That is what the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty represents, and what is interesting about it is ‘Irish voters have been among the main beneficiaries of the generosity of fellow Europeans,’ (John Thornhill, ft.com, June 13th) and yet not enough of them have confidence in the political body which made that flow of money into Ireland possible. In this article I am not asking why, nor am I trying to argue that the Lisbon Treaty is necessarily the way forward for the EU, since it was branded as a way of reducing deadlock since the increase in membership, and yet ‘with 27 countries represented around the table there is less waffle than before,’ (The Economist, May 31st). I am simply stating the case for expansion, for diversity, and for the existence of the EU.
I must therefore start it with the Roma in Italy. A distant problem to the ‘bogeymen’ of ‘Polish plumbers’ which seems to afflict (I say that in a mocking tone) the shores of the UK. Yet is it really so distant? The British Press (especially the more right wing) seem to have an inherent fear of anyone different entering our country; however, editorials are surely a great leap from the Roma being attacked in Italy, but how about the sentiment? Or for that matter, the sentiment of the same press attacking (verbally of course) asylum seekers in the UK. Is it really that far from what drives forward the attacks on the Roma is Italy?
No, it is not. I have seen for myself what asylum seekers go through in the UK; spoken to them, spoken with their representatives on the streets, and in the courts. The message from these people was very clear – there is an institutionalised drive to make seeking asylum very difficult, something guaranteed by the numerous international charters and treaties the UK has agreed to. The sentiment is the same, and I fear that:
If we do not find the right approach to dealing with the Roma, events similar to the attacks in Italy could become more frequent and spread elsewhere in Europe. It would be bad news for Europe if the approach of the Italian government towards Roma – exclusion and expulsion – were to become the standard. (ft.com, June 5th)
Not just ‘European,’ but human principles, of extending a helping hand towards other humans in need. That system has probably been abused in some cases. However the burden of proof on people immigrating to countries is high, even people seeking asylum, and that in itself is a barrier to abuse in the system. If the system isn’t working, then it needs to be changed, but to attack the Roma physically, or asylum seekers verbally, are not so far from one another, and we must find a way to make the immigration system stronger, in order to protect those who really need our protection.