The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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Immigration

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 1 June 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 13 months ago

The immigration problem has persisted and will not go away soon. It gives rise to concern across three fronts.

In first place, there exists the fear that “too many” immigrants are arriving from Africa, the Middle East and beyond, from the “Far” East of Asia. They will thus become such an excessive burden for the peoples who will be hosting them that social unrest will be triggered.

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Then there is the apparent impossibility for European states to together establish an action programme by which to deal with the problem through a common policy that would share out “equally” among them the arising obligations.

And thirdly, there is the fact that the majority of European states are actually not finding workers in the numbers they need to sustain the growth dynamic generated by their economies. They need migrants to do this but do not seem to be able to relate this challenge to the waves of people entering the EU or gathering around its frontiers.

There are as well considerations in the issue as a whole that no doubt, carry cultural -- not to say racial -- connotations. However, “respectable” politicians make sure to rarely refer to this aspect.

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STRATEGIC AUTONOMY 

The concept of a strategic autonomy for the EU makes sense. As an economic union which covers the largest market world-wise, the EU has a deep interest in keeping control over the raw and semi-finished materials which are vital to the outturn of its industries and services. This goes beyond considerations of physical and military security. As the covid pandemic demonstrated, crises in the supply of vital materials can occur for other reasons.

From this perspective, the initiative by which Europe is trying to bolster its own potential to produce microeclectronic chips which are crucial in the production of computers is well taken.

The mistake (or rather the exagerration) in what is being attempted in this context has been that the effort to ensure a strategic autonomy for Europe is being widened to cover investments coming into the Union or indeed vice versa. In following this track, the EU should take care not to end up deterring others from investing within its borders or disallowing European investment elsewhere.  Even less so: inviting retaliation.

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CHEAP LABOUR

Rightly, we speak out in favour of the need to develop our economy on the basis of work that has a high value added. It would rely on advanced technology, carried out by well educated and trained workers. In this way, we would not be competing with cheap labour but with Maltese products that are well produced according to the best available knowhow.

However we are still far off from seeing this dream come true. Our economy is still mostly levered by cheap labour. Where Maltese citizens do not wish to take jobs, foreign workers are being brought in willing to accept wages that do not turn them into tycoons.

As is also proclaimed, a key that opens the door towards an economy that delivers greater value added in what we can produce is education. Here, there has been progress, some of it indeed greatly significant. More, much more however still needs to be done.

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