CHRISTOPHER WAY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the lecture and the Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. I'm Christopher Way, director of Cornell's Institute for European Studies. And it's my pleasure, on behalf of the institute and on behalf of the director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Hiro Miyazaki, to welcome our Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker John Psaropoulos to campus today.
I'll get around to introducing him in a bit more detail in a moment. But first of all, I want to say a few words about the Einaudi Center and the Foreign Policy Distinguished Series, which we are pleased to welcome John Psaropoulos today. Since its founding in 1961, the Einaudi Center for International Studies has helped to stimulate and coordinate Cornell's work in and around the world, playing a central hub for Cornell's international activity, and helping to foster citizens and leaders of tomorrow.
The Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series is part of the Einaudi Center's focus on foreign policy, which grew out of an understanding of Cornell's needs to contribute to important international and global debates. Since the foreign policy initiative was launched in 2006, the center has formed a foreign policy network of well more than 40 faculty from across campus, started a current events class for undergraduates, provided startup funding for ongoing and new activities in foreign policy studies, and brought expertise to campus to address important topics and the series of which this lecture is a part. We are very grateful for the support received for this foreign policy programming from the San Giacomo Charitable Foundation, Judy Biggs, and the Bartels family.
Today's talk is also part of our celebrations of International Education Week. This week around campus, you may have noticed that the Einaudi Center and other international units have been putting on a number of lectures, seminars, art exhibits, and displays commemorating our international activities this week. The International Education Week is a joint initiative along with the US Department of State and the Department of Education and recognizes our goals of promoting programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.
Today in the Foreign Policy Speaker Series we are honored to have noted Greek journalist John Psaropoulos, who will deliver a lecture, a very timely lecture, titled "Open Door or Fortress? Greek and European Responses to the Refugee Crisis." We couldn't have a more timely topic. Obviously, we planned this far in advance. And obviously, migration has been emerging over the last few years as one of the central issues facing Europe, attracting headlines due to a surge in popularity among radical right parties across countries who try to capitalize on ease about the inflow of migrants. A topic which garnered more interest as a result of the tragic attacks last winter in France and, of course, last week's terrorist attacks in France.
So it could be no more timely topic. And I also should point out that this lecture is part of the kickoff year for the Migration Initiative, which is sponsored by the Institute for European Studies. And recognizing the importance of the migration issue, the Einaudi Center writ large has chosen migration to be one of its major themes of programming going forward the next few years.
Let me try to introduce today's guest, though. We're pleased to have Greek journalist John Psaropoulos. John Psaropoulos studied ancient Greek at King's College London, so a small shout-out to our Classics Department in encouragement to students the value of studying classics and classical languages. Classics majors do make good. And we have evidence of that here today.
John started his career in journalism writing for the European newspaper in 1992. He went on shortly thereafter to work for CNN Headline News and CNN International in Atlanta, where he did his first broadcast reporting. In 1999 he moved back to his native Greece and for a decade ran that country's historic English-language newspaper, the Athens News. Psaropoulos has been a freelance journalist since 2009, based in Athens and covering Greece, Cyprus, and southeastern Europe. He's written and broadcast-- uh-oh, well, we'll have to get-- OK.
He's written and broadcast for NPR, PBS NewsHour, Al Jazeera International, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, the Irish Times, and I'm leaving off several more on the list, it's so extensive. His work can be found on his excellent blog, the newathenian.com, which I highly recommend to you. And I would point out that personally I found some of John's reporting this past summer on the refugee crisis and Greek elections to be some of the most valuable resources for high-quality insights into these recent events. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to John Psaropoulos.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Hello, and thank you all for coming. Thank you also to the Einaudi Center for inviting me here, to Director Christopher Way, to Deputy Director Jason Hecht, and to Gail Holst-Warhaft for making all of this possible. The refugee crisis is a very rapidly moving story as we speak. So I don't think there's any sense of closure as I speak here today. And I don't think that I will brave any conclusions at the end.
But I would like to provide you at the beginning with a snapshot of the situation and why this year signals a complete change from previous years in the refugee and migration story. I will tell you what the European response has been. And at the end, I'll talk around whether I think it's enough, is it going to be effective, is c going to be sustainable? And I will at that point use the Greek experience as a case study to back up what I think applies in each case. But I'm afraid I'm going to leave you without conclusions. I'm going to leave you instead, perhaps, with heuristic tools for drawing conclusions of your own.
The Balkans are a neighborhood of very small countries. When my father tried to explain to an American colleague how small, he said, when we apply for a gun license, we go to the neighboring countries' authorities because the bullets are going to cross borders. As we speak, there is a column of humanity stretching from Greece's port of Piraeus in the south of the country to the northern Greek border into former Yugoslav Macedonia, north into Serbia, veering west into Croatia, and then again north into Slovenia, Austria, and ultimately Germany. That swerve to the west is due to the fact that Hungary at some point refused to take in anymore migration flows and said that it was simply overwhelmed by the course of people coming through.
I think the Paris attacks are going to have a profound change on how Europe deals with these people. But what, even before those attacks, made this year different signally is the sheer size of the phenomenon. Consider that in 2012, approximately 3 and 1/2 thousand people crossed the Aegean into Greece. And Greece has, through the last five or six years that this phenomenon has been noted, typically the root for 80% to 90% of migration flows into Europe. In 2013, that number jumped to 30,000. Last year, excuse me, last year it was about 44,000. And this year we are at 660,000 and counting. These are figures from the Greek Coast Guard and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Now why the surge? The United Nations, the UNHCR, says that 13.9 million people were newly displaced last year because of conflict or persecution. And that brought the global total to a record 59 and 1/2 million people. Of those 14 million newly displaced people last year, 3 million became displaced outside the borders of their own countries, making them refugees. And that, of course, volume is added to the number of people already displaced in camps in Turkey, in Jordan, in Lebanon, and in Egypt principally from the Syrian war.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said we are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before. And all of those host countries which I mentioned, which are the four top host countries globally, are now bleeding people across Greek borders.
So as a result of the volume, two things have happened. One is that the tactics have changed. Up until last year, there were hot pursuits of Turkish smugglers trying to get people through into Greek territorial waters at night. What's now happening, as I shall show you in a moment, is that migrants are being piled onto rubber dinghies without a smuggler, pointed towards Greece, and told, you're going to go to that island over there. And this is happening in broad daylight. It's no longer a covert operation.
The second thing that's happening is that, on the way out of Greece, people are no longer undergoing the dangers that they used to undergo. When I visited the port of Igoumenitsa, which is on Greece's northwest coast and is the main exit point, excuse me, the main exit point for passenger ferries going to Italy. And the reason for that is, it is the terminal point of 1,000-kilometer-long road that starts in Istanbul. And roughly 600 articulated trucks a day come from east to west, bringing goods into Europe. And all of them go through the port of Igoumenitsa. And they are the main vehicle used by migrants to smuggle themselves into Europe.
If you go to that port, there is a gruesome, you might call it, human smuggling museum, an impromptu display of slabs of rock propped up in a V shape on the backs of trucks, underneath which people have placed sleeping bags, padding to lie down in. And then the ends of that V shape, the sides of the pyramid, as it were, have been closed in with drywall. Or there are stacks of flagstones arranged so that they leave a hollow in the middle, just enough room for somebody to crouch in.
And there have been much, much worse experiences than that. Fuel tanks on the sides of large trucks are big enough to take a teenager who will fold himself into a sort of fetal position for 12 hours at a time. And those experiments have largely resulted in those young boys dying from fuel inhalation. That isn't going on anymore because the sheer number of people involved is now just walking northwards through the Balkans, as I described.
Incidentally, that didn't save them from being beaten and robbed up until about May or June of this year. I spent a night on the Greek-Macedonian border with a group of Yemeni, Syrian, and Afghan refugees who were planning to go across. They changed course at the last moment because they heard the voices of what they thought would be their waylayers and attackers on just the other side of the border. We did have a phenomenon that I reported on earlier this year of mostly Albanian gangs attacking these people as soon as they crossed out of Greek territory. Because they're carrying their money, they're carrying expensive cell phones, they're carrying Syrian passports, all of which is valuable. Syrian passports particularly can be sold on to people seeking refugee status in Europe.
Now I'll show you what the volume means just in physical terms. This was shot by my cameraman, Francesco Fedeli, on the north shore of Lesbos, which is about seven nautical miles away from the Turkish coast. And that's what you see behind the boat. This is a group of Afghans mostly. They are loaded to capacity on a rubber dinghy, which you see sits very low in the water. They're given a 25-horsepower engine, which is just enough power to get them across. And they are launched like a seaborne invasion, more or less, one after the other. Dozens of these boats arriving a day onto Lesbian shores.
Now they have life jackets. Until last year this wasn't the case. And the rest of that clip is here. You can see the shore is littered with other boats and life jackets that have been discarded. These arrivals during a three-day period, a particularly bad three-day period in October, were seven to 8 and 1/2 thousand a day. They have now gone down to about 3 and 1/2 thousand. But the UNHCR predicts an average rate of arrival of 5,000 a day until February, when it's expected to increase again because of the improving weather.
So the respite that authorities expected to have in the winter simply won't happen. And what you see here is volunteers, Greeks, Americans, Europeans, who pick these people up so they don't wet themselves when they arrive. Because the weather is already quite cold. This was shot in late October. And you've got a danger of hypothermia, particularly for this wall of children.
These rubber boats, by the way, aren't bought. There are enormous warehouses, factories on the Turkish coast that simply purchase the rubber material and make them because it's cheaper. So the numbers are overwhelming, of course, the authorities. And why are these people, therefore, being allowed in? Mainly because of the principle of nonrefilement, enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. You cannot turn away war refugees. You have to screen them. You have to interview them. Because they are allowed to seek sanctuary in your country.
And I quote, "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." His country of origin. Greece, I note, was one of the 28 signatory countries of that Convention.
It's no mystery why these people are leaving their countries. You know that there's a civil war in Syria. The war in Afghanistan never really ended. The Taliban is resurgent. Couple of months ago they reclaimed a northeastern city, which shows you that their reach is increasing to the north of the country. I think if American forces were to depart next year as planned, it would be a matter of months before they took Kabul.
And of course, the war of the Islamic State has been extended now into northern Iraq, where the Kurds are the front line against the Islamists. All of these countries are now producing war refugees pouring into Greece. The sort of people I've met include [? Doa, ?] a 17-year-old girl from Syria who was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean when the very smugglers her family paid $1,500 to get her across the sea rammed the boat that she was on with hundreds of people on board. I don't know why. There was presumably some dispute with the particular vessel that was being used. The result was that most of those people drowned.
[? Doa ?] survived by holding onto a piece of flotsam. She found an inflatable ring. When I interviewed her in Crete, she'd been brought in by a Greek Coast Guard helicopter, which picked her up off a Greek merchant ship. And her skin had been partly burned off. Her face was partly tanned and partly white because of the skin that had flaked away. And I didn't notice this at the time, but when I reviewed the tape, I saw that during the interpretation intervals, she was choking back tears because she had been asked to take care of three small children, two of which died in her arms.
I mention this because later on when we come to discuss the so-called security threat, it seems to me that jihadis are going to find far easier, safer ways to cross into Europe than that. There is the Afghan interpreter from Kabul whom I met at the camp of Moria on Lesbos who has been waiting for two years for an American visa because he's been threatened by the Taliban for working with American forces. It hasn't come through yet, so he's throwing himself on the mercy of the Europeans.
There's the taxi driver from Syria whose house was demolished by a bomb from government forces and crippled his wife. So he was forced to sell his taxi and use the money to pay smugglers to get him and his four children, small, all of them 11 or younger, across to Greece. And he was forced to leave his wife behind with relatives.
And there's the young Syrian engineer who I filmed as he trotted onto a ferry boat to leave Greece westward and was arrested in the garage. And the Coast Guard allowed me to talk to him. And I said, why are you leaving? He said, I'm 22 years old. I'm at conscription age for the Syrian army. And if I don't leave now, I will either have to go and fight for Assad, probably wounding or killing people I know who are against his government. Or I have to be drafted into the Free Syrian Army and get myself killed choosing the other way. And all I want to do is finish my electrical engineering degree and work. And he was headed to Germany to do that.
The size of the phenomenon also affects the asylum question. It's not just a practical issue of processing people as they come in. The European Union is today the destination for about 2/3 of asylum seekers entering the developed world. It's actually gone higher than that because the trend is sharply increasing. When the Iron Curtain fell, the EU faced the then highest number of asylum applicants, 672,000, in 1992. And applications peaked again after the Yugoslav war, to about 400,000.
Last year Europe, not just the EU, received 714,000 applications. And according to the European Asylum Support-- excuse me-- Support Office, this year in the first nine months alone had received 892,000 applications. The number is expected to go well over a million.
To give you a comparison, the United States last year received 134,000 applications. So this is an issue that burdens Europe. Europe is the new Colossus. That's the snapshot of the situation. How am I doing for time?
SPEAKER 1: You're doing great.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: OK. All right. There have been four main European Union responses. The least controversial is that European Union members will give an extra billion euros to the UNHCR and the World Food Programme. I think that's the right thing to do. It is, of course, aimed to help keep people in the Middle Eastern camps in Jordan and Lebanon and safe neighboring countries. But it is also essential funding for programs that are straining under the weight of the numbers now. This is a point also made by President Barack Obama on Monday morning.
The second, more controversial action is the discussion about doing a deal with Turkey. In October, the European Council of government leaders welcomed a proposal to give Turkey 3 billion euros in order to better police its borders; in order to feed and house migrants-- there is about 1 and 1/2 million to 2 million now in Turkey-- in order to readmit them from Europe, because that isn't happening; and in order to give 2 million Syrians a way to make a living on Turkish soil.
In return, Europe would potentially unfreeze accession talks. Talks to admit Turkey into the European Union became essentially frozen less than a decade ago. There is a discussion about providing visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. And Turkey is also pushing for the European Union to change its official stance on the Armenian genocide of 1915.
Now this is all under discussion. And there's going to be an EU-Turkey summit at the end of this month in Antalya. Angela Merkel justifies the 3 billion euros in aid to Turkey, saying that Turkey has already spent 7 billion euros on the refugees. But there are strong objections from European countries and, of course, from Greece. And I'll focus on the Greek ones because the Greek objections pretty much encompass what other people are saying as well.
I think the mayor of Lesbos put it very well. He said to me, why should Turkey be paid to uphold the law? It is the standing law of the land that people should not leave Turkish territorial waters without permission. So why is this happening?
Yiannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister with whom I was speaking last week, said people are being assembled in broad daylight-- refugees, he meant-- behind the beaches from where they were going to be launched. Often, he says, with civilian onlookers. Now Greeks have a number of objections to the lack of law enforcement on the Turkish side. It's obvious that there is an entire economy being built around the demand for transport to Europe. Boats are being built, engines are being bought, apartments are being rented, and some say the Coast Guard is being paid off.
I spent a number of nights patrolling the maritime border between Greece and Turkey with the Greek Coast Guard. They've got military grade thermal cameras that can reach to 12 nautical miles, well beyond what you need for those straits. So they can see what's going on on Turkish shores. They can very clearly see boats detaching themselves from the coast. I assume, therefore, that so can the Turkish Coast Guard.
Greeks accuse Turkey of allowing the smuggling partly for the money. Close to a million people coming across at $1,500 a head is about a billion dollars. So it's obviously big business, and it's organized crime. And therefore some people are reacting to the idea of giving Turkey more money when law enforcement is already lax. Some people go so far as to believe that Turkey is deliberately using the refugees as leverage in order to reopen stalled negotiations with Europe.
The mayors of eastern Aegean islands have suggested that ferry boats the government has already charted in order to bring refugees from those islands to Athens be sent directly to the Turkish coast. Cut out the middleman and simply bring people to Athens for screening. That would, of course, relieve those islands, who are losing a lot of tourism business. They've had a record number of hotel cancellations this year with this surge. It's still too early to say what the costs are locally. But a report that the Finance Ministry commissioned said initial indications were that cancellations were reaching 60% or more.
But of course, the EU's very reluctant to do that because once you've established a direct, safe, legal line of mass transit from Middle Eastern camps into Europe, I think the numbers will then increase further. There is another concern with the Turkish deal. Up until the moment when US foreign policy co-opted Turkey into the fight against the Islamic State last August, the front line consisted of Kurds from northern Syria and northern Iraq.
Now that the Turks have engaged in operations, they have attacked Kurdish camps and bases as well as Islamic State camps. The reason for this is the Turkish authorities say that there are Kurdish terrorist organizations-- they mean PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party-- also active and present in northern Iraq. The incident, I think, serves to make us aware of the fact that countries directly in contact with the conflict also have a more problematic relationship with it. Once order breaks down in Syria, a change in borders becomes possible. The Kurds make no secret of their desire to establish their own state in northern Iraq and northern Syria, which is something Turkey doesn't want to see.
So Turkey has to be engaged in the way that reassures Turkey that that won't happen. But you then have to draw the balance with other allies in the region as well. So the foreign policy aspects of that line of defense has to be very carefully crafted indeed.
The third European response has been internal, hotspots in relocation. Five hotspots have been established on the Greek islands in the eastern Aegean to fingerprint and identify people coming in. That information is then shared on European databases. And up to 160,000 people will, after this process, instead of being allowed to trek across Europe on foot, be flown to other countries who volunteer to take them in as asylum seekers. This has been done on a voluntary basis because the European Commission came up against very strong negative reactions when it suggested doing it on a compulsory basis back in May.
I think this is correct. European rules on asylum protection require people to be processed at the member state where they first alighted. It's called the Dublin II Regulation. But this is now practically impossible, and Greece has been fighting it for years. So its suspension, I think, is good news. It is also in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which explicitly states that one of the reasons it was necessary, that Convention was necessary, was that refugee flows burdened some countries disproportionately because they're always produced by war zones. Therefore, it's the neighboring countries that are overburdened. And therefore, responses have to be international.
It was mainly Eastern European states that rejected this idea, by the way, for a refugee quota, and that has now produced a rift within the European Union. Principally between Germany, which has taken a lead in announcing it will host 800,000 refugees, and Eastern European countries. So in September, when this was adopted by the European Council, it became a voluntary scheme. Some countries still voted against it, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic. Finland abstained.
After the Paris attacks, some EU members have threatened to abrogate their promise. Poland has said it will not take its allotment of 4 and 1/2 thousand refugees. Slovakia says its camps will be a security threat in light of what's happened. Merkel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also faces internal opposition from her coalition partner, the Christian Social Union, which is a Bavarian party. Bavaria is in the southeast of Germany facing Austria. It's therefore the entry point for these refugees.
She's already had to rescind a 140-euro weekly stipend in favor of a coupon system. But the 143 euros to each refugee were essentially a stimulus to the German economy. That money was locally spent. And it seems hypocritical to simply replace it with coupons. But politically, it, let's say, presents Germans with a more palatable symbolism.
The fourth proposal from the European Union was common border protection. And this idea began in June of 2014. It was picked up in May this year by the migration agenda, which you can find on the European Union website, and it was brought forward by the Commission with greater force in the September summit. It promises to come up again at the December summit at the end of this year.
There's a problem with this. The EU is not a federation. It's a confederation. It consists of a group of sovereign states. So everyone is responsible for policing their own borders. Those people who have external European Union borders obviously bear a particular burden. Now there is a European border agency called Frontex, which is helping Greece with various assets, helicopters, boats, land-based gear. And these operate at the behest of the Hellenic Coast Guard. The change that the European Commission is pressing for is that Frontex would operate independently. And that would, of course, be an end of Greek sovereignty over its maritime border.
This is how the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, put it in September. If the Greeks are not able to defend their own borders, we should ask kindly, because Greece is a sovereign country, to let other countries of the European Union defend the Greek borders. That is the position of the Eastern European countries who have internal European borders, but they also have migration flows on their soil coming from Greece. But the Greeks find this idea very difficult to stomach because what it essentially means is that their most sensitive border with Turkey will be taken over by somebody else. And the Greeks don't fully trust that everybody else will police it with as much zeal as they do.
So where do these responses lead, and are they effective? Are they enough, and are they tenable? Or will the European Union instead shut its borders, and could it suffer greater political division?
I think I'll divide this into three questions. There's the political movement to the right, which we've been seeing over the last few years in Europe. Political movement to the right basically means nationalism, a process of deintegration, a reversal of federalization in favor of national control. We're seeing it in various forms in various countries.
For example, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France. She has called for a halt to the migrant intake in reaction to what happened last week. There's the closure of borders in the Balkans. Hungary, for instance, closed its border twice with Croatia. And we've seen similar tendencies in right-wing parties elected in Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Denmark, and Holland.
Britain is an interesting case. Britain decided to suspend welfare benefits for migrants for the first four years of their stay in England because it decided that this was too much of a draw. Now the British problem is not so much refugee flows. The British problem is intra-EU migration. When the Conservatives were elected, they placed a target of no more than 100,000 people coming in to reside in Britain each year, and it's been about three times that on average every year.
So what the Brits now seek to do is renegotiate their entire contract with the European Union. They're willing to offer welfare benefits from day one in return for a suspension of the fundamental movement, freedom of movement, of people. Now the European Union is based on the free movement of people, goods, services, and money. If you suspend any one of those four basic freedoms, I think you are putting in question the fundamental nature of the union.
Germany and France, the locomotive hitherto of European integration, have agreed to talk about that. But I think that that discussion can only possibly be fraught. It's an attempt to forestall a British exit from the European Union altogether. But I'm not sure that it will reflect well on the European Union either way.
There is a danger as part of this process of deintegration of the Schengen border controls treaty coming apart. I think Jean Asselborn, the Luxembourg prime minister, put it very well on October 10 when he arrived in Athens. He said, we are envied around the world for Schengen. With a single visa you can travel across the European continent. That is why we have a collective responsibility to protect external borders. Without the external borders, Schengen cannot stand. All countries will revert to national border controls, and Schengen could collapse in a matter of weeks.
Well, this is not at risk of happening. France has temporarily reimposed border controls. And the CSU, the Bavarian party, has called for federal police to impose border controls on all border crossings with Austria. And if that doesn't happen, the Bavarian party threatens to do so using state troopers.
I think I will come back to the question of Europe reverting to nationalism. But that is one danger. The second danger is the potential loss of civil liberties and even the rule of law. Pretrial detention in France is now being increased from 12 days to three months. Surveillance of native populations is going to become more intrusive as emergency powers are elected to President Hollande. And there are other dangers as well.
But let me answer that using Greece as a case study. Until 1990, Greece was a very ethnically homogeneous country. It was actually a producer of migrants, not a receiver. When the Iron Curtain collapsed, for a period of about 10 years Albanians and Romanians and Bulgarians flooded into the country, as well as other nationalities. 10 years later a 2001 census put the figure of foreign residents in Greece at 762,000, which in a population of 10 million was 7.3%. And that's certainly an underestimation because irregular migrants don't register.
So this meant that Greece had in 10 short years grown by 10%, I reckon. But these people were eventually absorbed because they found a place for themselves in the economy. Greece tried to develop a policy in an area where it had never really needed to have one. It firstly followed a policy of amnesties. Rather than treating these people as illegal aliens, it allowed them to present proof that they had been residing in the country for five years. And if they had done so, the implication was that they had found a means of making a living. So they were then given residence permits. And there were three such amnesties, which resulted in about half a million people getting their papers.
In 2010, Greece acquired its first citizenship law that allowed citizenship to people who were not of Greek descent. Now this is a big deal for Greece. It was struck down, in fact, by the Supreme Court as too concessionary because it recognized birth on Greek soil. And the argument was, well, people are going to come over, have babies, and go back, and then they'll have a Greek passport. So it was reintroduced and reapproved by Parliament this year. But there are still strong reactions to that.
But I think it is a very, very big step for such a homogeneous society as Greece to accept the idea that we are no longer going to be ethnically Greek. We're going to be legally Greek.
Now the young, second-generation migrants who've grown up in Greece that I spoke to are not entirely sure what they're going to do with this passport. Some of them want to take it and leave. It's their passport to go elsewhere in the European Union. Of course, that won't happen if Schengen is abolished quite as easily as it would. But young people are leaving the Greek labor market. And young, second-generation immigrants will be no exception to that. But it is still progress to recognize that these people are part of Greek society.
Let me give you another example of how far along Greece has come with respect to harmonizing rule of law regulations. Back in June of 2012, when the conservatives came to power, they instituted a policy of systematic police sweeps. And they put the people they found without legal residence papers into detention centers throughout the country. The migrants who were released after a holding period spoke to me of unsanitary conditions, exemplary beatings, poor nutrition, and little or no access to health care or legal aid, all of which is illegal under international law. Human rights groups have documented this quite thoroughly. And one Greek human rights lawyer I spoke to felt that detention was being used as a tool of deterrence.
So Greece found itself last year in danger of indictment at the European Court of Justice for prolonged and systematic detention. Because some of these detainees were being kept in for longer than 18 months, which is strictly against European Union law. When Syriza came to power in January, it put an end to long-term detention, and at least one of those camps has been disbanded. So there is now a return to law-abiding behavior on the part of the state.
There's a similar pattern in asylum. In January of 2011, an Afghan man won a case at the European Court of Human Rights against Belgium because Belgium had deported him back to Greece, which was his first port of entry into the European Union. Which is what's supposed to happen under the Dublin II Regulation. But the Court ruled that, because Greece suffered from systematic problems in its asylum processing, it was wrong for European Union members to send people back there. And the UNHCR recommended the following year that EU members do not follow the Dublin II Regulation, specifically with respect to Greece.
And the numbers, I think, bear out that recommendation. 2007, Greece had more than 20,000 asylum applications. It approved 140. 2008, 30,000 applications. It approved about 350. Finally, in the summer of 2013, Greece established a proper asylum service staffed by lawyers who were experts in international humanitarian law. In its first year of operation, the asylum service, receiving over 9,000 applications, approved over 1,200, which is in line with the proportions we see, of approval we see, in Europe.
My point is that Greece has learned the rule of law, not in the context of how it treats Greeks but foreigners. It's learned it in the context of international law. And it learned it through this process of immigration. It is thanks to the EU pushing for transposition of international and community law in member states that this happened.
Now if the process of deintegration takes place, you're reintroducing the danger that countries will revert to treating people at their own discretion. There won't be collective observation. There may not be collective decision making regarding how you should deal with large external problems and threats. So that's my answer, my indirect answer, to the threat of deintegration following the Greek example.
And there's now the question of security after Paris. Well, you can't close a maritime border. It's not physically possible. The Greek-Turkish coastline, particularly, is a border that's in some places only a couple of nautical miles wide. So it is extremely easy to hop from Asia Minor onto the European continent. Greece, of course, is abiding by its obligations to fingerprint and identify people. Frontex will surely step up its presence on Greek borders.
But I think that this is barking up the wrong tree. I think that these refugees undergo such great dangers and expenses. They pay all their life savings. 3 and 1/2 thousand have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. And the way out of Greece used to be fraught with danger until recently as well that I think it highly unlikely that many terrorists will be sent into Europe this way. And in any case, if they are, your only hope of catching them is identifying them, is recording them as individuals when they enter along with everybody else. And then trying to find out who they are. But that means mostly doing your homework on human resources databases. It's not a physical barrier.
Also, terrorists have other networks. Last autumn-- I mean, it passed with very little notice-- but last autumn more than a dozen Muslim community leaders were arrested in former Yugoslav Macedonia for running smuggling networks for jihadis passing through the Balkans. Now these people have been passing through Greek-Turkish border controls and checkpoints. So we know who they are. I think those are the records that authorities need to be looking at, not the untold multitudes.
Barack Obama put it this way on Monday morning. He said, "It's clear that these people are victims of terrorism themselves. Slamming the door in their faces would be rejection of our values." I think that is correct. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said the same. You really can't treat the refugees or potential refugee populations terribly differently to how you're doing now just because there may be some needles in the haystack. You've got to do your homework in order to find those needles.
There's also the political fallout of the migration flows and the security threats. The most negative side of migration in Greece was the rise of Golden Dawn, the far-right party, and its suspected attacks on migrants. Beginning in 2011, gangs of hooded youths began to waylay immigrants on the streets of Athens. They were always dressed in the same way, black hoodies, and they always carried clubs, switchblades, knuckle dusters, and chains. These attacks always happened at night. One of the most noted was a raid on a house where Egyptian fishermen slept in 2012, where people were very badly beaten. The knifing death of a Pakistani in broad daylight in central Athens the following year.
And the tide, I think, turned with the killing of a Greek leftist rap singer in September of 2013 by a Golden Dawn member, who was arrested on the spot. That led to the indictment of all 18 Golden Dawn members of Parliament, who had been elected in 2012, including the party leader. They are now facing charges of belonging to a criminal hierarchy that posed as a political party. Prosecutors believe that the police showed tolerance because Golden Dawn was acting as a self-appointed arm of law enforcement and enjoyed immunity from arrest. Well, if that was the case, it clearly changed once Golden Dawn targeted Greek political opponents.
Here again, the rule of law has at least chained if not chastened a politically extreme group. Golden Dawn is still polling 6% in national votes, but it remains marginal. In the rest of Europe, where the rule of law is better established, nationalist parties have not made the same mistakes as Golden Dawn, but politically the story's much the same. Right-wing parties garner support only up to a point. They've not overtaken center-right parties. They have sometimes participated in coalition governments, which are possible in Europe's predominantly parliamentary system of government. And the fact that they remain distinct from more moderate mainstream conservative forces is, I believe, a sign of health.
In America's presidential system, it's been more difficult to separate social conservatives from fiscal conservatives. And that has left conservative voters with a much more problematic choice. So in my view, we should not see the emergence of nationalist political forces in Europe as necessarily a troubling thing. That range of opinion has always been there. I don't think we should see the most frightening just because their discreteness allows them to broadcast an unadulterated message. On the contrary, that discreteness allows us to observe precisely how marginal they are.
Now both here and in Europe, conservatives are calling for an end to migration and refugee flows into the West. I think that would suit Islamists just fine. It reflects badly on the Islamic State that people are fleeing land under their control. It's no coincidence that so many of the people you see coming into Greece are young men aged 20 to 24, because that's the age of conscription.
I think the response has to be quite different to what we've seen in some respects. I think that the four actions taken by the European Union may be going in the right direction. Turkey has to be engaged. Imagine if another million people were to cross into Europe next year, the political fallout would be disastrous. But we also have to bear in mind the hypocrisy.
For years, Greece has been allowed to deal with the refugee problem more or less on its own. It's only this year that the European Union has recognized that there has to be a collective response. Up until now the theory was the Dublin II Regulation held. And if you found refugees on your soil that had come in through Greece, which was 90% of them, you sent them back to Greece for processing. People didn't want to know. Europeans wanted to believe that it was a Greek and Italian problem.
I think that the countries that destabilized the Middle East ought to do more. This is how the Greek foreign minister put it. "It is not possible for third countries like Greece to pay for other people's choices. We neither wanted, nor partook in, nor pursued war in Libya or Syria. I think it is unfair for countries to bear the principal burden that didn't take part in the causes of the refugee flow."
As you remember, France was the first country to charge into Libya well before the rest of NATO. America invaded Iraq a second time apropos a bundle of intelligence that has been now debunked. The United Nations-- Carl Bildt, if you remember him-- was saying that the WMDs simply weren't there. In February of 2003, America's imminent invasion created a rift in Europe. Six countries, led by Britain, supported the war against the majority. Poland was among them. Poland is now among the countries that are thinking of not taking in refugees from the Middle East because of the so-called security threat. Britain has not named a quota. Neither has Spain. Those were the principal three countries that backed the American invasion of Iraq.
In Poland's case it's particularly bad because Polish economic migrants, not political or war refugees, flooded into Western Europe without legal residence papers after the fall of communism. Poland itself benefited from the fact that Europe kept its doors open from people coming in from the east. I think the hypocrisy has to stop.
I am broadly optimistic about the course of the EU in general and with respect to this particular crisis. You've got to take the long view with the EU. We're not quick decision makers. We don't have a proper federal machinery of government. The EU is currently under pressure both to broaden towards Turkey and to deepen. Germany's stance, I think, will be key because Germany has emerged as the undisputed leader of Europe in the last seven years of the eurozone crisis. It's mainly done so by leveraging its economic power into political power because people are aware that the German economy is the underpinning of the value of the euro.
But Germany has also acted in a heavy-handed manner, particularly towards Greece. In the refugee crisis it took a leadership role with a very soft stance by opening its doors to 800,000 people. The signs are that there is still a movement towards federalism. The recent euro barometer poll showed that 61% of Europeans, on average, favored the common currency, even though its introduction has been so fraught. In fact, among Greeks, it's 65%.
I think that the free movement of people, goods, services, and money is recognized as growth inducing for the economy, but it also creates a sense of security. It should not now be presented as creating a sense of insecurity. What I think you have to do in order to build on what you've got in terms of federalism and the European Union is to work on the quality of democracy. Greece has developed in the ways in which I've outlined, thanks to transposed European Community law and international law. During a period of a quarter century, Greece learned rule of law behavior.
Don't forget that the Eastern European countries have been democracies for only 25 years and European Union members for only 11 years. They were politically in an ice age for 70 years before that. So they're not quite as versed in public debate as the rest of the European Union. And that, I think, is reflected in the strength of their reaction towards federal initiatives.
I think the quality of democracy is, in the end, a question of maturity. You know, when my children were born, I was a benign dictator because I had to make all the decisions, and my wife, of course. As they grow, we open more and more issues to debate and democratic vote. And of course, once they're older I suspect that everything will be up for a vote.
I think how well the EU handles the challenges that advocate against openness and democracy will partly depend on how mature democracy is within, of course, each individual member but also within Europe as a whole. I think that you can see this refugee crisis in a positive light. People are relearning basic human rights, which are easy to forget when they're defined within national boundaries or within a racial or tribal context. Rights are now being rethought as questions of principal and equality before the law. Isonomia, one of my favorite Greek words. Isonomy, a great ancient Greek invention.
The philosopher Karl Popper, I think, put it best. "Humanity's fundamental project is to transition from tribal societies to open ones. That doesn't mean that we sacrifice identity. It means that we establish mutual respect and equality." This is harder in Europe, where countries are ethnically based. France has clearly failed to integrate its Muslim population. At least three of last week's attackers are French citizens. Remember the banlieue riots in 2005, when the debate was awake-- was reawakened, rather, about whether these people were, whether the Muslim minority of France, was being integrated and engaged.
The attackers in London that year were also UK citizens, Muslims. Remember also that the September 11 attack as in New York were radicalized in Germany. Clearly, northern Europe has issues of integration and assimilation, which it must address and hasn't done so. Handing out passports is not enough. We've got to get rid of tiered societies.
I think it comes down to this. International human rights law protects us all from lapses in freedoms in our own countries. That freedom is always under threat from our own sense of insecurity. And it's easy for individual countries on the basis of their collective national consciousness to slip in and out of civil liberties. But it is much harder for an entire continent to do so.
So I think that, if Europe decides to hang together, to trust in its institutions, to respect international law, to do right by these refugees, it stands a much better chance of integrating all the 28 member states who are currently not sure how much sovereignty they want to give up. And debates have to take place in each country, but also integrating nonnative populations. I think we have paid too much in blood over the last century to forget about international law now. Thank you for listening.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: Thank you so much. Is this still on? Thank you so much, John, for a stimulating talk. And you did a wonderful job of balanced analysis and remarked the way that you combined hard facts with individual stories that were deeply moving, a real lesson for budding journalists out there in how to communicate effectively. We have a good amount of time for questions from the audience. And there's certainly a lot to engage here. So I'm going to hand off the microphone to [INAUDIBLE], who will walk around and deliver it to anyone who puts up their hand to ask a question.
SPEAKER 2: Thank you. Thank you very much for your stimulating, thought-provoking presentation. I'd like to ask you to say a bit more about two things. One, about your conviction or at least your hope of Europe being a home of a democracy. I don't see the European Union as a democracy. And I don't think very many members of the European Council would like it to be a democracy.
What I do see-- and your lecture has supported this-- is that Europe is the font of the rule of law. And that's not the same as democracy. It's a good thing, and I hope it will be used in countries like Greece and maybe Turkey. But it's not lack of democracy [INAUDIBLE] has demonstrated. And you were doing this in capacity to impose rules of austerity on [INAUDIBLE].
The second question is whether you are as convinced as you sounded that the right-wing populist countries are less of a danger than some people think. In the past, at least, it indicates that every increase in votes of an extremist right-wing party led to a shift to the right of the moderate center-left parties. We saw this in France, with the rise of the National Front. And I think we've seen it in Britain with the rise of the [INAUDIBLE]. So I wonder if it's so much that these parties are a threat in themselves, or rather that their presence and their threat lead to a shift to the right and therefore toward Euroskepticism and nationalism on the part of the traditional center right-wing parties.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: On the democracy question, I think you are correct. I agree with you. There has been a huge democratic deficit in how particularly Greece has been dealt with. And it's particularly troubling because European member states chose to ignore expert advice from the International Monetary Fund on how Greek debt, particularly, should have been dealt with. And what's happening now is that the European Union is trying to develop a separate school of thought on debt. The IMF has been saying since 2010, you cannot refinance the Greeks with such a heavy debt burden. It will be ultimately impossible for them to keep paying those interest rates. It's going to sink their economy because too much money is being set aside for that purpose and not reentering and cultivating the productive economy at home.
It's an argument that was made most forcefully by Syriza in the first six months of this year, and Syriza came up against a brick wall. The European Stability Mechanism, which is now taking over most of Greek debt, presents a different argument. Klaus Regling was interviewed by the Financial Times as saying, it really doesn't matter what your debt is. All that matters is that money markets trust you enough to lend. And they'll trust you enough to lend to you if you can demonstrate that you're solvent through the foreseeable future, a reasonable amount of time, a few years. After that, who cares? It's all theoretical.
So the can kicking that we've seen in Greece's first two bailouts continues to be the main plank of European thought on how to deal with debt. The Greeks want to deal with their debt. They do want to pay it down. They do want to return to respectability in world markets. I don't think anyone in Greece sees taxes going down for the foreseeable future. But what they really want more than tax cuts and any other sort of softeners and sweeteners is prospects of growth, prospects of a return to health. And that has not been forthcoming. And the process that has produced that situation for Greece is, I agree with you wholeheartedly, completely undemocratic.
So will-- well, it's undemocratic partly because of the institutional complexities of the euro. Nobody at the beginning of the crisis in 2010 put a mechanism in place for dealing with the eurozone crisis. It had to be dealt with by the Eurogroup, the finance ministers of the 18 member countries, and it had to be dealt with at the European Council level. It is this emergence of Germany as the leader of Europe which I think has partly deprived the process of democracy and pluralism. Germany has imposed its view. Fiscal discipline is the way to go for the eurozone. Everybody has to cut their costs.
In fairness, Germany is at least partly right. There was a huge budget deficit increase in 2009. It was 13% of the budget, and that had to come down. But the Greeks balanced their budget in six years. They did tremendously well. And at that point they felt they were entitled to at least a debt maturity extension, a longer period of time in which to repay the money. And that hasn't been forthcoming, even up until now.
With respect to the threat of the right, I think Europe has been through hell in World War II. My mother still remembers the German occupation. She was 10 years old when the tanks rolled into Athens. She remembers the famine. She remembers people dropping dead in the street. She remembers children curling up to sleep on the grating of the Athens metro because warm air would come up from underneath. But after midnight, when the service stopped, they would freeze to death, and they would be picked up in the morning off of that grating.
Greece has traumatic memories of fascism. And they don't go away. They even grow with time as trauma, national trauma, often does, when it's handed down from one generation to the next in stories. I don't think that Golden Dawn will ever go above 6% or 7% of the vote. It may be a different story in Northern Europe. Because I think one troubling development of the last year or so is that you've seen austerity produce left-wing forces along the Mediterranean basin and right-wing forces along Northern Europe.
And I think that one major concern of Angela Merkel's government is that you can see a Europe that is politically divided across a North-South divide, with Mediterranean countries reacting with greater social sensitivity and going to the left and seeking, collectively seeking, less fiscal austerity. And the northern Europeans, who are the wealthier countries, resisting the transfer union that ultimately has to happen if you're going to have fiscal union by veering harder to the right. And then you lose all communication because leftists and hard right wingers don't talk the same language.
In America, by the way, the North and the South of the country still form a transfer union, don't they? The South never really recovered from General Sherman.
SPEAKER 3: I'm wondering if you could possibly clarify. You said the [INAUDIBLE] absorption inclusive of the [INAUDIBLE] rallies being paid for. I hadn't realized what you said about the policing was very interesting. I hadn't realized that [INAUDIBLE] made sense [INAUDIBLE] money, especially given the austerity policies. Are Greece and Italy receiving extra funding for that?
And I'm wondering, second question, just about this reading analysis is, it does seem to me that, well, I'm wondering how much national screening does go on, or is it really just registration in Greece? I mean, are they really investigating these people's backgrounds? I mean, it does seem to make a difference, to me at least, whether somebody was actually in fighting on behalf of Assad's forces and then decided to leave versus somebody who has been a victim of Assad's forces from the very beginning. So I'm just wondering--
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: There are some of those from anecdotal stories I've heard. People who've simply gone AWOL from Assad's forces.
SPEAKER 3: It sounds like it's increasingly happening now, which is understandable.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Look, in terms of the money, it's very difficult for Greek authorities to isolate what the refugee flows are costing them versus their normal operating budget. I've had questions to the Greek Coast Guard and the police in the pipeline for about six weeks now that they can't answer.
I'll give you an example, though. Last year the head of Coast Guard operations in the eastern Med, in the eastern Aegean, told me that his fuel costs alone were going to be in the neighborhood of $17 million. I said, how much of that's European money? He says, Europe is going to give us about 3 million euros.
This year there's more European money. But the Prime Minister's Office tells me that the total budget for dealing with refugees this year is in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars. And the European money that's coming in, if you look at the announcements, is in the order of tens of millions. So it doesn't get covered. So again, another aspect of hypocrisy.
With respect to the security question, there was a back and forth between New York's Representative King and an anchor on one of the networks yesterday morning. King was saying, what's going on isn't real vetting. We're just asking these people where they come from and taking their stories at face value. Well, that's what you do in asylum processing. You start with the person you're talking to. You can't necessarily verify everything they say. I think that you have to, for security purposes, you have to use intelligence on the ground. You can put people on the ground in Syria who will give you information about people who've been in the armed forces or people who've been in the Free Syrian Army or people who are suspected of sympathizing with the Islamic State.
But ultimately you can't verify everybody's story. This is a ridiculous notion. You cannot screen a million people a year in that way. You cannot go back to Syria and find their families and, you know, interview their family members and then talk to their employers and then go to the government. The government won't even talk to you anyway. So the notion that we're going to be able to screen these people, I think, is moot. We have to simply observe humanitarian law and, I think, by using intelligence on the ground that is focused on the people who've been in the armed forces, who have been in arms, find out what we can about people who may have fought for one side or the other.
SPEAKER 4: Ask about something because I'm Greek. There are no interviews. They just take photos. Take fingerprints-- sorry-- and they give them papers for the next 60 days. So no interviews. You can say, I'm Syrian, and you can be from Afghanistan or another country. But we cannot have [INAUDIBLE]. We do not have the money and the resources.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: No. The interviewing isn't supposed to happen at the hotspots in Greece, as you rightly say. They fingerprint them, take down their identification, and the interviewing is supposed to happen when they start being processed for asylum. But there are interpreters who speak Arabic and Dari and so on at these hotspots in Greece. And to a certain extent they can tell if people are fluent in the language. You can't come from Afghanistan and pretend to be Syrian if you're not a fluent Arabic speaker. But the full interview is not meant to happen there, and it couldn't possibly. If these people are arriving at a rate of 5,000 to 8,000 a day, how are you going to do it?
SPEAKER 5: Thank you very much for your presentation. In terms of the four responses that you said that the European Community or the EU as an institution may take towards the refugee crisis, you said there was a billion euros to go to the UNHCR, the deal with Turkey essentially trying to offer sort of speed up of accession negotiations, and the--
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: And 3 billion in cash.
SPEAKER 5: It's 3.3 billion. And then the visa liberalization and accession negotiations, both of which processes were already sort of in the works and faced incredible hurdles. So whether this is a real effort on either side or this is a little bit of politicking I think is up for debate. The third was sort of allocation of refugees amongst the countries.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Relocation--
SPEAKER 5: Exactly.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: --within the EU 28.
SPEAKER 5: Exactly. Relocation and allocation, sort of a burden-sharing agreement. And then the fourth is common border protection.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Right.
SPEAKER 5: And of those four, three of them, the 1 billion euros for the UNHCR to try and keep the refugees where they are. The Turkey deal and the common border protection are not border sharing, they're border shifting. They're trying to sort of push the responsibility for taking care of these refugees to the countries where they may first come, to Turkey, to Lebanon, to Jordan. So I'm wondering how, in your opinion, that sort of jives with the spirit of the 1951 Convention that you were talking about in terms of, this is an international problem. We have to respond to this with international measures and not just place the burden on the countries in which they're first moving through.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: That's a good question. Is the European response in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Convention? You might get different answers if you ask international law experts. But I think in practical terms, it's perhaps Europe's only hope to avoid a repetition of this year's phenomenon next year. Because you've now got 4 million people in Lebanon and Turkey and more in Jordan further south. And all of those people are saying, we want to come to Europe.
I mean, I occasionally have asked them, don't you want to go to the Gulf? And the answer is, no, we have nothing in common with those societies. Those are closed societies. We want to live in freedom. We want freedom of speech, we want respect for human rights, we want to be treated as human beings. We can't go to the Gulf.
So they're on their way unless you find a way to make it possible for them to stay, to sort of hang around near Syria in conditions that you can call borderline humane. And to do that, I think you have to do a lot more than pay Turkey 3 billion and the UNHCR 1 billion. You've got to give them hope that the Syrian conflict will end within a year or two. Because what they want to do is, of course, rebuild their country and live there.
Barack Obama said he's relaunching a diplomatic initiative to try and achieve that. There are differences of opinion between the West and Russia on how useful Assad can be in that. But you've got to engage Russia, and you've got to engage Iran. Iran is already a quasi US ally in Iraq and I think could become a valuable US ally in Afghanistan.
So I say bite the bullet. The nuclear deal with Iran I support. It's at least an effort to reach a diplomatic solution, where a military one isn't available. Bite the bullet and ask Iran to be part of the solution in the Middle East and to commit resources to that. Because at the moment Iran is also surrounded by chaos. And I'm sure that's not a good thing for them either. They have no hinterland with which to trade. Anywhere they look, I think, they face only expenses. It must be in their interest to normalize their neighborhood.
So I think, you know, I think just come clean, engage the Iranians, engage the Russians. The French saw the Russian involvement in Syria as an opportunity to bridge differences over Ukraine. And President Hollande called upon Putin to join the coalition against the Islamic State. I think that's a step in the right direction. I mean, most of Europe sees the EU-Russian standoff over Ukraine as a huge waste of resources, I think. Certainly in my neighborhood in Europe, which is orthodox.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: I think we have time for one more question if anyone has one. If they don't, I might ask a final question. I'll give it to the audience first. OK, I'll [INAUDIBLE]. John, you could have ended on an optimistic. You ended on a couple of optimistic notes.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Yeah.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: You want to steer us back toward pessimism? [INAUDIBLE], because [INAUDIBLE] near the end was that this migrant flow that we're so worried about isn't likely to be a very attractive conduit for terrorists. And I agree with you about that. They probably would try other means to get in there. But on the other hand, you also say that a lot of the terrorists have been radicalized after they get here.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: Yeah.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: That European countries have not done a good job of integrating them at all. In many ways have provided fertile territory for the radicalization of migrants after they get there. So you said they have to do better. Why would you think they're going to do better? I just think you've going to have a million more people who potentially can be radicalized to the mix. And I have no confidence that we'll do better, which really worries me.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: It's an area where you don't have grounds for confidence, I agree. It requires a fundamental rethink within French, German, British society of how you think about people who are different from you. In terms of religion, in terms of culture and background. If I were coming from the Middle East, I don't know that I would necessarily be aiming for Northern Europe. I think I'd be looking for something closer to home. And maybe that explains why so many people have stayed in Turkey and Lebanon for so long.
But they can't stay there forever. The war's been going on for four years now. I think they hoped for the first couple of years that it would end quickly, and that's not happening. It's a stalemate. So I agree with you that it's more helpful to try and end the war in Syria than to try and change European thought about outsiders. As I said, Europe is not an immigrant society. It's a group of homogeneous societies.
And there is a lot of racism. There's a lot of racism in Western societies. I don't speak only about Europe. We haven't done a good job about stamping it out. We're still tribal thinkers, essentially.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: I'm afraid I steered us toward a downer of a conclusion. But I'll remind the audience that there were nuggets of reasons for hope within your talk. Thank you.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: To end it the way I would like to, I think that--
CHRISTOPHER WAY: OK, you can have the last word.
JOHN PSAROPOULOS: I think that it's unthinkable to return to a dissolved Europe of individual nation states, where everyone has to fall back on their own resources. I think people feel that there is an inexorable impetus towards greater integration. They haven't agreed on when and how. They can see that the world is regionalizing, and Europe has to regionalize as well.
It's going to take a lot more discussion and debate. But I think it's basically that fear that is going to drive Europeans closer together. And frankly also guilt and a sense of responsibility over Western actions in the Middle East.
CHRISTOPHER WAY: OK. You've recovered the tone of [INAUDIBLE].
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John Psaropoulos, an independent journalist for NPR, PBS and Al-Jazeera, spoke at Cornell Nov. 18, 2015 as part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. He outlined the Greek and European responses to the Syrian refugee crisis in light of Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.