Is George Soros undermining European national sovereignty? A few weeks ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused the billionaire financier of funding activists trying to encourage the continued flow of refugees heading to the continent from the Middle East and beyond. It was a sentiment that expressed the emotions of many Europeans regarding our perception of the continent’s place in the world—and the future of national sovereignty here.
As someone who was born and raised in the central part of Poland (described by Norman Davis as the Heart of Europe), in the city of Lodz, I know firsthand why Orbán is taking this headstrong stance on the recent migration crisis in Europe. Poland is a country that has long been dominated by outsiders.
With the second partition of Poland in 1793, my hometown became part of the Kingdom of Prussia’s province of South Prussia, and was known in German as Lodsch. Then in 1806 the city joined the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw, only to became part of the Congress Kingdom of Poland (a client state of the Russian Empire) after the Congress of Vienna.
In the aftermath of the Vienna treaty, there was a great influx of immigrants from all over Europe (mainly from Southern Germany, Silesia and Bohemia, but also from countries like Portugal, England, France and Ireland) to the Promised Land. This policy transformed Lodz into the main textile production center of the Russian Empire, which spanned from Central Europe all the way to Alaska. It was sometimes even called the “Polish Manchester.”
Nonetheless, it was the Polish, Jewish, German, and Russian inhabitants who contributed to the rich and diverse culture of the area, and made possible the rapid development of a city ideally located at a crossroads of Europe. Today they are worried about the preservation of their identity and continued prosperity.
A recent report of the International Organization for Migration estimates that 760,979 people have arrived on the continent so far this year. What’s more, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), 218,394 migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea last month—compared with around 23,000 in October a year earlier. The total number of arrivals in all of 2014 was around 219,000.
It is essential to not only look at the economic, political, and humanitarian aspects of the crisis, but also consider the state of the European psyche in order to understand what is happening in the continental European mind.
“Everything which is now taking place before our eyes threatens to have explosive consequences for the whole of Europe,” Orbán wrote recently in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Europe’s response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union’s misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation.”
As Orbán suggests, European politicians who hold out “the promise of a better life to immigrants” and encourage them “to leave everything behind and risk their lives” are irresponsible. “If Europe does not return to the path of common sense, it will find itself laid low in a battle for its fate.”
Activists like Soros—whose organizations share part of the blame for encouraging migrants to come to Europe and lobby Europeans to regard borders and sovereignty as things of the past—are trying to rip off our birth right to sovereignty and stigmatize people by accusing them of upholding an outmoded Christian identity.
“[Orbán’s] plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle,” the billionaire investor said in an email to Bloomberg News.
It should not come as a surprise that people in Europe perceive this kind of rhetoric as the attack on what Orbán has called “the traditional European lifestyle.” Immigration has always been a cultural question, one where one’s identity is at stake.
The crisis in Europe is already creating damage that will be hard to repair, with migrant flows pitting countries against each other. Whether it will lead to greater upheaval remains to be seen, but we should watch social attitudes closely. The revolutions of 1848 did not come as much of a surprise to those who were able to see what was going on in the depths of society.
The eminent French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, for example, wrote in early 1848 that “we are sleeping on a volcano … A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.” Today it seems that the only way to prevent the eruption of continental nationalism is to stand against the wind of change trying to undermine our Europe.
Adriel Kasonta is an editorial board member at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies, and co-editor of Konserwatyzm.pl.