applied to refugees “without any geographic limitation”. The wars and other calamities in Africa and Asia produced a constant flow of refugees, but it was handled, due to the willingness of most advanced and democratic countries to grant asylum to bona fides refugees. A much larger number of people from Asia and Africa, mainly from former colonies, came to work and settled in Western Europe. And last year, in 2015, all of a sudden, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly but not exclusively Arabs, appeared at the southern borders of Europe, in Italy and Greece, but moving on towards Germany and Scandinavia.


What caused this movement so suddenly last year? Many factors. Civil war, bombing and persecution in Syrian and Iraq facilitated fundamentalism and the rise of “ISIS”, a terrorist “State”. Also grave old phenomena like poverty, tribal conflict and sectarian violence. It is a wide-spread mistake to ascribe the turmoil solely to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. People from war-torn Afghanistan and Africa added to the flood. It is next to impossible to make a distinction between genuine war refugees and migrants, people escaping from poverty. While Arab states (except Jordan) are not ready to receive refugees even temporarily, Turkey has provided shelter to 3-4 millions. The majority of the fugitives, however, want to go on to the prosperous part of the world. This human mass coming to Europe looked like a deluge. Patrols, fences could stop it only temporarily. The inundation either burst through or went around the obstacles and eventually reached its destination: Germany (amounting in 2015 to a million), the United Kingdom, Sweden and others. But the refugees wouldn’t have come so far, embarking on the dangerous journey to Europe, crossing sees (many drowning), if they had not been induced by unscrupulous human traffickers, who promise help during the journey against a huge price. In 2015 the well-meaning, but reckless Willkommenkultur,  the German invitation to people fleeing form Syria, offering shelter, food and eventually work was as much a cause for the mass migration as was war and terror itself. The promise – or just the illusion – of easy life in Western and Northern Europe prompted hundreds of thousands to start. The demographic ebb and the need for manpower, as well human solidarity were the main explanations for the  willingness of many European governments and citizens to welcome the newcomers, whether they were regarded as refugees or just migrants intending to settle in Europe.


In late 2015 a shift in public opinion started. A division grew between the governments who referred to humanism and the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, and those governments (mainly those in Central Europe) who refused to treat the migrants as genuine refugees. There was a split between well-meaning compassionate people aiding the migrants who considered all to be refugees, and those who feared that millions of potential Muslim immigrants would change Europe beyond recognition. (Such a fear is not unknown to Australians.) The series of terrorist attacks and the many incidents between the newcomers and women has changed the mood and is having serious political repercussions, as the recent election results in Germany and elsewhere show. It is easy (though not proven) to link terrorism to the migrants, but I think it is far more alarming that most of the terrorist killers were second generation immigrants born in Europe. The failure, in fact the refusal of so many Muslim immigrants to integrate into European society, and the growing radicalism especially among the young are the strongest arguments against the illusion that non-European immigrants might solve the demographic problem of Europe and would provide a workforce keeping Europe prosperous.


Terrorism itself is not the subject of my talk, suffice it to say that to curtail it requires more than increasing the number and the funding of the police. Even fully coordinated intelligence services (which are still missing but are a must) will not eliminate the problem. The admission of any, even a large number of people who appear to be genuine refugees will not significantly influence the number of successful (or failed) terrorist attacks. The base for recruitment by ISIS or Al Kaida is already there in France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden or wherever there are Muslim communities. Neither is it my intention to discuss what Europe can or should do with the existing millions of Arabs and other Asian and African immigrants, a significant portion of whom does not want to integrate, to behave like a European. There are quite a few promising symptoms, like a Muslim mayor in London, but there are many cases that give ground for pessimism about the possibility of integration and eventual assimilation. But here I have to point out a feature which is hardly noticed and discussed. The erstwhile Iron Curtain and its concomitant, the low standard of living in Central and Eastern Europe kept the eastern half of Europe practically free from Muslim immigration. (Arab doctors, former students and currency handlers can be found in all formerly communist-dominated countries but they do not influence public attitudes towards the Muslims.) Despite or just because of that the governments of those countries (and also most of their public) is strongly opposed to accepting even a small number of migrants, although they are legally bound to accept refugees. (On the other hand quite a few individuals and also a few organizations did and do provide help to the migrants by giving them food, medical aid and sympathy.) Interestingly most of the leaders of the Catholic Church in those countries openly defy the advice of Pope Francis to welcome and help the needy migrants, while local priests often act in the spirit of Jesus and the Good Samaritarian. The referendum in Hungary held on 2 October on whether the country should accept migrants believed to be refugees will have no impact on the flow of Muslim immigration.


In my opinion it is not enough to try to deal with the symptoms, the flood of refugees. It is the causes, the roots that should be handled. Why do we not have any serious international discussion on how to stem the flow of refugees? As long as the civil war rages in Syria and Afghanistan, as long as ISIS controls much of the Arab Peninsula and terrorizes the population, Muslims and Christians alike, the flood of refugees will continue until the Middle East becomes practically empty of people. All the permanent members of the Security Council have a strong interest to fight fundamentalism and terrorism. Why the UN is not acting? Chapter VII of its Charter suggests common military action in case of any serious disturbance which threatens peace. Of course sheer force is not enough. Islam itself must change. The West, too, must change, must get rid of its bad habits. The reformation of Islam might start in Europe. Until that happens we must contain the radicals and defeat the fundamentalists in the field, by a coalition of North America, the European Union, and non-fundamentalist Muslim countries.  A first step may be the creation of safe and internationally protected areas in Syria and near it. As Nicholas Kristof said recently: „if the world won’t pay for refugees to eat in Jordan, it will have to feed them in the West.”


The Visegrád Countries and the Migration Issue


In 1991 Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary established the regional cooperation named Visegrád after the one-time royal see of Hungary, where the three kings of those countries held a kind of summit in 1335. Following “the velvet divorce” of the Czechs and the Slovaks the V-3 became V-4. The first time since their foundation that the V-4 appeared on the international scene as a group to be counted with is on account of the migration crisis.  Unexpected by many observers Hungary’s position on the flux of refugees or immigrants is that they should not be admitted inside the Schengen system in large numbers and without proper documents, without screening them, and that barbed-wire fences erected on the borders may divert and reduce the flood. That came to be supported by all the Visegrád partners, and also by Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and recently, with a volte-face, Austria.  Prime Minister Orbán, who until recently called Germany and its Chancellor the mainstay of Hungary, openly criticizes Willkommenskultur and states that his country does not accept quotas for migrants to be dispersed throughout the EU.  That position led to fears that the new EU members might form a strong bloc and facilitate either a division between several Western governments and their public, or, far worse, a split in Europe, more or less along the old line of the erstwhile Iron Curtain. God forbid! That would reverse all the results of 1989, of annus mirabilis, the fall of the European communist dominoes.  It would be tantamount to the betrayal of all who during the Cold War fought for regime change. That would run against the ideals and heritage of the founders of Visegrád, and a tragedy not only for the inhabitants of the eastern half of Europe. In my opinion a lasting political division inside the EU should on no account be allowed to emerge in any form. “Vrexit” would lead to an economic downturn in the whole EU, the financial disaster of 2008 and the crisis of the Euro would pale in comparison. The political consequences would be even worse: the loss of real independence for many states, the renewal of power blocs, and the possibility of armed conflicts. But such an Apocalypse is unlikely, unless common sense disappears in Europe.


Having witnessed the tragedies of the 20th century, all the victims of two totalitarian dictatorships were strongly committed to Atlanticism, to the continued close collaboration of the United States and Europe. What went with that was the commitment to the traditional values of Europe. Freedom and political liberties were the battle cry of the opponents of communism. A few people might digress from those values, but the majority of the population is not likely to turn away from them.  The present controversy on how immigration and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism should be handled is about practical politics and not about values. It is wrong to assume that the disagreement represents an East/West divide. The differing views should be discussed openly and sincerely, going beyond constrains of “political correctness.” Who can deny that all the values of Europe go back to the three hills: the Acropolis, the Capitolium and the Golgotha? Hungary’s late Prime Minister, József Antall used to say that in Europe even the atheists were Christians. By that he meant that the messages of both the Old and the New Testament are universal. For Antall Islam was not alien, on the contrary. He was a disciple of one of the foremost Hungarian scholars of the Arab, and in general the Muslim world. He had an intimate knowledge of its great cultural heritage, and he was very much aware of the potentials of Turkey. In the first NATO “political-military workshop” held in a former Warsaw Pact country, in Budapest on 3 June 1993, the Hungarian Prime Minister gave a very powerful speech in favour of the early membership of the V-4 in NATO. While he assured his audience that “we are supporters of the renewal of Russia, supporters of Russian reformist endeavours,” he envisaged for NATO a new function in a volatile world, where social and political fundamentalism may in the North-South conflict manifest itself and assail the world as the Bolshevism of the 21st century.”


I am sorry that I did not see serious discussions of the migration issue between the Central European and the West European leaders – rather only exchanges of recriminations. Hungary’s present Prime Minister has visited several Muslim states and often emphasizes his respect for the Islamic faith. At the same time he is repeatedly expressing his conviction that Europe would be ruined with more millions of immigrants, who have a totally different cultural and religious background, and who will certainly not become Europeans, as we have seen enough proof of that in Western and Northern Europe. He warns his European colleagues from continuing the encouragement of the refugees in Turkey, who are pondering whether to set off for Europe. He is determined to prevent the migrants from entering Hungary from any direction. More and more countries facing the human flood are accepting Orbán’s standpoint, and the public in Western Europe is also swinging in that direction.


It might sound over-optimistic, but I think that the present apparently deep political divisions in Europe can be bridged with determination and goodwill. On the short run the decisions reached unanimously in the EU Summit on 19 February 2016, strengthening the Schengen borders, flying acknowledged refugees from Turkey to Europe and distributing them not by quotas but accepting them on a voluntary base, is rational and could work. But the Euro-Atlantic community should also plan for the long run, for a better and more humane solution. It is hard to say but that is war. Not war on terror in general, but war against the organization which terrorizes Iraq and Syria. This would involve the formation of an international coalition, preferably acting under a resolution by the Security Council, in order to destroy the inhuman brigands who are the main culprits and are responsible for the mass migration. A prerequisite is a settlement over Syria. The US, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia have both joint and opposing interest in Syria. An agreement between them would deserve more then the Nobel Prize for Peace. The discussions might help to end the Ukrainian conflict, too. (By the end of September a cease-fire agreed by Russia and the U.S. collapsed, and that bodes ill for a quick ending of the Syrian civil war. But at least in the last weeks the view is gathering momentum that the migration crisis should be solved not inside Europe, but at least at its borders, or, preferably, in the Middle East and in North Africa.


The V-4 could initiate the discussion of the long-term solution within the EU. A common EU position could bring all the other parties to the negotiating table. The stakes are very high, inaction or insufficient action would only deepen the present crisis. But narrow political and economic interests and short term thinking, I fear, could ruin all the achievements of the 26 years that passed since the collapse of communism and the ending of the Cold War.