MUST SEE interview with Martin Schulz on the BBC

26 Feb


Please watch this interview with Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, and the BBC’s Sarah Montague.  Schulz gives a surprisingly angry and impassioned defense of European values, and in the process manages, not just to turn around the original Anglo-centric intent of Montague’s interview (the Brits’ narcissism at just this point in European history is becoming increasingly annoying to me), but to cover, in twenty-four minutes, practically the entire field of the challenges facing the Union.

He expresses his undisguised glee that a Tory Prime Minister is vigorously defending Britain’s staying in the Union.  He shows his hope that British voters’ sensibleness — a quality that we’ve all always liked to believe Britain embodies but that I’m not so sure of these days — will vote to stay in.  He defends Greece: “We make Greece into a massive refugee camp”, while indirectly indicating that Turkey — finally…someone — has a role to play in managing the flow of refugees and that that will be addressed in upcoming negotiations with that country — though how positive those negotiations turn out, with Erdoğan’s Turkey, which has clearly become the region’s most outstanding “rogue regime,” is to be seen; historical precedent would indicate that Turkey will continue to be treated with the same kid-glove coddling that it always has been by the West, no matter how it behaves either internally or externally – all the while sanctioning and villainizing a Russia which, if anything, is maybe a few steps behind Turkey in almost every aspect of human rights violating, freedom of speech limitation, random non-procedural incarceration, random mass murder…just about any of them.

He’s angry at the nationalist selfishness — “egoism” — of Eastern European countries that continue to exponentially magnify the refugee crisis.  (I wonder if Poles and Hungarians and company understand just what backwards post-Soviet societies they’re proving themselves to be through the stance they’re taking on the issue; maybe they weren’t ready for EU membership?).  And he gives credit where it’s due: not just to Sweden and Germany but to Jordan and Lebanon.  (I was kind of happy about the collective Nobel Peace prize nomination for Greek islanders and continue to be proud of their response, generally, to the refugee influx;* but I did think at the time: “Wait a minute… How about Jordan? Or poor little Lebanon – again…the country that can’t catch a break – that has been trying to accommodate what has been a nearly 25% increase in its population in the space of a few years? Why aren’t they nominated?  Because they’re accepting fellow Arabs and that doesn’t count as humane?”) And he expresses his frank assessment that it’s ridiculous – and any intelligent person must agree – to think that closing borders is going to make desperate refugees who are fleeing Daesh or Assad cluster bombs, and who have come this far, just turn around and go back.

Generally, he comes across as the best kind of modern German. I’ve ragged on Germany a lot over the past few years, as the primary force behind what I still think are the unfair austerity measures imposed on Greece and other southern tier countries that only hurt the most vulnerable. But Schulz’s passionate insistence that it’s the “humanitarian responsibility” of Europe, as the richest part of the world, to take in these people, and that if it was a mistake for Germany to invite them in so broadly and unconditionally, ready to shoulder the burden of the lion’s share but hoping that others would help out to some degree, that “it’s a mistake I would repeat,” is an expression of a German moral sensibility – one that comes out of a process of ruthless post-war self-examination – that I find incredibly admirable. More power to him. And them.

************************************************************************** * See also,  Annia Ciezadlo’sBe Like Water: The Nonviolent State of Iraq and Syria. The Republic-in-Motion of Lovers Not Fighters. The Government-in-Exile of People Who Just Want to Go to School.” in Guernica, for some beautiful and moving and compassionate and smart reporting on Mytilene and the refugees.  And if you like, my preface to it in a previous Jadde post.

Ciezadlo is to be credited with digging up the Odyssey quote — below — that I used in my post.  Read her piece.

“But come inside, and when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you come from, and all about your misfortunes.”
—Eumaeus, the Syrian, to the disguised Odysseus; The Odyssey, Book 14


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