“Migration: A Threat or an Economic Opportunity for Europe?”

The  Harvard Business School-Club Greece (HBS) and “SolidarityNow” on Tuesday held a presentation entitled “Migration: a Threat or an Economic Opportunity for Europe?” at the Megaro Mousikis Concert Hall. The event began with a minute of silence in honor of the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

The presentation stressed that migration and the people on the move can serve as an important lever of economic growth in modern Europe. At the same time, the speakers presented their suggestions that could help address the complex phenomenon of migration.

The Harvard Business School-Club Greece presentation of this year was organized with “SolidarityNow” at a critical time for both the country and Europe. Due to the specific theme of migration, three perspectives were examined:
– The political perspective
– The financial perspective
– The European perspective

The keynote speaker of the evening – discussing from a political perspective- was the internationally renowned contemporary philosopher, Political Science and Philosophy Professor at Yale University, Seyla Benhabib.
The Ambassador of the German Embassy in Greece, Dr.Peter Schoof was also a speaker, speaking through the European perspective on migration.
Lastly, the presentation of the internationally renowned Emeritus Professor at Columbia University, Bimal Ghosh, was delivered by Mrs. Jennifer Cavounidis, member of the Board of Directors of SolidarityNow -as health reasons kept him away from the event. He shared with the Greek audience that filled the Concert Hall, extremely timely opinions and thoughts about the economic outlook of the migration crisis, as it is unfolding.

The event’s moderator was the President of the HBS and Chairman of the Board of “SolidaityNow”, Mr. Stelios Zavvos.

“In 2014 the number of refugees worldwide reached 59.5 million – while in 2013 it was only 8.3 million. In 2015 these figures soared: refugees exceeded 65-67 million. Each year, there is an increase of refugees by 10 million”, said Seyla Benhabib, professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, as keynote speaker of the event. Also, she noted: “Globally, the number of migrant populations increased from 154 million in 1990 to 232 million in 2013. We witness that it doubled in 10 years’ time”. Ms. Benhabib, originating from Turkey, released data on migration in our neighbor country noting that in a period of 10 years (from 2001 to 2011), the number of arrivals and migrant departures tripled – from 23 million in 2001, to 63 million in 2011.

Regarding the recent developments and the EU decisions for the people on the move, Ms. Benhabib stressed the importance of respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, noting Articles 13 and 14 on “the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state” and “the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Concluding, Ms. Benhabib cited Aristotle’s “Politics” to refer to who constitutes a citizen and resident in a country: “There is often great controversy regarding the “citizen”, and not everyone agrees that the same person is a citizen. Someone who is a citizen in a democracy is often not in a totalitarian regime”.

Due to recent developments and decisions of the meeting of European leaders on the migration crisis, the Ambassador of the German Embassy in Greece, Dr. Peter Schoof, spoke from the European perspective of the matter and the obligations under the EU. He specifically noted: “We are working on a very complex issue. We cannot just press a button and make the refugees disappear. And the EU is not a federal state; it is a complex system of different Member States with different political and legal systems”. As pointed out, what the EU needs to do in order to tackle the crisis is to work together on the roots of the problem. We must empower neighboring countries that are affected by the crisis and combat the trafficking industry. And Turkey’s role here is key. Referring to Greece, the German Ambassador wondered: “How is it possible for Greece, a country of 10 million, to manage over 800,000 refugees?” For that reason, as he said, it is important to respect the process of relocation so that other countries bear a part of the burden as “the Geneva Convention dictates solidarity”.

Bimal Ghosh, as a professor at Columbia University, argued that migration should be seen as an opportunity for development and economic prosperity in Europe, noting: “Governments, especially in Europe, feel swamped by gathering waves of disruptive and unpredictable migration. As their fears grow that immigration is getting out of control, some governments become even more restrictive, creating a vicious cycle and inter-state tensions build up”. Referring to people entering the EU, Professor Bimal Ghosh stressed: “It is important to remember that although the arrival already of more than one million additional people within the time span of one year seems an overwhelming event, they would represent roughly one-fifth of one percent of EU’s population. The new arrivals would represent 0.4 percent of the labor force of the European Economic Area and Switzerland”.

Regarding what should be done in order to achieve a greater and more effective control of the flows, he stated: “Since the root causes aren’t addressed and emigration pressure remains unabated, flows are diverted to irregular channels. A regime of regulated openness can be achieved through proactive collaboration of origin, destination and transit countries”.

While concluding and ending the presentation, the President of HBS and President of “SolidarityNow” noted: “Recent migration flows pose an existential threat to Europe and suppress the social fabric of Greece. It is necessary to develop and implement a common European asylum policy to avoid nationalistic, extreme solutions”.

PHOTO: “SolidarityNow” [left to right: Political Science and Philosophy Professor at Yale University, Seyla Benhabib, President of the HBS and Chairman of the Board of “SolidaityNow”, Mr. Stelios Zavvos, Ambassador of the German Embassy in Greece, Dr. Peter Schoof]