According to The Guardian Website, the UK Prime Minister told MPs that UK ministers have examined legal powers that would allow Britain to deprive Greek citizens of their right to free movement across the EU, if the eurozone crisis leads to “stresses and strains”.
I do not really understand how the term “stresses and strains” is defined but I find the declaration extremely disturbing. It has a xenophobic tone at a time where an EU partner country, Greece, struggles to stand on its feet after two consecutive elections and four consecutive years of economic crisis. Such discourse spreads unnecessary fears at a time where Greece –more than anything else – needs a strong wave of moral support.
It is worrying to hear such populist words from a Prime Minister of a major European country. It is a discourse which is aimed at satisfying the unfounded claims of the extreme right, rather than addressing an emerging political problem. Although the crisis has hit Greeks hard, I still have not seen millions of Greeks flocking into any other country and consequently, not even into the UK.
In the good times of economic growth, the balance of the bilateral relationship tilted favourably towards the UK as thousands of Greeks completed their degrees in the UK, thus contributing generously to the local economy. Not to mention that Greek people who settle to the UK are –usually – the highly educated ones who are fully integrated into vital sectors of the UK economy and the society. In addition, the trade balance between the two countries continues to be largely in favour of the UK, which shows that out of the bilateral relationship, the UK is a clear winner.
Rather than addressing a ‘future’ threat, I would rather appreciate if the UK would provide a list of rich Greeks who transferred their money to the UK in order to buy posh properties in central parts of London. It may well be the case that many of them are high owners of taxes to the Greek state.
The social media already had a go on Cameron’s declarations. A message that was spread mentioned that if the UK Prime Minister would really like to extradite something Greek, he should first start with the Parthenon Marbles!
However, apart from the funny reaction to the Cameron’s declarations, there is the sad reality. The immigration discourse with its barriers, concentration ‘hospitality’ camps, and deportations is unfortunately back in daily politics. This development shows how little we have learnt from history and how fearful European leaders can become when it comes to addressing the xenophobic demands of the media. It is a pity that certain political leaders spend more time to address the demands of the tabloids rather than to reflect on the real causes of the economic crisis.