We recently investigated the ‘Arab Spring’s’ financial impact on the economies of North Africa and the Middle East (MENA). After the recent terror attack in France, we wanted to touch on a thorny issue, which is becoming part of the regular political discousre in many European nations.
Europe has down an awful job at integrating its Muslim (mainly Arab, but also Turkish, and other ethnic groups), into society. We now examine the economic costs of this failure.
The on-going efforts in the Arab world to shed years of tyranny and establish governments that allow the people to realize some level of self-determination is having a serious economic impact on the nations of Europe. Although, we have so far rightfully predicted, that these revolutions will lead to more bloodshed, civil wars, and dictatorships; but that is a topic for another time.
The economic impacts include the military costs of supporting the Arab Spring movements, the economic costs related to illegal immigration, and the economic costs of supporting the nations most impacted by the influx of immigration from Northern Africa and other Arab nations.
An article published by EurActiv.com made the statement that, “the months of the Arab Spring were marked with a 50% rise in illegal immigration in the EU, with a particular impact on Greece, EU immigration officials said in Athens.” According to this same article, the peak of illegal immigrants came was, “last October with 9,600 illegal crossings recorded from Turkey into Greece. Currently, the daily detentions in Greece are on average above 300 a day – a significant number.”
According to Gil Arias Fernandez, Deputy Director of the European Border Control Agency, Frontex,
One of the reasons is the reduction in visa requirements in Turkey. Recently, Turkey has been building its own visa-free area, resembling the EU borderless Schengen space, with Ankara establishing a visa-free regime with countries such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
“In that way, they can travel easily to Istanbul whose airport is located very close to the border with Greece. They cross it with the help of the hundreds of trafficking networks operating in Turkey and at much lower prices”, Fernandez said.
The flow on immigrants into countries such as Italy is straining the relations between Italy and its European neighbors. A report for Europe’s World by Serena Giusti highlights these difficulties.
The Italian government decided to grant the immigrants special refugee status and temporary resident permits valid across the EU. France and Germany signalled their intention to refuse them entry, which Italy argued would breach Schengen rules. The crisis was coming to a head as Europe’s World went to press, with France halting migrant trains at the border and the Commission saying France had a legal right to do so.
Since most of the European nations are experiencing double digit unemployment, the rapid influx of immigrants is straining Europe’s ability to cope with the problem. Hibah Yousuf reported March 1, 2012 for CNN Money.com that the European unemployment rate stands at 10.7%.
Widespread joblessness in Greece and Spain pushed the unemployment rate in the Eurozone to the worst level since the currency was introduced in 1999.
The unemployment rate in the 17 countries that use the euro hit 10.7% in January, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics office. That compares to a rate of 10.6% in December, and 10% a year earlier.
An article in the Brussels Journal dated March 27, 2008, shows the cost of immigration to the nation of France. The other European nations will have similar costs for supporting an expanding immigration population from the Muslim nations.
France has 6,868,000 immigrants, or 11% of the population.
– Immigration reduces by two thirds the growth of the GNP.
– The cost of immigration in France is 71.76 billion euros.
– The revenue from immigration in France is 45.57 billion euros.
– The deficit from immigration shouldered by the taxpayers is 26.19 billion euros.
A report published on March 9, 2012 by OnIslam.net provides some interesting information on the makeup of the immigrants entering Europe in light of the Arab Spring movement.
PARIS – Contradicting rhetoric about Muslim influx into Europe usually played by far-right parties, a new study has revealed that Christian immigrants far outnumber Muslims around the world, specifically in the European Union.
“Perhaps contrary to popular perception, … Christian immigrants outnumber Muslim immigrants in the European Union as a whole,” the study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said, Reuters reported on Friday, March 9.
Although the immigrants from the Arab world are not being welcomed with open arms in some European nations, Spain has been a good place for Arab Spring immigrants to find economic opportunity. A report published May 21, 2007 in Bloomberg Businessweek.com provided evidence of how well immigrants have done in Spain.
Over the past decade, the traditionally homogeneous country has become a sort of open-door laboratory on immigration. Spain has absorbed more than 3 million foreigners from places as diverse as Romania, Morocco, and South America. More than 11% of the country’s 44 million residents are now foreign-born, one of the highest proportions in Europe. With hundreds of thousands more arriving each year, Spain could soon reach the U.S. rate of 12.9%.
And it doesn’t seem to have hurt much. Spain is Europe’s best-performing major economy, with growth averaging 3.1% over the past five years. Since 2002, the country has created half the new jobs in the euro zone. Unemployment has plummeted from more than 20% in the 1990s to 8.6%, within shooting distance of the 7.2% euro zone average. The government attributes more than half this stellar performance to immigration. “We are very thankful for all these people who have come here to work with us,” says Javier Vallés, economic policy chief for Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero.
It is difficult to quantify whether Christian or Muslim immigrants are doing better economically in Europe. Muslim immigrants face a much more difficult path to integration in many of the European nations. Additionally, many Muslim immigrants have a dream of going back to their homelands when the violence subsides, and stable governments are established. The first step to economic prosperity for either group is to find ways to obtain legal status, and eventually citizenship.
The Military Costs
According to data gathered by The Guardian, the European nations flew well over 3000 sorties in support of the Libyan freedom fighters. These efforts were supported by bases all across Southern Europe, and from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea. Although it is difficult to nail down the exact cost to each nation, the total is sure to run up into the millions of Euro’s. The continued military support for Arab Spring conflicts will continue to place an enormous strain on European national budgets. An article in The Charles Ayoub Word Web Portal does provide some limited numbers for the cost of the Libyan uprising for a couple of the European nations.
The total costs to France equal approximately $450 million. To avoid the impression that the U.S. was taking a lead in the campaign, France stepped up to fly around one-third of the total air strikes on Libya. France also contributed the effort’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the cause, along with about 50 aircraft. The United Kingdom shared the lead with France, and contributed approximately $664 million to date in planes, munitions and tactical support. The U.K. has flown over 1600 bombing missions over Libya. Though exact figures are unavailable for the total amount spent, Italy contributed around 30 percent of the flight missions over Libya before withdrawing amid political opposition domestically.
It may well be impossible to find an accurate total for the financial costs to Europe through its military missions in support of the Arab Spring movement. It is certain that the costs will run into the millions of dollars. The costs to European society to support thousands of Arab immigrants fleeing the turmoil in their home countries may even be higher. Millions of dollars will be needed to support these people until they are able to clear the hurdles they must cross to establish the right to live in a European nation, and make their own living. With an unemployment rate of over 10 percent, finding a way to make a living may be an almost impossible hurdle to overcome. The best solution is for the international community to help the nations affected by the Arab Spring movement to stabilize, and provide sufficient opportunities for their own people to make a living in their homeland.