The Home Affairs EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom – says migration not only to but also from Europe is part of European history and migration is a good thing; it helps make ideas, goods, and people circulate for the benefit of all. This does not mean migration is not a challenge for both receiving and sending countries but it is part of human history and a necessary piece in the puzzle of socio-economic development. Malmstrom in her speech at the European University Institute last week criticised how the European Union reacted to the Arab spring. Instead of worrying as to what happens to people who were marching on the streets asking for freedom and democracy the EU only thought of what this crisis meant for ‘undesired’ and unexpected migration inflows. EU and national governments actually said oh no, we have a crisis, so please stay where you are, noted Maelstrom. Indeed she qualified this as a ‘historical mistake’.
This speech of the Home Affairs Commissioner is a welcome change to usual techno-talk from EU officials who speak about a ‘global approach to migration’ without however saying much as to what this means in concrete terms. There is usually a long list of obligations that sending countries have to fulffil and a long list of control policies while there is no dynamic understanding of how migration is part of the social and economic life of Europe. Indeed at a time of steep risis of the far right in many European countries, this speech of Cecilia Maelstrom has been a welcome breath of fresh air!