Category Archives: von der Leyen, Ursula

The folly of von der Leyen

A mixture of cliché, slogan, and evasion

The president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is quoted as saying:

The last four years have taught us that simple answers don’t take us far. All that one heard was ‘Close the borders and migration will stop’ or ‘We must save everyone on the Mediterranean.’ We have seen that the phenomenon of migration has not stopped, and that there is a limit to the ability to integrate [the migrants]. Therefore a global approach is necessary. We must invest massively in Africa to reduce the pressure to migrate. At the same time we must fight organised crime so that we ensure that the Schengen agreement [which allows free movement of people between countries party to it] can function because we protect our external borders [i.e. the EU’s borders].

Dalrymple comments:

This evades almost all the difficult questions about immigration. With a superb indifference to practicalities, von der Leyen fails to tell us how either the push or the pull that drives migration is to be lessened, apart from ‘massive investment in Africa’.

Von der Leyen, he notes,

does not tell us who is going to bankroll this massive investment. Is it to be financed via the forced contributions of European taxpayers and be administered by European bureaucrats? The history of massive aid investment on the part of Europeans in Africa has not been happy.

Dalrymple asks:

If the massive investment is not to come from government, with its almost infallible ability to turn investment into liability, who is it to come from, and for what purposes?

The answer

must be the private or corporate sector. But why is it that the private or corporate sector, supposedly ever on the search for commercial opportunity, does not already make such investments? How is it to be persuaded to do so? Is the purpose of its investment to make a profit or to reduce migration?

Dalrymple observes that cliché has

entered the very fabric of von der Leyen’s mind. Surely it must have occurred to her that it is a little late in the day for investment, however massive, to halt the pressure that has led a third or more of sub-Saharan Africans—who will soon be three times more numerous than the Europeans—to want to migrate to Europe.

Besides, he says,

it is not the poorest of the poor of Africa who arrive clandestinely in Europe; it is those who can — or whose family can — pay the air fare, giving them the chance to overstay their visa, or pay people-traffickers (often several thousand dollars) to smuggle them in. Many migrants enter under family reunification schemes inscribed in European law.

A rising standard of living in the emigration centres of sub-Saharan Africa brought about by massive investment, were it to occur (which is far from certain), would

more probably increase than decrease the migratory pressure, in so far as more people would have the means to undertake the migration.

This thought

does not in the slightest inhibit von der Leyen from using the language of the imperative—a way of thinking that might result in the compulsion of reluctant countries to pursue a futile policy at great cost. Moreover, it is very difficult to see how any effective or selective migration policy could be carried out without a closure of borders.

Mashed potato

Asked whether Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy premier and interior minister, was right to arrest non-governmental organisations that rescued migrants in the Mediterranean and brought them to Italy, Ursula von der Leyen, president-elect of the European Commission, is reported as saying:

It is an obligation for people to rescue the drowning. What Italy wants above all is the reform of the dysfunctional system. I understand that the countries of the European Union with external frontiers do not want to be left to face the challenge of migration alone. They deserve our solidarity.

Dalrymple comments:

This is what a friend of mine calls a mashed-potato answer, one that does not address the question but succeeds in conveying a vague and non-committal aura of benevolence. Our solidarity: who could be against it? But what would it mean in practice, our solidarity? It would mean spreading out all the illegal migrants who have arrived in Italy among the other countries of Europe, whether those other countries wanted them or not (and whether or not the migrants wanted to go to the countries allocated to them). Solidarity might not last very long, and might turn into its opposite: extreme hostility. The word solidarity suggests something that those in favour of mass migration are at pains to deny: that the migrants, far from being an asset to the countries they have migrated to, are a burden on them.

Dalrymple points out that von der Leyen

disregards the evidence that Salvini’s policy has been a great success, at least from the point of view of preventing illegal immigration into Italy and deaths by drowning of those trying to reach it. He has saved incomparably more lives by his firmness than have all the NGOs put together who try to save the drowning.

The self-righteous NGOs, who make a mockery of national laws, have by encouraging people to try to reach Italy

underwritten thousands of deaths. It is one thing to save the drowning whenever you find them, but another to go looking for them. The NGOs are an illustration of Wilde’s definition of the sentimentalist: one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. The costs are imposed on others.

There is in von der Leyen, Dalrymple observes,

very little other than slogan, cliché and evasion, with a leavening of humbug.