Posts Tagged ‘Macedonia’

The EU and the Avoidance of Conflict between Albania and Macedonia

June 10, 2016

Still on the subject of the European Union, Albania and Macedonia, my hopes are that if those two nations do join the EU, then it might help prevent, or at least mitigate, further ethnic tensions in that part of the Balkans. Many of the Balkan states contain large ethnic minorities within their borders. The former Yugoslavia before its break up included not only Serbs, Croats and Muslims, but also Macedonians, Slovenians, ethnic Albanians, Romanians and Hungarians, as well as a number of other nationalities. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also contains a sizable Albanian minority. This may constitute as much as 30 per cent of the population, although this is disputed. There has been considerable political tension between Albanians and Macedonians, and some observers have feared that a civil war might break out, should the Albanian minority demand that the parts of the country they inhabit break away to join Albania.

Some of us can still remember the horrific bloodbath which broke out when the former Yugoslavia collapsed, with its massacres and ethnic cleansing. The same occurred when Kosovo also decided it wanted to become independent of Serbia. The prospect of another war breaking out in the region is truly terrifying.

The EU, however, claims that it has helped keep the peace in Europe for over half a century after the Second World War. It’s one that can be challenged, of course. It’s possible to argue that what has really kept the peace in Europe was the absolute horror all of the countries involved in the Second World War felt at the merest possibility that such a terrible war could ever break out again, and so took conscious steps to find means of avoiding it. One of which was, of course, the EU. Now I’ve said in previous posts that I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon that Albania and Macedonia will join the European Union. But if they do, and membership helps allay ethnic conflict in that part of Europe, and prevents a war, then it will have done the job it was set up to do. And this should help justify Britain’s membership. After all, if another war broke out in the Balkans, we would also be expected, as NATO members, to contribute to a peacekeeping force. And I have no doubt that, whether we were members of the EU or not, we would still be expected to do our bit by providing sanctuary to refugees from the nations involved. So we have a vested interest in supporting the EU as a way of preserving peace in Europe.

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Vote Leave Scaremongering, Bristol and Albanians and Romanian Immigrants

June 10, 2016

I’m still a bit annoyed about the Vote Leave’s scaremongering last night about Turks, Albanians and Romanians all threatening to abandon their homelands and march across Europe to get into Britain. Frankly, it ain’t going to happen. Apart from the fact that Turkey, for example, isn’t expected to reach the criteria for EU membership for another 30 years, the number of Turks, who actually have passports is only 8 million. Yet if you believe Vote Leave’s bilge and UKIP, all 75 million of that ancient and historic country’s people are going to leave Anatolia, just to come to Britain. Furthermore, despite the freedom of movement written into the European constitution, there are still some border checks in the Schengen area. So remaining in Europe doesn’t mean that millions of foreigners will sudden be heading over the Channel anytime soon.

As for the particular threat from Albanians and Macedonians, I think this is going to be very overblown too. Bristol’s a very diverse city in terms of the various ethnic minorities, who’ve settled here. Apart from Blacks and Asians, there were also Poles and other peoples from eastern Europe, who arrived here after the War. There are also long-established Italian families, such as Verecchia’s, who are ice cream vendors. Bristol also has an Albanian community. I don’t know how large it is, or indeed anything about it. I only know it exists from looking along the shelves at the Central Library in town, and finding a few books in that language. One of them was on Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The fact that they’re here, but are otherwise unremarkable indicates, I hope, that there’s little in the way of friction between them and other Bristolians. I certainly haven’t noticed outbreaks of mass prejudice against them in my part of Bristol, though that doesn’t mean it necessarily doesn’t exist.

The same goes for Romanians. Remember how UKIP were telling us all that millions of Romanians were threatening to come over, along with a similar number of Bulgarians? In the end, instead of the millions only a few thousand or so arrived. According to an item on the local news a few years ago, Bristol is also the major centre of the Romanian community in the UK. We have so many of them in the city, that the government decided to locate their consulate here. I’m pleased that our city has such links with a part of Europe that was previously closed to westerners. Again, I might be wrong, but I haven’t noticed any particular problems with those that have come here.

So, from the fact that Bristol’s Albanians and Romanians are so un-newsworthy, I think that these people present very little of a problem as immigrants. I’m aware that there are criminal gangs from eastern Europe, and that human trafficking from the former Soviet bloc is a problem. But from my city’s experience, I don’t see immigrants from these nations are likely to cause any problems, and I don’t believe that there’ll be the mass migration with which Vote Leave and UKIP are trying to scare us all.

It is just scaremongering, and should be treated as such.

Vote Leave’s Lies about the EU and the NHS Funding

June 9, 2016

I just caught a bit of Vote Leave’s referendum broadcast earlier this evening. It was broadcast around about 7 O’clock, just before the One Show. I didn’t see all of it, as I was busy here, putting up article, but just managed to catch a snippet where they claiming that the £350 million they claim we spend every week on Europe could be used to build hospitals in the NHS. They then claimed that the EU therefore was undermining the Health Service.

They then went on to scaremonger about immigration, raising the dire spectre of what might happen when Albania, Macedonia and Turkey all join the EU. There were large, scary arrows from those countries running across Europe to Britain, rather like the diagram of the Nazi advance in the titles of Dad’s Army. Which is actually what I’d much rather be watching, even in the recent film version, than the Brexiteers and their wretched propaganda. But they made, the claim, so let’s filk it.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Farage (and Johnson, Gove and Ms Patel)

First of all, the claim that Britain spends £350 million every week on Europe has been refuted again and again. Yes, we do spend that money, but we get over £100 million or so of it back. So in net terms, no, we certainly don’t spend that amount. See Mike’s articles about this over at Vox Political.

Then there’s that guff about funding the EU diverting money away from the NHS. This is rubbish. What is undermining the NHS is the stealth privatisation carried out by Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill of 2012. This has opened up the NHS to further privatisation by private health care firms, such as Virgin, which under law must be given contracts. This has frequently gone against the wishes of the patients using the NHS. The reforms included forcing local authorities responsible for some NHS provision to contract out at least 3 medical services from a list of eight sent down by the government. Furthermore, the remaining state-owned and managed sectors of the NHS are being deliberately starved of funds as part of the campaign to privatise the whole shebang. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS SOS, particularly the chapters ‘1. Breaking the Public Trust’, by John Lister; ‘2. Ready for Market’, by Steward Player, and ‘7. From Cradle to Grave’, by Allyson M. Pollock and David Price.

It’s a lie that the NHS is being starved of funding due to Europe. It’s being starved of funding due to Lansley and the rest of the Conservative party and their purple counterparts in UKIP. If Vote Leave were serious about the funding crisis in the NHS, then Johnson, Gove, Patel and the other xenophobes and Little Englanders would have voted against Lansley’s bill. They didn’t. They supported it.

‘Bloody Foreigners, Comin’ Over ‘Ere!’

Let’s deal with the threat of people from Turkey, Albania and Macedonia all flooding over here in the next few years. This too, is overblown and pretty much a lie. Turkey would like to join the EU, but the chances of it actually qualifying to do so are presently remote. Critics have suggested that it’ll only reach the point where it has developed sufficiently to be admitted in about 30 years’ time. So the Turks are hardly likely to come flooding up from Anatolia in the next few years.

As for Albania and Macedonia, I’m sceptical about the numbers that will come from those nations due to the open borders policies. Mike’s posted up pieces reminding us all how millions of Romanians and Bulgarians were supposed to be ready to inundate Britain, and in the event only a small number arrived. Mark Steel, the left-wing activist and comedian, in one of his newspaper columns, republished in Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove’s The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport, attacked the inflated claims of the threat of uncontrolled immigration by pointing out that many of the Poles, who were supposed to flood in, had in fact gone back to Poland. So while it’s certainly possible that a vast number of Albanians and Macedonians may want to come to Britain, it’s also possible that few in fact will.

And in any case, why would they all want to come to Britain? The impression given by the Brexit video tonight was that Britain was a tiny island under siege, and that the first country that the Turks, Albanians and Macedonians would all head for was Britain. But why? Britain’s social security system and welfare state – or what remains of them – are much less generous than some parts of the rest of Europe. Britain does have more cache, apparently, than some of the other nations, but Britain is by no means the sole destination for migrants, as we’ve seen.

Vote Leave’s video tonight was little more than right-wing scaremongering. What I saw was mostly speculation, and when it wasn’t speculation, as on the piece on the NHS, it was a distortion compounded with lies. There are problems with Europe and immigration, but leaving the EU isn’t the solution. Indeed, voting for Johnson, Gove, Patel, Farage and their cronies will only make the situation worse. They want to privatise the NHS, just as they want to remove the EU human rights legislation and social charter that protects British workers. The anti-EU campaign is part of this programme to grind down and deprive working people of their hard-won rights at work and for state support in sickness and unemployment. Don’t be taken in.