User's photos, Mina Milenković

User’s photos, Mina Milenković

The horror on the Greek-Macedonian border has finally opened our eyes: it’s time to think about what the EU has done, what it hasn’t, what the citizens of the EU and non-citizens are to do in the midst of events which will mark the current century, and possibly beyond. It seems that the latter, non-citizens, are left with the heaviest burden. While Hungary and Bulgaria are building walls, decorated ever more extravagantly with barbed wire (and there are even some electrification ideas), while Slovakia is siding with European money, but only for 200 Christians, while Slovenia is still haggling about „their“ several hundred (although without religious or other demands), the Serbian president walks among the refugees – which is something, and Macedonia is left alone, just like in the summer of 1999 when thousands of Albanians were waiting for some solution to their problems in similar horrible conditions. I’m not trying to deny the liability of a country which is known for its long-term political instability and similar solutions (Kumanovo, earlier this year). I just think that it’s necessary to take trans-border and trans-political responsibility, just like some people, real people, already have done, from the first point where refugees touch the European soil all the way to Kale.

What has the EU done? It has participated unconditionally in all actions to introduce democracy to the Middle East. Partially through NATO and partially through statements of neutrality, with divided attitudes in the European parliament, with the ambiguous behavior of European politicians (from the ominous Tony Blair to the unwilling Mediterranean states): as a consequence, the whole area of the Middle East has become one of the most dangerous sources of instability and violence we’ve seen in the last two crazy centuries. Two major secular states, two dictatorships, Libya and Syria, have been destroyed, just like Iraq before them. Simply by turning its back and stopping the investments, the EU has destroyed all potential results of the „Arab spring” in cooperation with local aspirants to power. One can almost wistfully think back to the times when Europeans, with no great damage to people and resources, used colonial methods to remove individual rulers they didn’t like. By destroying Saddam, Gaddafi and possibly Assad, the lives of millions were destroyed, the unveiled women have disappeared, and free medical care and education were ruined as collateral damage of oil-filia, racism and the hysterical fear that „democracy“ could turn left. What remains is the type of state which can survive in lawlessness and violence with the borders and rulers keep changing – the caliphate. The EU was an accomplice in political and military actions which have caused these migrations and is, therefore, liable to pay amends and fix the things that can be fixed. And that leads us to the second key question:

What has the EU failed to do? The primary sin of the recent decades was not accepting Turkey in the EU even after it has fulfilled (or was ready to fulfill) all conditions. Due to this rejection and non-participation in administrative/legal/financial habits of the EU, Turkey has become conservative, more Islamic than ever, with a stronger military, and openly aggressive towards minorities, like the Kurds. Today, Turkey is an uncontrolled channel for the influx of refugees, with no help or responsibility, as well as the biggest gathering point for human traffickers. And also the main player in the Iran-Israel instability axis. The EU has failed to anticipate the influx of refugees which has been knocking at its door for the last fifteen years. Refugee centers in Cyprus, Crete, and Malta should have been established at least five years ago. These places would provide information to the refugees after the first part of their journey, allow them to state their wishes and potentials to find their place in European societies.

The first part of the journey, as well as the second, after the social and professional triage, would be done by European ships with regular routes for refugees and support staff only, who would work with them during the voyage. Trains, buses and smaller emergency centers would be waiting at the mainland. The European wouldn’t even notice this influx. To limit the policy to boats which are chasing traffickers off the coasts of Libya and the overcrowded Lampedusa is grotesque, just like the fact that nothing was done in Greece. The EU has irresponsibly allowed the refugees to WALK over the Balkans, like in Middle Ages, without any help and the hysterical reaction of the second-rate EU countries. The EU has left the main question to its right-wing marginal and the media hysteria: where would all these people live and/or work? People are already scared of the unemployment figures and are easily manipulated into thinking that the refugees would take something that is rightfully theirs. Therefore, the question is: why is the unemployment in and around the EU so high? The USA is an example that, even in this metastasis of capitalism, some measures can influence the employment rate. The EU has stolen the post-socialist countries and then left them up for grabs to its favorites. As a consequence, there isn’t a single industrial nation or even an industrial complex from Vienna to Libya. The faith of Greece, which is similar to all post-socialist countries, is proof that the influx of EU policy, and not socialist heritage, was the key ingredient; Spain and Portugal are also examples of this. EU development programs are more successful in Africa and Asia – but only by percentages. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, the EU has been implementing the policy of takeover instead of development, impoverishment of the masses instead of the social justice, services instead of production. And, unlike the USA, it has been financing self-sufficiency, social projects and other things which the unfortunate NGO sector uses to brainwash itself. The dried vineyards of Greece, the over-supported Dutch farms which produce too much, and the insanely high amounts of money which are regularly awarded to the British crown for perfectly bureaucratic agricultural projects – are all proof that the agricultural vision of the EU has failed. The fights about who spent what and didn’t pay it back are only bait for very stupid fish. However, even with this „division of labor“ refugees could fit into empty and neglected niches, and those who are more ambitious and educated could find their place in the real projects of social entrepreneurship and services, medical care and education, science and culture. And politics, why not! And what would happen if the EU loosed its neo-liberal grip and started promoting equality? In such a vision, the refugees are a promise of a bright, mixed, tolerant, happy, creative and comfortable future.

What are the EU citizens to do? If they want to help, they’ll have to learn to operate like guerillas: the actions must be hidden and the result well promoted. Because helping refugees is illegal, both within and outside the EU, and the perpetrators could be punished. I’m not talking about organized humanitarian assistance and individual help, but helping refugees get to their places of destination as quickly, comfortably and safely as possible, and helping them adapt if their new homes don’t live up to their expectations. Several organizations are already implementing such actions. The most interesting is definitely Fluchthelfer, which is continuing its tradition of helping DDR citizens escape to the West, i.e. West Berlin. The need for such an organization and its activities is horrific proof of how perverted the ideas of the fall of the Berlin wall have become. Their website provides valuable advice on how to smuggle a refugee within and outside the Schengen area. You should carefully select a place for pick-up and border crossings, you should study maps and be brave and consistent: all of this is necessary because the EU has failed to organize admission and placement. With a bit of planning and organization, a lot of inconspicuous private vehicles could transport many refugees at least to the neighboring states and over Schengen borders. The next important step is to secure accommodation for these people, at least for a little while and to help them acclimate to the new environment. Many EU citizens are well prepared for such actions, because parallel social systems exist pretty much everywhere. This part of the population has already proven that they care and are ready for social actions. Those who know the area confirm that the poorest are usually the first ones to help the refugees. How is it possible that in the last several years of catastrophe and loss of human life – only one rich couple decided to use their yacht for saving refugees from the Mediterranean sea? If owners of small boats decided to help, the business of human traffickers would be ruined. In other words, the rich and the selfish are a serious problem of the EU and beyond: they don’t promote European ideals, don’t respect humanistic standards, don’t raise citizens’ awareness and are less useful members of society in general. They should be educated. As for the helpers, the most important rule is that all these services are provided free of charge, because the penalties are much harsher if any exchange of money is determined. For example, you are advised to pay for gas with credit cards strictly.

What are the citizens of non-EU countries to do? Paradoxically, their area of operation is wider. First of all, they are closer to the refugees in terms of general social status and that’s why it’s important to deny and prevent the combination of frustrated and racist public narrative. Wealthy refugees should be protected from local hustlers. And those who have nothing will welcome anything that the united poor can give them. You have a room, clothes, shoes, bottle of water? Everything is welcome. Helping refugees could be beneficial to the many traumatized, desperate, hopeless and conflicted, especially if the help is accompanied by internet and media promotion: interviews with the refugees, in order to show their faces and hear their voices, to allow them to tell their stories, their memories and hopes. Help with transport can be even more efficient than that of EU citizens, especially on the borders where the EU states act arbitrarily, like in Greece and Hungary. We may wonder what’s happening with Bulgaria and Romania: beside the Bulgarian wall, another important fact is that several German citizens who were transporting refugees were held in Bulgarian jail for one-two months. Non-EU citizens, especially those from the Western Balkans could teach themselves and the EU citizens an important lesson, the one that’s supposed to secure entry into the EU – but into a better EU, which is still a figment of our imagination. And before the imagined European space and time, non-EU citizens should drain as much help as possibly from the EU in saving the EU from its own bad politics. That way both EU and non-EU citizens will be able to jointly reconstruct some of the former European idea, thanks to the refugees. Because the U-turn of European social policy is not dependent on the refugees: they are only a real help and important symbolic support, a slap in the face. The outcome could be beneficial and long-term. But, it could also be quick and pestiferous. It depends on whether we have that room and, inside it, a soul.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Peščanik.net, 28.08.2015.


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Svetlana Slapšak
Svetlana Slapšak, rođena u Beogradu 1948, gde je završila klasičnu gimnaziju i doktorirala na Odeljenju za antičke studije na Filozofskom fakultetu. Pasoš joj je bio oduzet 1968-73, 1975-76. i 1988-89. Zaposlena u Institutu za književnost i umetnost 1972-88. Predsednica Odbora za slobodu izražavanja UKS 1986-89, sastavila i izdala preko 50 peticija, među njima i za oslobađanje Adema Demaćija. Bila članica UJDI-ja. Preselila se u Ljubljanu 1991, gde je redovna profesorka za antropologiju antičkih svetova, studije roda i balkanologiju (2002-14), koordinatorka studijskih programa i dekanka na ISH (2004-14). Glavna urednica časopisa ProFemina od 1994. Umetnička direktorka Srpskog kulturnoga centra Danilo Kiš i direktorka Instituta za balkanske i sredozemne studije i kulturu u Ljubljani. Predložena, u grupi Hiljadu žena za mir, za Nobelovu nagradu za mir 2005. Napisala je i uredila preko 70 knjiga i zbornika, oko 400 studija, preko 1.500 eseja, nekoliko romana, libreto za operu Julka i Janez, putopise, drame; prevodi sa grčkog, novogrčkog, latinskog, francuskog, engleskog i slovenačkog. Neke od novijih knjiga: Za antropologijo antičnih svetov (2000), Ženske ikone XX veka (2001), Ženske ikone antičkog sveta (2006), Mala crna haljina: eseji o antropologiji i feminizmu (2007), Mikra theatrika (2011), Antička miturgija: žene (2013), Zelje in spolnost (2013), Leteći pilav (2014), Kuhinja z razgledom (2015), Ravnoteža (2016), Preživeti i uživati: iz antropologije hrane. Eseji i recepti (2016), Kupusara. Ogledi iz istorijske antropologije hrane i seksualnosti (2016), Škola za delikatne ljubavnike (2018), Muške ikone antičkog sveta (2018). Dobitnica nagrada Miloš Crnjanski za knjigu eseja 1990, American PEN Award 1993, Helsinki Watch Award 2000, Helen Award, Montreal 2001, nagrade Mirko Kovač za knjigu eseja 2015, nagrade Mira ženskog odbora PEN-a Slovenije 2016, Vitalove nagrade Zlatni suncokret 2017.
Svetlana Slapšak

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