Parliamentary Assembly Session April 2011 Session de l'Assemblée parlementaire avril 2011
Thorbjørn Jagland

Jagland: Europe’s migration debate needs facts not emotion

Facts not emotion are needed to steer Europe through the current debate over migration, Thorbjørn Jagland declared earlier today during his visit to the Netherlands.

This is the challenge facing the region’s politicians and leaders in all walks of life, the Secretary General said at Leiden University, in a speech focussed on Europe’s current economic turmoil but drawing heavily on the current debate on diversity and immigration.

“The crisis is economic but its implications are much broader,” he said. “They oblige us to look at some very important questions in a new light. Migration is one of these questions.”

The Secretary General pointed to Europe’s historic role as a meeting point of cultures, its success as a model of regional integration, innovation and solidarity and outlined the case for the legal, political and cultural management of migration.

Jagland said: “Europe is a place where nations, cultures and people meet and mix. This constitutes our true identity. Properly managed, this diversity gives us great strength. Mismanaged, it risks weakening us greatly.”

The Secretary General acknowledged the complaints about multiculturalism, the fears of majority populations and the social rifts between different religious and ethnic communities. He also warned against rising xenophobia and the emergence of parallel societies.

“The challenge for politicians and leaders in all walks of life is to move the debate on migration from emotions to facts,” Jagland declared.

Demographic trends, he admitted, mean that Europe will need between 40 and 60 million immigrant workers by 2050.

The Secretary General added that without these migrants, Europe has no chance of sustaining either its prosperity or its social model.

“We cannot escape demography,” he added. “As the stabilisation of the Euro is surely the most acute short-term challenge in Europe right now, our biggest long-term challenge is how to manage migration, not only from a legal viewpoint, but especially from a political and cultural viewpoint.

“Our identity is an integral part of our richness, of our strength. But – and I underline this – identity must never come at the expense of what holds us together as a society: our common values.”

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