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Adrift, Permanently: When it Comes to Refugees, the Crisis is Normal

November 19, 2015

On October 1st, the Institute for European Studies hosted a panel on the refugee crisis in Europe. Three of our panelists have posted their remarks from that panel on a forum run by the Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society at Indiana University. The remarks by one of our panelists, Timothy Waters, is posted below. To see the remarks of the other two panelists, click here

Adrift, Permanently: When It Comes to Refugees, the Crisis is Normal

Waters imageTimothy Waters – Professor of Law at Indiana University, Associate Director of its Center for Constitutional Democracy, and affiliated faculty at its Institute for European Studies

“If a man would lose his little finger tomorrow, he would not sleep tonight; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren.” That is Adam Smith – one of the architects of our modern world – in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s hard to conceive a bleaker or more profound truth about humanity, and anyone contemplating the running sore of the Syrian refugee crisis would do well to remember it.The only thing Smith gets wrong is the seeing: You can google pictures of a Kurdish boy photogenically washed up on the Turkish coast – one of thousands in the Aegean and Mediterranean – but observing the suffering of others doesn’t ensure loss of sleep, or an effective response. In truth, it is not in our nature – our system – to do otherwise.Not a message we like to hear. But even in today’s academy – more Sparta than Athens, and an increasingly self-funded Sparta at that – sometimes our purpose should be to see the world as it is, not propose remaking it. So, at the end of this essay, you won’t find a handy list of three things we can all do to fix the refugee problem. It’s not a problem we can fix, because the problem is the system. It is predicated on proximity, self-defined obligations, and self-interest; we are simply seeing it work.

Consider the contours of this crisis: Grinding war in Syria has displaced millions. Hundreds of thousands – together with Afghans, Eritreans, others – are making their way to Europe, across the Mediterranean, up the same Balkan valleys armies have traversed for millennia. Most head for the wealthy north. This migration and European states’ clumsy oscillations – opening borders, closing them, stringing barbed-wire, shooting teargas, throwing food – have triggered a political crisis in Europe.

But when did this become a crisis? While millions languished for four years in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – or when they began arriving in Italy, Greece and Hungary? The current flow, though large, is a rich man’s problem: European Union leaders struggled to distribute 120,000 refugees, but even 500,000 or a million, in a wealthy continent of a half billion, is objectively manageable.

It is a crisis not because of refugees, but because of Europe. The EU is neither fish nor fowl: If it were a state, refugees would be a problem, not a crisis. But its present, interim position – with its so-called Schengen zone allowing borderless travel – is a design that, like the euro, cannot bear the weight of events. That is a flaw of EU governance, not the refugee system.

Under international law, countries have obligations to offer asylum, but in practice that means the place of first refuge; states regularly expel applicants who had a ‘realistic opportunity’ elsewhere. Refugees off the Libyan coast who destroy their documents understand this; migrants crying ‘Germany’ are not just fleeing danger but seeking the best possible life. They want something the system is not designed to give.

And not inclined, because states only have the obligations they choose – that’s the system too. Refugee law rests on the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Jordan and Lebanon aren’t even parties. Turkey is, but only accepts the original Convention’s obligation to receive refugees from Europe.

So the poor states ringing Syria have no obligations under the Convention – or obligations to waves of hypothetical European refugees – while wealthy Europe take a fraction of the burden; America, Asia, and the Gulf states take even fewer. And there are tens of millions more: The European flow is merely the spillover from a standing pool of human suffering, festering between the clashing plates of the state system.

That system is the creature of countries seeking to do something humanitarian without contradicting their own interests. It works this way because the governance of our globe works this way. The academic world, where I live, has become besotted with visions of a post-national world of hybridity, polycentrism, and decentralized networks. But a hybrid, polycentric network is not necessarily a pretty one, in the way a hydra is not pretty. The marks of multicephaly are auto-interpretation, self-dealing and ox-goring – ‘coordination’ but not ‘decision.’

Global governance is not global government. The more we chase the chimeras of shared society, the more we must acknowledge: In a real sense, there is no international legal order deserving of the name. Without centralized institutions of decision-making – without world government – this is the kind of regime we can expect.

One can imagine better systems. But implementing them is like the pacifist dream that ‘if every soldier laid down his arms, war would be over.’ A beautiful idea, full of pathos, but structurally implausible: It only happens at the end, when demoralized, dispirited, defeated forces mutiny, when there is chaos, collapse and desperate flight – rather like a refugee crisis.

This is the system we have; we are not likely to make a better one. ‘Improvement,’ if it comes, is likely to mean more effective border controls — like the great ring forts circling Spain’s enclaves on the African coast, or its highly effective shore patrols to keep boats away from the Canary Islands, or Australia’s high seas interdiction efforts that divert refugees to other countries for processing.

And as for the human beings, we can do some things: The impossibility of more than marginal reform means we should focus on the margins – granting asylum to a few more refugees, giving more funding for UNHCR. There’s your take-away. But it is a palliative, proffering a bandage, not providing real haven. The bandage is the system too, making life marginally less miserable in the permanent camps.

The crisis is real. Tonight, on the Aegean, men will put their wives and children into rubber rafts and push out from the Turkish shore, overloaded, motors failing, adrift. Some will make it; but others will sink, and those on board will die, tonight.

But, the crisis is also normal, and the ocean is wide: Sleep well tonight – you can see it all on the news tomorrow.



Contextualizing the ISIS Attacks in Europe

November 18, 2015

The Event
     Friday November 13 in Paris, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks killed at least 129 people and wounded at least 352. Eight men working in three teams attacked a concert hall, two restaurants, and the Stade de France where France and Germany were playing a football match. French President Francois Hollande was at the game and was rushed away. One American was killed, 23 year-old Nohemi Gonzalez. She was a junior at California State University, Long Beach, and was in Paris studying abroad for a semester at Strate College of Design.

These attacks were horrific, and the murders senseless. Who did this, why, and how can it be prevented from happening again?

The Enemy
     ISIS is the political entity that claimed responsibility for the attacks. What is ISIS? An acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS is a Sunni Muslim organization that wants to reconstruct the old Islamic Caliphate. What is the Caliphate? The short answer is a single Islamic empire functioning as a unified government for the Islamic world. Just as Christianity expanded in step with the Roman, Byzantine, and Carolingian Armies, so too, Islam spread under its armies. Between the time Muhammad received his revelation (the Quran) in 610 A.D. to 750 A.D., Islam spread at an amazing rate from a single person outside Mecca to covering the entire Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and most of Central Asia.


Over time, the leadership of the Islamic Caliphate transitioned from the Arabs to the Ottoman Turks, reaching its zenith 1600s – 1850s. Iran emerged as a separate entity and under the Safavid dynasty, Iran converted all subjects to Shia Islam by the 1600s. Here we see a history of two empires, one Sunni and one Shia, fighting along the border of their empires that mark the borders of modern day Iraq-Syria.




By the early 1900s, the Caliphate had declined in power and was known as the “sick man of Europe.” In World War I, the Ottoman Caliphate supported Germany and paid the price for backing the loser, as Ottoman lands were carved up into the modern Middle Eastern states we have today, each under a protectorate of a European power. Eventually, these protectorates became independent, usually by a protracted insurgency against the European powers. A critical point is that these insurgencies were usually led by nationalist ideologies, rather than a unifying Pan-Islamic force.


What is the goal of ISIS and why is it a threat to Europe? ISIS believes it has reestablished the Caliphate and is calling for a Pan-Islamic Jihad aimed at the reconstruction of the original Caliphate as a single state under a Sunni theocracy. To do so requires regaining control of the lands of Shia, including Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain, and as well as reconquering the lost lands in Europe, including Spain and the Balkans. The following map was posted on the ISIS website.


This is the same goal as al-Qaeda, yet there is a critical distinction between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, the two founding fathers of the al-Qaeda movement, had a vision of recreating the Caliphate using global terrorism carried out by a diffuse network of cells to spur a war between Muslims and non-Muslims that would last for decades. ISIS has flipped the equation, and has declared that it has already established the Caliphate, and is now in a war of conquest to expand it to its historic rightful borders. ISIS has separate military and civil bureaucracies, taxes, a territorial base, and selling oil on the global market.

The International Political Problem
     Fundamental problem with ISIS is that it is an organization that has both a religion and centuries of history that can mobilize individuals to its cause from around the world. ISIS can point to a real period in history where its vision was realized, where Europe was weak, the Caliphate dominated, Israel and Shi’ism did not exist. It is a vision that can be sold easily to the disenfranchised and disempowered youth looking for a life of meaning. Unlike Nazi ideology that is based on a racial superiority of a small few that has the inherent right to dominate all, the Islamic extremist Takfiri ideology of ISIS does not discriminate or fracture based on race, ethnicity, language, and as a result it is highly successful at recruiting globally. We have seen thousands of young Muslims travel to Iraq and Syria to join, including hundreds residing in “Western” countries. A global revolution with a goal of overturning the global system of modernity, and it is a revolution that anyone can join.

The Domestic Political Problem in Europe
     Based on current reports, the attackers were a Muslims born in Europe and its is still uncertain if any of them or their logistics chain crossed into Europe as Syrian refugees. This presents a huge problem for European states, and the essential question facing Europe is:

How can individual European states and Europe as a collective protect themselves from attacks, maintain internal freedoms, and destroy the existential threat of ISIS, which is constantly infiltrating and recruiting Muslims within European borders to work as a fifth column to conduct more attacks?

Clearly a key point is how to improve the mechanisms used to integrate and assimilate existing Muslim residents into European states. While some immigrants are happy, well adjusted, and assimilated into the host country, some immigrants do not wish to assimilate, but prefer to create a little Islamabad, or little Cairo in their new country. Europe must decide what degree of assimilation it will require of its immigrants, and what mechanism it will use to encourage and assist immigrants in becoming “Europeans.”  At the very foundation of this, is that Europe will have to wrestle with what it means to be French, Italian, German, Greek, etc., and overall European, which also means identifying what is not European. Identities change over time and can be quite flexible.  For the present and the future, Europe must grapple with first defining those characteristics, beliefs, and values, and second figuring out how to acculturate those key things, while simultaneously giving freedom of diversity on the characteristics, beliefs, and values that are deemed non-essential to European identity. For the EU and NATO, it may be impossible for member states collectively to agree on those essentials.

These are extremely difficult issues for the “West” that prides itself on openness, cosmopolitan values, and the desire to assist those refugees in need. It is impossible to know the best mix of policies, or how the future will unfold. Yet the future of Europe, its values, and its freedoms will be determined by the policies of assisting and assimilating its Muslim citizens and Muslim immigrants, its policies and strategies for destroying ISIS, and its policies for assisting in the creating viable successor states in the Middle East.

Why France and why Paris? A Reflection on the Attacks in Paris

November 16, 2015

On Saturday, the director of the Institute for European Studies, Dr. Timothy Hellwig, was asked to reflect on Friday’s attacks in Paris in an interview by the Herald Times. His reflections are below.

“First, there is the question of why France and why Paris?  Less than a year since the targeted attacks at the weekly satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, we have another, much much larger and less targeted attack, or now massacre, in the very same city.  One reason may be the ease of access: Paris, relative to some other Western capitals, is easy to get to and to mobilize about.  But I think it’s more than that.  It seems clear that ISIS and other radical groups see France, in particular, as embodying Western, and anti-Muslim values. This is brought to the fore in politics by the strength of a far-right party, the Front National, which commonly professes anti-immigrant views. But even more deeply, I think French traditions of public protest and their sense of nationalism over multiculturalism plays into this sentiment.  So there is a challenge in France today: do these horrific events change what it means to be French?  Will the French way of life change as a result?  Up until now, the answer has been no.  But this could be France’s 911.  The French military will be much more of a presence in Paris now – and this will persist, I think, beyond the short term.

The other issue is what does Hollande’s description of these attacks as an “act of war” on the part of ISIS.  Hollande’s language from today was very strong – I think it took some people by surprise, especially because we are not sure what the basis for his intelligence was.  Now that he has characterized the attacks as planned by and coordinated from abroad (and not a local manifestation of radical elements), the French president will need to mount a much more aggressive stance in Syria and Iraq, lest he be viewed as weak.  He will likely try to persuade Washington, Berlin, and Brussels to join France in the effort.”

Gateway Week

November 13, 2015

IU Europe Gateway Office Information

Indiana University recently re-affirmed its ties to the Freie Universität Berlin and inaugurated IU’s new Europe Gateway office in Berlin, Germany and due to my participation in the Graduate student transfer program between IU and Freie, I was invited to the celebratory events. The week kicked off on Monday, November 2, 2015 with a seminar concerning transatlantic data privacy, “The Data Dilemma: A Transatlantic Discussion on Privacy, Security, Innovation, Trade, and the Protection of Personal Data in the 21st Century.” This panel included the Hon. Julie Brill, US Federal Trade Commissioner; Hon. Dr. Alexander Dix, Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information; and Fred Cate, Vice President for Research, Distinguished Professor and C. Ben Dutton, Professor of Law, Indiana University; serving as moderator. The main discussion between the panelists was the European Court of Justice’s recent decision to invalidate the Safe Harbor covenant, which previously functioned as a transatlantic agreement between countries enabling them to transfer data between the United States and Europe. The two hour discussion focused on the many repercussions of this nullification, such as the re-creation of United States data privacy regulations with respect to data collections of European employees and/or companies. All panelists agreed that HR 2048, the U.S. Freedom Act, is a good start to the needed privacy revisions, but in order to fully comply with the ECJ’s mandate, more modifications are needed. Overall, all agreed that heightened data collection procedures will result in a stronger global connection between the U.S. and Europe, and all were confident that the current dialogues regarding data privacy were a step in the right direction.

On Thursday, November 5th, Indiana University’s President McRobbie inaugurated the new IU European Gateway office in a formal ceremony at the CIEE Global Institute. Located in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin, Germany, IU’s newly opened office will serve as a home base for IU’s European activities. IU students in Berlin will now have a home university office from which to access academic activities such as conferences, research programming as well as executive and corporate training. Various individuals received recognition for their part in establishing IU’s Gateway office, such as Mark Renner, a 1994 graduate of IU who came to the U.S. via a DAAD scholarship. Mr. Renner is currently the president of the Berlin chapter of the IU Alumni Association and was instrumental in opening the Gateway office in Berlin. He received the Distinguished International Service Award for his efforts in the project. After President McRobbie unveiled the new plaque for the Gateway office, participants at the ceremony were treated with an operatic performance by IU Jacobs School of Music alums Nadine Weissman, mezzo-soprano and Andrew Crooks, pianist, both of whom are accomplished European musical artists. As one of the many individuals in attendance that night, I can truly state it was an honor to be witness to the historic Gateway opening, and in this age of globalized connections and cooperation, I was struck once again by the close and long-lasting ties between Bloomington’s Indiana University and the Freie Universität Berlin.

IU Europe Gateway Office

Why Auschwitz?

November 2, 2015

The “Gate of Death” at the entrance to Auschwitz II Birkenau

Why visit Auschwitz? 1,534,000 people visited the grounds of the former Nazi German Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, now the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum, in 2014. As of May of 2015, 1,000,000 people had visited, promising an “increase in attendance of up to a dozen percent” from the year before. The annual report of the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum states that not only is Auschwitz “a difficult immersion in humanity’s darkest hour,” but “for us today it is a rite of passage. Is it? This post is the first in a series that aims to explore the question of “Why Auschwitz?” Why do people visit, should they visit, and in fact should Auschwitz as it exists now be there to visit at all? Even if, as the Museum states, “the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial has become the world’s symbol of the Holocaust and the crimes of WWII”, is there something truly unique that visitors gain from visiting the current site? Holocaust museums all over the country schedule trips to take museum goers to Auschwitz to learn from the site first hand. What does Auschwitz offer visitors that they can’t gain from walking through their host museum? Does the Auschwitz of 2015 truly have anything to teach about the Auschwitz of 1945?

kosow lacki-86

Wicker baskets and briefcases taken from prisoners upon their arrival at Auschwitz, currently on display in the Auschwitz I Museum

For many years the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum struggled just to stay open, and many parts of the grounds were falling into disrepair. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was formed in 2009, and due to generous donations to its Perpetual Capitol Fund it currently has funding for extensive conservation projects. January 27th, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and brings to the fore debates on “how, when, and, indeed, whether Auschwitz should be preserved for future generations.” The historian Robert Jan van Pelt is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of Auschwitz. He has published prolifically on the subject, as well as served as an expert witness for the defense at the trial of David Irving vs Deborah Lipstadt, known most famously for Irving’s denial of the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. Van Pelt believes that after the passing of the last Auschwitz survivor, the site should be left to be reclaimed by nature. He echoes Jorge Semprum, a former Buchenwald inmate, who in his autobiographical novel The Long Voyage, states that, “when there will no longer be any real memory of this, only the memory of those who will never know what all this was” that “this camp constructed by men” should be given back to nature. His sentiment is echoed by many other survivors, that “a visit to the camps can teach little to those who were not imprisoned there.” The camp itself is a mere shadow of the horrors it once held, and should not be held to represent the horrors themselves.

In opposition, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Chairman of the International Auschwitz Council and a former Auschwitz prisoner, states that, “it lies in the nature of man than when no tangible traces remain, events of the past fall into oblivion.” If we were to let Auschwitz disintegrate “we will take a great burden on our conscience-we will trample upon the testament of the victims.” It must remain, he believes, as an “unhealed, burning wound, which wakes people up from moral lethargy and forces them to take responsibility for the fate of our world.”

Both arguments are striking; memorialize Auschwitz by letting it decay, or keep it preserved so that we are forced to never forget.

The current Auschwitz Memorial and Museum consists of a two part complex, Auschwitz I, and the larger site of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. A friend tells me, that should you visit, it is expected that you’ll visit both sites. The large numbers mean that both sites are frequently incredibly crowded, especially in the height of the summer tourist season. Van Pelt has said that he thinks Auschwitz I and II are “a kind of theme park, cleaned up for tourists,” and that through sealing it up we won’t “give people a sense that they can imitate the experience and walk in the steps of the people who were there.” Do people go with that expectation? Are they seeking knowledge of the place itself or more of a deeper understanding of what Auschwitz represents? One hundred years from now, would a visitor looking the place where Auschwitz once was, now covered in trees and brambles, be given a better lens with which to gain that understanding?

On one of the first pages of the Auschwitz Memorial’s Master Plan for Preservation is a quote by Henry Appel, an Auschwitz survivor, “There is only one thing worse than Auschwitz itself…and that is if the world forgets there was such a place.” This echoes Bartoszewski’s sentiment, the worry that if Auschwitz were allowed to decay and eventually disappear, regardless of the intention, what are we risking by it no longer being there? Would Holocaust deniers like Irving be given the upper hand? The fact that the number of people visiting Auschwitz in 2015 is breaking a record is striking, but does it represent an interest in Auschwitz itself, the memory of WWII, or does it more speak to the fact that visitors truly feel like it’s a rite of passage? If Auschwitz were left to decay, would the numbers drop? Increase? Do the debates above perhaps point to the fact that it is the expectations tied to a visit to Auschwitz that should be changed, and not the place itself? Regardless of how one experiences Auschwitz, is any act of remembering valuable enough so that we shouldn’t risk forgetting?

Photo credit: Kelly Webeck, M.F.A Student, Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, Indiana University Bloomington

The Philosophical Essence of the European Refugee Crisis

October 20, 2015

The purpose of this blog post is to provoke thought about the core issues regarding the recent massive influx of peoples into Europe. These issues are politically, socially, religiously, and morally sensitive, which makes them particularly divisive, yet this is exactly the reason that it is imperative for the citizenry of every republic to actively wrestle with these issues.  Philosophically, these issues are nested in the complexities of two main ideas: 1) the entities’ motives, and 2) the “rights” of entities concerning the social contract.

Europe in Context: on Republics, the Social Contract, and the EU

Throughout history there has been an evolution of political organization from “chaos” and tribal warfare to kingdoms, from kingdoms to states, from states to nation-states, and from nation-states to supra-national federations/unions.  These transitions are usually formed in tension, under pressure, and are adaptive responses to competition. Below is necessarily concise, and thereby insufficient, discussion of the evolution of Europe.

Hobbs described how and why people form a government, arguing that humans naturally live in the state of nature, which is effectively a state of anarchy.  With no political order and rule of law, humans have unlimited freedom while living in a state of survival of the fittest and are free to plunder, murder, and rape as their strength permits.  Hobbs theorized that to avoid this “war of all against all,” naturally free men join together in a social contract and willingly give up some freedoms to an absolute Sovereign to gain stability, creating a political community manifest in a civil society. The absolute Sovereign has the monopoly of violence to maintain the order, freedoms, and stability in the social contract, thereby creating a bubble of familiar stability in the un-ordered dog-eat-dog natural state of the wild.

Over time, the Sovereign transformed from an individual monarch into a bureaucracy that was representative of the public will.  The states that make up the EU are fundamentally republics, meaning they are representative governments.  As Rousseau described in the mid-1700s, the purpose of a republic is to carry out the general will of the citizenry.  Nation-states formed as a result of the spread of industrialization, urbanization, linguistic and cultural homogenization, and governments’ attempts to create a dominant single identity for those living within their respective boundaries.  As a sovereign, this often was done by coercion or outright force.  Over the course of a few hundred years, Europe has evolved into an amalgamation of nation-states that are largely stable, are culturally and linguistically homogenous, have separated the power of religion from republic functions, and developed a stasis.

Since 1945 the nation-state republics of Europe began to create economic ties, reducing tariffs, and opening various forms of free trade.  The financial benefits for each drove political decisions.  With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, this only accelerated, culminating in the official formation of the EU between 1993 and 1994.  For the last 20 years the EU has gradually integrated economically, somewhat politically, and allowed the free flow of citizens within borders.  However, the European Union is more of an alliance and less than a Sovereign. Sovereignty is still held within each nation-state republic, there is no serious attempt in Europe for a unified identity via language and culture.  With this evolutionary context, we shall dive into the core issues regarding the recent massive influx of peoples into Europe.

The Motives of the Mover

Why do people move? As an obvious but important premise, people move because it is either in their short-term or long-term advantage to do so.  People may move to gain some type of freedom and avoid some type of intolerance: religious freedoms (i.e., pilgrims to early America), escape ethnic/racial discrimination (i.e., Jews in Europe and Russia), and even gender discrimination (i.e., Sudan).  People may move for economic reasons, such as the lack of jobs, low wages, high prices, or corruption stealing their earnings, or even excessive legitimate taxation. All things being equal, domestically or internationally, people have incentives to move where there is an increase in the number of jobs available, higher wages, lower prices, less corruption, and lower governmental taxes.  Finally, people will move when why feel sufficiently unsafe, usually due to war. One of the key questions that citizens of the European republics must seriously evaluate is “What are the specific motivations of people crossing our borders?”

The Motives of the Citizens of a Republic

When do governments want and allow people to move into their territory?  More specifically, under what conditions is it in the interest of the citizens of a republic to allow foreigners to come?  In gross generalization, foreigners are welcome when the republic has a specific need and the foreigner brings something to the table.  This is reflective in immigration policy, giving priority to those with higher education, especially advanced degrees in sectors of the job market where there is a shortage.  On the other end of the educational-economic spectrum are unskilled laborers, who often fill jobs at comparatively low wages that “natives” will not perform. Due to the demographics in much of Europe, and in particular in Germany, the negative birth rate has created a huge demand for workers (and spenders) that the native population is choosing to not produce.  Germany’s recent willingness to admit so many Syrian refugees is largely due to the economic fuel that they will inject into the economy.

Another motive is religious or moral persuasion.  Since there is a separation of church and state in Europe, religious motivated compassion is anathema to the system and relegated to individual agency. Moral motivations, often called “humanitarian” assistance, however, are within the state’s purview.  Another question citizens must ask is, “What degree of moral obligation do we, as a republic, have to admit foreigners into our social contract?” As well as “do we have different degrees of moral obligation based on the motives of the foreigner who desires to join?”  This is a much more philosophical question than it appears at first glance, as it has to do with whether or not individuals and a citizenry, as a cultural entity, believe that “morals” and “rights” are natural or they are human cultural inventions that are open to change.  If the citizenry hold that they are natural, then it requires one to demonstrate the historical consistency of those morals and human rights.  If they hold that they are human made, then the morals and human rights are only those of a given time and place, subject to modification according to the general will, and are obligated only to the degree the group decides.

Thus, a second set of fundamental questions States must ask are, “what benefit do we citizens of the republic receive by admitting certain foreigners, and which foreigners would be disadvantageous to admit?,” and “under what circumstances do we have a moral obligation to admit foreigners into the social contract of our republic?” The answers will be different for different states, at different points in history, all based on the needs of their citizens in the social contract.  The EU as a cluster of sovereign nation-state republics has not been able to solve this problem together, leading to tension among members.

The Rights and Obligations of the Mover

From a legal aspect, the rights of individuals desiring to move to another state depend on their motivation.  Refugees are defined as persons fleeing persecution and armed conflict.  As a result of being signatories of various UN charters and treaties, refugees are granted a specific status under both domestic and international law, which obligates states to provide special consideration for people fleeing for their lives and/or from the risk of collateral damage during war.  Migrants, however, are desiring to leave their homes and move when they are not under risk of physical harm or persecution, but rather desire to leave their homes and move to economic advantage, to reunite with family, or pursue education.  Migrants fall under normal immigration laws and policies.  In order to accurately classify a mover under the law, movers have an obligation to state and prove the reason they are moving.  They also have a right, if they are a refugee, to safe haven.  Whether an immigrant or a refugee, citizen or permanent resident, foreigners wanting to move into a republic’s territory have an obligation to conform to the laws of that land, and conform to the laws of the social contract between a citizenry and the sovereign government.  As individuals living under the protection of the republic, they are also obligated to submit to the general will of the citizenry.

The Obligations and Rights of the Citizens and Their Republic

When does the citizenry (via the state) have an obligation to permit foreigners entry?  As discussed, it legally depends on the motive of the individual mover, and morally depends on the belief system of the citizenry (natural or socially constructed rights and obligations). In principle, as a citizenry has a social contract in a republic, and the existence of the state (the people) and their identity are encapsulated in their shared social contract, cultural norms, and statute and customary law, it is essential that states have a right of exclusivity.  In short, states do not have to be inclusive, but by definition are exclusive.  On what basis do they exclude?  This depends on what basis they define themselves, and as such, every citizenry of every nation-state republic must ask itself, “Who are ‘We’ and how are ‘We’ different from ‘Others?’”  “On what issues will we define ourselves?”

In exchange for inclusion and protection of the social contract, “What do and should citizens of a state expect from foreigners desiring to move in?”  Since the number one role of a republican government is to protect and serve the citizenry, it is imperative for the government to screen and evaluate immigrants and refugees to determine if they are in any way a threat.  In the medical field, practitioners do not attempt to assist someone if doing so is to risk their own well-being.  Similarly, citizens should demand of that their governments have a plan for evaluating the safely of assisting specific people and determining whether or not they poses a threat.

Finally, there is the issue of identity and values. It is exceedingly difficult to define what constitutes culture, but in practice everyone knows intuitively when they recognize someone from “their” culture, as well as when they meet someone who is from a “foreign” culture.  This identity is largely due to language and shared values.  Since the movements of peoples around the world is nothing new, what happens when peoples successfully move into a new identity group, and when they do not?  One of the major issues that the citizenry in each respective nation-state republic in Europe, and the EU as a whole will have to determine is, “In exchange for offering foreigners the ability to move in and join the ‘We’ and the social contract, to what degree will We demand people integrate in order to become ‘Us?’”  This is the most core question at the heart of the crisis in Europe, as it relates to how the individual republics and the Union chose to define themselves.

This means that movers have a right to be permitted to assimilate and integrate into a republic and its citizenry, and it means that the citizenry have an obligation via their republic institutions to construct mechanisms to assist in the assimilation of outsiders.  In a similar way individuals marry into the family, at some point they need to be treated and feel like part of the family (one of us) and the family needs to be seen and feel like the new member acts like a member of the family.  Citizens must wrestle with how they will conduct the delicate balance between requiring and assisting assimilation, while not overreaching in degree or speed of integration and thereby causing resentment or even violence.

At its core, the “European Refugee Crisis” is a crisis that is forcing the European Union and the nation-state republics within it to define themselves, their identities, and what it means to be European, and whether this massive influx of Muslim movers will forever alter these defining characteristics.

New Clues in the History of the Basque People

October 9, 2015
"Overview of samples. (A) Geographic locations of ancient individuals used in this study. The dataset includes individuals sequenced as part of this study (from El Portalón) as well as individuals from the literature (1, 2, 10, 12, 19). The map template is modified from (B) Temporal and cultural context of the ancient individuals; individuals from a hunter–gatherer context are shown in italics. The symbols and colors denoting each individual are used consistently throughout this paper. (C) PCA" (Principal Component Analysis) "of ancient individuals and modern-day individuals across Europe (1). Only those ancient samples with more than 20,000 transversion SNPs" (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) "overlapping with the modern-day SNP data are plotted (see also SI Appendix, section S8 and Dataset S1). Colored areas show kernel densities of modern-day groups with more than eight individuals."
Torsten Günther, Cristina Valdiosera, Helena Malmström, Irene Ureña, Ricardo Rodriguez-Varela, Óddny Osk Sverrisdóttir, Evangelia A. Daskalaki, Pontus Skoglund, Thijessen Naidoo, Emma M. Svensson, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell, Michael Dunn, Jan Storå, Eneko Iriarte, Juan Luis Arsuaga, José-Miguel Carretero, Anders Götherström, and Mattias Jakobsson. "Ancient genomes link early farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to modern-day Basques". Vol. 112 no. 38, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
One of the eight Stone Age skeletons analyzed at El Portalón Cave in Atapuerca, Spain. Photo by Eneko Iriarle

One of the eight Stone Age skeletons analyzed at El Portalón Cave in Atapuerca, Spain. Photo by Eneko Iriarle

As a community nestled in the mountains in north-central Spain and southwest France, the Basque people’s history has always been shrouded in mystery. This isolated group of people managed to do what many others did not: maintain a firm grasp on their culture, language, and way of life, throughout numerous campaigns in the Iberian Peninsula, from the Roman Empire, to the Arabic invasion in 711, through waves of strict culture-control even as recently as the rule of Francisco Franco.

Not only do Basque people appear set apart by their customs and language — Basque is a language isolate, not even an Indo-European language like its neighbors — but also by their genes. It has been posited and heavily supported within the anthropological community, that the Basque people descended from a group of hunter-gatherers living in the Iberian region who remained separated from the later wave of farming peoples, who had the largest genetic and linguistic influence on the European continent.

However, a recent paper published in PNAS has caused a considerable stir in the scientific and anthropological community. According to a group led by Mattias Jakobsson a geneticist, with the Uppsala Universitet, today’s Basques bear a close genetic relationship with a group of farmers from the Iberian region who lived 5,500-3,500 years ago. This contrasts with the idea that the Basque gene pool remained largely isolated from a time about 10,000 years ago.

The team collected genome-wide sequence data from eight human remains, between 5,500 and 3,500 years before present from the El Portalón cave, in the region of Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain (a region which also had a major discovery concerning the history of neanderthals). Unlike farmers in central  and northern Europe during the wave of migration, these farmers mixed with hunter-gatherers in the Iberian region, and the admixture of hunter-gatherers only increased over that time.

Fig. 1. Overview of samples. (A) Geographic locations of ancient individuals used in this study. The dataset includes individuals sequenced as part of this study (from El Portalón) as well as individuals from the literature (1, 2, 10, 12, 19). The map template is modified from (B) Temporal and cultural context of the ancient individuals; individuals from a hunter–gatherer context are shown in italics. The symbols and colors denoting each individual are used consistently throughout this paper. (C) PCA of ancient individuals and modern-day individuals across Europe (1). Only those ancient samples with more than 20,000 transversion SNPs overlapping with the modern-day SNP data are plotted (see also SI Appendix, section S8 and Dataset S1). Colored areas show kernel densities of modern-day groups with more than eight individuals. (From

“Overview of samples. (A) Geographic locations of ancient individuals used in this study. The dataset includes individuals sequenced as part of this study (from El Portalón) as well as individuals from the literature (1, 2, 10, 12, 19). The map template is modified from (B) Temporal and cultural context of the ancient individuals; individuals from a hunter–gatherer context are shown in italics. The symbols and colors denoting each individual are used consistently throughout this paper. (C) PCA” (Principal Component Analysis) “of ancient individuals and modern-day individuals across Europe (1). Only those ancient samples with more than 20,000 transversion SNPs” (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) “overlapping with the modern-day SNP data are plotted (see also SI Appendix, section S8 and Dataset S1). Colored areas show kernel densities of modern-day groups with more than eight individuals.” Torsten Günther, Cristina Valdiosera, Helena Malmström, Irene Ureña, Ricardo Rodriguez-Varela, Óddny Osk Sverrisdóttir, Evangelia A. Daskalaki, Pontus Skoglund, Thijessen Naidoo, Emma M. Svensson, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell, Michael Dunn, Jan Storå, Eneko Iriarte, Juan Luis Arsuaga, José-Miguel Carretero, Anders Götherström, and Mattias Jakobsson. “Ancient genomes link early farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to modern-day Basques”. Vol. 112 no. 38, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

In summation, the study posits that the farmers (who possibly spoke a non–Indo-European language, which could be an ancestor of today’s Basque language) assimilated resident hunter–gatherers. Basques remained relatively isolated from this point on, as opposed to being isolated thousands of years before that point. Later migrations to the region, including but not limited to, the Roman Empire and the Moorish reign of the peninsula, led to additional admixture in the Iberian population, with the exception of the Basques.
What does this mean for language study and Basque culture? Linguists have long been intrigued by the history of the Basque language and have searched high and low for any possible related language. Perhaps this discovery will open some new lanes of investigation, or at least make them more probable. What does it mean for the Basque people to find out they’re more closely related to their neighbors than previously thought? Will these new findings contribute to ease tensions in the region? Only time will tell.


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