Where is Europe heading?

This is a weird and vast question. There is two points that I would like to highlight to provide some more elements for an hypothetical answer :  1) the capacity of renewal of Europe ‘s own production system and 2) the crucial role of migrants in its future political decisions.

1. Economy and production Recent events in Greece have shown how unbalance is the distribution of wealth and production means between regions of Europe.  We usually hear that Germany itself concentrates most of the creation of value in Europe. A closer look at the country shows us that most of the wealth is actually located in the Southern regions, while the North and East still largely lagging behind, suffering from high youth unemployment and very weak local economies.

GDP repartition in Germany ‘s Lander - source :  Der Zeit via Al Jazeera

Actually, the “German miracle “ of the Mittelstand becomes more coherent when you look at the whole Central region of Europe. The closest neighbors named Switzerland, Holland, Austria and Northern Italy are doing very well and it may have help. This part is also traditionally the most populated region of Europe.  

Source : ESPON - September 2011

Fact is, this distribution of wealth reflects almost exactly the map of the European industry.

GDP and Productivity in Europe (2006) - source : Nord Regio

This last map is from 2006, and things have changed quite a bit since, following the numerous relocation during the last 10 years. Manufacturing especially has gradually disappear from the landscape (except for Germany). Most of the factories have moved to China - and now surely to Bangladesh or Myanmar.

Evolution of manufacturing (as % of GDP) - Source : The Economist

Now that we have a grasp of the geo-economic situation, there is one more thing that we need to look at. There is new players arriving recently in the job market. They are efficient, cheap and silent ; they don ‘t sleep or eat and they do what they are told : here come the robots !

They have been replacing workers in factories for decades and the trend is not there to change. According toa recent study, they should even get 22% cheaper between now and 2025. For electronics manufacturing in China, they are already cheaper than actual workers. And don ‘t think this will affect only assembly lines. They are now entering many sectors of the job market. Another study shows that : * “Many service, sales, and administrative jobs are at risk “* while * “occupational therapists, surgeons, choreographers, pre-school teachers, and clergy “* will stay out of trouble for some more years.

source : Business Insider

The question behind this is : how will Europe position itself towards this new trend ? Trying to pursue a path towards 10% growth while you have half of the population unemployed looks like a weird thing to do. The universal income seems the only thing feasible to sustain consumption, but it still a remote idea from the far-left so far. Discourse about re-industrialization and how to bring back old factories seem completely out of step. Instead, how can diversified territories define their aims and specialized in their own strengths ? So far, it doesn ‘t seem like ordoliberalism can work anywhere except in the Center Europe. 

2. Migration and population The other very urgent problem is of course the aging population. If Europe wants to have millions of lumbersexuals growth-hackers coming on their fixies to design the next generation of cost-efficient robots and automates, the continent will need first to bring some youth to its gentrified suburbs. Following the negative renewal rate of the population in the center of Europe, we can except the traditional industry to simply dies out from its old age. At almost -4% a year in certain region, this will be a long agony.

One of the classical approach to the demographic problem of an aging population is to open the gates to migrants, so they can come and bring their families and hopes to build a younger and more active society. Migrants usually bet their own lifes on the trip to their host country so they are pretty serious about doing things well after. Nevertheless, the institutions from the European Union has taken a completely opposite stance, since they have started built armed fences all around the borders of Europe.

While this is not preventing people from Africa and the Middle East from coming, the result of those policies have been catastrophic on every level. By forbidding thousands of migrants to have a regular administrative presence, it has pushed a very large group of people (about 6 million froma recent study) to live completely out of the European society on its own territory. It has also created great discords between the members of the EU since the Dublin regulation has forced the country of arrival to deal alone with its migrants, cornering Greece, Spain and Italy in an untenable position. Every day, thousands of people are still coming and hundreds of them are dying weekly in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea. No doubt that history will remember today ‘s immigration policies has one of the darkest political move of Europe in the 21st century.   Map of the deaths at the gates of Europe - Source : Migreurop

Part of the province of Sicilia, the island of Lampeduza is in the top 25 of the best beaches in the world on Trip Advisor. This is also the closest European landfall for the boats coming from Northern Africa. Every hour, people are reaching the shores of the old continent after months of an apocalyptic journey towards a better life. What they get is scared tourists and a bunch of cops and journalists that are waiting for them. In 2014, 170,100 people arrived on this beach by the sea. The law requires to stock them in camps, waiting for a decision about their “administrative “ crime of not having papers. The flow is so intense that are usually directly set free to keep going on the roads of Italy without any right.

Source : The Economist

As the French journalist Edwy Plenel recently said in an interview, Europe should turn Lampeduza into a new Ellis Island and welcome all those people that have risked their life to come here. They actually don ‘t except much and Europe could give them a fresh start on its land. The future of Europe, its demography, economy, culture and politics is tied irremediably to those people that have come and still arriving. They are here to stay and we Europeans are throwing them in camps, like in Calais in France near the border with the UK. By hurting them, countries of Europe are hurting their own future. Do we want to be again the worst sort of evil racists secretly dreaming to yet another extermination plan ? Or do we want to seize this gigantic opportunity to build an union based on the values we inherited from our peers ?

After slavery, colonies and the world wars of the 20th Century, the fate of those people will set the face of the continent for the next century. There still an actual window for choice that should be seized, even though actual governments won ‘t budge by fear to lose points in their electorate. Actually they are already moving for years, but in a completely wrong direction.

This text was originally published in quora.

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